If nothing else, this meal was a reason to clean out a jar and make one more batch of late summer pickles. It strikes me that I’ve been vegan for a decade this past June (or something like that) and my lifelong love affair with the classic grilled cheese sandwich hasn’t diminished much. If anything, it’s only gotten a little more refined, so I’ll give some proper credit to all those grilled cheese food carts and that whole mania. On top of that, I’ve come to embrace the pairing of a toasty, golden sandwich with a cup of tomato soup, which is something that never interested me as a child. As much as I ate them all of the time, the grilled cheese was just…a constant. It was my order at diners, what my mom made when there was little else in the kitchen (sometimes with Swiss for a grown up change), no doubt, and what was for dinner when I refused to eat anything else at seafood restaurants (and I’d then wonder why something tasted off about my sandwich…)
And with all the Artisan Vegan Cheeses I’ve been toying with this past year, let alone with the last couple of weeks, and the recent, incredibly overwhelming bounty of summer garden tomatoes on my table, the timing is so, so right for one little meal: Mid-week grilled cheeses and bowls of roasted tomato soup.
Day Four, Vegan MoFo VII: Hump Day Soup & Sandwiches
Grilled Monterey Jack with sliced heirloom tomatoes, plus sliced jalapeño for J. Legume, and Secret Aardvark for yours truly
The soup, which I just had the last bowl of, consisted of tomatoes and yellow & red bell peppers roasted with olive oil, plenty of garlic, sea salt, black pepper, fresh basil, homemade stock, a pinch of brown sugar, etc.
The Road to Hump Day (vegan) Grilled Cheese Glory…some tips
- Make sure you use semi-thick, sourdough bread > a flavorful, dark rye is also lovely
- Of course, go for the Earth Balance buttery spread
- Opt for sliced or carefully spread vegan cheese > Artisan Vegan Cheese’s Monterey Jack is used here, but oh, how I remember the days of Tofutti singles. Whatever you do, I beg of you, don’t go overboard!
- Thinly sliced, [local, vibrant] tomato > Yes. Skip this if you can’t make it happen. Don’t compromise on this one.
- Get some heat: We like pickled or even very thinly sliced fresh jalapeños, or a drizzle of Secret Aardvark hot sauce inside the sandwich
- The secret? Cast iron pan on medium heat, carefully cooking each side at a gradual pace, being so careful not to burn.
- Cheesy tip: I go back and forth on this, but my stance currently seems to be keeping the cheesed slice on top, and then flipping after the bottom is cooked. So, you have your Earth Balance spread slice, spice factor, tomato, cheese, other slice, at the grilled cheeses’ most basic (in our house, at least).
Yeah, it’s a great day when you don’t have to depend on a (pricey!) store-bought vegan cheese alternative. It’s all about the flavor and purpose: bringing the bread together with a bit of melt, if you dare.
For this lunch, I used the pleasantly creamy Monterey Jack from Artisan Vegan Cheese. J. Legume and I had tried it out first on a cheese plate, and later on a great Hawaiian pizza the week before, and our grilled cheeses were quite possibly the best use yet.
So, if we’ve spoken about the state of veganism lately, I’ve probably expressed my disdain for a certain undeniably popular, but awfully goopy, mouth-coating, almost skim milk-reminiscent, utterly convenient brand that sorta kinda fills me with rage every time I see it covering a dish (whether around town or on the internet…don’t get me going) and it’s so swell to know that I can create nondairy cheeses at home that help me forget it exists. Less is more! (which is my golden rule of vegan cheese unless we’re talking noochy sauces).
I try to be serious about what I choose to eat, and find myself not so easily impressed, or even appeased. Vegans deserve better! It’s invaded vegan options across North America (again, high fives for a vegan brand, but I’m not holding back) and now I’m the crazy one getting looks when I ask to hold the d-cheese around town. Actually, I recall a bizarrely similar reaction happening at a Long Island coffeeshop in 2001 when I passed on a Boston Cookie. What?
I can appreciate the scientific efforts here, really, and can handle it mildly shredded, but what can I say…this vegan cheese snob grew up eating fresh mozzarella and imported ricotta salata and isn’t out for convenience. I can’t pretend I’m impressed. I don’t want that melted on my nachos. I remain baffled.
Moving on. (Forgive me, lovers! Come over for a cheese plate one day!)
Now you have my attention.
Ridiculous, selfish rants aside, perhaps I’ll have time to put together an entire post of all the Artisan Vegan Cheeses I’ve had the pleasure and intrigue of knowing since the Miyoko’s book was released last fall. My latest success is mixing her homemade cashew cream cheese, sharp cheddar, ruby port and Worcestershire sauce for the makings of a Port Wine cheese….ball to come!
Soup, sandwiches, pickles & smiles: The very vegan mug lunch
Will hump day next week take on whole grain mustard or avocado? Seitan bacon, pesto or potato chips? Will the pickles be ready in time? Only time and cravings will tell.