My New Favorite Cheese Sandwich

Don’t I know that writing about cheese sandwiches is boring, and no one wants to read about them?

Yeah, well, I guess that I don’t.

Especially since I am writing about my new favorite cheese sandwich in order to tell you about my new favorite cheese.

You see, I adore cheese. Before I ever tasted real Chinese, Thai or Indian food, there was cheese, and I loved it. I loved all kinds of it, and to this day, when it is comfort food I want and need, and I don’t reach for tom kha gai, it is most likely cheese that I will nab from the fridge, bring to room temperature, and nosh upon.

Okay, sometimes I don’t bother with the “bring to room temperature” part of the equation.

And sometimes, I use the cheese to make that most pedestrian of repasts–a cheese sandwich.

Cheese sandwiches -are- pedestrian, that is, unless you are a pregnant woman who is not also a vegan.

When one is a dairy-inhaling pregnant woman, cheese sandwiches are not boring: they are a blessed invention. They are manna from heaven. They are, especially when made with fresh, delicious, wholesome ingredients (that means, not Wonder Bread and Velveeta or–ick–Kraft Singles, folks) a quick, simple snack or hot lunch that a busy pregnant woman who is too tired to remember her name can put together in a flash, then eat, all the while secure in the knowledge that she is getting much needed calcium into her system.

So, you see my new favorite up there, don’t you? What is it made of? Well, locally grown organic tomatoes from Shade River farm, for one. Fresh lemon basil from Green Edge Gardens/Athens Hills CSA for another. The bread is the pain de campagne from our beloved local Big Chimney Bakery. And then, as you can see, delightfully melty, oozing, seductive semi-ripened raw cow’s milk cheese that I bought at the Village Bakery’s “Undercover Market,” a small but well-stocked little shop down the hill from our house that sells locally produced foods, fair trade foods and raw milk cheeses produced primarily in Ohio, though I am happy to report, they also carry raw milk cheeses from dairies as far afield as Georgia.

Like my new favorite cheese–Sweetgrass Dairy’s “Green Hill” semi-ripened, soft, raw cow milk cheese. The cheese is buttery-smooth and rich, owing to the nature of the milk given by pasture raised, purely grass-fed Jersey cows. (Milk from cows raised on grass is filled with an astonishing array of nutrients, including beta carotene, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid–a potent cancer fighting fat), omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A and E. Jersey cows give the richest, creamiest milk of any breed of cow.)

The cheese is amazingly delicious. A double-cream, it is similar in flavor and texture to brie, but to my taste, a little less “funky.” (Don’t get me wrong–brie put the “fun” into “funky,” and I love it, but it does tend to have a strong odor that some people find objectionable–Green Hill lacks that odor.) The cheese is great on its own, but when I first decided to pair it with the pan de campagne, lemon basil and tomatoes, I discovered that while it is milder than brie, it very easily stands up to the strong flavors of the bread, herb and tomato. Putting the open faced sandwich under the broiler at half power for three to five minutes renders the bread chewy-crisp, the cheese buttery and oozy, the basil fragrant as a citrus orchard and the tomato melty and soft. The broiling ties everything together into a cohesive whole, into a sandwich that is more than the sum of its parts.

So there we are. My new favorite sandwich made from my new favorite cheese. Take it from this pregnant woman, Green Hill cheese is a great American artisan cheese that comes from a dairy that not only makes cheese to be proud of, but they raise their cows and goats in a way that is good for the animals, good for the environment, and good for us lucky folks who get to eat their wonderful cheeses.

If you are curious and want to taste some of their cheeses for yourself, you can order them individually online here, or you can choose gift box assortments here.

I’m happy that I can just skip down the hill and pick great cheese up at the Village Bakery any time I want!

16 Comments

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  1. Thank goodness you’re not longing for something that takes all day (or week, knowing you!) to cook! You’ll laugh, but over the 4th, I was at my Dad’s and he had a two-pound block of sliced American cheese (it, jars of mustard, ketchup, pickles and peanut butter were the only things in the frig).

    But: it was the Land O’ Lakes brand that I’ve only seen in Minnesota and man oh man, did it taste good in sandwiches and omelets. I’m half glad it’s not available in Missouri!

    Comment by Alanna — July 11, 2006 #

  2. Alanna–don’t get me wrong. I grew up on Velveeta–and I do still like the taste of it, but it makes me really sick. I am allergic to processed American cheeses, and have been most of my life. I still ate it anyway, because the effects, up until a couple of years ago, were negligible.

