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Easy dinner recipes: Three sandwiches for grilled cheese lovers

Could it possibly get any better than grilled cheese? I don't think so. And while it's hard to beat the perfection that is ooey-gooey melted cheese between two crisp pieces of bread, we do have some ideas to help you take it to the next level. 

Grilled blue cheese and pear: Love blue cheese? For a slight twist on the comforting classic, put crumbled blue cheese between slices of raisin brioche, along with thinly sliced pear. Cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is soft and oozing, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. If you have enough self-restraint to keep from eating the sandwich over the stove (I totally understand if you don't), plate your creation, drizzled with a little chestnut honey. Grilled cheese never looked so good.

Fontina and sage: Wedge some grated fontina cheese between slices of country white bread and brush this simple sandwich with fresh sage-infused olive oil before grilling. The smooth, slightly nutty cheese pairs well with fragrant herb, making for a sandwich that is perfect for dinner, or any time of the day.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Grilled cheese with sweet onions: Or simply wedge some thinly sliced sweet onions between thick slices of bread along with a rich semi-soft cheese and grill away. Hungry yet?

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 more easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

GRILLED BLUE CHEESE AND PEAR SANDWICH

Total time: About 25 minutes

Servings: Makes 2 sandwiches

Note: Raisin brioche is available from La Brea Bakery; you can substitute any good-quality raisin bread. Bleu des Basques cheese is available from Nicole's Gourmet Foods in South Pasadena, the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.

4 slices raisin brioche

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

4 ounces firm but mild blue cheese, such as bleu des Basques, crumbled

1 pear, slightly under-ripe, cored and thinly sliced

Chestnut honey for drizzling, optional

1. Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle over low heat. Brush one side of each bread slice with melted butter.

2. Spread half of the cheese evenly over the unbuttered side of two slices of the bread. Place a single layer of the pear slices over the cheese, then top with the remaining cheese. Place the remaining bread on top of each sandwich, buttered-side up.

3. With a spatula, place one of the sandwiches into the heated pan and weight it with a second heavy pan or a steak weight. (If your pan is large enough, cook both sandwiches; otherwise, cook them one at a time.) Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the sandwich, weight it with the pan or steak weight, and cook until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Remove the sandwich to a cutting board and cut it in half or quarters. Serve immediately with a drizzle of chestnut honey, if desired, on the plate.

Each sandwich: 524 calories; 18 grams protein; 48 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 31 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 73 mg. cholesterol; 1,122 mg. sodium.

FONTINA AND SAGE GRILLED CHEESE

Total time: About 20 minutes, plus pressing time for the sandwiches

Servings: Makes 2 sandwiches

Note: Adapted from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers.

3 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus a few drops for the pan

1 dozen fresh sage leaves, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces Fontina cheese, rind removed and coarsely grated

4 slices country white bread

1. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the olive oil, sage and pepper until warm to the touch. Turn off the heat and let it infuse while you assemble the sandwiches.

2. Place the cheese, divided evenly, on two slices of bread. Take care to bring the cheese all the way to the edge of the crust. Top each with a second slice of bread and press flat. Lay a heavy or weighted cutting board on top of the sandwiches for 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Use a pastry brush to spread the sage oil lightly on both sides of the sandwiches. Make sure you go all the way to the edges, and try to distribute the sage and pepper evenly over the bread.

4. Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle over low heat. Sprinkle with a few drops of olive oil, then rub it over the whole cooking surface with a paper towel. Add the sandwiches and cook, weighted with another heavy pan or a steak weight, until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Keep the heat low so that you don't burn the sage or pepper.

5. Remove the sandwich to a cutting board and cut it in half or in quarters. Serve immediately.

Each sandwich: 565 calories; 20 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 40 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 66 mg. cholesterol; 804 mg. sodium.

GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES WITH SWEET ONIONS

Total time: 45 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

1 loaf firm, fine-grained white bread, such as a

Pullman loaf, unsliced

1 pound semisoft cheese, such as Brie, Taleggio or Teleme

1 ( 3/4-pound) sweet onion

(2 cups sliced)

1 teaspoon Champagne

vinegar

2 teaspoons minced parsley

Salt

Butter

1. Trim the crusts from the loaf of bread, leaving a solid, evenly shaped rectangle. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the bread in lengthwise slices just as thin as you can, one-fourth- to one-half-inch thick. You should get 6 to 8 slices.

2. Trim the rinds from the cheese and cut it into thin slices. Cut the onion in half and then slice it as thinly as possible, using a mandoline or a very sharp chef's knife. Put the onion in a bowl and season it with vinegar, parsley and salt to taste.

3. Spread one-fourth to one-third of the cheese over 1 long slice of bread, being careful not to come too close to the edges -- you don't want it oozing into the pan when it melts. Scatter one-fourth to one-third of the onion over that. Cover with another slice of bread and press together firmly. Repeat with remaining bread, cheese and onions.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over low heat. Fry 1 sandwich at a time, gently but firmly pressing down with a spatula or a heavy pan. Cook about 5 to 6 minutes on the first side, about 4 on the second. Repeat with remaining sandwiches, adding more butter as necessary.

5. Neatly trim the edges of the cooked sandwiches with a serrated knife and then cut each sandwich into thin crosswise strips, about three-fourths-inch wide. Serve hot.

Each serving: 362 calories;

16 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 68 mg. cholesterol; 607 mg. sodium. 

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