Grilled Cheese: The CakeWalk.

The CakeWalk. I have never submitted a recipe to another website before (other than photographically speaking to Tastespotting), and was surprised that my image and recipe appeared lighting-quick on the beautifully appointed Grilled Cheese Academy website, without a lengthy moderation process. You may recall that I went to the website launch event in Madison a while back, and while I was immediately impressed with both the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Tori Miller's execution of such humble ingredients as cheese and bread, I never thought I'd be submitting a recipe of my own. Of course, in true rcakewalk fashion, the recipe is really a Frankenstein's Monster of sorts: Lahey bacon bread, vegan cashew-lemon pesto, and a cheese that I first fell in love with in the early '90's.

When I was still in high school, my family went on a week long vacation to the Ely, Minnesota area. We stayed in a lakeside cabin, my brother and I canoed in the Boundary Waters, and our van broke. We had an enormous bench-seated rental, that I remember we had a lot of fun picking on. I'm sure there is a picture somewhere. But even more memorably than that, we ate at a restaurant called The Chocolate Moose. (It appears that it is still there, but there is no website listed when Googled.) I was vegetarian in those days - much to the chagrin of my Parents, I'd imagine, who were pretty lenient and understanding about my dietary choices.

What made The Chocolate Moose stand out to me was that they had a kitchen garden out in the back, and they were able to use a lot of it in what they served. We ate there multiple times, and I know that I had their grilled cheese every time we did. Their sandwich was something like this: bread, provolone, pesto, tomato, pesto, provolone, bread. I studied it completely. Not only was provolone a rather new cheese to me, I don't think that I'd ever had pesto before.

Theirs was pine nut pesto, and I remember recreating the sandwich soon after we got back to Wisconsin (thankfully, in our own van). I'm sure I bought a little refrigerated tub of pesto back then, but now due to the bounty of a summer kitchen garden of my own, there is no need for that. I used some leftover Cashew Lemon Pesto from a recipe by Dreena Burton in her book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. When chilled, the cashew pesto was almost like a paste that I spread into a molded shape on the right hand piece of bread (photo below) and then transferred to the grated cheese. When heated, it went right back to it's original state much the same as a refrigerated traditional pesto would.

I love grilled cheese because it is one of those things in the Endlessly Adaptable Club that pretty much always hits the spot. Whatever is lurking in the fridge can find new life nestled in-between good bread and good cheese, and in relatively short order. I think the key to a great sandwich is to line the bread on both sides with some of the cheese, since it provides a moisture barrier, and also to sprinkle a bit of salt on the top of the sandwich after it is grilled. I learned this from my Dad, who is a grilled cheese expert. He would be the first to tell you that he's not much of a cook, but eggs, grilled cheese and outdoor grilling he's got down to a science. That little extra salinity on the top of the sandwich really just makes it.

So, there you have it. The CakeWalk is a sandwich of many parts, but it is one I am proud of. It is satisfying on it's own, but anytime that I'm able to promote Food in Jar's Spicy Dilly Beans, I will! I love these things, and they are even better since now I'm eating my remaining jar with gusto since I know I will have access to fresh green beans very soon to make more. I had a nice big handful on the side this evening, and like to think that everything in this grilled cheese supper was from Wisconsin, save the flour in the bread and the tropical cashew nut in the pesto.

You can check out my recipe in the gallery (search for The CakeWalk) and many others, and even submit one of your own while you're there. It's fun to know that whatever your level of cooking and/or kitchen experimenting, there is a sandwich at the Grilled Cheese Academy just waiting for you to enjoy. I know I have to remember to check out their site more often.