Muenster, mustard, and roasted garlic on beer bread

The grilled cheese sandwich. Very little is better. The combination of childhood nostalgia, ease, and I'm-a-grown-up-and-can-eat-whatever-the-fuck-I-want makes it one of the all time greatest weeknight dinners. If you want to go lighter, make the one sandwich and eat halves with your romantic partner, good friend, or spoiled dog. Pair it with tomato soup (my recipe posted below) and/or a simple salad.  This particular variation on the grilled cheese sandwich is easiest and best when you just happen to have roasted more garlic than you needed the day before, which is how this recipe came about.  

Meunster grilled cheese.JPG
  • roasted garlic
  • muenster cheese
  • good mustard
  • beer bread
  • butter

If you are freshly roasting the garlic, turn the oven up to 375º. Tear the papery exterior from the garlic bulb. Make small cuts around the tops of the individual cloves to open them up. Pour olive oil directly onto the exposed parts. Shake plenty of salt over the cloves.   Place into a baking dish and into the oven. It should take 45 minutes to an hour for the skin to darken and the gloves to soften completely. Take out, let cool, then pop out the individual cloves. 

Slice the bread thickly but not too thickly. A beer bread from a German-leaning bakery would be ideal for this sandwich, though really any yeasty-tasting bread with pillowy interior and nice outside crust will be great. 

Slice the muenster thickly but not too thickly. Butter one side of a piece of bread, spread mustard on the other side, then lay slices of muenster on top. Place your favorite sandwich pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Set the buttered end into the pan and cook for a few minutes as the pan heats up. Once you can really feel the heat when holding your hand over it, turn the burner down to low. 

When the muenster is first showing signs of melting, press several whole cloves of garlic into the cheese, with your fingers or a palette knife-ish tool. Layer the rest of the muenster on top of the smashed garlic, trapping it in the center. Spread mustard on the inside of the other piece of bread, butter on the outside, and set on top. After a minute or two, after checking to see the first side starting to crisp up a little, carefully flip the sandwich.

At this point, just keep being patient until you have two crisp sides with oozing, garlicky, cheesy insides. 

Meunster griled cheese 3.JPG

Very easy but seriously good tomato soup

Eating really good tomato soup on a cold fall/winter day gives a similar sensation of comfort to putting your feet up and pulling a wool blanket over them. Something easy to repeat, something you should do more often. 

Tomato soup 1.JPG
  • fresh tomatoes (or whole canned tomatoes)
  • oniony vegetable stock
  • 1 can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • quality whole milk
  • butter
  • paprika

optional finishing touches:

  • fresh herbs, chopped
  • extra sharp cheese, grated

De-stem and wash the tomatoes, or pull them from the can or jar. Pile them into a stock pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cover.  They will start to burst pretty soon. Stir them and encourage the exploding of the tomatoes. Keep returning the cover. 

Make or defrost a really good, oniony vegetable stock. Pour it over the tomatoes. Stir, continue cooking until all the tomatoes have sort of become one with the stock. It should already taste really good. 

Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, good salt, and pepper. Let bubble and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Take an immersion blender and just give it a few spins to smooth things out a bit. Spike with a touch of cayenne, if you want a little heat. 

Pour in some milk, stir, reduce the heat low, and cover. When back up to temperature, add a few knobs of cold butter. This will thicken and enrich the soup and also cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes. 

Finish with a dusting of good Hungarian paprika, and if you want some fresh herbs, or grated extra sharp cheese, or all of the above. Eat with grilled cheese or other warm, soul-satisfying sandwiches. 

Brussels sprouts with mint and pumpkin seeds

I say that despite Thanksgiving having come and gone, it is the season to eat Brussels Sprouts. This refreshing, unusual side dish is the perfect way to work the "little miracles" (as my father fondly calls them) into your between-the-Holidays cleanse. 

Brussells sprouts, mint.jpg
  • brussels sprouts
  • very good mint; spearmint
  • raw, dark green pumpkin seeds
  • lemon juice
  • nut or pumpkin seed oil if you can, olive oil: always great (you know that though)

Blanch the brussels sprouts, whole, in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove to an ice bath. A minute or two later, replace the lukewarm water with fresh, cold water and add some lemon juice.

When the brussels sprouts are chilled and bright green, drain, pat dry and slice with a very sharp knife into 1/6 inch pieces. Dress with more lemon juice. 

Make two piles of mint leaves. Chop one, leave the other whole. Toss them with the brussels sprouts and the pumpkin seeds, then dress the whole thing with a bit of pistachio (or other fine nut or maybe pumpkin seed) oil and flaky salt. 

Brussells sprouts, mint 2.jpg

Chicken-of-the-woods Croque Monsieur

Chicken-of-the-woods is an astoundingly good wild mushroom, with the taste and texture of its namesake. One year, my friend Lucas and I found a large old tree, split and fallen over, with pounds of these mushrooms growing from the exposed inner trunk. We came up with this sandwich, to serve at a big fall harvest gathering, as a way to use the giant haul of mushrooms before they deteriorated. We ran tray after tray of them from under the broiler to the people mingling on the farm grounds, where they were eaten in the hand, hot and comforting in the autumn breeze.

