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Tomato jam sweetens grilled cheese

Summer’s indispensable tomato sandwich numbered among this week’s A la Carte recipes saluting the season.

I’m all for simple ways of showcasing this fruit that, at its peak, represents perfection for so many of us. A recipe I posted two summers ago for “tomato tonnato” elevates the mayonnaise with anchovy paste and fancy tuna, two of my pantry staples, for slathering onto white bread. But even the basic format touted by food writer Daniel Neman (see the e-edition) is still delicious, given peerless tomatoes.

Once tomato lovers have feasted on all the raw fruits they can hold, preserving some for the season of deprivation is a smart move. This tomato jam can be made with any variety, according to food writer Gretchen McKay, who also advocates experimenting with spices, such as cloves, paprika, coriander or allspice.

This preserve is delicious on toast or biscuits, spooned on top of eggs or cheese, or used as a condiment for meat. McKay’s favorite way, however, is inside a crispy grilled sandwich of ooey gooey cheese.

Tribune News Service photo

Grilled Cheese With Tomato Jam

For jam:

3 pounds tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped

1/2 small yellow or red onion or 1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Pinch or two of red pepper flakes, or 1 hot chile pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

For sandwiches:

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided

4 slices good bread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

4 slices cheese, such as Muenster, Swiss or cheddar

Make jam: Place the tomatoes and other ingredients into a large saucepan over medium heat.

Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened to a jam-like consistency, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer to sterilized glass jars and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For long-term storage, immerse jars in a hot-water canning bath for 15 minutes.

Make sandwiches: Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the mayonnaise over top side of each of the bread slices.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. After it melts, place slice of bread, mayo side down, in pan. Top with 2 slices of cheese and a generous dollop of tomato jam; spread jam to cover. Top with a second slice of bread, mayo side up.

Cook until bottom side is golden brown, for about 4 minutes, then flip. Gently press down on sandwich for even browning and to help melt cheese. Cook until second side is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Remove from heat, and repeat with remaining slices of bread and cheese.

Serve immediately, with chips or a green salad.

Makes 2 sandwiches.