My family has been making these sandwiches every summer for at least 10 years. Similar to ratatouille, it uses some of the best garden produce, including fresh tomatoes, zucchini, onions and basil. When I was still a kid and not as involved in gardening, I would constantly badger my dad, "Can we make the sandwiches yet? When can we do sandwiches?" "Well, the tomatoes have to grow first," was his practical reply. But I will tell you, however long it takes for the tomatoes to grow, the wait is entirely worth it! The gourmet grilled cheese, as we call it, is an explosion of garden flavor combined with the classic goodness of melty cheese and crisp, grilled bread.
This is a great supper to prepare as a family, as it can be done in stations. For instance, someone butters the bread, another slices the vegetables and cheese, someone mans the stovetop, and another washes and shreds the basil. Many hands make light work, so the saying goes. :)
8 slices rye or pumpernickel bread, each buttered generously on 1 side
4-8 slices colby cheese (enough to create a uniform layer on the bread)
16 slices zucchini
4 large slices of tomato (beefsteaks are great for this, otherwise more slices of smaller tomatoes)
2-3 medium onions, sliced
1 Tbsp. butter
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Black pepper, to taste
In a large frying pan, sautee zucchini and onion in 1 Tbsp. of butter over medium high heat. Continue until onions are translucent and zucchini is very tender.
Place bread, buttered side down, on a hot griddle. Layer on the cheese, onions and zucchini, tomato slices, basil and cracked pepper. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.
Check the bottom of the sandwich with a spatula. It should feel and sound crispy as you slide the spatula under it. Carefully turn over the sandwich to begin grilling the other side. (I'll be honest, I'm not a pro at this step. Sometimes slices of zucchini or tomato fly out the side. If this happens, don't fret. Just pick up the slices and shove them back in the sandwich. No one has to know!)
When bread is well toasted, serve and enjoy. Note: It's a little hard to tell when dark breads like rye are done versus burnt. I tend to call it done when the center of the bread is dark, dark brown to almost black. The edges should still be lighter. The main indicator, however, is texture. If the bread feels nice and crispy, it's probably ready to go.
Well, I hope this mouth-watering recipe makes it into your family's summer favorites too!
'Til next time,
P.S. I just remembered, these can also be done as pudgy pies!! You may have to omit the zucchini slices due to the restricted size of a pudgy pie iron, but you still get the same rich, grilled flavor.