    Not so these days.

    Oh, well. Raw milk cheeses aer better for me anyway.

    I am also happy to report, after serving these cheesy-bready-toasty-tomatoey-basilish sammiches for an appetizer at dinner, that everyone else likes them, too.

    Including Zak.

    Who just yesterday, decided that he liked fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes.

    A miracle has happened…..

    Comment by Barbara — July 11, 2006 #

  3. Barbara, do you remember those health-conscious ads they used to run in between the cartoons on Saturday mornings? There was one about healthy snacks and I still remember the jingle: I hanker for a hunk-a, a slab a slice a chunk-a, I hanker for a hunk-a CHEESE! I’m with you: grew up on the Kraft cheeses and came later in life to know the wonders of real cheeses.

    I’m surprised you are allowed raw milk cheeses, though: can’t remember whether it was a toxo or other reason but unpasteurised cheeses are absolutely forbidden to pregnant women in France. No blue cheese, runny cheeses or (in my opinion) cheeses of ANY flavour allowed! Sniff! (Still, it was worth it…!)

    Comment by Meg — July 12, 2006 #

  4. Barbara
    Wow! I just had breakfast and your post still made me hungry for grilled cheese. I LOVE grilled cheese and once I discovered there were better cheeses out there than the Velveeta I grew up on, I became an even bigger fan. And hey, when you use organic tomatoes, local artisan breads and cheeses, its most certainly not pedestrian!!

    Karen

    Karen

    Comment by Karen — July 12, 2006 #

  5. There is nothing, nothing wrong with bread and cheese. The addition of tomatoes and basil just takes it beyond.

    And I second your love of raw milk cheeses. For a while I worked at the fancy cheese counter at Whole Foods – don’t hate me because I got to eat cheese all day as part of my job – and I couldn’t get enough of the raw milk varieties. A particular favorite is Ossau Iraty a raw sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region of France.

    I was broken-hearted when the US passed that law prohibiting the importation of raw milk cheeses aged for fewer than 60 days. That meant the end of Brie de Meaux, this fabulous, stinky brie that I just adored. You can still buy it pasteurized, but it’s not half as good as the original.

    Comment by Bomboniera — July 12, 2006 #

  6. Didn’t we ALL grow up on Velveeta? It’s still my favorite for “real” mac & cheese!

    Comment by Alanna — July 12, 2006 #

  7. Never did care for Velveeta, but it does make a good mac & cheese. My sister couldn’t get enough of the stuff, though.

    My nana used to work at the VA, and one of her veterans used to bring her his “government cheese,” ’cause he didn’t like it. Now that stuff I ate like someone was going to take it away from me. Mmmm.

    Comment by Bomboniera — July 12, 2006 #

  8. Mmmmmmmm, cheese and Thai are my comfort foods.

    Comment by Fi — July 12, 2006 #

  9. Meg, you’re correct. I shouldn’t likely be eating raw milk cheeses. I had been avoiding them, and had been being good, until I bought the first round of Green Hill. It doesn’t say it is a raw milk cheese on the wrapper, you see….

    And I ate it.

    Then, I noticed that all the other cheeses from this dairy are marked as raw milk cheeses, which means one of two things–either this one is from pasteurized milk and only this one–or, somewhere on the label it says “raw milk” and I am too darned much of a dolt to find it.

    Ah. Now, having just gotten up to check the label of the third round of it that is left in my fridge–it -is- made with pasteurized milk! AHHH! I just cannot read, that is the issue.

    Raw milk cheese or not–Green Hill is WAAAAY tasty!

    (And I feel better for not ignoring the injunction against pregnant women eating raw milk cheeses–I have been so careful to avoid methylmercury in fish (no tuna sashimi! DAMN!), and I have been careful to eat a balanced diet and eat very few sweets….it is nice to know that I don’t need to feel guilty about my new found beloved cheese.

    Thanks for asking Meg–it prompted me to look at the label. Otherwise, I probably would have just been guilty…and probably still would have eaten the cheese, but felt bad about it.

    Hey, Karen! Good cheese, good bread, and good vegetables and herbs are not pedestrian at all, really. I know that–I just had to make a swipe at the great Cheese Sammich Fiasco that happened a few months back. Just because I thought it was ironic that I was posting about a cheese sandwich.

    Alanna–I think most of us did. Velveeta or Kraft Singles. Ick.