  • chicken of the woods mushrooms (probably only available at farmer's markets or very good small grocers near areas where they might be found, but you can also very much make a mushroom sandwich using this recipe with any other mushrooms)
  • naturally-leavened french country bread. (the absolute best you can get, like, make a Tartine loaf yourself or find a bakery that can get close)
  • extra-sharp white cheddar and gruyere, grate it all ahead of time
  • dijon mustard: the best you can find

Make the basic béchamel. A knob of butter, a teaspoon of flour, a thorough whisking, biscuity smell, some whole milk or cream, until thickened. Add a chopped clove of garlic and some white pepper. Let sit on the back burner on low while you make the rest of the sandwich.

Melt lots of butter in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Add the brushed/pulled apart mushrooms (they will pull away all stringy, like chicken). Cover, briefly, until the moisture starts to leave the mushrooms. Uncover and cook, adjusting the pieces in the pan, until they are lightly browned on all sides.

Slice the bread, spread with mustard. Spread on some béchamel. Add a pile of the cheese mixture. Top with pieces of mushroom, then more cheese. Broil until bubbling, finishing with flaky salt and cracked pepper.

Best Polenta, Mushrooms, and Kale

A quick supper for an autumn weeknight, celebrating some staples of the Northwest. 

Mushrooms, good polenta 2.JPG
  • About a cup of crimini mushrooms 
  • Butter 
  • Olive or canola oil 
  • 1 cup polenta (preferably some special kind, grown near you, with no GMOs! Try Lonesome Whistle, or the stuff sold in Bulk at People’s Food Co-Op!) 
  • Salt 
  • Kale, just a few leaves 
  • About 1 cup of oyster or other more unusual mushrooms 
  • Black pepper
  • Mustard
  • Beer or wine (optional) 

Slice the crimini mushrooms. Put butter and a small drizzle of oil in a cast iron pan, raise the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Stir to coat, reduce the heat to medium and cook without crowding until they start to color on one side. Flip them with a spatula and cook until colored on the other side. Towards the end, turn the heat back up to high and press down on them with your spatula. The remaining water should sputter out and evaporate, and the edges should crisp just perfectly. Swiftly remove and set aside. 

Cook the polenta in a heavy-bottomed saucepan: mix the polenta with 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt and olive oil, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir. When it first starts to really thicken, add the cremini mushrooms and a knob of butter. When it starts to thicken dramatically, reduce the heat to as low as it’ll go and stir in another pat of butter. De-stem the kale leaves and cut them into ribbons. Stir them in, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the polenta rest so that the kale can steam. 

In the mushroom pan, add more butter and oil. Cook the fancier mushrooms in pulled-apart pieces. Add a drop of mustard, maybe a splash of beer or wine if you are drinking any. Add some salt and a heavy cracking of black pepper. 

Serve the polenta with kale ribbons in a bowl, topped with the fancier mushrooms and a dusting of flaky salt. 

Extra ideas: 

This kind of dinner can also be made with delicious polenta triangles. This is an adaptation of “Erico’s Easy Polenta,” on the back of the Golden Pheasant bag. 

  • 31⁄4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for the dish

Butter a ceramic baking dish. Pour in the water. Stir in the salt to dissolve it. Add the polenta and olive oil, stirring to distribute the oil and avoid clumping. Bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Run a fork through it, spread melted butter over the top with a rubber spatula, and bake for 10 more minutes. Let cool, then cut into triangles. Fry up in oil, and top with mushrooms and kale or other delicious things. Roasted squash, roasted garlic, roasted cauliflower?  Chickpea curry? Ratatouille? 

Green bean, zucchini, poached egg, red onion, little lettuce, and fancy mayonnaise sandwich

A veggie sandwich with an extremely satisfying texture. The grilled zucchini and green beans, offset by the pickled onions, the crisp lettuce, the tangy mayonnaise, and runny egg yolk make this one a real party in the mouth. 

This recipe does appear in the first edition of the book, but will not appear in the upcoming second edition. So here it is for your long term reference. A great thing to make now in August when these particular vegetables are so good and picnicking so appealing. Also, you can watch Andrew making this particular sandwich in our Kickstarter video. 

green beans (5-6 per sandwich)
zucchini (half of a small squash, per sandwich)
red spring onion (a few slices per sandwich, pickle one or two whole ones though)
little lettuce (a few leaves per sandwich)
fancy store-bought or scratch made mayonnaise
one egg per sandwich
muscatel vinegar (alt: red or white, both are fine)
tarragon white wine vinegar (alt: plain white wine vinegar)
olive oil
arugula flowers if you have access to them (or nasturtium or other edible flower)

Peel and slice the onion, sprinkle the slices with a little sugar and a little salt, then cover in muscatel vinegar. Let sit for at least half an hour.  Slice the zucchini thinly, lengthwise, and toss into a bowl. Drizzle with tarragon wine vinegar and olive oil. 

