This post is more about loving your food rather than providing a recipe you will want to run to your kitchen and make now. There is nothing revolutionary about a grilled cheese and ‘Nduja is a rather obscure and odd ingredient that the average person would have a very hard time finding. Therefore, I must assume that, sadly, most people won’t be making this right away. Don’t worry, I did include a simple salad recipe below that could be made tomorrow. What this post is about is finding an ingredient you love so much that you use it over, and over, and over again until it’s gone. And that feels good and thrifty because too often food finds its way to the bottom of a drawer or back of a shelf and is forgotten.
Take a quick glance through my recent posts and you’ll notice an obvious lack of love for my carnivorous audience. You’d probably think I went and became a vegetarian (don’t panic, I haven’t). I don’t usually buy meat when just cooking for myself and Matt has been continuously out of town. It’s shelf life is short, it never tastes quite as good when brought back to life from the freezer and it generally requires time and attention that I haven’t been able to find. Tack all that onto the price and the fact that I, generally speaking, do try to minimize my animal product intake and its just easier to reach for beans, legumes, avocados or follow the “put an egg on it” philosophy to bulk up my meals.
But then – sigh – I discovered ‘Nduja, the spicy spreadable southern Italian salami, that is one part pepperoni one part butter (and spicy to boot) and just like THAT my vegetarian days were over. I’ve been spreading it on toast, using it in place of olive oil to make pasta sauces and it makes one amazing grilled cheese. You know that amazing part of grilled cheese where the cheese oozes over the side and finds the butter in the pan and it kinda crisps and maybe even burns a tiny bit onto the toasted bread? Well the ‘Nduja melts through the bread and it helps toast up the bread in it’s amazing porky fat goodness for an extra crispy, melty grilled cheese experience. (Yes I said porky fat and I’m not ashamed.)
On a high from my bathroom and closet purging session last week I decided to clean out the fridge and how good it feels. I know now that it is better to have a couple rare, special ingredients in your fridge then tons of stuff that you have no interest in cooking or eating. Find a condiment that you love, whether it’s a funky and spicy hot sauce or a sweet dijon mustard and then find ways to use it. A grilled cheese is usually a good place to start…
I love a good kale salad for the efficiency and this simple and indulgent sandwich begged for one. I can make it once and enjoy it all week since they just get better with age and time spent marinating in the fridge. Daikon radish can be tougher to find but regular red radishes could be substituted. The apple is the sweet bite contrasting the radish and kale.
A 'Nduja Grilled Cheese and Kale Salad
For the grilled cheese:
1 tablespoon softened butter
2, 1/2″ thick slices, good quality Italian bread (I used a rustic Italian load with olives, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.)
1 tablespoon ‘Nduja (I purchased mine from Eataly in Chicago. Can be found online here.)
2-3 ounces of good quality, melting cheese (I used Dobbiaco, also from Eataly, but Mozzarella, Provolone or any other number of cheeses will work. Use your favorite or what you already have on hand.)
For the salad (This makes a lot of salad, feel free to scale back but this keeps well and leftovers can be enjoyed all week):
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweeter vinegar (apple cider, sherry or white balsamic are best)
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces kale, roughly chopped
1 daikon radish, sliced into matchsticks
2 apples (I used Braeburn), sliced into matchsticks
Special Equipment Needed: none
Place a skillet over medium heat. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread. Flip the bread, spread ‘Nduja on one side and sandwich cheese in between. Toast in the skillet 3-5 minutes per side until the bread is crisp and the cheese is melted. If the bread crisps before the cheese is fully melted, reduce heat to low and continue cooking, flipping back and forth until done.
For the salad mix all the ingredients for the dressing together with a whisk or fork. Pour over the radish, apple and kale. If eating right away it helps to massage the greens so they adsorb the dressing (the kale will be less bitter).
Wine Pairing: A Beaujolais or other light bodied red. I enjoyed with a glass of Grignolino D’Asti, a rather odd and rare wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. It was perfect.