Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grilled Goat Cheese with Hazelnuts and Basil Honey

Last week was a wonderful whirlwind of a week.  My family and I spent 7 days touring some of the most beautiful spots in Western Europe and places that I never thought I'd get to see.  Canals, castles, cathedrals, vast tulip fields and the North Sea were the highlights of our trip through Luxembourg, Belgium and The Netherlands.  And even with all of the anticipation before the trip, we were not let down in the least by what we got to see and experience.

The sights were not to be outdone by the food (and beer!) that we got to taste along the way.  I think my favorites tastes were in Belgium.  I love what they can do with their world famous beer, whether in a stew with tender pieces of beef or saucing the most perfect confit of rabbit.  And the waffles.  Oh!  The waffles.  We had the best Liege style waffles from a little van in the Burg platz in Bruges.  I will perfect that recipe for special mornings here at home, promise. 

I think the best surprise for me, both in the feel of the city and it's food was Delft in The Netherlands.  Delft is tucked in right next to the big, bustling international city of The Hague and couldn't feel any more opposite from its neighbor.  We arrived on a rainy afternoon to a sleepy city greeting us with it's cheerful signature blue and white pottery and cheese shops filled to the brim with giant wheels of Gouda-style cheese.  After buying a perfect little Delftware Dutch shoe and sampling our fill of cheese we found a great local favorite for lunch.  My pick on that day was the perfect topper to the sweet afternoon in the city- a grilled sandwich made with Dutch goat cheese, hazelnuts and something described as basil honey.  I was totally intrigued.  And hooked with the first bite, the sum being so much greater than the parts.  Thank you Delft for a new favorite.

Grilled Goat Cheese with Hazelnuts and Basil Honey
Makes one sandwich, but easily multiplied to make as many as you like.
For the printable, click here.

This is an incredibly simple sandwich with components that seem like they would never work together.  But they do, trust me on this one.  And the basil honey that so intrigued me?  Turns out it was nothing more than local honey blended with basil.  So easy, but it really makes the sandwich.  You can make this sandwich with a panini press or in a cast iron skillet. 

For each sandwich you'll need:
2 slices of good bread like a ciabatta or peasant loaf
1 ounce of soft goat cheese (perhaps a little more if you're using the longer middle slices of your loaf of bread)
1 tbs coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 tbs light flavored honey
1 tbs chopped basil
a touch of butter for the pan

Heat the panini press or cast iron skillet.

Toast the hazelnuts in a small skillet over medium heat until they just begin to turn a light golden color.  Remove from the heat.  In a separate small bowl mix together the honey and basil.  You could blend them together if you like, but it isn't a make or break to the end result.

Spread the goat cheese on one slice of the bread.  Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.  Spread the basil and honey mixture on the second slice of bread.  Place the second slice of bread (honey side down) over the first and press together.  Lightly butter your pan or panini press.  Place the sandwich in the pan or panini press and cook until lightly toasted and the cheese starts to get a bit melty.  Don't forget to flip and press your sandwich with a spatula if you're using a cast iron pan!  Slice in half and serve warm.

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