Japanese Grilled Cheese & Kale Salad, #SundaySupper, #FamilyDinnerTable

This post is sponsored by American Family Insurance. All opinions are my own. 

Before Commodore Perry of the US Naval Forces pressured Japan to give up on a 200 years plus isolation policy, which prohibited interaction with foreigners, the Tokugawa shogunate ruled with an iron fist. Peace did prevail for the most part and the arts flourished. (Theatre, poetry, lacquer ware and art.) Many prints from the Tokugawa period (also known as the Edo period) depict farmers harvesting rice, samurai visiting sake wine shops and kimono clad geisha girls serving tea.

Teatime! (Photo credit)

I’ve yet to see art from ancient Japan capturing the smile of a samurai as he munched on mozzarella. Cheese is not a part of traditional Japanese cuisine. However, as foreign ideas were introduced in the late 1860s, dairy made an entrance into Japanese culture.

Today Japanese versions of cheese exist. Some who travel to Japan may be disappointed by the lack of variety. Cooking with cheese can be challenge for newly arrived ex-pats and those accustomed to the huge selections available at American supermarkets. Creativity and thinking outside the box are essential. Of course, imported cheeses are always an option for those with big budgets. But it’s more fun to get creative, right?

Japanese cheese tends to be mild and does melt pretty well. Think mild Monterey Jack. Mac ‘n cheese, lasagna and homemade pizzas are completely do-able. 

Local spices sold in Japan will quickly heat up any mild
Japanese cheese in your lasagna.

If desired, karashi mustard, shichimi spice blends and togarashi chili pepper spices can bring heat to the mild cheese. If you are living in the U.S. and want to add a bit of zing to your Monterey Jack, use paprika and red pepper flakes.

Whether one is living in Japan or in America, and life is demanding everyone to move at (Shinkansen) bullet train speed, if grated cheese is in the freezer, dinner can be done in minutes. So by all means grate leftover cheese and place it in the freezer for that frenetic meal on the run day.

One of my favorite quick meals on the go is a Japanese grilled cheese sandwich. In the middle of soft bread, melted sharp cheddar with slices of sautéed shiitake mushrooms are discovered. It’s the perfect food to take the edge off of hunger. Many vegetarians use Portobello mushrooms instead of meat. Shiitake have a similar texture and pleasing pungency. 

An American classic grilled cheese with a Japanese shiitake mushroom twist.

Also, if you’ve got an extra minute, homemade cheese bread makes the grilled cheese even better. Substitute the milder cheese blend in the bread recipe with sharp cheddar if you want an extra, extra sharp cheddar flavored grilled cheese. 

Goat cheese crumbles are sprinkled atop an au courant kale salad.
America's latest green obsession is dressed up with
Japanese daikon radish circles and enoki mushrooms.

Kale salad sprinkled with goat cheese and garnished with enoki mushrooms and daikon radish slices pair well with the sandwich. As kale and daikon are both vegetables with a bite, a creamy goddess or similar salad dressing with a sweetness works well.

Japanese Style Grilled Cheese on Homemade Cheese Bread

The aromas of baking bread fill a home with comfort and fill a tummy with homemade goodness. This cheese bread is subtle in its cheese accents. But you can always substitute a sharp cheddar for the milder varieties.

This cheese bread is a perfect candidate for the Japanese style grilled cheese. Butter sweetens the slightly pungent shiitake mushrooms which land on soft bread and cheddar cheese.


For the homemade cheese bread:
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 cups Japanese bread flour (top quality American flour is fine also)
  • ¼  cup dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 ¼  cups warm water
  • 1 ½  cups shredded organic mild cheeses (Monterey Jack, Colby cheese and mild cheddar cheese)

For the grilled cheese sandwich:

  1. Softened butter
  2. 2 medium shiitake mushrooms, sliced into thin strips
  3. 2 sandwich size slices of extra sharp cheddar cheese
  4. 2 slices of homemade cheese bread or your favorite bakery bread

For the homemade cheese bread:

Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine. Give a quick whisk. Select the White Bread setting. Press Start and prepare to have your home infused with the comforting aromas of baking bread.

For the grilled cheese sandwich:

Melt a generous tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the shiitake mushrooms for about a minute. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and pat dry with paper towels. Smooth softened butter over one side of each of the bread slices. Butter side down, place one slice in the pan. Arrange the cheese and mushrooms over the bread. Wait until the cheese begins to melt to cover with the remaining bread slice. Keep the buttered side up; flip the sandwich and grill for another minute. Serve with kale salad if desired.

If the brain is fried after a day of taking care of the children, managing a job, driving in traffic, doing the laundry, punching a million buttons before speaking to a human at customer service…And making a decision about what to make for dinner seems too monumental…You can always visit the American Family Insurance Pinterest board. They are not only in the business of providing insurance. The impressive company is encouraging families to go back to the family dinner table. So, they’ve set up a Pinterest board featuring all kinds of yummy recipes that look very do-able. Including delightful cheese dishes such as twice baked potatoes and cheeseburger pies. Click here to take a peek.

AmFam Back To The Family Dinnertable Logo

American Family Insurance also has some helpful info listed on their web site as well as Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTubeLinkedIn and as mentioned above Pinterest.

Here are a few more creative ways to use cheese and bring smiles to your family:

And don't forget, our eCookbook featuring many of our favorite recipes will be coming out just in time for the Holidays.

If this #SundaySupper discussion about dishes dripping with cheeses is appealing, please join us every Sunday on Twitter.

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here → Sunday Supper Movement.

Wishing you many moments around the family table where everyone smiles as the cameraman says, “Cheese!”

The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.



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