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Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

How do you say I love you? It comes out of my mouth in the language of beer and cheese. Cracking open an IPA for the one that I love even if my brew is less hoppy and scoring the best Vermont has to offer when it comes to cheddar (he likes it extra sharp) might be the love language that can’t really be bought. I tasted a delightfully bold cheddar from Cabot Creamery at IFBC and it set a plan in motion. Some people give expensive gifts, trips, watches, or other finery. I give grilled cheese.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea because, let’s be frank, cheese has always played an important role in our relationship. So, I set out to make Dark Rye Grilled Cheese Sandwiches all rubbed down in garlic and as you might imagine, it was a good idea. I picked up a block of the Cabot cheese because I knew if I liked it someone else in my immediate proximity would love it. 

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

But, this, friends, is no ordinary grilled cheese I concocted for my 2017 ILY. In fact, at just this moment, I’m going to make a bold statement inspired by the cheese to tell you it’s the best one I’ve ever eaten. When I presented the sandwich as a gift wrapped in crispy outsides concealing the symphony of flavors inside, the response to my I love you was one finger raised, requesting silence as he took a second bite. Not a bad reply especially when accompanied by a bear hug.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

The inspiration for this year’s grilled cheese came from a lunch date we took years ago at a restaurant in San Francisco named Arlequin. We finished our sandwiches in the courtyard out back and they created taste memories. That twist of salty and sweet kind of made the sandwich amazing… until now. I started thinking more about the pears and in my excitement to start cooking with them they practically whispered in my ear what came next. Rosemary. A touch of maple. All sauteed in those priceless bacon drippings. So, make it for someone you deeply care about. Once a year. Call it an I love you in griddled challah bread and cheddar form.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese

I love a good cooking hack. This sandwich can totally be prepped and grilled in advance of eating it. Reheat it at 280F for 8 minutes. Chances are kind of amazingly high that these maple pears sauteed in the bacon fat would be the stuff of legend as a topping for autumn pancakes. You’re welcome. Just let me know how they tasted and what else you put on them!

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 strips bacon

1 Bosc pear, peeled and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon maple syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces white cheddar cheese (cut into 6 slices)

4 1/2-inch slices challah bread

Cook the bacon in a skillet. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Reserve that extra bacon fat. Saute the pear slices with the rosemary, maple syrup, and salt over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until the pears take on a bit of color and soften slightly. Remove the skillet from the burner, carefully swiping a paper towel through to clean it. Brush the top and bottom of the two bread slices with some of the reserved bacon drippings. Build the sandwich, tiling three slices of cheddar on both of the unbrushed sides of the slices of bread. Tile the bacon on one side. Tile the pears on the other side. Carefully close the sandwich. Set the skillet over medium low heat. Grill the sandwich for 3 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melty. Press down on top with your fingers as you steady a spatula underneath, carefully flipping the sandwich and grilling the other side. Prep the other sandwich while the first one is grilling and repeat the cooking instructions.

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Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz Sometimes where we end up isn’t where we thought we’d go. There was a season in my life where I refused to cave into procuring a leather jacket because I wanted to be able to live overseas at a moment’s notice. Somehow that jacket unwittingly became the symbol of not settling down into a lifestyle in the U.S. At the time, South Asia held my focus, even if I didn’t know exactly how to make that move a reality.
 
We moved last week. But instead of crossing the Pacific Ocean, we crossed the nearest freeway driving south. Reasons like a string of yarn that’s still unspooling went into us making the move.
 
As a working artist, we wanted a space big enough to water small ideas and let them stretch and grow. Upon entering houses 1, 2, 3, and finally 4, I envisioned the books I might write at the desk facing a mature Meyer Lemon tree, the photos I might take from the single pane window with its yummy West-facing light. I even caught a glimpse of the poems to be penned in the sunny Bay window of a kitchen. Finding the right space for us felt like a scavenger hunt except instead of looking for clues in the open, I hunted consistent patches of light and considered the bones of the building itself. We would be leaving an apartment that sometimes gobsmacked visitors with its bright disposition of long French windows, light filtering into each room.
 
It’s an interesting thing, thinking about the constraints of creativity. When given a small canvas, you make the most of its surface space, but a large canvas requires something different from the painter. Musically, Nathan’s band of disparate intellectuals are gelling and sounding in sync in a way that it might be time soon to lay down permanent tracks of their progress. The notion that he can play plugged in without disturbing neighbors down the hall or downstairs is a kind of freedom. As I write this, my office is in cardboard boxes, the wall of the room itself getting scraped, primed and then ready to open for the business of unboxing its bits. This too is an exercise in patience, of a perseverance in writing even when the conditions of the writing is not optimal. Where I knew the windows best for setting up foodscapes in my former dwelling, I have yet to discover which window and time will become my favorite retreat for interesting light.
 
