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From the food editor: For Grilled Cheese Day, tips on perfecting the sandwich from a Tampa food truck owner

Tomato Jam Grilled Cheese. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.

Tomato Jam Grilled Cheese. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.

April 12 is Grilled Cheese Day, one of those food holidays of mysterious origin that don't mean much beyond being a great excuse to talk about and nosh on the featured food.

To dish about the art of grilled cheese, I got in touch with Elaine Thompson from the Twisted Iron, a food truck based in Tampa known for their prolific use of waffles. One of Thompson's most popular creations was a French Onion Grilled Cheese, made with a vegetarian French onion base and covered with melted provolone cheese.

What is the single most important thing needed to ensure a great grilled cheese?

Most people would probably say the cheese, but I really think the most important thing for a great grilled cheese is the perfect bread. You need bread that is sturdy and can handle the weight of your ingredients, without overpowering them.

What are some necessary cooking techniques for making a grilled cheese?

It's important to stick to the "3 Bs." Base, Butter and Blend. The base is the bread, the make or break decision. ... It's important that it be able to crisp really nicely on the outside while staying soft on the inside. Butter is the next "B", and a crucial ingredient in grilled cheese building. It's best to lightly brush the outside of the bread with butter, rather than putting the butter directly in the pan, this way all the corners get golden brown from edge-to-edge. Finally, you want the perfect blend of flavors whether you're in the mood for savory or sweet and salty. Make sure the ingredients you are using balance off of each other well.

What's the weirdest grilled cheese flavor you've ever made or eaten?

One of my favorites is the PBJ and Cheese. It combines two classic sandwiches in an absolutely delicious sweet and salty pairing.

At what point does a grilled cheese not become a grilled cheese? When you start adding meat, etc.?

If you have bread, butter and cheese — any additions just make the grilled cheese that much better. Think of extra ingredients as flavor enhancers.

What's your favorite cheese to use? Favorite bread?

A classic white bread is the best to make a grilled cheese, I think it just reminds people of the way their moms used to make their grilled cheese for them when they were kids ... Cheddar cheese is a great base for a majority of your flavor combinations, but branching out and using a brie or a gouda is always a delicious mix-up.

I always seem to put too little cheese on my homemade grilled cheeses. What's the perfect cheese to bread ratio?

A great tip is to use thinly sliced cheese (2 to 3 slices) and ⅓ cup of shredded cheese, which actually melts better. Of course, if you're a cheese lover, feel free to add a little bit more, but don't let it overwhelm the sandwich.


Tomato Jam Grilled Cheese


  • For the jam:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced white onion
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • For the grilled cheese:
  • Butter
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • Handful of spinach
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese


  1. To make the jam: Combine the tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, basil, honey and salt in a saucepan. Add a couple dashes of cayenne pepper and black pepper. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Once simmering, adjust the heat on the stove to keep the tomatoes simmering until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy, about an hour or two. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like. Can be refrigerated up to three days.
  3. To make the grilled cheese: Butter two pieces of bread on one side, then place bread butter-side down in a skillet set over medium heat.
  4. Spoon tomato jam onto the non-butter side of both pieces of bread, as much as you like. Divide spinach among both sandwiches. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Top each sandwich with 2 ounces Cheddar cheese and 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, then close the sandwiches with the other two pieces of bread. Butter the tops of those pieces of bread. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then flip over and let cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the cheese has melted and bread is browned. Serves 2.
Source: Adapted from

From the food editor: For Grilled Cheese Day, tips on perfecting the sandwich from a Tampa food truck owner 04/10/17 [Last modified: Friday, April 7, 2017 3:00pm]
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