Meatless Monday: Grilled Cheese With Basil-Arugula Pesto

This grown-up grilled cheese features the classic flavors of a caprese salad. Underneath rich, melted mozzarella lies slices of ripe tomato and a layer of homemade pesto. I put a little spin on the basil pesto by incorporating spicy arugula, and used pecans instead of pine nuts to make it a more affordable spread. This sandwich is a perfectly satisfying lunch or quick dinner. Serve with a lightly dressed arugula salad and a glass of Italian wine.

Basil-Arugula Pesto (yields enough pesto for four sandwiches):
1 cup packed arugula leaves, stems removed
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup shelled pecans
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Grilled cheese (for 1 sandwich):
2 slices whole wheat levain or sourdough bread
3 to 4 ounces of a fresh mozzarella ball, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/2 ripe heirloom tomato or 1 to 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

Make the pesto: In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a food processor, combine the arugula, basil, Parmesan, garlic, salt and pecans. While the food processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil. The pesto should be a spreadable consistency; if it seems dry, blend in a couple tablespoons more olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and season with black pepper and salt to taste (you want the pesto to taste a little salty).

Construct the sandwiches: First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread one piece of bread with a generous layer of pesto. Top with sliced tomatoes and cover with mozzarella slices. Top with the remaining slice of bread.

Grill the sandwiches: Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Once the skillet is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on contact, swirl a pat of butter in the skillet and place the sandwich in the skillet. Cook for a few minutes, until the bread is toasted, and repeat on the other side with another pat of butter. Place the sandwich on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is melted through. Serve immediately.

Notes: The pesto recipe yields about 6 ounces, which should be plenty for four sandwiches. Spread leftovers on toast for a snack.

About the Author

Kate is a self-taught photographer and vegetarian home cook from Oklahoma. Her blog, Cookie and Kate, is all about celebrating whole foods. She is an avid supporter of the occasional indulgence and enjoys nothing more than eating ...
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