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What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin: Italian-style grilled cheese and home fries

Cal Orey
Cal Orey
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Years ago at a former restaurant on the South Shore, I recall ordering my fave comfort food: a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. The glitch was, I pulled a “When Harry Met Sally” restaurant scene when the waitress came to the table to take my order. I announced, “I’d like a grilled cheese and fries.” Easy, right? Not exactly. Then, came the special requests. “I’d like whole wheat bread not white. Please add fresh tomatoes, if you have them. I prefer real butter, not margarine. Also, do you have home fries? If so, make them crispy but not overdone.” When my server sighed out loud it was clear that I was a pesky customer who knows her grilled cheese and fries.

Today, I made my own Italian-style grilled cheese and home fries. Home-cooking has its rewards because you get what you want – not what you need. I fixed it exactly the way I like it. After swimming I’m always hungry and this meal can hit the spot. It’s easy to prepare and you can prepare it in a healthier way than the common, old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwiches (white bread and American cheese) I ate as a kid.

As an adult, I now turn to provolone cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil – all part of Italian cuisine. What’s more, these tasty foods are good for you. If you stay clear of cheese because you think it’ll pack on the pounds, think again. In moderation, you don’t want to write it off. It’s a super source of calcium and other important nutrients such as protein and vitamin A, not to forget taste. Tomatoes are juicy veggies that are low in calories and contain no fat. Last but not least, extra virgin olive oil has nutritious perks and it’s a super monounsaturated fat and the fat of choice in Europe.

2 slices provolone

1 slice mozzarella

2 slices whole wheat sourdough bread

1 1/2 fresh Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons European style butter, unsalted

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Place cheese(s) on one slice of bread, top with tomatoes, then top with the other bread slice. Drizzle melted butter (do it in the microwave) on both sides of bread. Place sandwich in pan and grill until golden brown on both sides. Slice in half, diagonal shape. Serves one.

1 medium or two small russet potatoes, washed

2 tablespoons fresh onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soak potatoes in hot water for about five minutes (helps to make fries crispier). Cut into thick slices with skins on. Place in pan and drizzle oil on top. Sprinkle onion and spices on top of potatoes. Put in oven. Turn mixture a few times to make sure potatoes get cooked evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes till golden brown. Serves one.

Ah, the sound of sizzling tators and a sandwich cooking on the stovetop in my kitchen were worth the short time it took to make my own late lunch. And since this April we’re surrounded by snow (again), a hot meal, like this one, was a warming delight. Baked fries in onions and olive oil, and crispy sourdough bread filled with Italian cheeses and tomatoes is my idea of a nice, filling treat. Sure, I could have ordered this at a local restaurant but fixing it at home and munching on the fries (dipped in ketchup) and savoring a gooey sandwich with super fresh tomatoes worked like a charm for me. I felt like I was whisked off to a Tuscany bistro, but in reality I enjoyed my Italian-style foods in the comfort of my rustic Tahoe cabin.

One cup of fresh-brewed Italian roast coffee with a small dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce is decadent for brunch or a late lunch. Coffee (in moderation) can rev up your metabolism, and boosts mental and physical energy. It makes an Italian-style grilled cheese and fries taste even more European.

Cal Orey is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate) published by Kensington. Her Web site is http://www.calorey.com.


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