Supposedly April is Grilled Cheese Month. I'm not quite sure what qualifies April to be deemed as such, but I will roll with it. This grilled cheese is a good bridge between winter and spring. It combines a hearty winter vegetable with a spring green vegetable pesto, and of course a rich, melty cheese.
As I have gotten more and more involved in the kitchen, I felt my culinary arsenal expand. I started to realize which flavor combinations work well, which work really well, and along the way, I also found out what really does NOT work. Peanut butter and banana, tomato and basil, and potato and egg were some really familiar ones to me at first. Then I branched out, recognizing the complementary nature of such pairings as goat cheese and figs, peas and mint, and avocado and grapefruit. Kale and butternut squash is a vegetable combo that just works. It works in pasta dishes, in salads, on pizza, and in this case, an irresistible grilled cheese. The sweetness of the butternut squash balances the bitter kale. And the squash provides a toothsome bite and fiber, of course, to make it a bit more filling and nutritious.
I chose a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese called Ossau-Iraty that is nutty, buttery, with a complex finish. Butternut squash pairs well with nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts, so this cheese serves that purpose. If you cannot find Ossau-Iraty, some good substitutions are Manchego, Dubliner, or even a Swiss cheese. For the bread, I love a nutty, mulit-grain loaf or a sour, chewy Miche.
Butternut Squash and Kale Pesto Grilled Cheese
2 slices multigrain or sourdough bread
2 T. kale pesto
4-5 slices roasted butternut squash (I had some leftover, but if making new, follow instructions here)
1/3 c. grated semi-hard sheep's milk cheese, such as Ossau-Iraty, but see notes for substitutions
Butter or olive oil for grilling
Spread 1 tablespoon kale pesto on one side of each slice of bread. Top one slice with squash and cheese, and place other half atop filling. Smear each bread half with a thin layer of butter or drizzle lightly with olive oil.
If using a panini press, preheat panini press on medium. Grill sandwich for 4-5 minutes total or until cheese has melted but is not oozing out over the sides.
If using a skillet, preheat the skillet over medium heat. Cook the sandwich 4-5 minutes per side or until bread is golden and cheese has melted.
Allow the sandwich to cool for a minute or two before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Makes 1 sandwich.