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Fig, Apple and Cheese Panini & Salad with Creamy Date Vinaigrette

By now, you might know that Fall is my absolute favorite season- for everything, but mostly for three very specific things: to wear comfy sweaters and jeans, to take walks or drives to admire the changing Autumn leaves and to visit  farmers markets for the gorgeous late harvest produce.

I’m not a fan of the heat or humidity, which is kind of a surprise to myself, quite honestly. As a kid I used to daydream, a lot, about living in a tropical paradise. My mom thought I might one day become an architect because all I was ever interested in doing was to draw and color scenes with palm trees, mountains in the background and of course the ocean; I think my dad just thought it meant I would move to Florida or California one day.

Neither happened, obviously, although I did live in California for a short time, but nothing permanent there so far.

I guess I have a new appreciation for the changing seasons, but especially the Fall. I have wonderful memories of my college experience at Ohio University where every Fall was so absolutely beautiful there and in my heart and soul it was a place that offered so many new beginnings. Most people look at Spring as a time for new beginnings but for me, it’s always been the Fall. The hot and unbearable summer is over and it’s time to retreat indoors to focus and concentrate on getting things done- whether it’s studies, work or planning for that deeply rewarding winter season where I can regroup. I know many people wouldn’t agree with that, but for me it works and it’s something I look forward to wholeheartedly.

And right now, amid the chaos of my house renovation which is slowly turning over a new leaf and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, that’s exactly what’s happening.

I’ve even been able to cook a little more, as I find my groove within the kitchen challenges I have, and realized that something as simple as hot sandwiches and salads are slowly starting to make this house feel like a home. They also add some very recognizable food aromas- mixed in with the smell of a little fresh paint, of course.

Figs are one of those late Fall fruits that we commonly find all over Chicago supermarkets. I like to make so many things from them and of them- stuffing them with cheese, making jam, adding them to salads and even on sandwiches. In fact, a friend of mine recently visited and told me about a sandwich she had at Jamba Juice which had figs with cheese in it, something I normally make in the Fall but had never blogged about it before.

Well, now’s a good time. She got me craving it and I realized I need to share it, especially since I am also participating in the Plated + Oxo Very Vegetarian Recipe Challenge.

Here goes…

Start out with the following simple ingredients to make the sandwich, or panini: sourdough bread, Havarti cheese, Swiss cheese, butter, figs, apples and salad greens.

You can use purple or green figs, or even fig jam if you have it or want to make it.

And apples- Macintosh, red, Honeycrisp- whatever you like. You can even use pears instead, since they have a comparable texture and sweetness.

First, butter the first slice of bread (on the inside).

Add the cheese- I like to do one slice of Havarti…

and a slice of Swiss.

Next, slice up the apples- the handheld mandoline by Oxo is absolutely perfect for this because it has a few levels of thinness you adjust right on the tool, and even lock it so that no one will get hurt when it’s not in use.

There’s even a food gripper to help you hold the fruit or vegetable down.

I didn’t really think I would need it, but it helped to push the fruit down and protect my hand from getting a little too close to the stainless steel blade.

Place the apple sliced on top of the cheese.

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Next, slice up the figs, about two or three per sandwich.

Lay the sliced figs on top of the sliced apples.

Pile it on, if you like it like that.

Add salt to the figs.

Add pepper to the figs.

Now work on the second slice of bread that’ll go on top.

A little more cheese?

Salad greens.

Close it up.

Add some butter on top, spread it around. It’ll help the bread brown nicely once its in the pan.

Next, add it to a lightly buttered pan (no oil), buttered side down.

Now let it cook for a few minutes- without moving it around.

Make your second sandwich, you want, and add it to the pan as well.

Butter the tops, because soon you will flip them.

Keep the head on medium-high.

If it’s too low, they’ll turn out soggy.

See the glistening butter? It’s really not a lot, you don’t want a greasy sandwich, but a buttery one.

Flip it over and you should see the beautiful browning on one side

and try to achieve the same on the other.

Remove from heat, and if you want to get really cheesy, add a slice more of cheese on top while the bread is still hot. That’ll make it a bit like a croque monsieur.

Nice.

If you’re hesitant about eating fruit and cheese, just trust me on this one. It’s delish.

Now let’s make a salad and a dressing.
For the salad and salad dressing, you don’t need much and many of the ingredients are the same as in the sandwich.

Start with the figs..

and apples, which will be sliced just like in the sandwich and will be used for the salad topping.

You’ll also need a good whisk, like this 9″one by Oxo which has a nice firm rubber grip.

Make the dressing in very few, simple steps: 4 tablespoons mayonnaise + 1 to 1.5 tablespoons date vinegar.

add salt and pepper.

Whisk.

You’re done.

It looks like a light thousand island dressing, but it’s different than that. A little tart, so add more or less vinegar, according to your taste.

And if you want to take the dressing with you for lunch, you can do that with the Oxo Salad Dressing Shaker.

You can just add a little oil to make it more pourable (I prefer olive oil).

But you don’t have to add anything at all.

Now serve yourself.

and your guest

Cut the sandwiches in half.

Or not.

Either way…

I think you’ll be satisfied with what Fall has to offer right now.

*If you’re tweeting this post, please use the hashtag #VeryVegetarian and tag @Oxo

 

Ingredients and Instructions for the Salad and Creamy Date Vinaigrette Dressing:

Ingredients

2-4 cups Spring salad mix

2-4 fresh figs, sliced

1/2 apple, sliced

2 tablespoons mixed nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds)

1 tablespoon raisins

Feta cheese (optional)

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

1.5 tablespoons date vinegar

salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Arrange the salad greens on a plate. Add the sliced figs and apples, then the raisins and nuts. If using feta, add that, too.

To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper by whisking vigorously. Taste and adjust for seasoning and vinegar.

 

 

 

Fig & Apple Panini with Melted Cheese

salad plate

By Yvonne Published: October 9, 2013

  • Yield: 2 sandwiches and side salads (2 Servings)
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 8 mins
  • Ready In: 13 mins

Sweet and savory and buttery goodness all wrapped up around your two hands in this lovely Fall-inspired sandwich, plus a side salad that's quick and easy to pull together- even for dinner.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. For each sandwich, butter the bread on one side. Add 2 slices of cheese (one each of Havarti and Swiss).
  2. Slice the figs and apples and place on top of the cheese.
  3. On the second slice of bread, spread the butter, then add two more slices of cheese. Add the salad greens.
  4. Butter the top of one side of the bread and butter a saute pan or cast iron pan lightly.
  5. Over medium-high heat, place the sandwich buttered side down. Cook for about 3-4 minutes without moving. Flip and repeat.
  6. Remove sandwich from heat. Add an extra slice of cheese, if desired. Cut and serve with side salad (recipe at the end of the post).

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