Coming from the United States and being new to the team here at La Belle Assiette, one would think it’d be difficult for me to connect over discussions of brioche, riverside picnics, and country-wide bicycle tours … especially when they’re in French. Food, however, has been the key ingredient in bringing our Parisian family together across language and cultural barriers, and it has helped me indulge in the beauty of French cuisine and culture that I never would have otherwise experienced. There’s no need to have great knowledge of the language or habits of the French when we’re eating chocolate and bitter orange glaces for a cool break during the working day!
In honor of the work the La Belle Assiette team does to bring peoples of different cultures together at the table, I am slapping a “slice of Americana” on the face of the La Belle Assiette blog. The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is my simple and comforting summer version of the American classic: grilled cheese and tomato soup. It holds Spanish, French, and Italian influences because, going along with the theme here at La Belle, this dish welcomes those from far and wide to la table. (I know the French words for “table” and “watermelon”, and that’s about it.)
Summer Gazpacho & French Grilled Cheese
Serves 4, Prep Time: 25 minutes
For the Gazpacho:
- 8 medium Tomatoes (of a plump and fat variety)
- 1 large Cucumber
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 15 leaves Basil
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp. White Wine Vinegar (you can use sherry or red wine vinegar as well)
- Juice of 1 medium Lemon
- Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
For the Grilled Cheese:
- 1 large loaf of thick-crust, fluffy center White Bread
- Shavings of French Comté
- Thin slices of Mozzarella
- 2 sprigs of Thyme
Thinly slice the garlic cloves and toss them together with the fresh basil leaves in a large bowl.
Dice the tomatoes and add them to the bowl as well. You can either do the same with the cucumbers, or thinly slice them (I tend to slice cucumbers instead of dice because I don’t appreciate a mouthful of cucumber).
Add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon, 1 ½ cups of cold water, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend together in a blender fitted with a steel blade, or with a hand blender. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator. (The gazpacho can be made a day or two prior, as its flavors grow more intense and crisp with age.)
To prepare the grilled cheese, first preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Cut your white bread into large slices to make individual sandwiches. (I used white bread and pretzel to experiment, and both came out great. In actuality, you can use almost any type of bread you prefer.) Brush olive oil on each slice, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle fresh thyme on top. Place slices of mozzarella and comté cheese on each slice of bread, close the sandwiches, and place in the oven for about 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted and the bread has toasted.
Serve each bubbling grilled cheese accompanied by a bowl of chilled gazpacho. Dip, dip, dip those sandwiches and enjoy!