At the stove, bring a medium shallow pan of water to a boil, while heating up a grill pan. Prepare a small ice bath. Start cooking the zucchini on the grill pan. Meanwhile, blanch the green beans for 30-45 seconds in the boiling water, and transfer to the ice bath. When the zucchini is going tender and has grill marks on one side, flip using a pair of tongs to grill on the other side. Transfer the finished zucchini to a plate on the counter and replace them with the blanched green beans. Brush the green beans with olive oil, roll them over with the tongs, grilling for about one minute on the one side, pressing down once to ensure a good grill mark.

In the water left from the blanching, poach your egg via your preferred method. Wash and dress the lettuce with the smallest amount of oil, vinegar and salt. 

Break open the roll, spread on the fancy mayonnaise.  Stuff in the zucchini pieces and green beans. Top with the little lettuces and pieces of pickled onion. Stuff with the poached egg. Break it a bit so the yolk runs into the vegetables. Add a big cracking of black pepper, some flaky salt and the spicy flowers, then serve.

Arugula, Carrot, and Mint Salad

A very very simple salad that goes with pretty much anything. It's at home with sandwiches on a picnic, burgers in the back yard, aaaand lots of inside places with lots of other foods too!

Like many of the salads in The Myrtlewood Cookbook, this one can be adapted pretty easily, if you think about it in part like thiss: crunchy vegetable, spicy leaves, sweet herb, salty cheese, simple dressing. You could make it with kohlrabi, mizuna, basil, and feta. Or celery, escarole, parsley, and goat's cheese. And so on!

arugula sylvetta (the 'wild' kind that is small and jagged, but any kind will do!)
purple-skinned carrots
flaky salt
black pepper
olive oil
lemon juice
grated parmesan or pecorino

Peel the carrots, discarding or keeping the skins depending on their toughness and cleanliness. Continue using the vegetable peeler to make sort of ribbons/strips. If you're working on this salad as part of a larger, more complicated meal, put your prepared carrots in water with lemon juice or vinegar. If not, just rinse them briefly to perk up the pieces. 

Wash and dry the arugula.

Pull the mint leaves from the stalks. Slice about half of them in half, keeping others whole. 
Combine the carrot slices and arugula. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice around the sides of the bowl. Toss the carrots and arugula around the edge of the bowl to get them properly dressed. Add flaky salt and a healthy cracking of black pepper. 

The kind of pecorino that has been aged with black pepper is great here, but can obviously be faked with just, y’know, cracking over a bunch of black pepper. 

Portion the salad into bowls, add the mint, toss once again, top with the sprinkling of cheese.

Blackcurrant Fool

The school where I used to work had an inconsistent gardening situation. Things would grow, things would die, they'd hire someone new, it would all start again. One happy day, waiting for a ride outside on the hot pavement, I noticed a mature blackcurrant bush had been planted, as if it had rained down from the heavens. I watched it like a hawk, then picked them at their peak, on the sly. 

handful of blackcurrants
red or blackcurrant jam (other jams work just fine too)
lemon juice
3 dried juniper berries
scattering of sugar
thick cream
cream of tarter
powdered sugar

Whip the cream with a generous pinch of cream of tartar, and a pinch or two of powdered sugar. I like it less sweet. The cream of tartar lends a tangy note that is quite complimentary to that of the black currants. I also like the cream to be slightly less stiff. If it whips too thoroughly, I add more cream and just stir until it has evened out. 

In a small saucepan, place the currants (de-stemmed, top/tailed) with a tiny amount of water and a scattering of sugar. Raise the heat to high. Smash three juniper berries and add them to the mixture with a dribbling of lemon juice. If you have no juniper berries, but do have gin, a splash will do great. Cook for about 2 minutes at the most. Stir in a spoonful of jam. Turn off the heat. If it's too thin, strain out the blackcurrants, continue cooking the liquid until it has reduced, then add the blackcurrants back in when you take it off the heat. Let cool completely. 

Fold with the cream. It can be served right away for a softer dessert, chilled until set for a medium-soft dessert, or nearly frozen for a on-its-way to semifreddo dessert. Serve with almond biscotti or an almond cookie of some kind.

Berry & Beaujolais Summer Drink

Perhaps this Saturday night would be made better by a "Berry & Beaujolais summer drink."  For sipping in a shady corner, while watching the shadows of the leaves dance around on the wall. 

half a glass of beaujolais wine
a few spoonfuls of strawberry/beaujolais compote (or other soft berry compote)
half a glass of sparkling water

A drink to make the day after the Black Pepper Cheesecake with Strawberry/Beaujolais Compote in the book, or to approximate at other times with other ingredients. This could easily be done throughout the later summer with currants, raspberries, marionberries, or blackberries. 

Spoon a couple of strawberries (or other fruit) into the bottom of a glass, with a few more spoonfuls of jammy compote. Fill the glass half with beaujolais, then the other half with sparkling water. Stir, let mingle for a second, and enjoy.