From where I stand, all the stars are aligned for the veggie melt to have its moment. With chefs putting vegetables at the centre of the plate, the popularity of toasts in general, and our collective love of melted cheese, it just makes sense. A typical melt, as you probably know, involves slices of cheese melted over meat or a tuna salad, served either open-faced or as a sandwich. This recipe is a spin on the open-faced version, but vegetable-centric and more healthful, with a fresh, contemporary feel.
The idea, which came to me as I was contemplating what to do with rapini (broccoli rabe) leftover from a previous night’s dinner, is to pile the savoury cooked vegetable onto toasted bread, blanket it lightly with cheese – just enough to add rich, melty unctuousness while keeping the overall dish healthfully balanced – and then grill it until the cheese is bubbly and the toast is crisp and nicely browned. The rapini I had that day, which had been blanched, sautéed with sliced garlic, and spiked with pepper flakes and lemon juice, seemed destined to be topped with a slice of boldly flavourful cheese, for a melt that turned out so satisfying, I’m sharing the recipe for it here.
After devouring it, I couldn’t help but dream of all the veggie melt possibilities ahead. Any number of cooked vegetables could be the focal point – grilled, sautéed or roasted courgette, aubergine, peppers, onions and/or mushrooms, a mound of cooked, seasoned greens such as spinach or Swiss chard, or a scoop of ratatouille, for example. For cheese options, you could go with any easily meltable variety such as mozzarella or cheddar.
Served as a starter, side or vegetarian main, the veggie melt is such a simple and practical concept, but one that’s so ripe with possibilities, I see a bright future for it ahead.
Cheesy broccoli melts
Total time:30 minutes
Makes:3 to 6 servings
Here, robustly flavourful rapini is sauteed until tender with garlic and spiked with crushed red pepper and lemon. It is then piled onto toasted bread, topped with sliced cheese and grilled until the cheese is melted and bubbling, resulting in a fresh, vegetable-centric and healthful take on an open-faced melt.
Make ahead: The cooked broccoli can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If using, add the lemon just before serving, and warm in a frying pan or return to room temperature before making the toasts.
2 to 3 tbsp (optional) plus ⅛ tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1 large head rapini (about 450g), stems trimmed (may substitute with Tenderstem or other broccoli type of choice)
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more for serving
1 lemon, juiced (optional)
6 slices crusty Italian bread, ideally wholegrain (the wider slices from the centre of the loaf)
3 slices (85g) mozzarella or cheddar cheese, halved
1. Bring a large pot of water (salted with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, optional) to a boil and prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
2. Add the rapini to the boiling water and, once the water returns to a boil, cook for 30 to 60 seconds, until slightly tender and bright green. Transfer to the ice bath to cool completely, about 1 minute, then to a towel-lined plate and pat until dry. Chop the rapini.
3. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add the oil and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rapini, ¼ teaspoon of salt and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until warmed through and tender, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, if using, over the rapini and toss to combine. Taste and add more juice as needed.
4. Preheat the grill, positioning an oven rack around 15cm from the heat source.
5. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the bread on a pan under the grill and cook for about 1 minute per side or until lightly toasted, watching carefully to prevent burning.
6. Transfer the toasts to a clean work surface. Pile each toast with the rapini, then top each with half of a slice of the cheese. Return the toasts to the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Lightly sprinkle each toast with additional crushed red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve.
Nutrition (based on 6 servings) | Calories: 203; total fat: 12g; saturated fat: 3g; cholesterol: 6mg; sodium: 302g; carbohydrates: 17g; dietary fibre: 2g; sugar: 1g; protein: 7g.
© The Washington Post
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