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Lunch for the soul

My pantry has a woebegone look these days as we gear up to move. Why stock up on wild rice and two kinds of salad oil (hazelnut and extra-virgin olive) when I’d have to schlep it to the new place in less than four weeks?

At lunch time I contemplate the forlorn cans and jars that have sat unopened for God knows how long and will be orphaned by the move if I don’t make a plan. Chile peppers. Tinned sardines. A bottle of honey from our trip to Provence, which I thought should be saved for a special brunch and now may never be consumed at all. Any way you slice and dice it, these oddments don’t add up to a meal.

But I still have the makings of my favourite restorative lunch, the one I count on during blizzards and bouts of the flu. It’s a grilled cheese sandwich—not the kind my mother used to make with white bread and Velveeta, but a meal of true distinction that is all the more special for the ease with which it comes together. I’ve made all-day ragus that delivered nothing close to the pleasure this humble sandwich brings me time after time. Recipe, what recipe? We’re talking assembly here. Okay, let’s make lunch:

Take two slices of whole-grain bread (not too dense; you want the cheese to saturate the bread nicely). Spread one side with mayonnaise (I use the bottled reduced-fat mayo from Hellman’s) and the other with a character-ful mustard. (Please don’t use the kind they serve at the ballpark. Click here to read about some mustards worthy of your lunch.) Top generously with your best grated cheddar (you can’t slice this stuff; it’s crumbly) and then with whatever other interesting cheese you have on hand, perhaps a nutty gruyere. Now it’s time to get creative with a few dollops of chutney and some thinly sliced apple. If you’re craving something more robust, you can use crisp bacon instead.

Meanwhile, you’ve been heating your electric grill pan. If yours is anything like mine, it does a mediocre job with chicken and is absolutely hopeless with meat. But its moment of glory is at hand. Slip your sandwich into the pan and give it, oh, about five minutes, until melt-y, fragrant and brown. Get something to read and a thick paper napkin so you don’t drip cheese all over the pages. If no one’s looking, lick your fingers.

Eat with gratitude that you could create this yourself from what you had on hand. You could have gone to Subway or the local diner. But you know the rules about licking your fingers in public. Not that you’d have wanted to.

Click here to read about my stand-by Sunday dinner, which is almost as easy as the grilled cheese sandwich.


Posted by Rona

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