Roasted Tomato and Pesto Grilled Cheese

Tomato-Pesto Grilled Cheese.

Tomato-Pesto Grilled Cheese.

This is day two of being snowed-in.  Sidewalk is shoveled, but driveway not plowed!   Go figure that one.  Snowplow guy seems to be busy elsewhere.  Well, there’s still plenty of food in the house, so no rush about going anywhere.

Under these house-bound conditions,  almost as soon as breakfast is over, I start thinking about lunch.   Wouldn’t you?  I’m imagining some kind of a grilled cheese sandwich.  Most folks love the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese, so let me see if I can cram the two of them together in a knock-your-socks-off sandwich.  Get ready for an ooey-gooey delight.

First we’re going to go to our refrigerators to gather up all the delicious things we’ll need.  If those things should happen to be roasted, pesto-ed, or melty, that’s ideal.

Today I’m lucky, I have some good things.  This is not always the case.  Sometimes all I have in the fridge is skim milk and some bendy celery with brown tops.   That’s why there’s frozen pizza, right?  Skim milk and bendy celery are not allowed in this sandwich.   Absolutely not,  not when I see some precious Romano,  cheddar and pesto in there, not to mention some beautiful red tomatoes.

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This is what it looks like to pack every delicious item in your refrigerator between toasted onion rolls.

(These are not the best photos I’ve ever taken, but I was too impatient to eat this sandwich.)

I’m the kind of person who likes to always have pesto on hand.  Quite some time ago I posted my recipe for homemade pesto(s), and I really recommend you make some for your refrigerator.  Made from herbs or spinach or kale (ignore that bendy celery),  you’ll thank yourself when you go looking in your refrigerator for some “good things”.  BTW, make lots–it freezes well, too.

On this sandwich we layer shredded cheddar, smeared pesto, roasted tomato puree, salty Romano cheese and mayo!

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Roasting the tomatoes intensifies their flavor and sweetness.  The pesto adds a happy green, garlic-y kick.  Two kinds of cheese because we’re the kind of people who deserve two kinds of cheese on our sandwich.  Spread the top and bottom of the sandwich with mayo and grill on each side until the center is warm and melty.

The center gets melty and warm.

The center gets melty and warm.

Now the pay-off.   Take that sandwich to your favorite comfy place and settle yourself into coziness.  Sit down on the floor if you have to, just relax and enjoy it.  Now eat slowly and savor every delicious bite.    Relax.  Read your e-mails, or check out Pinterest.  Only move when the desire for some chips or a beverage motivates you beyond laziness.  Bendy celery, get outta here!

 

ROAST TOMATO PESTO GRILLED CHEESE 

Yield:    Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 4 tsp. canola mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. pesto
  • 2 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz. Romano cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices of whole grain bread or rolls of choice

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400*F.  Combine 1 tsp. oil, tomatoes, and garlic on a baking sheet.

Cut in half and seed tomatoes.

Cut in half and seed tomatoes.

Bake at 400*F. for 20 minutes.  Remove skins and discard. Squeeze garlic to extract the pulp, discard skins.

Roast with garlic.  Remove skins.

Roast with garlic. Remove skins.

2.  Combine tomatoes, garlic pulp, basil, salt and pepper in a mini food processor  pulse 10 times.

Place in mini processor and  chop finely.

Place in mini processor and chop finely.

3.  Spread mayonnaise on two slices of bread or top half of rolls. Spread pesto on remaining 2 slices bread or bottoms of rolls.

Spread mayo and pesto on bread slices.

Spread mayo and pesto on bread slices.

4.  Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoon tomato mixture on sandwich bottoms.  Cover with half the grated cheese on each bottom,  top that with thinly sliced Romano cheese.

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5.  Cover with sandwich tops.  Lightly coat outsides of sandwiches with cooking spray.

6.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 teaspoon oil, swirl to coat.  Place sandwiches in pan; cook about 3 minutes or until lightly browned.  Flip sandwiches, and continue to cook until lightly browned and cheese is melted.  Cut in half and serve immediately.

7.  If you have a panini pan, sandwiches may be cooked in that instead of a skillet.

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SOURCE:  Carolyn’s Originals

 

Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

If you are looking to make a quick baked dish that is lasagna-like in its layering of ingredients this could very well be it. This is not lasagna in its truest form. This dish uses convenience items like ready-made pesto, jarred Alfredo sauce and frozen cheese-filled ravioli along with a bag of fresh baby spinach.  This makes a very nice meatless meal that is filling and great tasting.

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For added flavor, or to incorporate some meat you could add pieces of cooked chicken, sausage or ground beef.  I thought this was a a great put-together meal for times when you want to have a meatless meal.  We really liked it. and for me, it was another way that I could eat spinach, and not be too aware of what I was eating.  (I am always looking for ways to overcome my aversion to spinach.)  The pesto adds a lot of flavor to this dish.  I used my homemade pesto, but any commercial variety will do nicely.

