Usually I don’t pay much attention to our seemingly arbitrary National Food Days. I never really understood all of these special food-designated “days”… who decides which day is when? Why can’t everyday be Milkshake Day? How come there is no National Shakshuka Day? These are the questions that plague me as I toss and turn at night. Then I heard that today is National Grilled Cheese Day. Ohhh boy. They’d honed in on my weak spot. Grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, potato cheese gratin… basically, cheese is my kryptonite. Melt some cheese on toasty bread (sourdough, please) and I’m officially hooked. Life is too short NOT to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day.
I wanted to create a unique grilled cheese sandwich, something a bit outside the realm of ordinary. My sandwich is inspired by the Mediterranean and Middle East. I started with feta. It’s not a great cheese for melting, but I love feta’s salty, briney flavor. I paired it with a much more melt-able pepper jack cheese, which is ooey and gooey and has a terrific spicy kick. To balance out the salt and spice, I added sweet sliced tomato. The final touch? A sprinkle of za’atar spice blend. If you’ve never heard of za’atar, where have you been hiding? This stuff is magical. I learned about it in Israel several years ago, and it’s become my go-to sprinkling spice. Most Middle Eastern and kosher markets carry it. Sprinkle it on pretty much anything savory for depth of flavor… add it to olive oil for dipping bread, stir it into soups and stews, use it to enhance an omelette, or sprinkle it on this delectable grilled cheese sandwich.
Grill these simple ingredients together on sourdough bread (San Luis Sourdough from my hometown, if you can find it) and prepare to swoon. Happy National Grilled Cheese Day! You’re welcome.
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Feta Pepper Jack Grilled Cheese
A grilled cheese sandwich inspired by the Middle East and Mediterranean with feta, pepper jack, tomato and za'atar.
- 1/2 tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- Pinch of salt
- 2 slices pepper jack cheese
- 4-5 slices ripe tomato
- 1 3/4 oz feta cheese (I prefer Israeli feta or Bulgarian sheep's milk feta), cut into thin slices
- 1/2 tsp za'atar spice blend
Stir together the melted butter and olive oil in a small bowl. If the butter in unsalted, add a pinch of salt to the mixture. Brush one side of each slice of sourdough with the olive oil butter.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. Place the sourdough slices, buttered-side down, into the skillet. While the bread is warming in the skillet, layer the pepper jack cheese on top of one of the bread slices, so there is very little overlap and most of the cheese is on top of the bread.
Place the tomatoes in a single layer across the top of the pepper jack.
Place the feta pieces evenly across the top of the tomato slices.
Sprinkle the feta with the za'atar spice blend.
Use a spatula to scoop up the empty slice of bread from the skillet. Place it on top of the sandwich filling, buttered and browned side facing upward. Grill till the bottom of the sandwich is nicely browned and golden.
Flip the sandwich carefully. Let it continue to grill till browned to your liking. Serve warm straight from the skillet. Alternatively, you can grill this sandwich with a panini press.