29 September 2013

Grilled Salmon Cream Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese is one of the meals that would appear on just about everyone's top 10 comfort foods list.  Warm, toasty bread and melty, chewy cheese delights foodies from two to ninety-two.  Growing up, Tillamook cheddar was my mom's grilling cheese of choice.  I still love those strings of orange goodness stretching between two triangles of golden brown bread...yum.  Yes, melting cheeses are the traditional favorite when it comes to a grilled sammy or panini.  But....I have a confession to make.  I have not remained loyal to my mother and her good friend cheddar, having become absolutely obsessed with soft cheeses in grilled sandwiches.  Cream cheese and boursin are where it's at.  Feel free to call me crazy at this point, because that just means you've never tried either and have earned my pity.  But you are sooooo needing to try grilled cream cheeses...starting with this sandwich.

My obsession with warm soft cheeses began at brunch three years ago, back when the hubs and I were still rosy-cheeked and ring free.  On that fateful mid-morning, I had the most incredible omelet of my life.  What set it apart, you might ask?  Without a doubt, that would absolutely be the herbed boursin - a soft, creamy cheese with a texture similar to whipped cream cheese.  When this soft cheese is heated, it has an incredibly silky, melt-in-your-mouth even before you can take a bite.  Any dish is taken to the next level with this creamy warm cheesiness that is so divine, it cannot be put into words.  One bite of its deliciousness and I was completely hooked.  Ever since, my scrambled eggs are stirred with wedges of creamy cheese rather than topped with the shredded cheddar and ketchup combo of my childhood (sorry Mormor!).  Warm, smooth and dreamy-creamy, soft cheeses have a way of turning the average dish into something truly decadent.

But this is not a post about eggs.  This is a post about a sandwich - a totally scrumptious, breakfast-licious sandwich that would delight the toughest New Yorker or savviest Seattle-ite.  Because what goes better with cream cheese than lox?  Smear this on a bagel with some fresh onions, capers and tomatoes and you have one of the best breakfasts of all time.  Salmon and cream cheese are a fabulous combo, and not only in the morning.  Whenever the hubs grills up a salmon or steelhead fillet for dinner, this is our lunch the following day.  It's a fantastic way to use up those leftovers and super yummy to boot.

Bagel and lox is not complete without the accoutrements - red onion, tomato and capers.  To incorporate all those wonderful flavors, green onions and capers are folded into the cream cheese with a little pepper for a deliciously briny spread.  It's wonderful on a bagel in the morning, but even better on this sandwich.  My palate prefers green onions as a mix-in to red, but if you could absolutely substitute minced red onion if you prefer.  By stirring these rollie-pollie little ingredients into the cream cheese, you ensure that not a caper will escape onto your plate.  Get in my mouth!

PS - Have you tried growing your own green onions yet?  Super easy - just stick your white bulbs in a small water vase and set them in the sun.  I can get about 2-3 extra batches from one bunch.  Yahoo!

Now if there's one thing that has the potential to ruin a grilled cheese, it would be sliced tomatoes.  They are terrible perpetrators of what I refer to as the Soggy Sandwich Effect.  These moisture-rich fruits (yes, they are fruits!) can transform a slice of crisp toast into a sponge faster than you can say "too much moisture".  I find a thin barrier of spinach leaves does a great job of preventing this effect, while adding a nice little nutrient boost and an extra pop of color.  But then spinach is always awesome like that.

Grilled Salmon Cream Cheese Sandwich (1 sandwich)

  • 2 oz reduced fat creamed cheese
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 2 green onions 
  • 3 oz grilled salmon (or steelhead trout)
  • 2 slices whole grain bread (sandwich, french, etc.)
  • butter or margerine 
  • 1/4 c spinach
  • 4 slices tomato
Place a pan over medium heat.  In a small ramekin or bowl, combine the cream cheese and capers.  Place the green onions on a cutting board and chop off the white ends (save for growing your own if you like).  Thinly slice the green tops and add to the cream cheese.  Mix together with the capers and onions until smooth.

To prepare the sandwich, butter one side of each bread slice and place butter-side down on a cutting board.  Lay the spinach leaves on one piece of the bread and top with the sliced tomatoes (the spinach will help prevent the bread from getting soggy).  Spread the cream cheese mixture on the other slice.  

Place the piece of fish in the pan.  Grill until the fish is heated through, about a minute on each side.  Remove the fish from the pan and place on the tomatoes.  Top with the other slice of bread, leaving the buttered side out.  Transfer the sandwich to the pan and grill on both sides until the bread is golden and the cream cheese is soft, about 4 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board.  Slice and serve hot.

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