I think simple recipes are the best way to start out the meal. Melted cheese, in any form, is something that everyone loves. I find these sandwiches only make people want to eat more afterwards!
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
- 8 large slices sourdough rye bread
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 slices
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Pickled Scallions, recipe follows
In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the pressed garlic. Stir to blend.
Put 4 slices of the bread on a flat surface. Dry any moisture off the mozzarella cheese and put 4 slices on 4 pieces of bread. Sprinkle with aleppo pepper and drizzle with the garlic and oil mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, to taste. "Flake" the thyme off the stems and onto the cheese. Do the same with the rosemary, but more sparingly.
Cover the cheese with the remaining 4 slices of bread and cut each sandwich in half and in half again, to make 4 individual pieces. Arrange them in a single layer on a small baking sheet or large plate and cover them with baking sheet or plate to weigh them down. Refrigerate the sandwiches overnight. This will make them flatter and better integrate the flavors.
The next day, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When the olive oil begins to smoke lightly, add the sandwiches and cook them on 1 side until brown. Turn and cook until brown on the other side. Cook in batches, if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter and season with salt. Top with the pickled scallions and serve immediately.
The acidity of the vinegar and the oniony "bite" of the scallion make this a brightening element for my cheese sandwiches. I avoid salt and pepper to keep the focus on the acidity of the scallion.
- 8 scallions, root ends trimmed
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Splash extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon
Put the scallions on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, slice them into thin rounds from the white part all the way through the green part.
Add the scallions to a small bowl with the red wine vinegar and the olive oil. Toss to combine and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to allow the vinegar to work its magic. The scallions can be covered and refrigerated overnight, if desired.