October 9, 2013

grilled cheese with fig preserve, apple, and pumpkin seeds

There was a time in my life when I knew relatively little. Fast forward a few years and things haven't changed a whole lot. I now understand the basics, enough to get by and function in society. For years, I thought the older I became, the more I would know, but the older I get, the more terrified I am at how little I know. And what I find really frustrating is that most of the things I have learned, are now stored somewhere in a giant messy unorganized pile of shit in my head. Some people are good at pulling from this pile. I imagine that those are the type of people that excel at Jeopardy. Born with a well functioning card catalogue system. Organized, neat and tidy, with easy to read hand writing. What assholes.

For 15 years, I thought that the only way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, was by slapping together a couple of pieces of Wonder Bread and a Kraft Singles slice. Toasting it in the old dusty silver grilled cheese press, weighing in at just over 10 pounds, and then calling it a day when the bread burned and the Kraft cheese melted and then evaporated, leaving one thick piece of bread with some weird orange bits of plastic crusted to the bottom. Don't forget the canned tomato soup simmering on the stove, my 14 year old self mumbles. If only I had a time machine and I could go back 20 years and slap my 14 year old self in the face.


I'm not sure why I stuck to the arbitrary Wonder/Kraft rules when it came to making these warm toasty sandwiches, because I know that we had access to homemade fresh bread. French, Italian, and Sourdough. I do remember these loaves. I remember my dad stopping by the general store on the way home to pick up a loaf of crusty Italian bread. And I know that we had some good quality cheese kicking around, because we were a cheese family, and when you're a cheese family you just stock the fridge with good quality cheese, no questions asked. It just never occurred to me that grilled cheese could be made any other way. And then there was the time that Kathryn (the more adventurous of my friends) put tomato slices on my grilled cheese. That blew my mind.

The key to perfecting any dish, is learning the techniques and choosing good quality ingredients. A crusty sourdough loaf, and a good sharp cheddar. What we don't want to see is a 'Wonder Bread' grilled cheese with Kraft singles slices. I just can't, I just won't. I am aware that there are some people that do enjoy a little Wonder/Kraft in their lives, and I am totally ok with that. I just want people to know that a grilled cheese sandwich can be so much more. Once you have the two key ingredients - good bread and cheese - you can spice it up any which way. This time around I used a little fig preserves, pumpkin seeds, Granny Smith apple slices and a handful of arugula. I like to add a little butter on each side of bread, and fry it until brown. Then, I place a generous serving of cheese on one half and broil it in the oven until the cheese has turned brown and melty. It's the way we do things around here. The fig preserve is the right amount of sweet, the sharp cheddar is the right amount of bite, the crunchy apples are juicy and tart, the seeds are crunchy and earthy, and the arugula spicy and fresh. A pretty bad ass grilled cheese sandwich.

makes one sandwich
notes: a nice crusty loaf (Italian or sourdough) is perfect for grilled cheese. I try to avoid the store bought 'Wonder Bread' type loaves. With two very important ingredients - bread and cheese - it's is important to use the best. Also, don't try to substitute mild or medium cheddar. The sharpness is an important flavor the breaks up the sweetness from the fig preserves. 

2 slices of bread
5 slices of sharp cheddar
2 tsp butter, room temp
1 tbsp fig preserves
1 tbsp hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 granny smith apple, sliced
1 handful of arugula

Preheat the oven to broil.

Butter the bread, front and back. Place a small dab of butter in a frying pan and heat on med-low. Fry the bread on each side until golden brown.

Place a generous amount of sharp cheddar onto one slice of bread. Place that slice onto a baking sheet and broil until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and layer 8-10 slices of apple on top of the cheese, and then add a handful of arugula.

On the other slice of bread, spread the fig preserves, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Fold the sandwich together, slice,  and serve warm.


  1. Love your writing & blog. Saw your mention on the Saveur website–congratulations! What a lovely interview!

  2. I keep seeing so many grilled cheese recipes around lately - must be that time of year again! - but this one looks AMAZING. I'd never thought to add figs before but now you've said, it it makes complete sense! And I'm totally with you, by the way, about seeming to know everything/nothing as you get older. I can promise you though, those people who seem to know how to pull the good cards from the pile DEFINITELY pull the wrong cards sometimes too :)

    Great recipe, as always! the hobbit kitchen x

  3. Beautiful dishes. I agree with Holly. This does look amazing.

  4. This is stunning!! I love the fig preserve in there. Mmm.

  5. Looks delish. I could go for a grilled cheese on this gloomy, fall day!

  6. Really like the addition of seeds to the sandwich. Lovely combination of ingredients.
    Found your site through Saveur. Congrats!

  7. OMGosh! Figs! Of course figs. Thank you!

  8. I love pretty much everything about this post (which I may have said about a previous post or two, too) - but I want to kick in my two cents about the growing older, knowing less stuff thing... I decided somewhere around the age of 23 that all that stuff I THOUGHT I knew about the world?!? Not even beginning to scratch the surface.

    Here I am 16 years later and I still understand that there are beaucoup TONS of stuff that I will never, ever, ever begin to know... But I know some pretty cool things and I can still learn and it's pretty much all good... Especially when there are brilliantly exotic grilled cheese sandwiches to be eaten!

  9. Gorgeous bread, perfectly toasted!
    And if it helps, sometimes I think the same, the more I learn, the more ignorant I felt...

  10. Beautiful pictures. Fig jam is something I had for the first time only recently and I was blown away. I bet it tastes awesome in a grilled cheese sandwich. I love the new site design, too.

  11. This is a lovely idea and the photographs are beautiful. Bonne Maman preserves are fab, I bet this sandwich was completely delicious!

  12. This sandwich! It sounds wonderful, such a great combination of flavours and textures. It really elevates the humble grilled cheese into something quite magnificent.

  13. bardzo apetycznie to wygląda!

  14. BEAUTIFUL photos as always! Wish I was even 10% as good a photographer as you! Think you could make just about anything look delicious! This does also sound amazing though!

  15. Congratulations on being mentioned on Saveur, "sites we love". Amazing photography and I love your writing. "For years, I thought the older I became, the more I would know, but the older I get, the more terrified I am at how little I know. And what I find really frustrating is that most of the things I have learned, are now stored somewhere in a giant messy unorganized pile of shit in my head." How true!

  16. Your post makes me laugh because it wasn't until a few months ago that my grilled cheese world really opened up and expanded beyond Kraft singles - sad, but true. The possibilities now feel endless, and I can't stop wondering why none of these amazing sandwich combination never occurred too me earlier.