Ricotta and beet grilled cheese with fennel persimmon salad

So often, winter comfort food is heavy. And look–I am passionate about ragù. But if you’re looking for comfort food that doesn’t weigh you down, try this.

This grilled cheese makes the best use of winter produce–beets, fennel, and persimmons burst with bright flavor that is uncharacteristic at this time of year. Yet, as a grilled cheese, it also ticks the comfort food box.

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Plus, in a season of hours-long braises and prepping for holiday meals, it’s nice to have a quick meal to pull out of your back pocket on a weeknight. Just shred and sauté the beets, slap them on the bread with the ricotta, and toast. The salad can be sliced up and tossed in the time it takes to toast the sandwiches. Voilà!

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Ricotta and beet grilled cheese with fennel persimmon salad (makes four sandwiches)
Adapted from Blue Apron

Ingredients
8 slices bread (preferably sourdough)
8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese*
2 beets, grated (you can do this on a box grater or in the shredding attachment of your food processor)
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 large persimmons, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons (or so) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
6 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper
*necessary, but you can also add bits of other soft cheeses, as I did with the feta that was languishing in my cheese drawer

Instructions
Place fennel and persimmons in a bowl with 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, adjust vinegar to taste.

Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, beet, honey, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until the beet has softened and the liquid has cooked off.

While the beet is cooking, place the bread slices on a clean surface. Evenly spread 1/8 of the cheese onto each slice (so about 1/4 cup per sandwich).

When the beet is done cooking, transfer to a bowl (or storage container–see note, below), season with salt and pepper, and rinse and wipe out pan.

Divide the cooked beet  evenly among the sandwiches (draining before adding), putting it on just one side of each sandwich. Close the sandwiches.

Melt the butter in the pan over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches and cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. (If you are doing all four at once, you will need to do two batches.) Flip, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Remove from pan, slice in half, and serve with salad.

Leftover potential: cook the beets and make the salad. Then assemble and fry each grilled cheese when you are ready to eat.

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