    I don’t even like mac and cheese made the Velveeta way anymore, but that may have more to do with the aftereffects on my gut than the flavor of the dish going down. But, I have learned to more strongly value good, homemade mac n cheese with mornay sauce, lots of shredded cheese, al dente pasta, and a bunch of herbs, spices and flavorings–because–I can’t make just plain mac n cheese. That’s no fun.

    Bomboniera–I, too, think that the USDA ban on raw milk cheese imports is ridiculous. But–I also think it has a lot more to do with protecting Big Dairy interests than it does the health of the American consumer. Or, maybe I am just a wee bit cynical….

    Gov’ment cheese? You actually -like- it.

    Wow. I doff my hat to you. I find it to be scary–like the last time I had it, it took the application of an oxy-aceteline torch to melt it…. ;-)

    Yeah, I’ve eaten some gov’ment cheese in my day. Not my favorite.

    Fi–welcome! Cheese and Thai are great comfort foods. Maybe not together, though….

    Comment by Barbara — July 12, 2006 #

  10. Even though cheese was never a part of my diet until I moved here, I crave grilled cheese sandwitches. My new acquired craving.:)

    Your photo and post are tempting me, Barbara.

    Comment by Indira — July 12, 2006 #

  11. Lovely looking Indian food here. I must start making some traditional dishes, instead of just throwing garam masala (albeit homemade) into things. BTW, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Food & Wine blog story. It’s just plain cruel to belittle the joys of a cheese sandwich!

    http://mindycooks.blogspot.com

    Comment by mindy toomay — July 13, 2006 #

  12. Barbara, I didn’t mean to trigger a guilt trip! I was just curious, because my family was amazed at the number of foods I was forbidden to eat here in France. My sister couldn’t remember a single food she’d been told not to eat…though granted her last pregnancy was over 13 years ago and she may have forgotten!

    Anyway, glad to hear that you and the baby are healthy – that’s the main thing!

    Comment by Meg — July 13, 2006 #

  13. Indira–I think you would love this sandwich. The cheese is superlative, and the great bread, fresh tomatoes and lemon basil really just make it all sing beautifully together. (Did you not eat paneer in India?)

    Hello, and welcome, Mindy! Thank you for the compliment on the Indian foods–I have a few more to post in the coming week–I made a big dinner on Sunday, specifically so I could have leftovers through the week. It is my lazy way of cooking!

    Meg–no worries on the guilt trip! Raw cheeses were never mentioned by my doctors per se–mostly because they probably don’t know about raw cheeses even existing! But, I have read injunctions against pregnant women eating them–which I tend to think are a little bit bogus, as the likelihood of raw milk cheeses carrying a dangerous bacteria are fairly low. (I did a lot of research on it.) I think that the reason they are forbidden so tightly in France probably has to do with the prevalance of them.

    Technically, I should not be eating a lot of things, and for the most part, I keep the most egregiously dangerous foods out of my diet. No alcohol, save for a tiny sip to taste, or in food where the alcohol is cooked away. No top of the foodchain fish like tuna or salmon, even though they are great sources of omega 3 fatty acids, because of the methylmercury contamination. No raw meat, even though I love steak tartare. (I still eat my steaks rare when I eat them, though, because dammit–that is the way I like them! But, my disinclination to eat much meat seems to be holding….)

    No raw milk, not that I can get it anyway….and a big cut down on refined sugars and the like.

    Not that I can tolerate much that tastes very sweet without getting nauseous anyway….

    Comment by Barbara — July 13, 2006 #

  14. Can you explain to a Brit what “government” cheese is? Grey? Politically sensitive? Given out to the poor? Whatever, it sounds a little scary :D

    Comment by Steph — July 13, 2006 #

  15. “Government” cheese is not grey. Nor is it politically sensitive. It is, however, given out to the poor–it is made from surplus milk supplies that the government buys up and has made into processed American style cheese. It is very dark orange, comes in big blocks and while it doesn’t -really- take an oxy-aceteline torch to melt it–it does have a very rubbery texture that I find to be unappealing.

    My Grandpa, however, loved it. Probably because he didn’t have to pay for it–he was very frugal.

    The last time I tasted it was about twenty-five years ago when Grandpa was still using it to melt over his really good homegrown broccoli, so it is possible that the formulation has improved over the years.

    Comment by Barbara — July 13, 2006 #

  16. Er… further to Steph’s post, as a fellow Brit I’d also like to know what “government cheese” is. Oh, and what’s Velveeta? *curious*

    Comment by Fi — July 13, 2006 #

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