The hubs and I were enjoying a busy, productive day on our holiday weekend and needed to fix something different for lunch. Mind you, the weekend had already been filled with cookout gorging and outdoor fun. We needed something light, healthy, and most of all easy. As I rummaged through the refrigerator, I found some kale I had received in our CSA box and it was definitely on the wilt side; however, tossed it on the counter and kept going. As I grabbed the cheese bin, I remembered I had torn out this recipe from my Eating Well magazine and was sitting in my coupon pile waiting for use. I plucked it from its discount doom and set about assembling the easy ingredients, all of which I had on hand! Score.
I should also tell you, I am addicted to kale. I first read about it as an alternative to spinach and when first purchased couldn’t figure it out beyond making kale chips in my oven. So good. However, after a while I wanted to venture out beyond the oven and started using it as a substitute to spinach or other greens. I LOVE the stuff. Plus, it does have its healthy benefits: low-calorie, high in fiber and iron, kicking it with Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, high in calcium, an antioxidant, and helps lower cholesterol. It is like the Super Mega Veggie. And it tastes good. I’ve had fun trying different varieties of kale from dinosaur(lacinto) to redbor to curly (most recognizable in the grocery store). I usually have a healthy stock in my refrigerator to use as side dishes, snacks, or in this case, the main event.
Although I had all ingredients, I did make a few alterations to this recipe. I cut it for just two sandwiches for me and the hubs instead of the family portions. My husband is not an onion connoisseur unless they are caramelized to the end. So I grabbed a leek to substitute which is slightly milder to taste. I love balsamic vinegar but went easy on the addition – I have found too much can alter a dish and you are left tasting balsamic, balsamic, balsamic. Without further adieu, the grown-up veggie grilled cheese.
Kale and Gruyère Panini (adapted from Eating Well Magazine)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small leek, sliced (white part only)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 cups chopped kale
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar (you can adjust to taste)
1/8 cup water
4 slices of bread (we like rye and sourdough best!)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère or fontina cheese
1/2 small tomato sliced thin
Heat some of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add leeks, stirring frequently until golden (3-5 minutes). Add balsamic vinegar and cook until almost evaporated. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale and water, then cover and stir until kale is wilted and water has evaporated. Remove from heat.
Preheat your Panini maker or prep your skillet. Coat your bread with olive oil spray, or spread with a thin layer of butter. Sprayed side down, spread kale mixture between the two sandwiches. Top with Gruyère cheese and slices of tomato, Top with remaining bread. Press in pan or according to you Panini maker directions until crispy, about 3-5 minutes. Serve.