|In hindsight, I should have cut this diagonally for the picture. But hunger does funny things to my logic.|
I wasn't a huge fan of pesto until I started cooking ("Isn't that wonderful?" Lucille Bluth might say) and using it for myself. The appreciation severely spiked when I started making it. That seems to be the truth about most sauces--they taste better somehow when you do-it-yourself and you can adjust the flavors and see each ingredient that goes into it. (Although sometimes my ambition gets the best of me and things burn and I cry and have to sacrifice myself to the storebought sauce gods. But it never hurts to try again.)
Anyway! After scouring the archives of my encumbered StumbleUpon account, I happened upon these grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese was one of the meals I could do masterfully well long before I could eyeball a tablespoon of olive oil, and I was very intrigued by the pesto.
First I blanched half a bunch of asparagus, though the water took far too long to come to a rolling boil--I assume this is because I kept watching it--and I ended up re-icing my bowl of water a couple of times. Meanwhile I toasted the pine nuts for 5 minutes at 350 degrees and zested and juiced half a lemon. I learned a handy tip for juicing lemons too--zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds, then roll it around on your counter, then cut it open and unleash a veritable fountain of citrus essence!
I need to learn a trick for zesting soon, because instead of being a wizard at that, I just ended up grating my thumb knuckle.
I chopped up my newly (finally!) blanched asparagus and threw it into the food processor along with 1/2 cup of spinach (though I think I overshot this a little, which would explain the bright, bright green of my pesto, though the flavor was fine. I made a broccoli and cheese soup a while back with pureed baby spinach and the color and taste were both absolutely delicious. I ate it while watching "Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even" on TV, which stars both Jenny Lewis and Cory Matthews, so it wins. Memmmooooriiiiiies.)
Along with those two ingredients, I added a clove of minced garlic, the zest and juice from the lemon, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and a little bit of salt and pepper for seasoning.
Now it's really just smooth sailing from here. The winds of foreign Pesto will no longer bandy you about. I lightly toasted my bread--a little too light at first, because I was having difficulty buttering it--and then added a slice of Gruyere and a spread of pesto to two of the bread slices.
Then I heated up my skillet. The original recipe called for a little-lower-than-medium heat, but that was taking far too long to cook. I ended up adding a little more butter to the skillet itself and putting the heat at medium, while using my cast-iron to press the sandwich down as it cooked. This will definitely reduce the cooking time, so be careful, but it did the job in terms of melting the cheese and getting the sandwich nicely toasted. I also recommend doing only one sandwich at a time to avoid overcrowding. Overcrowded sandwiches do not like to transform into crispy melty goodness.
There you have it! Simple weeknight meal. If you're inclined to try something much more difficult but even tastier, I recommend peanut butter and jelly (I almost typed "jealousy," which has inspired me to invent the peanut butter and jealousy sandwich out of who-knows-what, but it's gonna happen!) sandwiches with sides of Cheetos and grapes. Good luck on your endeavor!
Asparagus Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich (via Closet Cooking)
4 slices whole-grain bread, lightly toasted
2 slices Gruyère
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons Asparagus Pesto
1 cup asparagus, blanched
1/2 cup baby spinach
Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste