Sierra sandwich and fries |

Sierra sandwich and fries

Cal Orey

Savoring a Soothing Sierra Sandwich with Fries

Autumn is the season for a hot cheese sandwich—made of one or more kinds of cheese on bread, often buttered. Grilled cheese sandwiches are an American favorite but it’s also dished up in regions around the globe. Other ingredients, including tomatoes, grilled onions, and cooked ham or turkey (if you’re a carnivore) can make this simple meal a fresh wonder with layers of goodness and taste whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada.

Last month on the first day I arrived in Montreal, I awoke at noon (thanks to jet lag) in a high rise hotel room overlooking a chilly city view. It was too late to order hot blueberry waffles via room service. My second choice was grilled cheese on whole wheat (with tomatoes) and fries (well done). The chef forgot the tomatoes but the French fries were crispy and coffee could do no wrong. The familiar sandwich was a feel-good food while feeling excitement since I was solo in a strange French-speaking province.

Now that I’m settled back in the sierras during mid-autumn I’m hit with unexpected post-trip blues. I’ve done the fall deeds, including stacking firewood, the earthy brown blinds are up, Canadian photos I took are framed, but I’m longing for another travel fix. So, to soothe the void I whipped up a California-Mediterranean style grilled cheese and tomatoes, crispy fries, vanilla malt. These old-fashioned comfort delights are heavenly, especially with a fresh kick.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich

2-3 tablespoons European style butter, cubed

4 medium large slices whole wheat sourdough bread

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, sliced

1 ½ cups Italian cheeses (your choice), shredded

1 large Roma tomato, sliced

Fresh basil

Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Melt butter. Place slices of bread on 1 side. Top with cheese.. Place slices of bread on top of each sandwich. Press sandwiches with spatula. Toast sandwiches on both sides to melt cheese, and add tomatoes. Remove when golden brown. Slice in halves. Garnish with basil. Serves 2.

Crispy Baked French Fries

2 medium large russet potatoes, washed, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons European-style butter (or substitute half olive oil)

Dash of sea salt and ground pepper

Fresh parsley for garnish.

Place potato slices (keep the skins on) on a deep, rectangle pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. After 20 minutes remove and turn. Once golden turn up oven to 400 degrees (or use broiler) and keep a close eye on the fries until they are crispy. Remove. Serve hot in medium sized ramekins (like I enjoyed at the Mediterranean-style hotel). Sprinkle with fresh parsley and ketchup on the side. Serves two. French Vanilla Malt

2 cups all-natural French vanilla ice cream (organic preferred)

2/3 cup organic half-and-half

4 tablespoons vanilla powdered malt

1 teaspoon allspice

Blend on smoothie button in a blender till thick and creamy. Serve in small parfait glasses. Sprinkle with spice. Serves 2.

As a kid, I made grilled cheese by using a single slice of Kraft American cheese put on two white slices of Wonder bread melted with margarine. French fries and shakes were something we ordered at the fast food spot we’d walk to after school. This re-make of the 20th century classic fare is much healthier, including whole wheat sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes and potatoes (baked), real butter, and organic ice cream and milk. It’s soothing and memorable from the first bite to the last slurp.

Motto: Old-fashioned comfort foods are universal but you can give them a new spin to make it a keeper, no matter where you are.

— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author. Visit her website at .

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