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.

ingredients

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

figs

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

apples and figs

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

bread on butter 2

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

cheese on bread 3

and a slice of Swiss.

cheese on bread 2

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.

apple on mandoline

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

grip on mandoline

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.

apples sliced

Place the apple sliced on top of the cheese.

getting apples out

;ajklf

bread and butter

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

figs on mandoline

Lay the sliced figs on top of the sliced apples.

sliced figs

Pile it on, if you like it like that.

figs on sandwich

Add salt to the figs.

salt on figs

Add pepper to the figs.

pepper on figs

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

bread on butter

A little more cheese?

cheese on bread

Salad greens.

lettuce on bread

Close it up.

ready for pan

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

butter on prepped sandwich

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

put in pan

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

pretty in pan

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

sandwich prepped

Butter the tops, because soon you will flip them.

two sandwiches in pan

Keep the head on medium-high.

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

cookng sandwiches

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

glistening butter

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

turn sandwich over

and try to achieve the same on the other.

cooked on both sides

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.

cheese on top

Nice.

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

finished panini

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.

salad spread

Start with the figs..

figs 2

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

salad with apples

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

Oxo Whisk

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

salad starting

add salt and pepper.

add salt and pepper

Whisk.

Date vinegar mayo

You’re done.

creamy dressing

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.

finished plate

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

shake and pour

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

shaker

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

whisk it

Now serve yourself.

salad plate

and your guest

full plate

Cut the sandwiches in half.

Fig Panini Vertical

Or not.

meltedEither way…

finished panini 2

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

gorgeous plate

*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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