Since I was in middle school, Tuesdays have been ingrained in my brain as grilled cheese and tomato soup day, thanks to my summer camp and its weekly celebration of American cheese and glorified tomato juice. No matter how hot it was outside or how strict we were being about our preteen “diets” in advance of the 4th of July dance, on Tuesdays at lunch time it was universally understood that we would take no prisoners as we ravaged through platters of buttery Wonderbreaded triangles of grilled cheese dunked in styrofoam bowls of tomato soup. It’d all get washed down with ice cold bright blue punch and then we’d roll ourselves Violet Beauregarde-style back to our bunks for an hour of digesting and writing letters home on Hello Kitty stationary.
It was the life.
Ah, I love a good camp memory and you know I’ll take any chance to relive it. But now 15 years later, since blue punch has been replaced by kombucha (ok fine, and wine) and Hello Kitty stationary has been replaced by emails littered with emojis, I’ve updated my grilled cheese game. It might not have the nostalgia of butter and American cheese, but it’s got the nuttiness of seedy wheat bread, the tanginess of labneh and za’atar, and the sharpness of white cheddar and parmesan. Which is to say that it’s fancy enough to eat as a grownup and good enough to write home about. And obviously it’s not complete without a little swim in hearty tomato soup.
You can use homemade or store-bought labneh here, or in a pinch you could also sub out plain full-fat greek yogurt. It doesn’t melt down like a harder cheese, but when it’s sandwiched between melty cheddar and parmesan, you get a nice oozy center in your toasty grilled cheese.
Labneh Grilled Cheese
4 thick slices seedy wheat bread
2 ounces shaved white cheddar
2 ounces shaved parmesan
1/4 cup labneh
Tomato soup, for serving
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toast the bread slices on one side until lightly browned and then flip them over. Top two slices with cheddar and two slices with parmesan and then spread two of the slices with the labneh and sprinkle with a pinch of za’atar and sumac. Carefully sandwich them together, cover with a lid, and cook until the bottom is toasted. Flip, cover, and cook until the bottom is toasted and the parmesan and cheddar are melted. Transfer to a plate, cut diagonally, and serve with tomato soup.