grilled cheese Archives

Italian-Style Tuna Melts with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Arugula & Hot Peppers

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Hello from sunny and cool New York City! We’re having what a friend deemed “August spring,” but we’re all terrified to talk about it, lest the hellish July temperatures return. To me, it’s Maine weather: in the morning, we wear sweatshirts. At night, we sleep without air conditioning. For dinner, I’m once again okay with turning on the oven.

A good tuna melt deserves the broiler, and today I bring you the best tuna melt I’ve ever had. The inspiration for this melt arrived when Mezzetta challenged me to create a sandwich to share with you, using the fantastic jarred olives, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and spreads that they make. Sandwiches are pretty much the perfect summer meal–easy to assemble, no big deal to tote along to the beach or on other adventures. Of course I had to mix things up by turning on that broiler, but I don’t think summer will think any less of me.

For this sandwich, I mixed my favorite canned tuna (it’s called American Tuna and is low in mercury) with a simple, Italian-style vinaigrette made with basil, minced onion, olive oil, and vinaigrette. There’s no mayo in there, nor is there any on the sandwich. Instead, I spread the bottom half of the sandwich with one of my all-time favorite pestos, made with Mezzetta’s sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and Parm. For the melt aspect, I chose a fontina-like cheese recommended by my neighborhood cheesemonger. Perhaps my favorite move, though, was studding the top of the cheese with Mezzetta’s sliced hot cherry peppers, which are pickled and add great spice and flavor.

Before I go grab a cardigan to bulk up for this August “spring” morning, I wanted to let you know that you can enter to win Mezzetta’s annual “Make That Sandwich” contest. Create a sandwich using two or more Mezzetta products, enter the recipe here, and you could win the grand prize, $25,000! (There are also two runner-up prizes of $1000 apiece.) See tons of sandwich inspiration here, and good luck! I’ll be back later today with a giveaway of some awesome Mezzetta delicacies.

I wrote this sponsored post in partnership with Mezzetta to let you guys know about the chance to win their sandwich contest. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that help inspire BGSK’s content! 

Muhammara, Za’atar, and Grilled Cheese


This post begins and ends with muhammara. Muhammara is a Middle Eastern dip that’s rich, sweet, spicy, and tangy. I’m always looking for unusual dips, preferably one whose ingredients come from the pantry, and muhammara fits the bill.

Looking to other cultures is one of my tried-and-true ways of branching out in the kitchen. For dips, one of the most fertile culinary traditions has got to come from the Middle East.

Like: picture a mezze table, loaded with hummus, baba ganoush, oils, cheeses, herbs and try not to salivate.

Most of the ingredients in muhammara are everyday items: nuts, chile flakes, tomato paste, olive oil. But one – pomegranate molasses – is a little harder to find. I’ve seen it at some Whole Foods, but I traversed Atlantic Avenue and made a stop at Sahadi’s, a quintessential Brooklyn shopping experience. The pomegranate molasses lends the dip its signature sweetness as well as its tang. I can imagine using the rest of my bottle of pomegranate molasses in dressings and marinades.

Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Anchovy-Olive Tapenade


Sometimes food inspiration just strikes, and sometimes you have to go searching for it. If you’re going to go searching, there’s no better place to go than San Francisco.

Specifically, Tartine.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are my kryptonite, but goodness I’ve been boring about them lately. Every day, the same. Two slices of whole-grain Bread Alone bread. Some Cabot sharp cheddar. On one forgetful day, I was out of butter and fried my grilled cheese in olive oil. That was the most excitement my sandwiches have seen this summer.

At Tartine, the baked goods beckon, but I needed lunch. I ordered a toasted sandwich, and Alex’s step-sister, Lissa Ivy, ordered one too. I liked hers better, but I’ll get to that.

Grilled Swiss and Roasted Fennel Sandwich


The grilled cheese sandwich is not some idle obsession or Pinterest fantasy. It plays a valuable role in my life.

The grilled cheese sandwich always delivers. There are foods, like soup or yogurt, that automatically lead to a craving for more: dessert, steak, whatever. Technically, the yogurt and the soup provide plenty of calories to satiate a sedentary blogger, but in reality, they’re somehow not enough.

My mom once gave me a piece of advice: only eat what you like. (I’ve written more about staying healthy as a food lover in this post.) That applies both to unhealthful food and healthful food: I avoid yogurt and donuts with the same passion. When I eat food I really like, I feel great, whether it’s ice cream or quinoa.

Pepperoni Panini


It’s funny how in the last month, Pinterest has captured the attention of reporters, who have analyzed and unpacked it from all different angles. Funny in part because the people I know went through the angst and the confusion about the visual social media network (or whatever you want to call it) many moons ago, back when we joined in August.

It’s not that I’m a super techie early adopter types. It’s just that Pinterest and I had a bunch of mutual friends. Sarah, one of my best friends from high school, blogs over at the beautiful Chevrons and Stripes. She stays up to date on what the designer blog world is doing, and it is design bloggers who were the site’s designated “super pinners,” the ones who were early adopters and who set the aesthetic for the site. Pinterest, for those who don’t know, is a bookmarking app that lets you “pin” any visual element from any page anywhere on the web to one of your own customized bulletin boards, which you then share with followers. It seems to me that app could have developed in any number of different ways, if you just thought in terms of the technology. But right at the beginning, the site invited a bunch of design types to pin away, and their love for white interiors, exposed wood, and glittery shoes set the clean, pretty tone.

