A Lot on My Plate – Grilled Cheese Can’t Be Beet (But It Is)

Roasted Beet, Watercress, and Ricotta Grilled Cheese

  • 1 Beet [Van Dessel Farm, Accomack, VA]
  • Just a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices of bread
  • Some fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Some Ricotta cheese
  • A handful of watercress [Mock’s Farm, Berkeley Springs, WV]

Before you start grilling any cheese, peel, slice, and roast your beet. I sliced mine fairly thin (so that it would easily fit into a sandwich and to make it roast a little faster). Toss it in a small bowl with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then set it out on a baking sheet and roast at 375° for 20 minutes or so (depending on how thinly you sliced your beet), and flipping halfway through. Since I completed this step in characteristically un-scientific fashion, I would suggest keeping a close eye on your roasting beet to make sure you don’t overcook it.

While the beet is roasting, you can prep your cheese. I used one of those big balls of fresh mozzarella, so I sliced it in vaguely sandwich-like shapes and thicknesses. Make sure your watercress is cleaned and any particularly stemmy parts are removed. I brought my ricotta up to room temperature so that it would be easier to spread.

Now, I’m going to tell you the secret to a fantastic grilled cheese. Prepare yourself. Ready? Okay. My great secret is that you should grill both sides of the bread. So before you’re ready to throw the cheese on, butter one side and just grill it lightly, keeping the heat at a medium level. Once you get a nice golden brown toast on that side of the bread, flip it. Then pile your cheese and fillings onto the toasted side. I do this for all of my grilled cheeses, from last-minute, bottom-of-the-cheese-drawer concoctions to blog features.

Once your beet is roasted and your bread is inside-toasted, spread some ricotta on both sides of the bread, keeping the heat pretty low to prevent burning the outside of the bread. Then put the sliced beet on one side and the watercress on the other (I used a whole bunch of watercress, because it’s very nutrient-dense and I have no idea how else to use it). Then put a (thin) slice of mozzarella on each side, wait for everything to heat up a bit, and slap em together. Press down on your sandwich with a spatula to help everything melt together before flipping. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious with it, throw some grated (fresh) parmesan on the pan when you flip the sandwich, and you’ll end up with a nice extra-cheesy crust. Grill over medium heat until your sandwich is a nice golden brown color (but really it’ll be up to how you like it, mine is a little extra-toasty and on honey wheat bread so it’s darker than you might want).

Grilled Cheese

This recipe was inspired by this beet, arugula, and goat cheese grilled cheese. I figured that watercress and arugula share that peppery flavor, balanced out by the sweetness of roasted beets and a creamy cheese (and I love ricotta on anything). Of course his pictures are about 1,000 times better than mine, but I’d argue that my grilled cheese is better because of the aforementioned secret. Plus I make a lot of grilled cheeses with a lot of not-cheese stuff in them. One of my personal favorites was my BLT grilled cheese, with bacon, arugula, tomato, and provolone. I also did pretty well with a pulled-pork grilled cheese using provolone (I think) and my roommate Natalie’s leftover dinner. (I think she had left for vacation or something? I’m hoping she didn’t miss it and hasn’t been pining after it for the last year or so, only to discover it in this way.) There’s a lot of experimenting that can be done in the grilled cheese department, and now that you have my secret, you’re duty-bound to innovate and report back to me what kinds of things you stick in between your dual-toasted breads.

One of the great things about this recipe (and any grilled cheese, even the ambitious ones) is that it proves how easy it can be to include fresh, healthy ingredients without going through a series of meltdowns or pre-roasting carrots and quinoa. Beets and watercress are both really nutrient-dense (not to mention tasty) and are both easy ways to spice up a quick weeknight meal. Plus, they came from my good friends at Van Dessel Farms (or at least, I feel like we’re old friends, since I’ve been enjoying the fruits (vegetables…?) of their labor for the last two weeks) and new friends at Mock’s Farm in West Virginia (they also grow CHRISTMAS TREES! But I don’t think I’ll be seeing one of those in my 4P bag any time soon).

As an added bonus, here’s a poem dedicated to Natalie:

“This Is Just to Say”

I have eaten
the leftovers
that were in
the fridge

And that
you were probably
saving
for lunch.

Forgive me
they were delicious
and made a wonderful
grilled cheese.

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