I admit it, I was poking around on Photograzing (the Serious Eats version of sites like Food Gawker and Tastespotting), checking to see if the bread photo I'd submitted had been posted. It had - but right next to my pale white bread photo was a luscious looking sandwich of roasted vegetables, goat cheese, and basil. and it looked GOOD. The photo was posted on The Kitchen Sink in a post entitled "Pondering a Picnics-Only Plan."
And not only did I find myself calling my husband over to see that picture, but I also thought - I could make something like that for dinner tonight.
So I did.
We had leftover zucchini, pattypan squash, and kohlrabi that Bill had grilled last Wednesday night. I had about half a baguette. I had fresh mozzarella that I made last Thursday (more on that in a paragraph or two), some 1/8 inch thick prosciutto left over from a recipe cooked here on...um...Saturday. And half a 10 ounce log of Ile de France goat cheese that I was sent by a rep from Ile de France (more on that later, too). What else - pepperoni and slices of romano for Alex. I also had a bowl of fresh basil, brought over on Saturday by a friend. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar rounded everything out.
Here's what I did.
I sliced the baguette lengthwise into thirds - I didn't want really thick bread. Plus I wanted to be able to feed all four of us with what we had.
I put the slices on a cookie sheet and drizzled them (generously) with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.
I took some more olive oil, and some minced red onion (also left over from Saturday), sauted the onion for a couple minutes, and then sliced the grilled vegetables and placed them in the pan to heat up. I cut up the thick prosciutto into inch-sized pieces...what else did I do...I guess that was it.
Okay, on one third of the olive oil drizzled baguette, I put down a layer of basil leaves, then pepperoni slices, and then thin slices of romano. Ta da.
On the other slices...I put down a layer of basil leaves, and on top of them, slices of fresh mozzarella.
Now let me pause a moment and talk about this mozzarella, because every time I make it, I learn something. I wanted to make cheese because Bill's brother and sister-in-law were here and yeah, sometimes I am a showoff.
And then it sort of backfires, which keeps me humble. The last two times I made mozzarella, I used half whole milk/half 1%. This time, for some reason, I thought I'd try half whole and half fat free. I don't know why. Maybe because I hadn't tried that combination yet. Well, I got all my stuff set up, stirred in my citric acid and lipase...watched the coagulation begin...stirred in the rennet...watched the curds set up...strained the gorgeous curds...added my salt to the whey...and started kneading the curds, and...
They didn't want to stretch. I knew the whey was plenty hot enough - it was hotter than usual, in fact, because I didn't want to spend too much time in the crumbly curd stage. But the curds didn't get stretchy. The held together and all, but they were not soft and elastic like they were supposed to be. The texture was off - my sister-in-law said it was squeaky, and that's pretty much on the money. I formed the cheese into balls as best I could, and stuck them in a bag in the fridge. I tried a piece later - they were tough and unpleasant to chew. Taste was bland. My verdict? Not enough fat. I don't plan to use fat-free milk again in my mozzarella making.
I got creative, because I was determined not to waste the two pounds of cheese I'd made. So I sliced it all thinly and put it in a bowl of generously salted water, and stuck it all back in the fridge. And that helped salvage the batch.
So anyway, back to the open-faced sandwich I was talking about. I put down the basil, and then this salvaged (moister, more flavorful) mozzarella. On top of that went the sliced, grilled, reheated zucchini, pattypan and kohlrabi. On top of them? The prosciutto. And then? Globs of goat cheese.
And here's another story.
A month or so ago I got an email from someone at Ile de France cheese. He asked if I'd be interested in receiving some samples of their cheeses and writing about them in my blog.
And I thought - hey! Free cheese? Count me in!
The thing is, I've bought Ile de France's Brie often and I was already a fan. I'd never had their goat cheese, though, so I asked if I could try that one. I was told the cheese would ship on July 7th and I'd receive it on the 8th "in perfect condition." And you know? That's exactly what happened!
I saved the cheese for the following evening, when Bill's brother and sister-in-law were due to arrive. I figured the more opinions, the merrier.
I served the goat cheese with a couple of different kinds of crackers, and, among the goat cheese fans in the group (Alex wanted no part of it, and my sister-in-law didn't want any), the consensus was that the Ile de France goat cheese was very, very nice. It had a bright, fresh, kind of citrusy flavor (my opinion) - Bill's brother said it wasn't as "goaty" as other goat cheeses - I'm thinking he meant it was milder. Half the log was gone before dinner that day. It was soft and tangy and delicious. I'd like to get some another time, along with a couple of other goat cheeses, and do a tasting, just to compare them all. Hmmm.
Anyway, back to my sandwich.
I put the goat cheese on top of the grilled vegetables, and popped the cookie sheet in a 350 degree (F) oven for about 15 minutes. The cheeses got nice and melty (okay, not the romano so much) and the whole thing smelled heavenly. After I pulled the cookie sheet from the oven, I drizzled some balsamic glaze over the grilled vegetable sandwiches, sliced them into smaller sections, and served them up.
I think I could eat this sort of thing every day for the rest of the summer. We've got squashes ripening on a daily basis - I can't think of a better way to serve them. Really. Sheer heaven. The smokey grill flavor of the zucchini, pattypan and kohlrabi...the hint of bitterness from the kohlrabi (think brussels sprouts or cabbage)...the sweetness of the zucchini and pattypan, the basil, and the balsamic glaze...the soft salty/tangy cheeses and the savory salty proscuitto...and the earthy, fruity olive oil soaking into the bread.