I plugged into the late adopters’ critiques and questioning a couple weeks ago through Slate’s Double X Gabfest (which I listen to thanks to my mom’s recommendation; but really, it’s excellent cooking entertainment if you’re into podcasts). The Slate podcasters wondered if there was something troublingly “normative” about Pinterest, as though all of us pinners had swallowed the contents of Lucky and Glamour and Martha Stewart Weddings and were regurgitating them via our pins.

I laughed to myself as I washed the dishes (the perfect time for listening). Because the Slate Double Xers clearly had not involved themselves on the food boards on Pinterest, which have become a place for non-normative inspiration, and for us to share our favorite foods from around the web.

All of this is just a long-winded way of getting back to grilled cheese, my favorite culinary topic. In case you’ve gotten bored of all my grilled cheese yapping, I’ve renamed today’s recipe a panini, just to mix things up.

A couple of months ago I started a grilled cheese “pinboard.” On it, I began collecting inspired combinations of bread and cheese from around the web. I discovered blogs devoted to panini and grilled cheese making and stretched the definition to include open-faced sandwiches, quesadillas, and even fondue. Kevin of Closet Cooking became kind of an idol for his inspired, totally decadent takes on grilled cheese. The more I pinned, the more I was amazed and amused by the vast array of dishes that came out of a single constraint: take some bread and melt some cheese on it.

That brings me to today’s: a pizza-ish combination turned into grilled cheese via the use of fresh focaccia and pepperoni. It’s a good one–pin-worthy, even!

What’s your favorite bread-and-cheese combination?



Pepperoni Panini
Serves 1; easily doubled

This sandwich comes out best with supermarket mozzarella, like Polly-O or deli-sliced, rather than the fresh stuff, which can make the sandwich watery.

1 4 or 5-inch square piece focaccia, sliced in half vertically to make a top slice and a bottom slice
3 tablespoons good tomato sauce
2 slices low-moisture mozzarella (about 2 ounces)
8 thin slices pepperoni
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
1 teaspoon butter

Spread the bottom half of the focaccia with the tomato sauce. Top with one slice of cheese. Arrange the pepperoni in one, overlapping layer. Top with the second slice of cheese. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and press it down so it sticks.

Melt the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Carefully transfer the sandwich to the pan, being sure not to lose any filling. If you have a panini weight (I have this Lodge one), use it to press the sandwich down. Otherwise, use another clean frying pan as a weight. Cook the sandwich for 5-7 minutes, lowering the heat if the bread is getting too dark. Remove the weight, lift the panini up with a spatula, add the second teaspoon of butter, flip the panini, and place it back down. Weight it again and cook another 4-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

Cut in half and eat immediately.

French Onion Grilled Cheese


Check out my beloved Grilled Cheese Pinboard!

My apologies: it’s the second to last day of January, and I’ve yet to post about grilled cheese. It doesn’t mean that 2012 isn’t a year of eating and writing about my favorite sandwich, er, meal.

Fortunately, it’s a good one, a classic inspired by the rich French soup, and perfect for winter. It’s also incredibly simple. Just two ingredients make this sandwich, a red onion jam created by Merrill over at Food52 and first seen on BGSK in another simple dish, a fried egg sandwich.

When I re-made this jam recently, the sweet onion smell that permeated my kitchen reminded my of a wintry favorite, French Onion Soup. Which in turn led me to think about how it would be acceptable nix the broth part of French Onion Soup (no offense to soup) and stick with just the crispy bread and cheese part. Without much ado, I spread some of the extra jam on my toasted bread before piling it with nutty Gruyere and toasting it in melted butter. Voilà: a fantastic new sandwich to add to my repertoire.

From my kitchen, starting the 2012 grilled cheese season off right, to yours,



French Onion Grilled Cheese
Serves 1

Since the red onion jam keeps for a while in the fridge, you can make it up to 2 weeks in advance and keep it on hand for your grilled cheese-making pleasure.

2 slices good whole-grain bread
4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons Red Onion Jam (recipe follows)
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere (pretty tightly packed, but you don’t have to smash it in)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly toast both slices of bread. Spread one side with the red onion jam, then pile on the shredded cheese. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Press the second piece of bread on top.

Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Carefully place the sandwich in the pan and cook, pressing down occasionally with a spatula, until the cheese has started to melt and the bread is golden and crispy, 4-5 minutes. Lift it out of the pan with the spatula and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. Flip the sandwich and return it to the pan. Cook another 4-5 minutes until the cheese is gooey and the second side is golden.

Place on a plate, cut in half, and eat immediately.

Red Onion Jam
Adapted from Food52

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine the onion, butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan with a lid. Saute over medium-low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, add the wine and vinegar and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring slightly more frequently, until there is no liquid left and the onions are soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Let the jam come to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.