As I frequently do, I made only half of this recipe for two of us.

SPINACH RAVIOLI LASAGNA

Yield:  Makes 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:IMG_6827

  • 1 (6-oz) bag fresh baby spinach, thoroughly washed
  • 1/3 cup refrigerated pesto sauce ( I used my homemade pesto)
  • 1 (15–0z.) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 (25-oz.) package frozen cheese-filled ravioli (do not thaw)
  • 1 cup (4-oz.) shredded Italian six-cheese blend
  • Garnishes:  chopped fresh basil, paprika

Preparation:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Chop spinach, and toss with pesto in a medium bowl.

Chopping spinach.

Chopping spinach.

Mixing spinach with pesto.

Mixing spinach with pesto.

2.  Combine Alfredo sauce and vegetable broth.

Mixing Alfredo sauce with broth.

Mixing Alfredo sauce with broth.

Spoon one-third of alfredo sauce mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a lightly greased 2 qt. or 11 x 7-inch baking dish.  Top with half of spinach mixture.

Layering the spinach on top of sauce.

Layering the spinach on top of sauce.

Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture.

Cover with half the ravioli.

Cover with half the ravioli.

Repeat layers once more.  Top with remaining Alfredo sauce.

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3.  Bake at 375*F for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake 5 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Garnish, if desired.

Super easy to make and so very good.

Super easy to make and so very good.

SOURCE:  Southern Living, 2008

Homemade Pesto

When we say pesto most of us think of basil as the primary ingredient.  But pesto(s) can be made from a variety of herbs, vegetables and condiments; or combinations there of.  What is needed is a food processor–and chop, chop–you can be enjoying the flavors of summer all year long.  I include the making of pesto in my series on kitchen basics, because it is so easy, and so useful in a great number of ways.

Depending on what flavor you have on hand you can do any of the following with it:  spread it on grilled corn, toss with grilled veggies for extra flavor, spoon over a spreadable cheese and serve with crackers for an appetizer, use in place of sauce on pizza, stir some into eggs for a seasoned omelet, add a spoonful to soup for an extra flavor hit.   See how versatile it is?  I’m sure you can think of other uses, too.

It is so easy to make that I am giving the general directions first, followed by the ingredients list for four (4) different kinds.  Each one makes  about 2 cups of pesto.  I like to divide mine up into 1/2 – 1 cup amounts and store in the freezer, removing a small container of it as needed.  The flavor stays as fresh as the day you made it.

GENERAL DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.  Period!  Did I say Easy?   Divide up into small jars or plastic  containers, and use creatively.

BASIL

1.  BASIL PESTO

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

CILANTRO

2.  CILANTRO PESTO

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

ROSEMARY

3.  OLIVE PESTO

  • 1  7 0z. jar pitted kalamata olives, drained
  • 1  7 oz. jar pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  •  3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

OREGANO

4.  MIXED HERBS PESTO

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, or  1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or 1  teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

SOURCE:   adapted from  Foods, Quick and Easy.

Summer-strone-zpacho

A regional farmer’s market has opened nearby, and I couldn’t wait to go and browse all the stalls.  I just love looking at all the fresh produce, herbs, cheeses and baked goods.  My creative juices start to flow as I imagine what I could do with it all.   Everything was so tempting, that I had to exert great self-restraint, and therefore brought home mostly vegetables.

Using some of that bounty I put together this soup that bears some resemblance to Minestrone, except there are no beans, and instead of the usual ditalini I used Israeli couscous.  It is also a little like gazpacho except there are no peppers. It does contain cucumbers,  part of it gets pureed, and it can be enjoyed warm or cold.  Its a great summertime soup for a light lunch, or perhaps combined with a sandwich or salad for a light supper.  I’m not sure what to call it so let’s just say  —-  Summertime  Vegetable Soup.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Kirby cucumbers (3 med.size), peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • one 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small jar basil or mixed herbs pesto

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the couscous until al dente, 8-10 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat.  Add the cucumbers and cook stirring occasionally.  As they soften and become translucent, add the chopped onion and continue cooking another 4-5 minutes.  Don’t let them become too browned.  Stir in the tomatoes, paprika and vegetable broth.

3.  Using an immersion blender,  regular blender or food processor,  puree this mixture.  You may need to work in batches.  Return to the pot and stir in the couscous and shredded zucchini.  For cold soup refrigerate at this point.

4.  To serve warm, return the soup mixture to the stove and reheat, so the new added ingredients become warmed through.

5.  Serve the soup drizzled with the herb pesto.****

 

P.S.  This soup tasted even better the next day after flavors had time to meld.

 

****Stay tuned this week for my recipes on making your own pesto(s).

Source:  a Carolyn Original