As a kid, you probably went with the plain old white bread that mom bought at the store. One simple but powerful way to dress up a standard grilled cheese is to experiment with bread (especially when it's fresh from the bakery). Play with pumpernickel, marbled rye bread or a hearty San Francisco sourdough variety for a flavor component that plain packaged bread just can't deliver.
Do you typically spread both sides of the bread with butter when making your grilled cheese? Adding some herbs and garlic to your butter will deliver a grilled cheese taste you definitely never had as a kid.
To create the herb butter, combine garlic powder, chopped oregano and basil (fresh, if possible), and a couple tablespoons of butter; spread on the bread and cook as you typically would. Or, spread light mayonnaise on the bread as a zesty alternative to plain butter.
Of course, cheese is the anchor of a grilled cheese sandwich. If you're ready to stray from the traditional American or Cheddar varieties, experiment with sharper, more flavorful cheese like Havarti, Muenster or Swiss.
Add a fresh sliced tomato, thinly sliced onion, chopped jalapeños, sautéed mushrooms or fresh basil for additional flavor combinations. Love salt? Sliced dill pickles tucked inside the grilled cheese for the last minute of cooking add a whole new take on the traditional classic.
If you're feeling extra adventurous, experiment with brie and sliced figs for a grilled cheese of the sweeter variety.
Canned tomato soup will quickly go from tasting less like it came from the pantry and more from a gourmet restaurant with a few easy additions: Add chopped, fresh basil and oregano with a few dollops of room temperature, reduced-fat cream cheese for a creamy and flavorful soup that tastes completely grown-up.
Or flash sauté chopped garlic and a teaspoon of hot chili flakes in a dash of olive oil for two minutes, until you start to smell the heat and flavors cooking.
Pour the soup into a pot, and transfer the flakes and oregano to the soup until it's heated through. Or, simply sprinkle in some garlic powder and dried oregano to the soup while cooking.
To get add an extra serving of vegetables to the soup, toss in frozen mixed vegetables (boil in water first to cook), and then add to the tomato soup as it heats. Peas, corn and carrots all work well. A splash of Worcestershire or hot sauce also adds a zesty but subtle tang to traditional tomato soup.
Grilled cheese fans will love this grilled cheese sandwich from celebrated chef Terrance Brennan. Use gourmet cheeses and bread and Terrance's special extras to to make the best gourmet grilled cheese sandwich you've ever tasted.
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