A Perfectly Cheesy Cookbook

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Who doesn't love a warm, comforting grilled cheese sammich when the weather gets cold? Some good bread, a few slices of cheddar, butter, and a big crunchy pickle is heaven to me! Throw in a side of tomato soup and we got a winning combination!

I always thought I was creative when I took spinach, pears, and brie and made a very classy little grilled cheese pressed between some heavy skillets. However, Marlena Spieler - a long time writer for Bon Appetit and author of many cookbooks - has brought grilled cheese to a new level. Her book Grilled Cheese: 50 Recipes to Make You Melt is just the thing to bring a creative comfort to your kitchen during the cold season.

The book starts out with a comprehensive review and introduction. She begins by covering various types of cheeses (blue viened, soft, cow, goat, semi-hard, spiced, bloomy rind, smoked and so on in extremely specifc subcategories) and how each can be perfectly utilized and paired for your own creative uses. All are accompanied by a short description describing their general flavors and properties. Since one may not be able to eat a whole wedge of cheese, Spieler also considers the proper storage and handling of cheeses. To further aide the grilled cheese selection process, a section covering breads, meats, fuits, chutneys and so on are all covered so that your experience with her recipes and your own home concoctions! At the back is even a resource guide on where to find good cheese stores or markets, and suggestions on finding local cheeses.

But how do the recipes stand up? Perfectly. Rob and I have already found a few favorites, ensuring that we now keep a few select cheeses on hand, and nudging us to always experiment with a new piece of stinky goodness. Rob's current favorite is the Mediterranean Meltdown; tomatoes, Mahon cheese, and fresh thyme on olive bread. We threw in some sauteed red onions as well for a truly filling and rustic sammich!

I've become partial to the fresh mozarella, fig jam, and prosciutto for it's sweet and salty sensations. The raddicchio, Roquefort and toasted pecans on pain au levain is another delectible tid-bit that goes well next to a blazing heater or roaring fire place.

Breaking out the heavy skillet is definetly part of the charm, but don't think that some of these don't mix it up. Classics such as the tuna melt are revamped. Recipes calling for home made chili aioli, and fruity chutneys make for a flavorful and fun experience and a perfect excuse to visit local farmer's markets. Desserts, salads, and a classic accompaniments also adorn the book, and well as a small section for a few homemade mustards to keep things spicy!

The book is filled to the brim with gorgeous photos any photographer would envy. Sheri Giblin, a local San Francisco food photographer, has done an excellent job bring each and every recipe to life. Luckilly with grilled cheese being such a simple fare, many times yours will look much like the photo. Mine have to my total surprise.

Downsides? The price is a bit higher than I would pay, though it was just lowered to about $13. Good thing I got a discount copy for $2 at Amazon.com. Plus the shipping, it was about $5.37. A total steal. I highly suggest you go order a bargain book copy. Mine has one or two stickers on it, but really, who cares? The book has tons of great ideas, and will fill you with inspiration for simple meals, and fun lunches with friends.

Overall, the book is shibby, affordable, and truly cheesy.


  1. Love your blog! I'm probably way far away from ever even thinking of doing gourmet cooking, but I like to read your commentary about various things and dream of how this or that would taste.

    But grilled cheese and tomato soup - absolutely the best comfort food to me! I like to drop a pat or two of butter into the soup, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and sit back and relax and just enjoy the simple flavor sensation I just created! Nothing fancy, just yummy!

    By the way, my favorite cheese time is coming up - Christmas - when I will invest around $15-$20 for a round of the Swedish cheese which I know this is not the correct spelling of it (don't have the characters to put over top of some of the letters) good old Bondost! Eating that cheese brings back many, many wonderful memories of Christmas when I was a child, living with my Swedish grandparents, who wouldn't have considered any Christmas dinner or snack time complete without this special cheese! It's also the only time of the year when I can find this cheese here too - the manager of the local grocery store special orders in several rounds of it just for those of us in the community who are of Swedish descent! Isn't that sweet?

  2. Hey Jeni, I love reading about gourmet cooking too. Don't ever dream about it. I work every week on a budget and do overtime at my non-profit job. Most of the stuff here is always done on a budget (minus one or two dinners for a special occassion).

    I say bravo for your cheese indulgence! I personally go a bit crazy for well aged salami's and cheeses as well.

    A bit of indulgence once in a while is a healthy thing. Learning where to shop for those culinary deals and special ingredients is half the fun of cooking!

    Gourmet is overrated I say. It's what you want it to be. Screw 50 dollar dinners, and truffle oil. Bring on the oreos and homemade guac. Comfort food beats out gourmet any day.

    Sounds like you have a phenomenal cheesemonger near you. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear back from you soon!

  3. Garrett, you hit my weak spot: cheese + carbs = happy me. My favorite grilled cheese combo is very good white cheddar with homemade apple chutney on whole wheat. Drool.

  4. My love for grilled cheese knows no boundary! Great book review!

  5. Yum! I loved getting used books too because you end up paying half the price. Some books are just too expensive!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you! :)

  6. yea! I love Marlena and this sounds like a great book.

  7. Meredith ...Yes, white cheddahh, plz! Extra sharp. I'll have that and a slice of apple or pear on mine. If no pears or apples are around, a schmear of grape jelly will do.
    They used to have a restaurant (in NJ I think) that served nothing but grilled cheese.

  8. I just bought another cookbook of Marlena's...Macaroni and Cheese. My favorite of hers is The Jewish Heritage Cookbook.

    You know, she helped me lots on starting the food forums. She was very encouraging. I saved her emails! We wrote back and forth after she did her story about dining about Sac with Darrel Corti (for the SF Chronicle).

    After reading your latest post, I am thinkin I better get this book as well. Great photo and article G!

  9. Oh this book could be the death of me. I looove grilled cheese.

    On the first night my husband and I met we bonded over our mutual love for (1) gin and tonics, and (2) grilled cheese with bacon. How could I not have married him?

    One of our first fancy dinners was to grilled cheese night at Campanile. It was like my dream come true.

  10. I know what you mean about grilled cheese sandwiches being perfect in chilly weather. Our favorite book on the subject is "Great Grilled Cheese" by Werlin. Delicious recipes, perfect with soup. It even has some interesting quesadilla recipes (one of which I'm going to post soon.)

    Hope you two have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  11. Michael bought me this book for Christmas last year, along with a grill press, all wrapped in a tidy little box from William Sonoma. It was a wonderful gift, and we've thoroughly enjoyed the book. The photos are as fabulous as the recipes. Love me some grilled cheese!

  12. Just me again - wishing you a really Happy Thanksgiving with lots and lots of good food. Hope you get to share the day (and food) with lots of friends.

    Blessings for a bountiful day!

  13. Believe it or not, I copyedited that book, so I got an advance look of all (and taste of some)of those meltingly yummy recipes! I'm partial to blue cheese and dried figs myself--open faced on a thick slice of pumpernickel or rye.

  14. grilled cheese and tomato soup is almost everyone's comfort food.....mine too....I jazz up my grilled cheese by adding pepper jack cheese slices, and spreading some of that Indian Cilantro chutney and grilling it to perfection. The tomato soup, I temper with some clarified butter, cloves, curry leaves and let simmer....adding cracked black pepper and fresh cilantro at the end really makes it all come together.....try it sometime!


Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger