Today’s sandwich is the “White Pizza Grilled Cheese.” It combines ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil on toasted bread.
Notes: We went on a little excursion to New York last week. You may have heard about it. And it was great. Really, really great. We didn’t do much of anything at all, but that made it the most restful and relaxing trip we’ve had in years. We didn’t buy lots of things or take in any shows. We didn’t even get to go out alone to a great dinner and a couple of bars. Having a baby on vacation, on vacation in New York especially, slows you way down. Every morning, after being woken up by Violet who was sleeping in her Pack ‘n’ Play approximately six inches from my face in our Manhattan hotel room, and watching classic Sesame Street episodes quietly on the iPad, we’d walk to get bagels or a buttery bacon egg and cheese, made to order at any crummy deli, we would go back to the room, pull down the shades and nap. When we all woke up again and rubbed the sleep from our eyes and got ready again for the day, we’d head out to walk and walk, uptown or downtown, or take the F train to visit friends in Brooklyn. One day we walked to Central Park, past the Rockefeller Center tree and ice skaters and dressed up families waiting on line for the Christmas spectacular. Another day we battled down to Chinatown to eat soup dumplings and peruse gray market handbags. We went to the Toys-R-Us in Times Square that has a Ferris wheel inside the store, the craft market in Union Square and my favorite Barnes and Noble; I took the baby to see (and scream at) a Macy’s Santa Claus, a nearly perfect moment in both of our lives. Walking as far as your feet will take you, then a dozen blocks more, while one neighborhood seeps into another, is one of the city’s great gifts.
I wasn’t sure what it would be like, being back. Being in New York, there with our daughter. Stepping into a place we once lived long ago, when we were completely different people. As it turns out, New York is the best example of not experiencing the same river twice. While much of it was so familiar that muscle memory took over, like passing through the subway stiles or bellying up to the bar in a Midtown dive, it is also always in such constant flux that it welcomes you back without alienation, as much changed, yet equally the same. We showed Violet some of a city we used to know. Also, we ate. Nothing very formal or fancy, but a lot of good stuff all the same. Many of our New York rituals involve simple food. Street nuts, Chinese takeout or the ubiquitous go-slice, hot from the oven. You can eat a go-slice walking down the street, standing up drunk, and sitting down in a too-hot back room crowded with tables. You should definitely shake on red pepper flakes and garlic powder, if you know what’s what. White pizza is a perennial favorite. A no-sauce pie consisting of gobs of stringy mozzarella, dollops of ricotta and pungent garlic. And because any food that is worth eating must be translated into a grilled cheese, here is our take on a classic NYC snack.
White Pizza Grilled Cheese
Makes four sandwiches; Adapted from a recipe by Kitchen Treaty
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- A few leaves of fresh basil, torn into bits
- 4- 6 slices mozzarella cheese
- 8 slices white bread
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and halved
In a small bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir well and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour to allow flavors to combine.
Divide the ricotta mixture evenly between the eight slices of bread. Top four of the slices each with a tablespoon of the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, and a few bits of basil. Top with some of the mozzarella cheese, and then close the sandwiches.
Rub the outside of each slice of bread with the cut garlic, then spread with room temperature butter. Grill in a skillet over medium heat until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. To complete the pizza theme, serve with a sidecar of pizza or marinara sauce.