Grilled cheese transformed into a grown-up meal

Grilled cheese has long been a children's lunchtime favorite. This grown-up version substitutes buttery Gouda -- first made in Holland more than 800 years ago -- for sliced American singles. A tasty layer of sauteed veggies smothered in bechamel sauce completes the gourmet transformation.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

1 red onion, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

Salt and pepper

8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided

8 ounces fresh spinach leaves

1 shallot or small yellow onion, minced

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup whole milk

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

8 slices rye bread or 4 seeded rye rolls, split

8 slices Wisconsin Gouda cheese

Roasted peppers, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat an oven-safe skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, red pepper and onions. Saute 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute additional 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place skillet in oven and roast 15-20 minutes (can make and refrigerate the night before).

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter, a splash of water, spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Reserve.

For bechamel sauce: Heat saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and minced shallot or onion. Season with salt and pepper; stir for about 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add flour and stir to coat. Stir in the milk, a little at a time to avoid lumping. Add nutmeg and cayenne and bring to a low simmer, stirring often to keep from sticking. Cook at least 10 minutes; stir in mustard and let stand off heat.

Heat skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each bread slice or roll and place 4 slices, butter-side down, in pan. Top with slice of Gouda, 2 tablespoons spinach and 1/2 cup of peppers-onions-mushrooms. Top with 2 tablespoons of the bechamel sauce, another slice of Gouda, and a slice of rye, butter-side up. Grill to melt the cheese and toast the bread to golden brown, flipping sandwiches once.

Serves 4.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (www.grilledcheeseacademy.com)

(Contact Gretchen McKay at gmckay(at)post-gazette.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)

Must credit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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