Tomato Basil Toasties


When I was little, my dad was in the Air Force, and our family was lucky enough to be stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy.  We rented a beautiful house off base from an elderly Italian woman who we all called, "Nona", (grandma in Italian).  Nona had a son who owned a cafe in Venice.  She used to take me and my sister, Michelle, to his cafe where we ate toasties.  Toasties were, essentially, the Italian version of our American grilled cheese.  The ones we ate in Venice were made with the local bread, mozzarella cheese, and prosciutto.

Those toasties were some of the best food I've ever eaten.  Not to mention that when I remember eating them, I also remember Nona taking us on the train to Venice and going to St. Mark's Square after lunch to feed the pigeons.  The toasties and the whole experience surrounding them opened my young eyes to the realization that there were other ways of living and eating, besides what I had grown up knowing.

Sometimes, I'll make the toasties like we used to get at Nona's son's cafe in Venice, but I also like to make my own version of the toasty.
I think one of the reasons I love Italian food so much (besides having lived in Italy when I was little) is that the ingredients are fresh and so basic that it's hard to go wrong with anything you make.

Every summer, I grow a small garden with tomatoes, basil and some squash.  I usually use large tomatoes for this recipe, but I got a late start with planting my tomatoes this year, so I didn't have any large ripe ones to use.  Instead, I used some cherry tomatoes that I just diced.
Ingredients

fresh basil cut into strips
large tomatoes sliced into 1/4 inch slices 
(or cherry tomatoes diced)
fresh mozzarella sliced into 1/4 inch slices
slices of sourdough bread 
(or Italian bread like I used for these)
butter
sea salt

Directions

Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium high heat after you've prepared all of your ingredients. Butter each slice of the bread on one side and put one side into the pan butter side down.  Place the mozzarella slices on the bread (just one layer), then the tomato slices or diced tomatoes, sprinkle with sea salt (don't be tempted to skip this step - the salt really brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.  I've forgotten this step before and it really does make a big difference in the flavor).  I usually just use some kitchen scissors to slice strips of basil onto the top of the tomatoes).  Put the other piece of bread on top and the sandwich is usually ready to flip over at this point, but flip it when the bread is golden brown).  I like to put a lid over the pan after I flip the sandwiches to make sure that the mozzarella melts.  Cook until golden brown on the other side.  

I made these toasties for lunch on Sunday.  It was a crisp, cool, fall day, a little overcast and windy.  It's the perfect sandwich for this time of year.  You get the smooth, creamy, melted mozzarella contrasting with the sharp tanginess of the tomatoes and salt then the bright pop of flavor from the fresh basil, all trapped inside the crunchy, buttery, warm toasted bread.  So delicious!  And, so easy to make.  Wish I could make one for you!

Do you have any favorite foods that remind you of your childhood?  Thanks for stopping by and reading today.

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