Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grilled White Cheddar with Strawberry, Avocado, and Balsamic

One of the best things about Santa Barbara is that we have a farmers market almost every day. Now that I’m making a point of eating locally, I have to be careful about how much money I spend on food. I am always a bit anxious about the price tags at farmers markets, but it’s worth it to me to support local growers.

Spending a little extra on groceries means I’ll have to cut back in other areas of my life, like haircuts (hello, Supercuts!) and clothes. Try not to be too jealous of my resourcefulness when you see that I’ve sewn the legs back onto my jean shorts come winter.

Last week I grabbed one of the reusable bags that have been piling up in a corner of my kitchen and headed to the market with my friend Sasha. When I got back, I wanted to eat everything I’d purchased right away. So I got it into my head to make a pretty weird sandwich. Here’s what I used:

Grilled White Cheddar with Strawberry, Avocado, and Balsamic

2 slices whole grain bread
1 large strawberry, sliced
2 tsp slivered almonds
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 handful fresh baby spinach
2 slices raw white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Earth Balance

I used strawberries from John Givens Farm in Goleta (distance from me: 9 miles). John Givens started his farm in 1980 with just one acre of land; now it’s 180 acres. They grow a ton of different crops, from cabbage to broccoli to peas. I bought a crate of strawberries for $4 and snacked on one of them while I perused the rest of the market. Seriously, I snacked on one strawberry. It was enormous.

Obviously, any kind of cheese will do in a grilled cheese sandwich. But I found that white cheddar was tasty when combined with the sweetness of the strawberries. I used raw white cheddar from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese in Petaluma (distance from me: 360 miles). This farm turned out to be not as close to me as I would have liked; when the man operating the stand told me they make the cheese in Petaluma, I nodded and pretended I knew where Petaluma was. According to Google Maps, it would take me six hours to drive there… but I guess I can still count it as “local,” since this cheese is so tasty that I might just make the drive on my own.

Spring Hill Jersey Cheese is “estate produced,” meaning the cheese is manufactured in a single location. The milk comes from a herd of 400 pasture-grazed Jersey cows, and it’s made into cheese on the premises. My white cheddar is raw, or unpasteurized, so it contains a lot of healthy enzymes. So they tell me. Truthfully, I wouldn’t know an enzyme from my elbow.

To make the sandwich, I piled all the ingredients except for the balsamic vinegar onto the bread and spread some Earth Balance on each side. Then I grilled it for about two minutes. Flipping the sandwich was quite tricky – I have to admit, I lost a strawberry slice or two – but once the cheese melted, it was a lot more manageable.

After grilling each side, I removed the sandwich and poured the balsamic vinegar into the hot pan. I quickly put the sandwich back into the pan on top of it, and the balsamic vinegar absorbed right up into the toast. Yum.


  1. Sounds awesome! And Petaluma is super awesome. As is their cheese :) Food within 400 miles is considered local (according to Congress and the USDA), so I think you're still good! Love that you are living up the non-vegan life, Miss Locavore! That sandwich sounds amazing.

    1. Thanks, Calisa! I will have to check out Petaluma next time I'm up in Sonoma :)

  2. And Sonoma wine! I don't drink wine often anymore but if I do I am a Sonoma Snob...lived in Oregon 20+ yrs and don't like PNW wines...

    I know you don't have $$ to invest but sharing that we just bought a share into our local Organic Farm (they are even going to drop off the box since we are for the most part homebound). Investment was $400 (made in 2 payments) and we get a box once a week starting in May-Oct..Will be fun like a suprize coming every week and alot cheaper than the farmers market...plus Chris medical care needs are during the time of day that the market is going on so never can make it, and it is not very Wheel Chair friendly. Plus living in a coastal tourist town it gets crowded, too crowded.

  3. When I saw the picture, I was sure you'd burned the bread. Glad to see I was wrong!