Wow! This is such a fun sandwich. This is really just a fancy pants grilled cheese, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put the word “grilled” in the name of the sandwich twice.
This addictive sandwich was inspired by our trip to Carmel last week for Doris Day’s birthday celebration. We went to some really amazing restaurants and were totally spoiled! At one of them, Andrew got this beautiful sandwich, full of layers of fresh veggies, on a homemade croissant, with this delectable pesto-like spread. Luckily, he let me have a bite, and it was truly a fantastic sandwich! What stood out to me the most though, was the spread! It was so so good! It was like pesto, but it wasn’t pesto…what was it???!
I decided to try my hand at doing my own spin on this spread at home, and came up with this incredibly simple recipe for basil mayonnaise, or basil Vegenaise. I have never been a mayonnaise lover myself, but I discovered Vegenaise during my vegan days, and fell in love! It is a staple in our home! Seriously, if you are like me and never really took to mayonnaise for one reason or another, give Vegenaise a try! It provides wonderful taste and smoothness to sandwiches, like mayonnaise, but it isn’t mayonnaise! Vegenaise can be found at just about any grocery store these days. I usually get it a Ralph’s (Kroger brand stores), Winco, or Sprouts. (Trader Joe’s has a knock off, “Vegan Spread and Dressing,” in their condiments aisle. It is ok, definitely a worthy substitute if you can’t find Vegenaise, but also definitely not as good!) Vegenaise is generally next to all of the vegetarian/vegan meat and cheese substitutes at the grocery store.
About the grilled avocado here: it is to die for! I love grilling avocado for a few reasons. For starters, grilling somehow makes that lovely avocado taste a little nuttier and sweeter. Also, making a crispy, grilled edge on an avocado slice makes biting into the smooth, creamy center all the more rewarding! And not to be forgotten, grilling avocados actually works better if the avocado is slightly under-ripe! So good news, you don’t have to keep those avocados sitting on your counter for a week, impatiently waiting for them to get to the perfect softness! Grill your avocados so you can enjoy them now!!!!!! (:
Also, I say “grilled” avocado, but if you don’t have a grill pan, you can TOTALLY use a regular old frying pan. Whatever you’ve got will work!
The recipe below is for one sandwich, but you could definitely get 3-4 sandwiches out of the basil spread recipe, and 3-4 sandwiches out of one grilled avocado if you use about 3 avocado slices per sandwich. So, just grate more cheese, slice more tomato, get some more bread, and you can make yourself a few more sandwiches!
Cheese Melt with Grilled Avocado and Basil Spread
For the basil spread:
- ½ cup fresh basil
- ½ cup mayonnaise, or Vegenaise
- ½ clove garlic, or one whole small garlic clove
- 1 dash sea salt, or fleur de sel
- 2 slices good bread, I used Trader Joe’s Multigrain sourdough and it was fantastic!
- ¼ cup freshly grated white cheddar, or cheese of choice, but I am telling you, the white cheddar is so good here!
- 2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan
- Tomato, sliced (grape, cherry, Roma, beefsteak, whatever you’ve got!)
- 1 Avocado, slightly under-ripe, sliced into, ½ inch pieces length-wise
- Olive oil, for grilling the avocado and frying the sandwich
Make the Basil Spread
- Start by making the basil spread. In your food processor, add the basil, garlic, and Vegenaise/mayonnaise. Pulse a few times, then process until the basil and garlic are small flecks. Transfer to a bowl and taste. Add sea salt or fleur de sel to taste. Basil spread is done!
Grill the avocado
- Heat a Tbsp of olive oil in your grill pan, or skillet if you don’t have a grill pan, over medium heat. (Cast iron works really great here, but you can use whatever you’ve got!) Now gently place the avocado slices in the pan. They will sizzle, and cook pretty fast!
- After a minute, check on one avocado slice by very gently flipping it over with a spatula. If the side that was touching the pan has browned, go ahead and flip all the other avocado slices as well, and let the other side of each piece brown in the pan. If the trial-flip piece has not browned, flip it back over, and give the avocado slices another minute to cook, then check one slice again, and when it has browned, proceed to flip all the avocado slices. Once each avocado slice is browned on both sides, your grilled avocado is done, and ready to go on the sandwich!
Compile the sandwich
- Spread the basil spread on each slice of bread. Top one slice of bread with the white cheddar, followed by the parmesan.
- Now take your avocado—I like to use 3-4 slices per sandwich—and place it on top of the cheese. Mash the avocado down a little with a fork or your fingers, enough so it spreads out a bit, but not so much that the avocado slice completely looses its shape.
- Next add the tomatoes. I like to use sliced grape tomatoes, and fill the space between the avocado slices with the tomatoes.
- Now take the second slice of bread and place it over the slice with all the sandwich condiments. We are ready to fry the sandwich!
Fry the sandwich
- In a frying pan or skillet—I use cast iron—add a few tbsp of good olive oil over medium heat. Give the oil a minute to heat up.
- Now put the sandwich in the skillet, and let it sizzle and fry away until the bread slice touching the pan is slightly browned, about 3 minutes. (This will greatly depend on the type of pan you are using, and the type of bread, so really watch it and adjust your flip time accordingly!)
- Now flip the sandwich with a spatula so the other side can brown in the pan. Lower your heat if it seems like this side is cooking too quickly.
Serve and Enjoy!
- Sandwich is done! Enjoy alone, or with a side of greens, fruit, or your favorite chips/crackers.