A classic grilled cheese—comfort foods’ most ubiquitous musing—is one way to stave off the seasonal sullied spirits during the punishing winter months. But for me, a Trinidad & Tobago native, a luscious grilled cheese isn’t enough. I need the upbeat fare of my Caribbean to shine though literally everything I eat, even if it’s by the smallest measure. Here, the inclusion of coconut butter lifts this grilled cheese to a place where I can tangibly taste and see the vim and vigor of the islands. And that’s an important consideration when there are inches of snow on the ground.
Unlike coconut oil, which is made from the extracted fat of coconut meat, coconut butter incorporates the fiber-rich coconut meat, however, in dried form. Exacting this goodness isn’t an arduous task but does require, just a pinch of patience and a twenty-minute commitment to your food processor or Vitamix. The blood orange vinaigrette is a triumph to winter citrus season. And the salad as whole cuts the fat of the cheeses while offering a crisp, tart, toothsome bite. The end result is a very simple yet beautifully balanced meal, with a nod to the islands.
In a food processor, put the dried coconut and blend for 3 minutes until the coconut breaks down into clumps. Scrape down the sides of the food processor. Continue to blend for another 5 minutes and scrape down the sides of the food processor. The coconut should have a sandy consistency and be somewhat paste-like. Continue processing for another three to four 3-4 minutes. Scrape sides of the food processor each time.
After 12-15 minutes have elapsed, the coconut starts to coagulate and it resembles a buttery paste. At this point, you should have scrapped the sides of the food processor 6-7 times, to ensure that the coconut meat is making contact with the blades.
At the 20-minute mark, the coconut now resembles the consistency of thick peanut butter. It is thick and viscous. Stir in the salt, and set aside.
Grilled Cheese and Salad
Prepare the salad: Segment the blood oranges, firstly by removing the skin and pith and, with a paring knife, cutting the flesh out from along the veins of the fruit. Place the segments on a small plate. In a medium- sized bowl, juice the remaining blood orange by squeezing with your hand. To the blood orange juice, whisk in the lemon juice, honey, and slowly stream in the olive oil. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Wash and trim the frisée into bite-sized pieces and toss in the blood orange vinaigrette. Set aside while you prepare the grilled cheese.
Butter both sides of the bread with coconut butter—but place more butter on the insides of the bread than the sides in contact with the pan, to prevent scorching. Place the cheeses on the slice of bread and close with another slice the of coconut-buttered bread.
Plate the salad, and top with orange segments. Place grilled cheese near salad, and enjoy.