The Best Greens To Add Balance To A Grilled Cheese

In our quest for the ultimate grilled cheese, we've tried different types of breads, different cheeses, different cook times, and bacon. (Lots of it.) We've even asked the Tasting Table staff about their most beloved grilled cheeses across the country. But, when it comes right down to it, the more complicated and overstuffed a classic G.C. gets, the further it strays from the platonic ideal of the quintessential sandwich fans know and love. If you've been wanting to step up your grilled cheese game, but don't want to overpower the delicate sammy into an unrecognizable, overly-rich caricature, look no further than this one simple addition: greens. Greens add a fresh quality to the cheesiness and help offset an ultra-rich mouthful. From a culinary standpoint, the veggie lends balance and elevates your classic into the complete-meal territory. Plus, on the utilitarian side, it's an easy way to sneak more leafy greens into your diet — and a great strategy for introducing picky eaters to unfamiliar veggies.

The key is to select a green that will soften well without wilting entirely or breaking down and turning to watery mush. We've rounded up some ideas to help get your ooey-gooey-brainstorm flowing.

It's easier than ever to be green

To hit the sweet spot between tough and mushy, opt for a leafy green like arugula, kale, spinach, or broccoli rabe, which will wilt just enough during the grilled-cheese-frying process to have a symbiotic texture. From there, your grilled cheese can be as simple or creative as your imagination dares to allow.

Pair peppery arugula with Swiss or Parmesan and mild bread, like sourdough. For a fully loaded sandwich, fill it with cracked pepper and thin slices of grilled steak, and serve with a cup of gazpacho. To offset kale's signature bitterness, opt for a complementary full-bodied cheese with a strong enough flavor to stand on its own, like gouda or Gruyère. For a more substantial meal, load up your kale G.C. with sautéed mushrooms and garlic. When making a grilled cheese sammy with broccoli rabe, use the florets, which tend to offer a sweeter, nuttier flavor than the stems or leaves. Pair that broccoli rabe with provolone cheese and sprinkle with red pepper flakes; serve it with a cup of vegetarian chili to complete the meal. If you fancy a savory-sweet grilled cheese, spinach is your new best friend. Load up your sandwich with fresh baby spinach, sharp white cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, a drizzle of Sriracha, and a smear of blackberry jam. You could even serve this one on an everything bagel as an impressive breakfast sandwich.