This Harissa Grilled Cheese is a super flavorful addition to a classic sandwich!
I make grilled cheese once a week or so.
It’s never that American cheese/white bread combo that may come to mind with grilled cheese. It tends to have pesto, eggplant, or spinach inside (on a good day, all three!), on crusty ciabatta, whole grain bread, or sourdough. Now I’m branching out into spicy-but-not-too-spicy grilled cheese options for my very Scandinavian family. Because flavor = awesome but mouth pain = never.
I’m not going to pretend this is a super authentic recipe for harissa because I’ve never even eaten the real deal and have no idea how the authentic version would look. What we do have here is a delicious, easy way to make something harissa-like at home, as learned through my own research in cookbooks, the internet, and experimentation.
What exactly is harissa? In this case it’s dried, toasted chiles that are rehydrated and blended with a few simple spices. Spread it on your favorite bread with lots of melty cheese for the perfect rainy day dinner or accompaniment for a fresh and summery soup.
This Harissa Grilled Cheese can be totally customized! Here are a few ideas:
- Use guajillo peppers for a distinct Mexican flavor
- Add grilled or roasted veggies to the sandwich to boost the nutritional value
- Add your favorite protein such as tempeh, chickpeas, or a veggie burger
- Instead of grilled cheese, put everything on a pizza
- Cut into cubes and use as croutons for butternut squash soup
If you make this Harissa Grilled Cheese, be sure to rate it, leave a comment, or tag #theliveinkitchen on Instagram!
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- 2 ounces dried chiles (about 6 chiles, I used pasilla peppers)
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 12 slices Monterey jack cheese
Toast chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow the chiles to soak 30 minutes or until soft.
Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the stems, seeds, and veins. If you want a spicier spread, keep some of the seeds and veins with the chiles. Transfer the chiles to the bowl of a food processor and add salt to taste, coriander, cumin, and garlic. Pulse until a smooth or slightly chunky paste forms, adding a few teaspoons of soaking liquid as necessary to thin it out.
In a small skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil and cook the paste, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Heat a panini press on medium high heat.
Assemble the sandwiches by spreading four slices of bread with the prepared harissa spread, then topping with three slices of cheese each and the remaining bread slices.
Drizzle the grill with oil, then arrange sandwiches (working in batches as necessary) and drizzle the top lightly with olive oil. Close the press and allow to cook until toasted and melty, about 5 minutes.