My husband and I are huge fans of the French grilled cheese sandwich known as Croque Monsieur. In fact, during the four day stint we spent in Paris on our honeymoon, we ate a collective 7 Croque Monsieurs and Croque Madames! To commemorate this (and just when we began to wonder if we ever wanted to eat another Croque Monsieur again..) I bought an entire cookbook on Croque Monsieurs, called, of course, Croquez Monsieur, by Philippe Conticini.
This is my translation and fairly loose interpretation of one of those recipes. This is a wonderful summer sandwich with two very different tomato flavors, a little Parmesan, a little smoked mozzarella, and some roasted garlic and basil. The combination of tomato and cheese flavors is really wonderful. We ate it with wedges of watermelon last night, for a perfect summer supper.
2-3 good medium tomatoes
2-4 cloves of garlic, in their skins
Herb and Garlic spice blend (look for one without salt, such as McCormick)
2 Tbsp tomato paste (I use the double strength kind in a tube, made by Amore)
4 tsp butter, softened
8 Tbsp shredded Parmesan, divided
a few leaves basil, chopped
about 3-4 oz smoked mozzarella, cut into 4 slices (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lightly mist a baking sheet with cooking spray.
3. Halve (or slice) the tomatoes. (You want each chunk to be a good inch or so thick.) Place the tomatoes and the cloves of garlic (still in their skins) on the baking sheet, and light mist with cooking spray. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and the herb garlic blend over each tomato half. Put in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check on the garlic after 20 minutes -- once it browns a little and becomes soft, you can use tongs to remove it from the tray and leave the tomatoes in as you prepare the rest of the sandwiches. Leave the oven on after you remove the tomatoes.
4. Meanwhile, cut four chunk off the whole wheat ciabatta. You want each chunk to be about 3-5 inches wide. Slice each chunk in half to separate the top and bottom.
5. Place the softened butter, the tomato paste, 4 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese, and the shredded basil in a small bowl. Add the roasted garlic. (Once it has cooled slightly, you can cut the skins open and squirt it right out.) Mix well to form a spread.
6. Spread the bottom half of each ciabatta chunk with the tomato-cheese mixture. Then place a slice of smoked mozzarella on top, covered by a hot wedge of tomato. Cover each sandwich with the top half of the ciabatta.
7. Okay, true confession here...this is how I seeded the tomatoes. After closing each sandwich, I held them over the sink and squeezed a little. Worked for me!
8. Place each closed sandwich on the baking tray. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese over each, and then sprinkle on a little herb and garlic blend.
9. Pop the baking tray in the oven. Turn the heat up to 400. Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until the cheese has melted on top and you can see the smoked mozzarella become gooey.