Sometimes good things just keep getting better.
Last week, I reported that Tom + Chee will be featuring my recipe for Cannellini Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Dippers throughout the month of April. The exciting part was that Pam and Brett Hoffmaster, who run the local franchise, suggested donating proceeds of this month-long menu item to The Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster.
Pam and I first chatted about her ideas for April’s National Grilled Cheese Month over lunch at the Fruitville Pike restaurant. For a restaurant known for its creative twists on the classic grilled cheese sandwich, this special month is certainly worthy of celebration.
Before ordering, I inquired about the most popular items on the menu, which extends way beyond grilled cheese. Pam steered me towards the Green Goat, a salad consisting of mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, crumbled goat cheese, and a sweet white balsamic vinaigrette. For a heartier meal, many customers opt to top it with freshly roasted chicken. Pam also mentioned that some Green Goat fans enjoy the salad grilled into a sandwich, in which case a side of the vinaigrette is included for dipping.
I was sold. I ordered the clever salad-turned-sandwich, and enjoyed every flavor-packed crumb. In my own kitchen a few days later, I set out to replicate the dressing, which is as well-suited to the Green Goat as it is to a variety of other green and grain-based salads. The hint of sweetness counterbalances bitter greens and briny cheeses while complementing naturally sweet fruit and milder greens as well. (Full disclosure: my version is less sweet than Tom + Chee’s, so it’s not a spot-on replica.)
Without a doubt, the right dressing can elevate a salad from good to great. One may also argue that, in this case, piling the salad between two pieces of bread and grilling it brings the meal to a whole new level.
Similarly, the generosity shown by Pam and Brett rose to a higher level when they decided to expand their support of the Boys & Girls Club by donating proceeds from several more menu items. For the remainder of the month, the Green Goat—salad and sandwich—as well as the “Hippy + Chee” will be included in their fundraising efforts. (The latter is a grilled cheddar sandwich with cucumber, hummus, and a few other extras, and the restaurant will be making it with my recipe for Buffalo Wing Hummus throughout the month of April.)
As if that’s not enough, to further honor the commitment that the Boys & Girls Club has made to our community, Tom + Chee will be hosting a special awards dinner for the boys and girls who have earned recognition at the Club. The restaurant will also donate 20% of the proceeds from a future fundraising night and has other ideas for supporting the Club’s mission in the planning stages.
When I started The Fountain Avenue Kitchen, it was most assuredly on a whim and with the sole desire of offering a virtual hand in someone else’s kitchen. The hope was that my recipes might somehow make someone else’s mealtime a little easier and, hopefully, a little tastier. For a few recipes to serve as a link between community-minded individuals and a worthy local organization is an impact I didn’t anticipate but about which I am truly happy.
The following recipes are my interpretations of the popular menu items. When I originally set out to recreate the dressing, I ended up with three different renditions that were all close but different in their own way. At mealtime, I served three little piles of salad, each marked in order to tell the difference. (These are the silly things that I put my family through. It’s fun but does create a lot of dishes!)
Two dressings were declared equally delicious, so I ultimately chose my personal favorite. My version of the vinaigrette is not as sweet as the one served at Tom + Chee. If you prefer a sweeter dressing, you may add extra honey to taste.
- Softened butter for bread (may substitute mayonnaise)
- 2 pieces whole grain bread (may substitute a hearty white bread, ciabatta, or gluten-free variety)
- 3 tablespoons goat cheese*
- 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
- 1 scant tablespoon toasted slivered almonds**
- 1/2 cup baby spinach or mixed greens
- White Balsamic Dressing
- For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
- 1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few turns of the pepper mill
- 1/3 cup olive oil (74 grams)
- Spread a thin layer of butter over one side of each piece of bread. (As an option to the butter, mayo works surprisingly well with no noticeable change in flavor, and it browns the bread nicely.) On the other side of both pieces of bread, spread a somewhat thick layer of goat cheese, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of goat cheese on each piece. Evenly distribute the dried cranberries and toasted almonds on one piece of bread, pressing them into the goat cheese. At this point, you can top with the greens or set them aside. (This is a matter of personal preference, as the heat from cooking will wilt the greens. If you prefer the greens to stay cool and crisp, add them after grilling.)
- In a pan preheated over medium-low to medium heat, grill as you would your favorite grilled cheese sandwich, until both sides of the bread are golden brown. Alternatively, you may grill the sandwich in a Panini press for approximately 3 minutes.
- Serve the sandwich with a side of White Balsamic Dressing for dipping. If you reserved the greens to add after grilling, you may instead toss the greens in a teaspoon or two of the dressing and then stuff them into the sandwich. (I love this option and tend to overstuff sandwich with the dressed greens. It’s a little messy but so good!)
- For the dressing: In a small bowl or jar, mix the vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil or place the lid on the jar and shake until the vinaigrette becomes thick and emulsified. The dressing may be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for a week or more.
- *A spreadable Chevre is a nice option. If you find that your goat cheese is difficult to spread even after sitting at room temperature, which tends to soften it, you may wish to mix the needed amount with just enough milk to make it creamy and spreadable.
- ** I prefer slivered over sliced almonds for the extra crunch, but either may be used. To toast the almonds (which greatly enhances the flavor of raw, unsalted nuts), heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring regularly, until fragrant and lightly golden. Or toast the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees F for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Watch carefully at the end as they will go from golden brown to burned very quickly.