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A really great grilled cheese sandwich is hard to find. Too often a thin, square slice of American cheese, released from its plastic case, is slapped on wimpy white bread, slathered with butter and toasted. Within minutes, it becomes limp and greasy. But a really great grilled cheese is not hard to make, and its secrets have been disclosed in a tempting new book, "Grilled Cheese: 50 Recipes to Make You Melt" by Marlena Spieler). A quick browse though the book may first hook you with its gorgeous color photos and hip design. But a further look reveals recipes created with inspired combinations. For instance, supple slices of fresh mozzarella and salty proscuitto are spread with sweet fig jam and enclosed within crisply toasted bread, making a union that's simply perfect. And roasted red pepper, sweet onion and a hearty dose of paprika are innovative twists on the standard tuna melt. But aside from the terrific recipes, Spieler has written a book that's packed with useful tips and information about her subject. A brief glossary of cheeses, suggestions for pairing cheese with the perfect bread partner, and ideas for dressing up Dijon mustard are just some of the finds. A bonus is a nice recipe for tomato soup, the classic partner of the grilled cheese sandwich. This one, however, is finished with an aromatic spoonful of basil pesto and a swirl of cr me fraiche. Try Spieler's technique for pressing sandwiches. The bread is lightly brushed with olive oil or butter and set into a heavy, hot skillet. Another heavy pan is placed on top and lightly pressed, compacting the ingredients so they meld as one. The bread becomes perfectly crisp and browned, the cheese melting and luscious. It's a heavenly match if there ever was one. -Seattle Times
Marlena Spieler is the author of over 50 cookbooks published worldwide and has written for Bon Appetit and Saveur. She writes the award-winning food column The Roving Feast," and is a three-time James Beard nominee. Born in Sacramento, California, she currently lives in Hampshire, England.
Sheri Giblin is a food and lifestyle photographer. She lives in San Francisco."