In December, we visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house and it inspired us in two very distinct ways that played out as we looked for our first house. First, his study and bedroom were almost inter-connected. I could envision him lying on his bed, a line coming to mind and leaping up to walk the short distance from leisure to livelihood. Secondly, his home informed his writing and specifically one room spoke into the idea behind one of his stories (more of this in an upcoming post). It fascinated me to think how a space can worm its way into your work. How the space in which we create is part of the toolkit joining the camera, notebook, or guitar.
 
Most days the feel and groove of the new neighborhood makes it seem like we moved to a new city. It’s been only a week and still the sounds surprise me. A rooster crows down the street in the morning and afternoon. Hens gab engulfed in the gossip of backyard goings-on next door. The booming bass of music rattles the window up front as a car passes by. A seagull screeches in its circle above the tops of the trees.

 

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz
When the move began to seem imminent, I began scouring our pantry for foods better eaten now than packed in one of the many cardboard boxes and reusable cloth bags. And, there they were, gleaming pearls in the shelf of whole grain filled jars. Wheat berries offer a hefty chew and hearty addition to a lunchtime salad. Though we are certainly in the throes of Spring, the humble and under-appreciated turnip turned up into this February salad too. I’m harboring plans for fall and winter to pursue the potential in this root vegetable even as we are decidedly in asparagus and pea season.
 
But like a good poem, a recipe is never too late in arriving. It comes just when it needs to, even after a gestation period that turned out to be longer than intended. Even after we end up surprising ourselves with the courage required to take our creative work deeper by rooting down and filling new rooms with ideas. Even if there’s still no room for a leather jacket.
 
Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad - anneliesz

Bacon Cauliflower Wheat Berry Salad

Makes 4-6 servings
 
2 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 cup peeled and chopped turnip
1 cup chopped cauliflower stalks
2 slices bacon
3 tablespoons sliced leeks, whites only
1 Swiss chard leaf, chiffonade
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon tahini
1 lime, juiced
 
Place the wheat berries in a large bowl. Steam the turnip and cauliflower stalks until fork tender. Add them to the bowl with wheat berries. Meanwhile, fry the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon. Saute the leeks, Swiss chard, salt, and pepper in the bacon fat until cooked down, about 4 minutes over medium low heat. Add the cooked Swiss chard to the bowl of wheat berries. Mix together the tahini and lime juice. If it’s too thick, add 1/2 teaspoon of water. Pour the tahini sauce over the wheat berries. Toss and serve.
 
PS- This salad is best eaten on the day it’s made. (Try to stop yourself after it’s just tossed).
 
PPS- Make this salad gluten-free by swapping out the wheat berries for brown rice. It’s got a similar grit and sense of self-import that matches the swagger of this salad.
 
PPPS- Stash the cauliflower florets to use in a different recipe. I like to take stock and provide ideas for using the less pretty bits of vegetables like cauliflower stalks. If the size shown here is too ungainly, feel free to chop them into smaller chunks.
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Recipes

Kale Celery Root Soup

Kale Celery Root Soup - anneliesz

In the Bay area, if it dips under 60 degrees, we pull out the scarves and beanies. I’ve been donning my fingerless gloves for weeks and am wearing out my hoodie (hood up, thank you). Our place doesn’t have a working heater or a working fireplace though we have one of each. To stay warm and for overall high spirits, I drink copious amounts of tea and coffee. Then, I pile on the layers. On particularly cold days, the oven cranks onto a balmy 375, which makes my challah rise to the happy climes. Recently we made an excursion to Philadelphia. That city won me over in a big way a few years back and claimed the spot of favorite food city of 2014, narrowly being edged out of its spot in 2015 by Los Angeles and its booming bold flavors of any kind of cuisine imaginable.

While in Philadelphia, we sported winter coats. Hats with ear flaps. Mittens. And on a few occasions, we may have ducked into stores we didn’t really have any intention of perusing had the wind not picked up into the soul-crushingly cold temperatures. We ran up the Rocky steps, or more accurately, I ran up the Rocky steps. I quickly learned that detail alone separated the chump out-of-towners from the townies like opening an umbrella in Seattle gives you away in an instant. Two days at the museum meant two chances to eat incredibly good pizza in the name of it being within walking distance.

