Australian chef Curtis Stone, of Top Chef fame, has an interesting take on the grilled cheese sandwich. In addition to melty Parmesan slathered with creamy pesto, he includes heirloom tomatoes which are just coming into high season.
Because Stone toasts his sandwiches on an outdoor grill, they are ideal for a day at the beach or any summer outing. The dish serves six and is sure to disappear quickly. Enjoy!
Curtis Stone’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Creamy Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1 ½ cup (lightly packed; about 1 1/2 ounces) fresh basil leaves
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
⅓ cup (about 2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. To make the pesto: Using a Bump and Grind or another large mortar and pestle, mash (“bump”) garlic, salt, and pepper flakes into a coarse puree. Add 1 cup of the basil and pound (“bump”) until it is coarsely chopped. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of basil and pound until the basil forms a coarse puree. Add the pine nuts and pound just to break them up. Add the cheese and oil and mash until the nuts are coarsely ground and the mixture is well blended. Makes about 1 cup.
1 ½ lb ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf ciabatta
1 8-ounce piece Gruyère cheese, rind trimmed, cheese grated (about 2 lightly packed cups)
1 4-ounce wedge brie cheese (such as St. Andre), sliced
1. To make the sandwich: Prepare the barbecue for high heat (500°F).
Toss the tomatoes with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Set aside and toss occasionally.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the ciabatta horizontally in half. Spread both cut sides with pesto then top each with Gruyère cheese then brie cheese.
2. For a 2-burner gas grill, turn 1 burner off and place the ciabatta halves, cheese side up, on the grill rack over the unlit burner. For a 3-burner gas grill, turn the left and right burners off, leaving the center burner on. Place the ciabatta halves on the grill rack over the unlit burners. For a charcoal grill, pile the charcoal on 1 side of the barbecue and place the ciabatta halves atop the grill rack on the opposite side. Placing the ciabatta over the unlit burners ensures it doesn’t char too much.
3. Close the barbecue hood and grill until the cheese melts and the bread is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Avoid opening the hood too often in order to maintain the heat inside the barbecue.
4. Transfer the sandwich to a cutting board. Scatter the tomatoes over the bottom half of the ciabatta; discard the juices in the bowl. Cover with the top half of the ciabatta, cheese side down, and press gently. Using a serrated knife, cut the sandwich into 6 pieces and serve.
Note: The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto to prevent it from discoloring, and then cover with a lid and refrigerate.