Friday, April 11th, 2008

Apple Gruyere Panini and Ginger Lime Carrot Salad

Not exactly one of the times where you’d go, Oh, the poor dear. Look at her, shunning restaurant food, slaving for five minutes over a measly sandwich... Sorry, I couldn’t ...

Not exactly one of the times where you’d go, Oh, the poor dear. Look at her, shunning restaurant food, slaving for five minutes over a measly sandwich…

Sorry, I couldn’t help a little swagger. Nor having seconds of this cheesy, crispy, warm, juicy apply sandwich.

Okay, well if you factor in the homemade bread, which I made over the weekend, this meal took a little longer than five minutes total. But it’s Thursday now, and that loaf’s earned its keep. I made just half a sandwich for a late-night round of seconds (as I’m wont to do these days… gotta cut back), but the great part about this meal is that the leftover raw materials, apples, cheese, and carrots, are also almost as good to eat just like that — raw.

only the best cheese in the world

I got my tax return today! I felt like celebrating a little with a splurge, so I walked over to Murray’s Cheese at Grand Central Market and got some expensive cave-aged gruyere. Ooh, the cave part just tickles my nostrils alone. What were those crazy Frenchmen thinking when they first began tucking their finest inside dank little crags in the earth? I think I have an idea: mine, Mine, all MINE! The cheesemonger at Murray’s informed me that the only type of gruyere they were carrying, Le Gruyere Switzerland from Gourmino had won first place prize at the 2008 World Cheese Championship… meaning, it’s the best cheese in the world.

Well, you can imagine how I walked out the door after paying $10 for a nicely sized wedge just pleased as punch. When I got home and tasted it, I noticed less sharpness than other gruyeres, and less of that crispy, crunchety crumbliness that others tend to have. It was smoother and richer, with a slightly floral nose, and true to its description, melted very nicely (and quickly).

basic no-knead bread slices

refreshing, crisp Granny Smith

This was good, because I’d intended it for a very simple, quick sandwich. This recipe is also an exercise in DIY kitchen gadgetry. I don’t own a panini press, nor can I justify it after tonight. I’d thought I had one of those square cast-iron slabs with the griddle marks on one side that you’re supposed to heat up and then press down on top of the sandwich, but I must have misplaced it during my last move. No problem. I heated up a heavy, cast-iron Dutch oven instead and pressed that on top of the sandwich. Sure, it didn’t have the griddle lines, but it was heavy enough to smoosh the pieces of bread together just enough so that the cheese oozed out a tiny bit from the air bubbly country bread, forming little cheesy crusts along the flat surface of one side. You know, like a panini. And the Granny Smith apples retained most of their firmness in that short cooking span, while releasing a little of their sweet juices onto the bread, too.

a mini Dutch oven heats quickly and goes down on the sandwich

the no-panini press, no-knead, no-mandoline methodology

Next, I don’t have a mandoline or any fancy tools for shredding long, clean wisps of veggies. But I do have your humble old peeler, which works great with carrots if you turn the carrot while you shuck off thin ribbons. I grated a little fresh ginger with a cheese grater, and added it to the carrots along with half a lime’s worth of juice and a dollop of oil. The ginger is just snappy enough to catch the sour lime juice by surprise.

Apple Gruyere Panini and Ginger Lime Carrot Salad (no “panini press” method)
(makes 1 serving)

2 slices country bread (make a no-knead loaf yourself!)
3-4 slices Granny Smith apple
2-3 slices gruyere
1 small carrot
juice of half a lime
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
few parsley sprigs (optional)

Wash and peel the carrot. Holding the carrot over a bowl, continue to peel off thin strips, rotating the carrot, until you have whittled it down to a thin stick (eat the rest). Add the ginger, lime juice and oil and mix with fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make the sandwich (the parsley will be added at the end).

Heat up a heavy-bottomed pan on one burner, and on another burner, heat up a small but heavy cast-iron pot that will fit on top of the sandwich in the other pan. Let both heat over a direct, high flame for 3-4 minutes. Place each slice of bread on the pan, and arrange the cheese on one piece and the apples on another. Cook for about 1 minute. Put the sandwich together, and (using mittens) place the small cast-iron pot on top of the sandwich, along with its lid for maximum weight. Let cook another minute or two. Remove the pot and check the bottom of the sandwich for done-ness. It should be crisp and toasty, but not burnt. Flip it over once, and place the pot on the sandwich again for another minute, if needed. Remove from pan, cut in half on a cutting board, and serve alongside the chilled carrot salad with optional parsley sprigs.

