Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

In the summer, elaborate recipe creations rarely take place in my kitchen. Really, those fancy, multi-hour-long cooking sessions don’t happen with frequency during any time of the year. (What can I say, other than that I’ve got an impatient stomach and an endless list of hobbies to keep in mind. Both apply not only to summer, but spring, fall and winter too…)

However, its summertime when 3-ingredient meals reach their highest occurrence. Fruit, fruit and nuts ¬†— breakfast is served. Tomatoes, mayo, bread — lunch, no stove needed. Dinner — dare I say repeat lunch? But don’t forget the bowl of peaches, blueberries and ice cream on the side. Or maybe a garden salad with tomatoes/cucumbers/red onion/steamed green beans/beets/carrots/goat cheese/walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. I know, that’s a lot more than 3-ingredients going into one bowl. But the three steps it takes to get them there — slice, drizzle and serve — and you might as well file it under the same suit.¬†Simplicity at its best.

When garden-fresh ingredients are around, forget having them shaken or stirred, or even always heated. I want them straight-up. There’s no need for complex preparations. A tomato plucked straight from the vine has all the flavor you could ever wish for, and then some.

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

If it were summer all year around, I’d have to pull a Rachael Ray. Maybe even out-do her by trimming away 20 minutes and starting my own “10-Minutes or Less” show. Of course that would be pretty boring. “Step one – Wash blueberries. Step two – Eat.”

Obviously I don’t survive off of single ingredients alone all summer long. But I do make a lot of easy dishes like tacos, sandwiches and stir-frys. The kind where all you have to do is put a bunch of veggies with some olive oil/simple marinade on a baking sheet and roast, or in a saute pan, do a quick cook, and let their flavors speak for themselves.

The recipe below is one of my favorites for when tomatoes are at their prime, and basil is up and growing. It elevates my favorite tomato-mayo combo to the next level with the simple addition of cheese and a quick press on a panini maker. Classic and simple, yet totally blog-worthy, considering I could eat this several times a week and still never get bored.

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

Yield: Serves 4


  • -8 slices of bread (I used whole wheat with sesame. Sourdough is nice, too.)
  • -1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • -1/4 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
  • -2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • -4 bread-sized slices of sharp cheddar, (4-5 oz.)
  • -16 fresh leaves of basil
  • -Garlic salt and fresh ground pepper, dash


  1. Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Place butter side down on panini pan. Layer from bottom up with onion, then cheese, then basil, then tomato. Finish with a dash of garlic salt and pepper. Top each with remaining slices of bread, butter side up.
  2. Close panini pan, to press. Cook until outsides are browned and cheese is melted. Serve


This can easily be made without a panini-maker. Just swap it with a grill pan or frying pan, and weight the sandwich down with another pan/plate/spatula, and then flip halfway through so both sides get browned.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    July 26, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Sounds wonderful.
    I’ll tell you what, I’ve been extremely disappointed lately with the tomatoes we are growing. They are mealy and not very flavorful, such a shame!! Either way, I’ve found that heating them up really brings out some good flavors so I may just have to try this.

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