I love Seattle. If I were to make a list of all the things I love about Seattle, it would probably fill at least a dozen pages. At least. One thing I love about Seattle is the amount of festivals around these parts. During any given week, a person could most likely find some fun, free, and interesting festival to attend. Food fests, cultural fests, music fests, art fests, fests fests fests.
In a couple weeks, Pike Place Market will host the annual Seattle Cheese Festival. I believe this is the 4th year and counting. The Cheese Festival falls the weekend before my birthday, so in past years I’ve been unable to attend due to being out of town or otherwise celebrating another year on planet Earth.
I’m bound and determined to attend this year’s Cheese Festival. And, to really show how dedicated I am in this endeavor, I decided to enter the Grilled Cheese Sandwich Contest.
Now, the deadline to submit recipes was Saturday May 1st. I found out about the contest Friday April 30th at about 9pm. I had a little over 24 hours to come up with a recipe idea, test it out, and mail it off to the good folks who sift through the entries to be judged.
Not only did I manage to get my entry in three whole minutes before the stroke of midnight on Saturday, but I also submitted 2 (yes, TWO) recipes to the competition. Yep yep. I’m cuh-razy.
Anyway, here’s recipe #1. Stay tuned for recipe #2!
Bellavitano with Sundried Tomato, Basil Pesto, & Arugula
2 Tbsp. Basil Pesto (see below for homemade recipe, but you can purchase premade at the store if you want)
1 Tbsp. Sundried Tomato (packed in oil), diced
1/4 cup Arugula
2 slices Bellavitano Cheese (available at DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine)
Preheat a panini or Foreman grill. Generously butter one side of a slice of bread. Spread basil pesto on the non-buttered side. Spread sundried tomato on 2nd slice. Layer cheese on the pesto slice, add arugula to the sundried tomato slice. Combine both slices of bread. Butter outside of second slice of bread. Grill for about 4 minutes. Serve warm.
Inspiration: I wanted to use ingredients that I could find at Pike Place Market, and especially at DeLaurenti's, since the winning sandwich will be featured on their menu during the week of the festival. I found sundried tomatoes and cheese at DeLaurenti's and Italian bread just down the alley at Three Girls Bakery. I bought fresh basil and garlic from a produce stand and pine nuts from a vendor for the pesto. I'm a sucker for Italian cuisine, so naturally my sandwich is Italian-inspired. This is a vegetarian version, but to give it a meatier flare, I recommend a few slices of thin-sliced prosciutto, as well.
+ Bellavitano cheese, made by Sartori in Wisconsin, is a parmesan-cheddar hybrid. It the sharpness and elegance of a Parmigiano-Reggiano and the smoothness of a Fontinella (soft and creamy cheese), but with a little crunch and certain flakiness to it. It has good melting characteristics, so it was perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich!
+ I got the proportions wrong when I sent in my recipe. I originally suggested 5 Tbsps of pesto and 2 Tbsps of sundried tomato. Really folks, just eyeball it. Spread pesto liberally over the bread, then smear some sundried tomato over the other slice.
+ I recommend a higher pesto : tomato ratio. The tomato has a very rich flavor that can overpower the cheese and pesto, so going light with the tomato is a good idea. Please note: Do not use the same amount of tomato as pictured here! It's just too much and overpowers the rest of the sandwich. Use a lighter spread of tomato. Roughly 1 to 2 Tablespoons oughtta do it. You should still be able to see patches of bread.
+ This is an oily sandwich. Between the butter, the olive-oil based pesto, and the oil in the sundried tomatoes, it can get a little greasy. Be sure you have a tray to catch the oil that comes off the grill, and you might consider draining these sandwiches on paper towels before serving.
Homemade Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated hard Italian cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano etc.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
In food processor, pulse basil leaves and pine nuts for several seconds. Slowly add olive oil and continue to pulse. Add cheese and garlic and pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 1 cup.
I don't own a food processor. *sniff, tear* It's been on the ol' wishlist for about 3 years now. (Hi Mom. I hope you're reading. My birthday is this month! *hint, hint. wink, wink. nudge, nudge.*) In a pinch, you can use a blender if you have to, like I did here. But really, a food processor is your best bet. If I had one, I'd totally use it. Often. Did I mention a food processor is on my wishlist?
This is Shane. He works at DeLaurenti's and helped me pick out the cheese. He doesn't know I took his photo. I hope he doesn't mind. And look behind him there, on the wall! There's a poster for the Cheese Festival! Hooray!
This woman sold me fresh basil and garlic for the pesto. I didn't catch her name, because this particular produce stand is always really busy and things were rather chaotic there, but she was a sweetheart. Thanks, mystery lady!
I grabbed some Italian Como bread at Three Girls Bakery. (As far as I can tell, they don't have a website, so that link takes you to Yelp.)
Look at these layers!
All grilled up.
Oh yes. Cheese.
Cut this puppy in half, it's a bit messy!
Just look at that beautiful sight.