The first time I ever tried a caprese salad was when I was visiting my much-more-sophisticated-than-I older cousin Billy Jo. She and her husband own an exquisite home in Houston and my sister and I were down for a visit nearly a decade ago now.
Before dinner one night, Billy pullled out the ingredients for a caprese salad – fresh mozzarella, gorgeous roma tomatoes, huge stems of basil, and a little balsamic vinegar.
Never having seen such an adventurous flavor combination before, I watched closely as she meticulously layered the cheese with the tomato, and then the basil, over and over again until the plate resembled the Italian flag. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finished it off before we all claimed our portion. Admittedly, my then 16-year-old self didn’t appreciate the robust, fresh flavors. But now, it’s one of my absolute favorite Italian bites. This “grilled cheese” sandwich is an homage to that salad with a bit more heartiness and the ease of portability.
It all starts with thick slices of whole grain bread brushed with extra virgin olive oil. Then we add fresh mozzarella, roma tomato slices and a few sprigs of basil. A few minutes on the grill on both sides and you have a sophisticated grilled cheese that boasts all the flavor of a traditional caprese salad.
You could leave your sandwich plain or serve it with a little balsamic vinegar. Something about the balsamic and the caprese flavors marry perfectly together. I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 thick slices whole grain bread
2-3 slices roma tomato
4 sprigs basil
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese
olive oil for brushing
optional: balsamic vinegar for serving
Method | Heat an electric skillet to 350 degrees F, or warm a large skillet over medium high heat. Put your two pieces of bread together and lightly brush only the outer layers with olive oil. Then, place the brushed sides down and layer your mozzarella, tomato and basil on opposite sides of the bread (see picture). Close the sandwich and place on the grill. To meld flavors together and speed grill time, top with a piece of foil and heavy plate or bowl – this will create a panini effect and make the sandwich crispier. Cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides, checking around the 2 minute mark to ensure it’s not burning. Cut in half and serve with a dish of balsamic vinegar.
Estimated Nutrition; 1 sandwich: 391 calories, 16 grams fat, 7.9 grams saturated fat, 1344 mg sodium, 38 grams carbohydrates, 10.5 grams fiber, 10 grams sugar, 24 grams protein.
Recipe by Brandi Koskie | photos by Dana Shultz