Beet Grilled Cheese

Beet Grilled Cheese
Monday through Friday, lunch is always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrot sticks. I don’t mind the repetition. When I barely have a moment to eat, I find that routine simplicity just hits the spot. Anyway, I would rather get more creative with dinner, when if all goes as planned, I have time to cook and savor a meal that’s a bit more involved.

Lunch on the weekends is an entirely different story. I scour the pantry and fridge to come up with something from what I already have at home. Last weekend I roasted a couple of bunches of beets. Along with goat cheese, scallions and arugula, I made a beet grilled cheese sandwich. Every toasty, olive oil-drizzled bite celebrated the perfect pairing of beets and goat cheese. 

Beet Grilled Cheese
Beet Grilled Cheese

Makes 2 sandwiches

5-6 medium red and yellow beets, greens removed and reserved for another use
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 slices crusty bread
3 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 handful arugula

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the beets and place them on individual sheets of aluminum foil. Drizzle the beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold into loose packets and transfer to a sheet pan. Roast the beets for 50-60 minutes until they are easily pierced with a knife.

Let the beets cool slightly before using a paper towel to rub off their skins. Cut them into thin slices.

To assemble the sandwiches, drizzle the remaining olive oil on both sides of the bread. Spread the goat cheese and sprinkle the scallions on one side of each of the bread slices. Arrange the beets and arugula and top with the remaining bread.

Place the sandwiches on a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook until both sides are browned and toasted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

Graham Crackers

Graham Crackers
At 4 months old, we are on the cusp of feeding W. his first solid foods. Even though those initial bites will be mushy fruit and veggie purees, I can’t help but think ahead to him enjoying my childhood favorites that I still look forward to nibbling on today. Of course I do hope that W. will be a more adventurous eater than I was in my picky, plain-eating youth.

Blurring the line between snack and dessert, graham crackers were a perfect after-school treat. I especially loved the ones that came coated with a dusting of cinnamon sugar. I hadn’t bought a box in years, so I decided to bake a batch from scratch. Smearing the molasses and honey-spiked grahams with peanut butter took me right back to being a kid. 

Graham Crackers
Graham Crackers
Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon

Makes about 2-1/2 dozen

1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles the size of peas. Add the honey, molasses, milk, vanilla extract and 1/3 cup sugar and process until a dough forms. Pat the dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll out each section until it is 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2-1/2-inch square biscuit cutter, cut out the graham crackers. Reroll the scraps and continue cutting out the graham crackers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Prick the graham crackers with a fork and transfer them to the prepared sheet pans.

In a small bowl combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the graham crackers with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges have darkened slightly. Cool the crackers completely on a wire rack before serving.

Store in an airtight container.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Weekend evenings used to mean spontaneous plans usually involving drinks and dinner with friends. Now with a baby at home, those impromptu evenings have transformed into errands in our attempt to avoid the daytime crowds. On a Friday night, we found ourselves hungry and tired as we browsed the aisles of a baby superstore. Across the street was an oasis—a grocery store, and we picked up a rotisserie chicken on the way home.

I can’t remember the last time I bought a rotisserie chicken, and I don’t know why I have been passing by such a versatile, multi-meal convenience. That night I shredded the chicken into salads and as the week went on, the white and dark meat ended up in chili and on a barbecue chicken pizza. Sweet, smoky barbecue sauce took the place of tomatoes on this pie topped with scallions, red onion, mozzarella and Gouda. 

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Makes one 12-inch pizza

1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
Cornmeal for pizza stone
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
2 ounces part-skim mozzarella, grated
2 ounces Gouda, grated

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone inside the oven.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch diameter circle. Sprinkle the preheated pizza stone with cornmeal and place the dough on it. Brush the dough with olive oil. Spread the barbecue sauce leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top the pizza with the onions, scallions, chicken and both cheeses.

Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake
J. and I are the perfect travel companions with the same design and culinary-based agenda. It’s been nearly 5 years since we ventured to Barcelona. Typical of all our travels, we ate our way through the city in between exploring museums and architecture. We took in the Catalonian culture by nibbling on small plates at tapas bars, fueling us as we toured the city on foot.

One evening we finished a meal with chocolate ice cream drizzled with Spanish olive oil, and this non-traditional pairing has been in the back of my mind ever since. I finally tried it at home by baking an olive oil chocolate cake. Almond flour brought out the nutty flavor of the olive oil in this gluten-free dessert, which I dressed up with a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake
Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Makes one 9-inch round cake

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for greasing pan
1/2 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk the boiling water into the cocoa powder and then add the vanilla extract. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, baking soda and sea salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the olive oil, sugar and eggs on medium speed until fully combined and thickened, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the cocoa mixture and then the dry ingredients. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before carefully removing it. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

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