Today I’m celebrating National Grilled Cheese month. Actually, as it turns out I’ve already celebrated it several times this month and I didn’t even know it. That’s because I just found out about this month-long celebration of melted cheese a few days ago. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one of those food bloggers who’s organized enough to post recipes for each (okay any) of the food holidays, but this was one I couldn’t let pass by. Already this year I’ve missed National Popcorn Day, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, National Chocolate-Covered Nut Day, and just yesterday National Garlic Day. No, I’m not making these days up. In fact, there is a National Some-Sort-Of-Food Day for every day of the year. Seriously. You would think since every day is a food holiday I could get it together just once to post something relevant. Nope, not happening. Fortunately for me, some food holidays last the entire month. April is also National Florida Tomato month and Soy Foods month…hmmm, think I’ll stick with grilled cheese. It’s unclear who decides these holidays. I wonder who declared February National Fiber Focus month, or June 5th Jelly-Filled Donut Day…and why? I guess it doesn’t matter because celebrating food is always a good thing. Even if it is something boring like fiber, or kind of gross like Weinerschnitzel day (September 9).
I happen to love any dish that features melted cheese as a main ingredient, so an entire month of grilled cheese sounds good to me. Too bad I only have ten more days to celebrate. Speaking of celebrating, I think spring is finally here to stay so I thought it would be a good time to share some of the other things I love about April besides bread and cheese…
Phineas playing in the river
And Arugula…grown right here in Vermont. In fact, grown right down the road at Three Crows Farm. Gotta love spring! It was this fresh Arugula that provided the inspiration for my grilled cheese. The slightly spicy flavor of this crisp spring green pairs perfectly with creamy, nutty fontina cheese.
I also added a roasted red pepper spread to the mix. If you’ve never made your own red pepper spread, or even roasted red peppers, you’re in for a treat. Not only does this spread taste amazing, but it is sooo easy to make. The peppers are broiled for about ten minutes until blistered and black then steamed under plastic wrap. Slide the skins off and puree with garlic and olive oil. That’s it. Couldn’t be simpler.
Hearty whole wheat bread, thick slices of cheese, a slathering of red pepper spread, and a generous handful of arugula- now that’s what I call a grilled cheese!
A stack of cheeses…all grilled up.
Grilled Cheese with Arugula + Roasted Red Pepper Spread
Makes 2 sandwiches + extra spread
2 sweet red peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pieces whole wheat bread
4-6 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced thin
2 large handfuls arugula
1. Preheat the oven to broil and line a broil pan with aluminum foil (for easy clean up). Wash the peppers well and remove any stickers. Cut them in half and remove the ribs and seeds. Place the peppers cut side down on the lined broil pan and brush with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Broil for about 10 minutes until the skin is blistered and black. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 20 minuets. Remove the peppers from the bowl and peel off the skin. It should come off easily but rub any stubborn spots with your hand or a paper towel.
2. Chop each pepper into quarters and place In a food processor along with the garlic cloves and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until a paste forms. Add salt and pepper to taste. You will have about 2 cups of spread. Save the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
3. Heat a griddle or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush each piece of bread with a little butter or oil. Layer 2-3 ounces of cheese (depending on the size of your bread), a couple tablespoons of roasted red pepper spread, and a handful of arugula on two pieces of bread. Top with remaining bread pieces and press in place.
4. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.