This winter I resurrected "Small Bites Sunday." With my son living "in the Cities" and busy with graduate school and work, I made a promise to him that I would continue to make a "proper Sunday dinner" and there would always be enough for him. No reservations required. With the men in my life training again for the MS 150, I like to have "small bites" available to the returning cyclists.
I love small bites! There is the time for the complete symphony, the never-ending book and there are times for the short story and for a Bach concerto. (Or a Fats Waller song.)
Yes, the open-faced sandwich is in fact a grilled cheese. My husband's reward for accomplishing the first lawn mowing of the season! Apparently April is grilled cheese month. But that's not why I made it. I made it because it has melted cheese. If you say "cheese," melt cheese or put pistachios into your dish, there is a chance that I will open up my umbrella and fly in through your kitchen window.
Besides, this recipe is adapted from Sophia Loren - she seems to have an understanding of Italian food. It uses asparagus and this is the time to use it. Sophia puts this on any bread, minces her ham and only uses the tip of the asparagus. I left the ham whole and used the entire asparagus stalk. Adapt, play but know this makes a welcoming snack or light lunch - have it for breakfast! Add an egg. Take away the ham and make it vegetarian. But do keep the asparagus and do melt the cheese.
Asparagus-Cheese Melt (for 1, easily doubled and tripled and quadrupled...)
1 slice favorite bread
2 asparagus spears
1 slice favorite ham (prosciutto, anyone?)
Optional to finish: freshly-ground pepper, fresh Parmesan, arugula
Lightly toast your bread. Simmer the asparagus in salted water for 3-4 minutes. Cut into 2 inch slices. Place ham slice on bread. Lay asparagus stalks on top of the ham. With a vegetable peeler, peel of thin slices of fontina cheese. But on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F until cheese is melted - about 5 minutes. Sprinkle pepper and Parmesan over if you wish. Serve.
Below is another recipe for April - featuring asparagus. You can serve it hot, warm or at room temperature. You roast the asparagus first - and try not to eat them before you use them.
Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto (serves 4) - adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
16 asparagus spears - thick bottom chopped off or peel thick part of stalk
small amount of olive oil
8 slices of thin prosciutto
Optional: freshly ground pepper and Parmesan to finish
Brush the asparagus with olive oil. Salt and pepper if you wish. (The prosciutto adds enough salt for me.) In a 350 degree F oven, roast the asparagus on a baking sheet for 5-6 minutes - until almost tender. Remove from oven. With scissors or a knife, cut your prosciutto slices in half length-wise. Wrap the prosciutto slice around the asparagus. Giada now serves this at room temperature. I pop it back into the oven to let the prosciutto crisp up a bit (3-4 minutes), drain it on paper towels and then serve it with ground pepper and some Parmesan.
I have a southern friend who tells me she has never met a vegetable that she couldn't make unhealthy with her down home Texas cooking. I think of that when I take the innocent asparagus and then cover it with ham. Of course Italians are famous for Eggplant Parmigiano and you know what we do to the health quotient of the eggplant in that dish! But remember - these are small bites! If you need an indulgence, small bites will deliver.
I am going to pause here for a moment and let you know that I have a most excellent husband.
As I read that Bon Appetit noted the ten best places to get the perfect baguette in America, I saw that one was in Minneapolis. And my husband's wonderful reply was:
"When do you want to go?"
So along with our small bites this weekend, we also were treated to a crusty loaf of bread from Rustica Bakery in Minneapolis (and if you're in town - go, bike, skate or fly, and get there in the morning and feast - it delivers - the right amount of chew but not tough. hearty but not filling and brings you to an understanding of why bread is the staff of life). And just because - I bought a mini-focaccia - because that fit the theme of "small bites." It was diminutive. It was cute. And I really wanted it.
I will be doing Small Bites Sunday for awhile. If you have a "small bite" you'd like to share, send it over with a photo and a link to your posting by Saturday at 5 p.m. Nothing fancy - no badges - just for fun.
Today is Earth Day and even in Minnesota which is often the frozen tundra and icebox of the nation, the earth kept her promise. In return, I have some promises to keep for her. Hope you had a lovely Sunday, a small bite here and there and had time to appreciate our planet.