If you’ve never had this riff on a traditional grilled cheese, you’re in for a treat! Sweet and creamy with a snappy bite from the arugula, it’s a wonderfully light grilled cheese in which to indulge this fall.
WHY MOZZARELLA, ARUGULA, AND ROASTED RED PEPPERS?
Back when I was writing my cookbook, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, I had a lot of extra cheese in my house. Like, a lot of extra cheese – usually no less than 10 pounds, all scraps.
For my husband, who possesses the enviable metabolism of a high school student despite being well into his forties, this was a boon. His favorite food growing up and still to this day is a grilled cheese sandwich, and I had provided him with an inexhaustible supply of ingredients.
To him the variety is inconsequential. If it’s got bread and melted cheese, well, it’s his favorite. Brie and jam? Done. Manchego and ham? He’s on it. Taleggio and leftover bratwurst? Stinky but satisfying. He even bought a panini press so he could better, more efficiently feed his habit.
But one particular rendition stands out to us all these years later: mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and arugula. A little bit sweet, a little bit peppery, it hits all the right notes for fall.
ROASTED RED PEPPERS: BUY A JAR OR MAKE THEM!
Preserved, roasted red peppers can generally be purchased quite affordably at any grocery store. They’re packed in water or oil, and either type will do. Just be sure to pat off the excess liquid before making your grilled cheese. Trader Joe’s has a lovely version packed in water, while Mezzetta makes one packed in oil that can be found in many stores or purchased online.
If you’re an avid gardener with a glut of peppers coming in, or have a great source at the farmers’ market, you can also easily make your own!
Whatever peppers you use, make sure to salt and pepper them once they’re on the sandwich. All foods, including sandwiches, need seasoning. Flaky salt is best, but kosher salt also works. Avoid iodized salt; its metallic tang mars flavor.
WHAT KIND OF MOZZARELLA TO USE?
There are essentially two kinds of mozzarella: fresh or low-moisture. Fresh mozzarella is sold in balls packed in salty brine. Low-moisture mozzarella is sold in bricks or pre-shredded and can be found alongside the cheddar, Jack, and Colby cheeses in the dairy section of a store.
For this sandwich, you’ll want to use low-moisture (also known as part-skim) mozzarella. It has a saltier flavor and greater meltability.
If you only have fresh mozzarella, that will also work. It won’t melt and become as delightful stringy as a low-moisture mozzarella, but it will still taste absolutely fantastic!
Really want to take it over the top? If you can get fresh burrata, then, by all means, give that a go. Its creamy taste and texture make it well suited to oozing apart over high heat and soaking itself deep into the bread.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are all about improvisation. Don’t have red peppers? Use tomato! Consider this more a set of guidelines than anything else.
For the bread, I love the tang of sourdough and it grills so well. But if you don’t have that, or you’d like to use a panini press, then focaccia is also great.
The only ingredients I wouldn’t skimp on are the arugula, mustard, and seasoning. Arugula delivers a powerfully peppery bite, and the pungency of the Dijon mustard helps cut through the sugars naturally found in the peppers and cheese.