A twist on an all American classic

I have no clue what it is about a couple slices of bread, some good quality cheese and a dab of fat that enables the humble grilled cheese to stand a chance in today’s culinary colosseum, but it does. As much as I consider myself a foodie and lover of all things gourmet, sometimes I don’t want fois gras topped with caviar and doused with fancy white truffle oil – no, thanks. Give me a couple grilled cheeses, a big bowl of soup and a Law & Order marathon (SVU or CI, of course) and I’m a happy camper. The star of this post is the ubiquitous grilled cheese and all the ooey, gooey, mouth-burning goodness that it brings to this world.

Judging from the loads of fall recipes overflowing our RSS feeds, and by the mere fact that it’s no longer sunny all the time, fall is here. I’d be remiss as a food blogger not to share with you one of my ultimate culinary gems: Middle Eastern grilled cheese sandwiches.

mise en place
mise en place

Before you click away frustrated because you don’t know where to find Armenian string cheese, don’t fret. These days you can find it in most major grocery stores, usually hidden away in their cheese department. Middle Eastern stores will also carry some if you happen to have any around your neighborhood. Some perfectly suitable substitutes also include Halloumi (Greek cheese), Queso Blanco (Spanish “white cheese”) or any semi-firm white cheese.

Middle Eastern/Armenian String Cheese (جبنة مشلشلة)
Middle Eastern/Armenian String Cheese

Now for those who are lucky enough find this cheese locally, this is what you’ll likely get; a pearly white braided cheese studded with Nigella seeds, or حبة البركة in Arabic, which translated literally means “seed of blessing.” In the Middle East this seed serves medicinal purposes and is even considered an anti-parasitic, hence its name. But its unique flavors alone are enough to win me over.

dried mint
dried mint

The second component of this Middle Eastern grilled cheese is the dried mint, which of course, also serves medicinal purposes. If anyone ever got a tummy ache, signs of a fever or any such symptoms in my house growing up, my mom would be there to make them one of these sandwiches alongside a mug of warm chai (Middle Eastern Tea). In short, these grilled cheeses are nothing short of amazing.

olive oil instead of butter
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

As most of you know, after Executive Culinary Order 2924-5, it is against the law for the preparation of a grilled cheese sandwich to go over the 5-minute prep mark. This variation is no exception. From the time your craving strikes to the time you’re screaming in blissful pain because you anxiously bit in too soon, is less than 5 minutes – 4 if you practice.

perfect with hot tea
Middle Eastern Grilled Cheese

You absolutely do not need a panini press to make these sandwiches. Any method you’ve used in the past will probably work perfectly. Just be sure to make it under 5 minutes and don’t burn your mouth.

Middle Eastern Grilled Cheese

makes 1 sandwich


  • 1 pita bread, with pockets
  • Armenian String Cheese*
  • dried mint
  • extra virgin olive oil

Putting them all together

  1. Place the slices of cheese inside your pita.
  2. Sprinkle with dried mint and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Grill/broil/panini press until golden brown and cheese is melted.

notes: Whole Foods, Wegmans and other major grocery stores should have the Armenian string cheese. You can also look for it online or at any Middle Eastern market.


it’s not a grilled cheese without stringy cheese
string cheese

39 thoughts on “A twist on an all American classic

  1. Sweet grilled cheese Tony! It’s such a breath of fresh air to the American Classic. I also like the 5 minute rule, I never knew it was Culinary Order. That’s like an Order of the Jedi, so I know it’s super serious 🙂

    And how do you pour oil, open a sandwich, AND take a picture? Dude, you have 3 arms?

  2. Yum! Grilled cheese is a timeless quick food that can be glammed up as you haved done here! Fantastic…going in search of Armeniain string cheese.

  3. That looks awesome. I love cheese in all its forms and flavors, but I never heard of Armenian string cheese. I’ll be looking for it now, just to make this.

  4. are the nigella seeds what i’ve heard referred to as “black seed” and comes in an oil too?
    wondering because my mom swears by “black seed” and “black seed oil” as medicine/cure all or something

    (so weird…never questioned where these black seeds have come from)

  5. You are a Cheese magician!!!! Nearly convinced me to try this one :D.
    Tony… no me gusta el queso! I know I’m loosing a whole world here, but the simple odour makes me step back… Maybe when I grow up, I’ll learn to like it ;D

  6. Oh, oh….I shouldn’t have checked your blog at this time (13:00 pm in Barcelona).

    I am starving and the grilled cheese looks delicious! In Spain we have a similar version of the grilled cheese, with ham, and we call it ‘bikini’. Funny name….

