A fast lunch with summer’s bounty: just-picked tomatoes and homemade pesto. I grew up eating grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. Luke is a huge pesto fan; his go-to snack or quick lunch is grilled cheese with pesto-slathered bread. The combination is summer on a plate.
Our tomato plants are prima donnas this scorching summer, thriving one minute and drooping from lack of moisture the next. But they are managing to produce some tasty fruit.
The basil plants, on the other hand, are loving the heat. I’ve cut them back ruthlessly three times now, and they shoot right back up in no time. We now have a goodly stash of pesto in the freezer, and I should get at least one more batch.
Pesto is more of a process than a recipe. Put a clove of garlic and some nuts (I often use walnuts, but pine nuts are traditional) in the bowl of your food processor. Add a good glug of olive oil and give it a whir. This preliminary purée ensures that you don’t bite into a hunk of raw garlic later.
Add handfuls of clean, dry (via salad spinner) basil leaves and pulse again. Keep adding basil and oil and puréeing until the texture looks good to you. Add a pinch or two of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few tablespoons of grated parmesan. Taste. I end up using about 4 cups basil leaves, 1 big clove garlic, 1/4 cup nuts, and about 1/2 cup oil. I also like to add a small handful of parsley and maybe some mint.
When it’s done, scoop some into a jar, slap on a lid, and keep it in the fridge for about a week. Put the rest into an ice cube tray and into the freezer. After a few hours, pop out the cubes and store them in a freezer bag. Each cube is about 2 tablespoons.
Sharp cheddar brings some intense cheesy flavor; Monterey jack offers a buttery, creamy texture. I like a little of each, but use whichever cheese makes you happy. Fresh mozzarella would turn this into a grilled caprese sandwich, for instance. (I may give this a shot with some brie.)
Tomato-Pesto Grilled Cheese
1 small tomato
1/2 oz. sharp cheddar, about
1/2 oz. Monterey jack, about
4-5 tsp. butter, softened
2 slices good bread
2 tbs. pesto
salt and pepper
Thickly slice the tomato. Slice the cheeses thinly. Spread half the butter on one side of one slice of bread. Spread the pesto on the other piece of bread.
Melt the remaning butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Place the pesto-covered slice of bread in the pan, pesto side up. Swirl the bread around a bit to coat the bottom well with the butter. Top the pesto with the cheddar slices, then with the tomato slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the Monterey jack, then the second slice of bread, buttered side up. Press lightly with a spatula and cook for about 5 minutes until deep golden on the bottom. Carefully flip the sandwich; cook for about 3 minutes until the second side is golden. (The second side always cooks much faster, so don’t leave it too long before you check.)