Cost Calculator
(for one serving)

2 slices homemade bread: $0.15
2-3 slices gruyere (at $16.99/lb): $0.85
3-4 slices Granny Smith apple (at $1.25/lb): $0.15
1 small carrot (at $1/lb): $0.20
1/2 lime (at 4/$1): $0.13
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon olive oil: $0.10
3 sprigs parsley (from my new potted plant!): $0.05

Total: $1.63 (wow)

Health Factor

Four brownie points: Did you notice how this panini doesn’t have tons of oil or butter on the sides before it gets grilled? That’s because the oil and juiciness is seeping out from the inside of the crust already, so why bother? It might even run you the risk of sogginess. Given this, the only fat in this recipe is coming from the cheese (and 1 teaspoon of olive oil). There’s lots of Vitamin C and A from the apple and carrot, and unlike other cheesy dishes, the real satisfying thing about this one is the harmony of tanginess and melty creaminess, not just a huge overload of cheese, cheese, and more cheese.

Green Factor

Six maple leaves: It’s still winter, talking from a produce perspective, but there are summery applications for these tired foods yet. Carrots stand in for more delicate veggies when sliced into thin slivers and dressed, and apples find their way into light sandwiches. But there’s a few missteps here, of course — though the label produced by Murray’s Cheese boasts the Le Gruyere’s exceptional small-batch, family farm operated mentality, it is, after all, an imported Swiss cheese which had to cross the lake before getting to my plate. The lime, too, didn’t come from upstate. I gave myself an extra leaf for baking the bread on my own premises, and I’ll count a couple more for the fact that I didn’t buy as much kitchen equipment as one might think is needed.

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15 Responses to “Apple Gruyere Panini and Ginger Lime Carrot Salad”

  1. iang says:

    *drool*

  2. kittie says:

    Mmmm… I can almost taste it! This sounds sooooo tasty – good thinking Cathy!

  3. Joanna says:

    Wow, this looks SO good! My favorite sandwich ever came from a deli near my high school (which means I haven’t had it in years, sadly), and it had apples, cheese (I think smoked gouda), spinach, and honey mustard. But it was served cold. I can only imagine how much better a warm panini-fied version would be!

  4. mark says:

    Wow…using the dutch oven as a George Forman grill… watch out now, I sense a new retail selling story for the Dutch Oven…

  5. joanne says:

    Alton Brown suggests a fireplace brick wrapped in foil. Now where are you gonna find one of those?

  6. Terry B says:

    Cathy–What a beautiful, delicious looking sandwich! I love the combination of flavors. If you like cheese aged in caves, the next time a recipe calls for blue cheese, look for Maytag Blue. It’s made in Iowa, of all places, by the very same family that makes the appliances. And they’ve been making their marvelous cheese this way since the 40s.

  7. Amanda says:

    grilled cheeses are the best thing to eats no matter the time or day. breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I could eat a grilled cheese. I experimented with my grilled combo’s too. Sometimes I put grape jelly with cheddar cheese, and then I did Brie with boysenberry. Fruit & cheese + very good! by the way, congrats on the book deal. You’ve won everyone over girl!

  8. Ann says:

    I’ve been in a “sweet” baking phase – so coming over here and seeing all this “salty” has me positively and madly drooling. Thanks for that. :)

  9. Babeth says:

    Great, original and super cheap!

  10. nyalli says:

    this sandwich really got into my head when i saw this post yesterday–so much so that when i got home last night and was starving, the only thing i wanted to eat was something similar. didn’t have the good bread or fancy cheese on hand, but my quick-fix version included a multi-grain english muffin, fresh mozzarella, and of course, crisp/sweet/tart green apple. i just used the toaster oven to melt the cheese b/c i was really not in the mood to dirty any pans. it really hit the spot and i can’t wait to make it again with finer ingredients when i can!

  11. michelle @ TNS says:

    dinner tonight has been planned! but i don’t like gruyere, so maybe some farmhouse cheddar and apple. and maybe a little mango chutney. and maybe some jicama tossed in with the carrot, if my jicama hasn’t gone past its prime yet.

    damn, i love a good sandwich.

  12. Doctor day « See Food says:

    [...] my bases covered nutritionally but still wanted something extra, I did a carrot salad inspired by this one over at Not Eating Out in New York (which is a great blog). I used that ginger-lime dressing idea, [...]

  13. Lauren says:

    Oh my, that looks great. I have made something like that with fontina and grainy mustard instead gruyere. I have never tried gruyere…

  14. adriana says:

    This looks amazing!!! it just went down as a pregnancy craving! this is the problem with pregnancy once you get something in your head you can’t get it out until you have it! (i thought about pancakes for two weeks) :(

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