So it looks like there’s going to be no getting around it: the warm weather is officially here.
In full disclosure, I’m a little sad to see the coolness go, because we truly had no winter here in southern California, and I can only imagine how hot and dry our upcoming summer is going to be. (No! Say it aint so!)
I’m not a fan of hot weather; can you tell?
But OK, if we must welcome the warm season in, then we can at least enjoy the beautiful bounty of colorful foods that it brings in with it, and that part I’m more-than-perfectly-fine with. Thick slices of fresh, juicy tomatoes? Check. Lots of green, luscious flavors from summer herbs such as basil? Check. And putting them to great use pressed between pieces of toasty, buttery bread that’s been richly gooey-ed up by creamy melted provolone and mozzarella cheeses? Goodness gracious, check!
It seems that every summer season I like to try to come up with different ways to use those amazingly delicious “caprese-like” flavors that I love so much; those flavors of tomatoes with basil and good cheese. A couple of years back we had these Fried Heirloom Tomatoes, Caprese Style; and then last year, we had this scrumptious Crispy Stuffed Chicken Caprese. And now, I’m about to take those flavors to the grilled cheese level; ready to join me there?
In the summers, we enjoy making a simple and light evening meal out of freshly sliced and lightly salted tomatoes on some type of rustic bread that’s been toasted and smeared with a flavorful cream cheese, or even a little butter. So the inspiration for this grilled cheese came from our love of that, and wanting to make a more complete meal, or complete sandwich, out of it.
We all pretty much love grilled cheese sandwiches, don’t we? So what a divinely delicioso and decadent twist on that fave to create a juicy caprese-inspired version, full of the brightness and pop of good spring/summer ingredients.
Though I may not really be a fan of the hot weather, I am a lover of the mouth-watering and richly colorful foods that it certainly brings with it to our table. Simple, seasonal ingredients added to favorite go-to meals makes for some amazing twists that we can gladly sink our teeth into, and make the hot temps a tad more bearable.
What we get is crazy-good seasonal food, whether we enjoy it outdoors on our patios, porches, or in our backyards; or cooly tucked away inside where the air conditioner is merrily buzzing away.
(Any guesses as to which of those locations I’ll be in?)
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Tomato & Pesto Grilled Cheese with Melted Provolone & Mozzarella Cheeses
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 2 sandwiches
• 4 slices rustic-style bread
• 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
• 2 slices provolone cheese
• 1 large heirloom tomato (yellow or red), slices thinly into 4-6 slices
• Cracked black pepper
• Summer Pesto Sauce (recipe below)
• 2 slices mozzarella cheese
*The key to making these sandwiches, believe it or not, is a common brick wrapped in foil! So use it to press the sandwiches down as they grill in the pan, and you’ll have even, golden-brown outer crust, and melted-through cheese, with juicy tomato—sort of “panini” style.
-Butter one side of each piece of bread, and turn the un-buttered sides up, facing you.
-Place a piece of provolone onto one of the slices, then top with 2-3 slices of tomato, followed by a sprinkle of salt and black pepper; add a healthy amount of the pesto over the seasoned tomato slices, then finish with a slice of mozzarella cheese; cover with another slice of bread, with the buttered side facing up this time; repeat with the other sandwich.
-Place a large non-stick pan over low/medium-low heat, and allow it to get hot; then, add one sandwich in, and place the foil-wrapped brick (if using) on top of the sandwich, in the center, and do not disturb for about 4 minutes, or until that first side is golden-brown; next, flip the sandwich, and, once again, carefully place the brick on top to press, and grill on that side for about 3 minutes.
-Slice the sandwich on the bias, and serve hot.
Summer Pesto Sauce Ingredients:
• 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon lemon zest
• 4 cloves garlic
• 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
• ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
• ½ cup olive oil
• 4 ounces basil leaves, quickly blanched and patted dry (*see note below)
(*Blanching the basil keeps the pesto a bright green color. To blanch, add the basil leaves to salted, simmering water for only 10 seconds; then, remove and shock the basil in ice water to cool; pat dry with paper towels, and use.)
-To the bowl of a food processor, add in the lemon juice, the zest, the garlic, the pine nuts, the parmesan and about 2 tablespoons of the oil, and process until it becomes a paste; add a couple of pinches of salt and the basil leaves, and process again, drizzling the rest of the oil in slowly; check the seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
-To store pesto, top it with a thin layer of olive oil, and place it in a covered container into the fridge; will keep fresh for about a week.