In the U.S., we tend to have a limited view of what to expect when we ask for a grilled cheese sandwich. If it's served in a restaurant or diner, we expect soft bread that's been well buttered on all sides and toasted on a flat top grill. The filling is usually American cheese and it's not uncommon to ask for a tomato slice to be included. Sans tomato slice, we tend to like it as an accompaniment to a bowl of hot tomato soup. If we're making it at home, we're likely to make it on the stove top in a large pan, possibly cast iron. Other options include a toaster oven or regular oven.
In the United Kingdom the cheese is far more likely to be cheddar and you'd be ordering a cheese toast or toastie. And in both places this treat is likely to be served at lunch with either soup or a salad.
Our version of grilled cheese likely dates back to the 1920, during the depression, because it was an inexpensive meal. But heated cheese and bread is hardly a modern or western idea. It's appeared in many cultures and in many forms since ancient times.
In recent years, the old fashioned grilled cheese has gotten a modern makeover and lots of different varieties have popped up in restaurants and specialty food trucks. Bigger variety of breads and cheeses and lots more additions to the sandwich are now commonplace. Middle Eastern cuisine uses a lot of feta cheese in general and, while it's not a very good melting cheese, it's easy to turn it into a cream that goes beautifully inside a grilled pita pocket. Tomatoes are commonly used so it makes sense to add them and the wilted spinach provides a wonderful flavor along with a touch of za'atar or oregano. Definitely a different and delicious lunch option.
- 1/4 lb. feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons milk (or cream, or half-and-half)
- 2 tomatoes (thinly sliced)
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves (washed)
- 1/4 teaspoon za'atar seasoning (or dried oregano)
- 2 pita rounds (sliced in half to expose the pocket)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
- Add the feta cheese and milk (or cream) to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
- Spread an equal amount of the feta cream into each of the 4 pita pockets. Slice the tomatoes thinly and insert 2 or 3 slices into each pita pocket. Stuff each pocket with an equal amount of the spinach leaves and sprinkle on the za'atar or dried oregano.
- Place all the pita halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the tops with the olive oil. You can also use oil in a mister and spray it on. Bake in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the spinach has wilted and the pita has turned a light golden brown. Serve warm.