If I had to qualify my favorite thing to eat, anything wrapped in a fresh, hot corn tortilla would take the top seat and perhaps surprisingly, homemade soup would nab the silver spot. I love sweets more than I should, but I could eat soup everyday and not grow bored. Homemade soup is one part revelation and another part Bay area and beyond winter survival tactic. I created this soup with the specific aim in mind of cramming as much greens as possible into something that also tends toward being a little naughty. The bacon fat lends a nudge of meaty flavor to a veggie-filled soup. I won’t be mad at you if you make more bacon to crumble on top when you’re ready to serve it. Or, skip the bacon altogether and use veggie stock, letting it rain Parmesan on top as a garnish. Whatever you need to do stay warm in winter works.

Kale Celery Root Soup

MAKES 4-6 SERVINGS

3 pieces bacon, torn into 3 pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and medium chopped (1 cup)

1 green bell pepper, ribbed and medium chopped (1 ¼ cups)

1 small yellow onion, medium chopped (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon

1 (10 ounce-sized) small celery root, peeled and medium chopped (1 ¾ cup)

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 bunch kale, rinsed, ribbed and chopped (about 6 cups)

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 cup water

Crème Fraiche

Fry the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon, placing on a plate for later use. Drizzle and swirl the oil into a stockpot. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Saute them for about 10 minutes or until mostly cooked, stirring occasionally. Stir in the celery root and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the kale, coriander, paprika, and Aleppo pepper, stirring for about 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock, water, and remaining teaspoon of kosher salt. Raise the heat to medium high. Cook the soup for about 15 minutes or until the celery root is fork tender. Puree the soup in batches. Crush the cooled bacon into bits. Serve with a drizzle of crème fraiche on top a la Jackson Pollock and a scattering of bacon bits.

 

PS- This soup would actually be pretty terrific with grilled cheese soldiers dipped into it.

PPS- And, if you happen to find celery root in the summer, it would make a fine chilled soup too.

Kale Celery Root Soup - anneliesz

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Recipes

Cassoulet

SOUP RECIPES- CassouletFresh back from the honeymoon, I would love to say we filled the kitchen with cinnamon and butter and sugar emanating from a hot oven. Our lives were as they had been a la honeymoon equal parts tense and excited at the possibilities ahead. No, I’m not referring to the early days of marriage but instead whether or not our San Francisco Giants would win the National League pennant. We meandered into neighborhood pubs and pizza joints yukking it up with other fans. On a particular rainy Saturday evening, we shared a booth facing a flat screen TV, watching pitchers get swapped out and batters foul. Over tapas and organic beer, we cheered and cowered, the digestive juices roiling in a perpetual state of uncertainty. But it was made less bitter and more sweet with slivers of flatbread festooned with shaved jamon Serrano and black mission figs with manchego cheese. That night, victory tasted sweet.

So our first “official” dinner looks something like this. I enter the apartment with its cheery smells of caramelized onions and a big smile spread wide across Nathan’s face. He’s begun chopping celery and carrots for a cassoulet I’ve been jonesing to make except it’s not the cassoulet and so no big surprise, it takes on a life of its own. We chop on different counters yet somehow at one point, all of his knives are on my cutting board as I’m paring the garlic. Hmm. The stew that resulted from our kitchen antics cut the chill of this October San Francisco evening. Think of it as South meets North or France meets a bit of Spain. Thus, this tasty concoction is a bit of a hot mess, but a tasty one nonetheless.

 

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Cassoulet

YIELD: 4-6 servings

  • 3 celery ribs, halved & then cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 leeks, halved & then cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 carrots, halved & then cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 T fines herbes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good grinding of black pepper
  • 1 8 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 8 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 pieces smoked bacon, split down the middle & then cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 dried Black Mission figs, quartered
  • toasted bread crumbs of Country Levain* (see below)

Pour oil, veggies and spices in a heavy stockpot over medium high heat for 12 minutes. Stir occasionally. Heat up the bacon on the stovetop while the veggies are cooking also for about 10-12 minutes. Add the bacon and a little bit of the bacon grease to your veggies along with the diced tomatoes, white beans and chicken stock. Also add the figs. Let simmer covered for 30 minutes. While the stew is simmering, cut up two hefty slices of Country Levain bread into large chunks. Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until the bread is decimated into crumbs. Toss the breadcrumbs in a large pan over medium-low heat and make sure to turn them or stir them frequently until they are toasted. (You could also put them in the oven, but we did it on the stovetop). Et voila. You have made yourself a bowl of a hot mess- garnish it with the breadcrumbs before serving. Enjoy with a cabernet sauvignon. If you’re Nathan, you might also be inclined to sneak in some shaved white cheese like a manchego. Nathan can never get enough of his cheese, but I digress.

 

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