Grilled Cheese with Sunflower Microgreens
Shortly after I left the big city, I realized that fresh salad ingredients were a little harder to come by in my new rural home. In the warm months I could rely on my garden, but what about the winter months? Leafy greens are the foundation of my own personal food pyramid, so I was highly motivated to find a solution to this problem. My quest led me to the library, where I found Peter Burke’s book, “Year Round Indoor Salad Gardening”. This is a book about growing microgreens on a window sill all year long. I got right on it and immediately planted all my windows, and I’ve been growing these delicious tiny greens ever since. Although my initial need was for winter greens, I grow these even in the summers because they are so delicious and reliable. The seeds can be purchased in large quantities from Johnny’s or The Sprout House, and they store well in airtight containers in my unheated basement. When the pandemic hit and grocery stores got crazy and my budget approached zero, I stayed home and sprouted my stash. Last year, I built shelving in my windows to increase my growing area to begin selling these delicious tiny harvests at my local farmers market. These greens have brought so much joy to my life. Whether you grow your own or purchase them at the market, this recipe brings a healthy twist to an indulgent childhood favorite recipe: the grilled cheese sandwich.
This recipe may work with other types of microgreens, but sunflower sprouts are my favorite. Unlike some of the more delicate types of microgreens, sunflowers hold up well to a bit of heat. Their succulent texture and nutty green flavor complements the melted cheese in a wonderful way, each encouraging the other to be even more of what we already love about it. And if you enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches often, adding microgreens to something you’re already making is a great way to give your meal a quick and easy nutrient boost.
– 1/2 box sunflower microgreens (about one big handful)
– 2 slices sandwich bread of your choice
– 1.5 slices white cheddar cheese, or enough to cover bread in a single layer
– 1.5 slices colby jack cheese, or enough to cover bread in a single layer
Place your pan on the stovetop and preheat it as you normally would for grilled cheese. Preheating is different depending on the type of pan you use. For example, if you have a nonstick pan with Teflon coating, you really shouldn’t preheat it at all. I use a cast iron griddle, which takes preheating very well. I preheat my cast iron griddle on medium heat for a few minutes, until a drop of water sprinkled on the pan sizzles. Cast iron conducts heat very well, so the pan can become hotter than other types of pans on a lower burner setting. If you are using a stainless steel pan, you might want to preheat the pan for a shorter amount of time, but on medium-high heat. You probably already know how to use your own pan.
While the pan is preheating, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice of bread. This mayonnaise layer is going to be the outside of the sandwich. I do this instead of melting a big chunk of butter in the pan. This way you get the good stuff right where you want it. Mayonnaise makes a lovely crispy textured bread when grilled.
Next, gather your sunflower greens and roughly chop them into bite sized pieces.
When the pan is ready, place one slice of bread mayo-side-down onto the skillet. Lay a slice of cheese (or a slice and a half, depending on the size of your bread) on top. Next, lay your microgreens on top of the cheese layer. At this time, your sandwich should look something like this:
Cover the greens with another slice (or slice and a half) of cheese, and then top it all off with the final slice of bread mayo-side-up. Stay and watch as the sandwich cooks. When you start to see the bottom layer of cheese soften, carefully check the underside of the bottom slice of bread. If it looks crispy and golden, then it’s time to flip. Slide a spatula underneath the sandwich, and carefully steady the top side while you flip the sandwich over. Allow the other slice of bread to become crispy and the rest of the cheese to melt.
Slice the completed sandwich into your preferred shape and enjoy with a green salad or a hot cup of tomato soup.
When I was first learning to make grilled cheese sandwiches, I had trouble getting it just right. It seemed like the bread would burn before the cheese melted. If this is happening to you, try turning down the heat. For example, if you’re cooking on medium high, try the medium setting. Another thing you can do is to remove the sandwich from the skillet when the bread is done, even if the cheese isn’t melted yet. You can finish melting the cheese in the oven.