- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The minute you pull apart the toasted bread and catch a glimpse of the meltingly soft cheese, you get a rush of anticipation. To my mind, nothing beats a grilled cheese sandwich for a plain and simple pleasure. This is a dish that’s half nostalgia and all flavor.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not looking for variety. Like many old favorites — including cupcakes, short ribs and root beer floats, grilled cheese sandwiches are fair game for innovation and experimentation.

The evolving grilled cheese sandwich fits into a couple of current culinary trends including gourmet retro and nostalgic comfort food.

Gourmet retro involves taking old favorites and dressing them in gourmet wardrobes, according to the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco.

Nostalgic comfort food, seen in everything from macaroni and cheese to chocolate sandwich cookies, is whatever brings back a fond memory from childhood.

The culinary center, which helps food companies design dishes, sees gourmet retro in baked goods, such as fancy cupcakes or dolled-up doughnuts. However, that doesn’t mean a home cook is limited to sweets.

Grilled cheese, as yummy as it is, can be even more splendid in a gourmet wardrobe.

My inspiration uses Muenster instead of American cheese and adds ham for gusto. Since flatbreads are hot right now, I’m using flour tortillas instead of sliced white bread.

If you think this recipe bears a resemblance to a quesadilla, you’re right. Grilled cheese also encourages international inspiration.

Grilled cheese and ham with apricot jam

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 finely chopped shallot

1 small jalapeno chile, cored, seeded and minced

1/4 cup apricot jam

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

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