Admittedly, I’m way too susceptible to food advertising and recipe teasers. If I read the littlest mention of something, it’s all I can think about for days, whether it’s in a cookbook, a novel, or on a non-food oriented TV show! In the latest Vegetarian Times, there was a whole spread on grilled cheese, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get it out of my head! A late night run to the grocery store got us stocked up on all of the essentials to mix and match, and I highly encourage you to do the same with your favorite fillings–grilled cheese isn’t just for kids anymore, and when paired with the right fillings and sides, can fill you up just as well as any other meal!
Grilled Cheese with Mushrooms and Tempeh
–slices of your favorite bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick (we went with a multigrain loaf from the bakery)
-brie and gouda cheese (we also added some fresh mozzarella, which melts really well!) –shredding is best for grilled cheese, but thin slices of soft cheese are good too!
-baby Portobella mushrooms, sliced
-tempeh, cut into thin slices on the diagonal (see cheesesteak post for description)
-kale, de-veined and washed
-raw, unsalted almonds
-sesame seeds (we used black)
-vegan Worcestershire sauce
-fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
-rice wine vinegar
Start by marinating your tempeh and mushrooms in equal parts balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire, with some fresh basil thrown in. You want them to both really absorb the flavors and colors, so let it sit for at least 30 minutes. After marinated, cook in an oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 7-9 minutes until the tempeh is crispy (like jerky) and the mushrooms are softened.
Meanwhile, mix up a vinaigrette of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, then massage it into the kale leaves to let them soften. Roughly chop the almonds and set aside with sesame seeds to toss with the kale right before serving.
When the tempeh and mushrooms are marinated and cooked, heat a skillet or griddle pan to medium -high heat (no oil needed at this time!). [If you are comfortable with the basic architecture of a grilled cheese, feel free to skip ahead] Butter one side of a slice of bread and place the buttered side down in the pan. Top with a few pieces of cheese and some of the tempeh pieces and mushrooms, then place a second piece of bread on top. Place a heavy object on top of the sandwich to encourage maximum surface contact with the pan– a brick wrapped in foil works, but so does a smaller pan with something heavy in it, like a can of beans (still IN the can, just for weight!) Press the sandwich for about 2 minutes, then check the bottom of the bread–it should be golden and crispy with the cheese beginning to melt. Butter the top of the bread (facing you) so that when you flip it, it’s already buttered and won’t stick. Flip in the pan and cover with a large pot lid–this traps the steam in the pan and encourages cheese meltiness. After another 30 seconds to a minute, remove from pan, let cool for a few moments, and cut and serve with the kale, almonds, and sesame seeds.
YUMMMM. We did one with brie and one with gouda (but otherwise identical), and both were fantastic. The saltiness of the cheese works well with the soft bread and meaty mushrooms, and the tempeh adds protein and crunch and the mushrooms are savory and add depth. You could combine the cheeses together or experiment with others–I think Gruyere would be awesome too! Cheese like this are really the major barrier between me going vegan completely– dairy-free cheeses that you buy in stores may replace shredded Sargento/Kraft cheese, but show me a vegan brie that’s comparable to the real deal! If you’re ever in Charleston, check out goat.sheep.cow for a fantastic selection of unique and fun cheeses. They have a great wine selection too and charcuterie for those meat-eaters out there. For our next grilled cheese adventure, we’ll try a goat.sheep.cow recommendation and their suggested pairings!