As you may have noticed by now, cheese is featured prominently in many of the the recipes I post. The reason is simple: I am a cheeseaholic! I’ve always loved the versatility and wholesomeness of cheese – be it playful and exuberant like feta or serious and straightforward like cheddar, assertive and experienced like parmesan or deliciously mild like provolone. I learned a lot about cheese during the time I spent in the UK, and my knowledge has gained more depth since coming to Chicago. I am a cheese lover, yet I’d like to think that I’m not a cheese snob. I like various cheeses and try to incorporate them in my recipes – and I also like the life stories behind them. Like every other ingredient, cheese can tell a lot about you and can trigger lots of (hopefully happy) memories.
Such was the case the other day, when I bought some imported Gouda cheese from the local grocery store. I was very excited to find it on sale because this was one of the cheese varieties I used to eat most often when we lived in England. Miraculously, as soon as I saw the Gouda my mind went back to the wonderful time we had in 2007, when we went on a cruise to Amsterdam, the home of delicious all-things cheese. 🙂
The cruise was nothing extravagant by any means – it was only a two-day trip, and I had won the tickets in a competition. We did not have a lot of money to spare, so we “sticked to the basics,” doing plenty of sightseeing, eating sandwiches on the banks of the Amstel river, taking lots of pictures of the rustic and relaxed city. I can still remember the lingering smell of the water, the cheerful sound of the tourists’ laughter, the vibrant colors of the flower market – and, of course, the cheese. Traditional Dutch cheeses, such as Gouda and Edam, were sold by small shops at every street corner. Carefully arranged in an attractive fashion, their colorful exterior shone brightly in the sun and added to the picturesque, timeless quality of the moment. These memories will stay with me forever. What a great time we had…
Energized by these happy memories, I proceeded to make this Gouda panino convinced I would encounter no problem at all. I was wrong: the Gouda I bought was only sold in chunks, and it was very difficult for me to slice it at home. I ended up doing a really poor job with the slicing, and to me this was upsetting and frustrating. I can only hope I’ll do a better job with the slicing next time. Regarding the number of slices you need, I’ll say you need about 4 “normal” slices, of medium thickness. I was also out of homemade vegetable sauce and did not have the time to make a fresh batch, so I used some store-bought salsa I had in my pantry.
2 slices prosciutto cotto
4 slices Gouda cheese
3 slices cucumber
2 slices bread (I used ciabatta)
1/4 cup salsa or homemade vegetable sauce
Take the bread and brush it with the salsa. Put one slice of prosciutto cotto on each slice of bread. Add the sliced Gouda on top of the prosciutto and extra salsa on top of the cheese. Put the sliced cucumber on top of the cheese, on the bread which is going to form the basis of the panino. Place the other slice of bread (with the remaining prosciutto and Gouda) on top.
This is how the process looks like:
Grill the panino for 1-2 minutes or until the bread is golden-brown. Cut the panino in half and serve it with extra salsa or vegetable sauce.
This panino is light and has lots of flavor. The sliced cucumber brings freshness and a pleasant crunchy bite, whereas the salsa adds a spicy earthiness, which complements the delicate presence of the prosciutto cotto and the Gouda. Building layer upon layer of flavor, this panino can be a satisfying experience, a happy memory – or hopefully, it can be both.