There is probably nothing more comforting than the first bite of a hot grilled cheese sandwich; melted cheese enclosed in buttery toasted bread is enough to make me go weak in the knees :: ginocchia.
To appease my tastebuds and health conscience, I’ve added a few more flavor combinations and nutrients to create a veggie-packed balanced meal. Even if your not a big onion :: cipolla fan, these ones caramelized in balsamic vinegar, or as the say in Italian, aceto balsamico, are robust in flavor and are surely able to convert even the most timid. The rest of the veggie filling, including chard, tomato and basil, complete the fresh food experience. Then of course there is the cheese :: formaggio. Cheeessseeee. Such a dreamy word that just by saying it, my mouth is already watering. I’ve used two types of cheese, but feel free to substitute with whatever you have in the fridge :: frigo.
Living in Italy for almost five years, I have become fascinated by the entomology of words, especially foreign words and how they become commonly used in other languages :: lingue. I find it quite amusing that in the the Italian language some words are translated while others retain the English words or even become modified in significance. “Computer” and “mouse” are two commonly used English words that have entered into the vocabulary of Italians; however, the word “keyboard” has been translated to “tastiera”. The reason behind this, I do not know. Why not keep all the words in English or simply translate them all to Italian? Surely, some gnome lexicographer with a big bushy beard gets a kick out of making life hell for foreign language learners like myself. I can just imagine his kiddish laugh :: risata as he jumps up and down in a giddy state while he picks which words remain in English and which are translated. Little punk.
And, then there are words that are retained in English but whose contextual meaning has been modified. Take the word “toast,” for example. Only this morning did I have a lovely debate with my Italian husband :: marito over the word. I asked him if he wanted a piece of toast in Italian and he asked me why I as offering him a piece of toasted bread. “Toast,” he said, “is two pieces of toasted bread with cheese and ham inside.” What the what? Italians use our English word and then change the meaning entirely? I need to be on the look out for these words; otherwise, who knows in the future when an English word like “grateful” could be modified by the Italians to mean “pig’s head.” Yah, that might just make for quite an embarrassing moment…So back to the important task at hand, food…and specifically these Swiss Chard and Caramelized Balsamic Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. These make the best lunch when you need something simple to make but want to impress your guests. Pare them with potato chips or a roasted tomato soup.
A grilled cheese sandwich is such a simple, yet truly satisfying food. It brings me back to childhood memories. Ah, the good carefree days when my biggest worries in the world was what games to play :: giocare. Now, at 30, I still yearn to be reminded of these moments, it’s truly the simple things in life that are the most important, after all. What are the memories that this classic sandwich bring back for you?
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 pinches of salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 swiss chard leaves, coarsely chopped
- Salt and pepper, as needed
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 slices bread (I used a type of crusty Ciabatta bread)
- 4 thin slices aged pecorino cheese (or any hard white cheese)
- 4 thin slices cheddar cheese
- 5 Datterini tomatoes or 1 tomato, sliced
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- 1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper and saute’, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft.
- 2. Add the sugar and continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
- 3. Add the balsamic vinegar and turn the heat to low. Continue cooking the onions and stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes until the balsamic vinegar is reduced and not runny.
- 1. Sauté the chard leaves in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the chard leaves are very soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
- 2. Butter all four slices of bread on one side.
- 3. Take one piece of bread and place butter side down into the a large sauté pan. Stack with two slices of pecorino cheese, half the tomato slices, half the caramelized onion, half the sautéed chard, two slices of cheddar cheese and half the basil. Place the other half of bread on top, butter side up. Repeat the process for the second grilled cheese sandwich.
- 4. Turn the heat on to medium and toast until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted. Flip the sandwich to the opposite side until the bread is toasted as well. Cut in half and serve immediately.