Grilled Cheese for Them, Tomato Salad for Me!

Adapted from Madeline C. Wallack, a dear friend and amazing cook

When our friends Madeline and David come for dinner, I am always worried about what to make. David went to culinary school and Madeline just has the “cooking sense”. Yet they always graciously tell me my food is great, and their almost-two-year old sits at the table and eats everything!! One of the benefits of this friendship is what they bring to the table…literally! This is a panzanella salad they brought for a summer gathering and I dreamt about it until I got the recipe and then proceeded to make it about 50 times until the tomatoes were gone and Kaben was red from eating it so many times!! It’s not entirely kid friendly, but if your kids do like tomatoes, they might enjoy this – especially with bites of fresh bread in there! I left the dressing off and served the kids a plate of mozzarella balls, tomatoes and bread – they thought it was great! If they are not tomato lovers- make a grilled cheese sammy for them and have one yourself, too…it’s a complete meal and will fill your belly!


For the salad:

2- 3 large tomatoes (a variety of colors gives the salad a nice presentation)
1-carton cherry tomatoes
Handful of arugula
Mozzarella balls, the boccahini size (smaller size)
1 baguette


1 small garlic clove
1 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp champagne vinegar
pinch of crushed red pepper
generous grating of parmesan cheese

Serves 4 as a side salad, and can be eaten as a main course by two!

Make-Ahead Strategies

You can make the dressing in advance – just add the parmesan before serving


For the Dressing:


In a food processor, pulse the garlic until chopped. Add the basil and pulse until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, and crushed red pepper and process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper. Before serving add a generous grating of parmesan cheese.

For the Salad:


Slice up 2-3 large tomatoes, into bite size pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Salt the tomatoes and place in a strainer in the sink to let the liquid in the tomatoes drain (this way the salad won’t be too soggy after you dress it).


Slice and grill the baguette. If the grill isn’t fired up you can place the bread under the broiler until it is nicely toasted. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.


Halve the mozzarella balls and tear the arugula into bite-sized pieces


To assemble the salad – combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, bread and a cup of arugula along with the dressing. Finish with the few squeezes of lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.  Serve right away!

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve tomato salad with grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Omit the bread in the salad and instead slice the bread and serve as a variation of bruschetta – serve the tomatoes on top of sliced bread
  • If you have left over dressing – drizzle onto a tomato and enjoy as an afternoon snack
  • Serve with grilled chicken or shrimp on the side to add a little protein


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