Summer Grilled Cheese

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Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing as great as a gooey grilled cheese made with cheddar cheese and lots of butter, (preferably served with old-fashioned creamy tomato soup). But that seems pretty heavy for summer, so as I was recently craving grilled cheese, I came up with a lighter, summery version.

I still used traditional flavors to amp it up, (like bacon and tomato), but with a seasonal twist. Sourdough bread is the base, and the sandwich is piled high with fresh mozzarella, and crispy pancetta. Sweet heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil leaves with balsamic add more flavor and beautiful color and texture.

Certainly feel free to substitute the ingredients for those that you like or have available. There are such a wonderful assortment of artisan breads and cheeses at most grocery stores now. There are also spreads like tapenade, and pesto readily available as well as things like roasted red peppers. The point is that you can make your sandwich as simple or as complex as you wish. Just let your palate guide you!

Summer Grilled Cheese for 2:

-Sourdough Bread, 4 slices, (cut into ½” thick slices)
-8oz Ovoline fresh mozzarella, (cut into ¼” slices)
-1 heirloom tomato, (cut into ¼”slices)
-Pancetta chips (see recipe below)
-1 bunch fresh basil leaves, picked
-Balsamic vinegar
-Olive oil

Pancetta Chips:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan by covering it with a sheet of parchment paper.

2) Open your package of pancetta, (4oz, and available at most grocery stores in the deli meat section). Peel each round from the rest and carefully lay it on the parchment paper in a single layer.

3) When all of the rounds are on the parchment, put the pan in the oven, and bake them until crispy, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set them aside.

4) In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and stir together. Spoon or brush the olive oil-vinegar mixture onto one side of each of the four pieces of bread.

5) Then pile equal amounts of the cheese, tomato, basil and pancetta onto the side of the bread with the olive oil and vinegar. Top the pile with the other piece of bread, vinegar and oil side down.

6) Heat a grill pan to medium heat, and add a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sandwiches to the pan, and slowly cook until the bread gets golden and toasted, and the cheese starts to melt.

7) Remove the sandwiches from the pan, and gently cut them in half. Serve the sandwiches hot.