  7. Great idea- I don’t always have bread on hand, but it’s more likely that I’ll have pita in the fridge. These would be great with some sheese, too!

  8. Thanks, Peter!! Stringiness is definitely key 🙂

    Katie, I didn’t even think about that! I guess they are like middle eastern quesadillas.

    Adam, Adam, Adam… haha, why did you have to put me out like that? You know I didn’t want the news about my 3 arms to go public 😛

    Thanks, Kelley!! Definitely keep your eyes peeled for this cheese – it’s delicious!

    Thanks, Kitt! I have a feeling you’re going to love this cheese 🙂

    Lilandra, you are absolutely correct! Nigella seeds are also sometimes called “black cumin.” Thanks for pointing that out. These seeds definitely rock, haha!

    Thanks, Mrs. Ergül!! I’m sure he will 🙂

    Núria, como puede ser!?!?? Cheese is probably the best thing… EVER, jaja!!

    Noelle: Oh, no! Sorry about that 🙂 Is the sandwich with jamón serrano? I’m going to check that out – it is funny!

    Thanks, Jil! I’m glad you liked it!

    Gracias Nikki!! Now you and Noelle have got me interested about mixtos AND bikinis, haha!! I’m going to look both of these up 🙂

    Thanks, Hannah! I just googled sheese (for a second I thought you misspelled cheese, but that didn’t make any sense) – I had no clue vegan cheese existed!! Thanks for pointing me in that direction. Maybe one day I’ll venture and give it a try 🙂

  9. Oh no, what have you done?! Now I’ll have to search high and low for Armenian string cheese in order to replicate such a gorgeous sandwich 🙂 (maybe I should just give up now and buy a pack of halloumi.) Beautiful grill marks!

  10. That is something I would love, Tony! I’m a sucker for pita bread, and I can use soft mozzarella and add Nigella seeds (I have a small bag of them at home). What a wonderful idea!

  11. An *amazing* take on the grilled cheese sandwich! I love pita bread with everything. And just bought some nigella seeds that I haven’t managed to incorporate into a recipe yet – I’m sure I could get them into here though!

    What gorgeously stringy cheese… ummm….

  12. I can’t tell you how fantastic this looks, Tony. Though, that’s nothing new! I’m drooling, and it’s not even lunchtime yet.

  13. Oh! I want this tonight! It looks so delish! I would probably have no luck finding the cheese in the Great North of NYS though. 🙁

  14. I miss so much Montreal because I could find all of these products. Impossible around here. I’d love to make this so much we don’t even have fresh pita bread. Great pics.

  15. Oh, Tony! Memmmmmmmmmmmmories! This was my ultimate comfort food growing up; for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a midnight snack… I can never have these without a big mug of shai b’na3na3. Oh lordy, haven’t had this sandwich since I moved to Chicago. I have Nabulsi cheese in the fridge now, and I don’t think I can wait till tomorrow to get the string cheese (we call it jibneh mjaddalleh). Deliciousness, here I come!
    Love your blog xoxo

  16. That looks delicious and I know where I can get Armenian string cheese !

    Try sprinkling a little cayenne pepper in between the cheese slices on regular grilled cheese. Gives it a little kick !

  17. I love grilled cheese in pita! I used to get this all the time when I was a kid, from a local hot dog place. Of course, they just used a bland variety of cheddar – nothing as schmancy as what you have here. This looks so comforting and good.

  18. Hooray, grilled cheese! I’m going to try this one, Tony! (Even I can’t mess it up.)

    Sidebar, completely unrelated to food: SVU, of course. But CI, really?

  19. OMG, OMG, OMG!! The last picture is true food porn at it’s best Tony!! I’m really digging the Armenian string cheese, wow!
    You are just really capture food at it’s drooling best, I am so hungry!

  20. This looks absolutely delicious!
    Just thought you might want to know that you mispelled “mint” as “mind” on step 2 of your recipe card 🙂

  21. I love this recipe and I always recommend it to fellow food lovers. So simple it’s great. Sometimes when string cheese is hard to find in my area, I’ll substitute mozzerella. The mozzerella and mint still seem to work together well, or dried basil works for an Italian twist. You’ve opened my mind to endless possibilities!

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