This is a perfect sandwich. It’s a bold statement, I know. It's just that it's one of those rare eating experiences that makes you practically incapable of focusing on anything else, not even Pinterest or your yapping dog (oh hey neighbors, bet you like listening to Scarlet as much as I like listening to your raging kegs at one am!). There’s just so much going on: the crispy crust and the tender interior, the creamy and the sharp, the salty and the sweet…the sum is so much greater than the individual ingredients. Let’s discuss this more, shall we?
At the heart of things is a substantial leaf of curly kale. It’s been steamed a bit to soften the cruciferous edge, but still has a toothsome bite and a deep, earthy flavor. Next, is the honey-sweet and tender Bosc pear, apty called “the aristocrat of pears”. Creamy, smooth textured and just warmed through, it helps tame the bitter kale. A thin slice of Black Forest ham contributes a welcome smoky and savory angle.
Then there’s the cheese; the cheese that made Martha and Oprah swoon and put Seattle on the map for artisanal ingredients. To call it a cheddar is like calling Thomas Keller a cook. No, no, this deliciously nutty, rich delicacy with a slight tang is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that could elevate any ho-hum meal to completely craveable. While a small, salty crumble is perfectly delicious all by itself, it helps seal the deal on this melty, oozing panini.
Encasing all of the above are two thin slices of fresh, whole wheat focaccia with a dab of grainy mustard, toasted to golden brown perfection in less than 10 minutes. These are some dark times (literally, it’s December in Seattle) and if delving into a sandwich can make lunchtime this blissful, I’d say it’s damn near perfect.
· Add fruits and vegetables to meals whenever you can; melty, cheesy paninis are a great vehicle for green leafy vegetables and thinly sliced root vegetables
· Use a very thin slice of ham and an intensely flavored cheese; this will allow you maximum satisfaction from these more expensive and calorically dense ingredients
Beecher’s Flagship Panini with Bosc Pear, Kale & Black Forest Ham
Bonus: if you have leftover sauteed, braised or steam greens from dinner, by all means, use those! Yeah, you don’t really need a recipe for this, but in case you do…
1 large leaf of kale (curly kale, cavalo nero, Swiss chard, collard greens, etc)
2 slices of good quality whole wheat bread (focaccia is lovely)
1 tsp Dijon or grainy mustard
1 thin slice black forest ham
¼ ripe, unpeeled Bosc pear, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 oz Beecher’s Flagship Cheese
1 tsp olive oil
Steam the kale. Fill a pot with a ½-inch of water and bring to a simmer. Place the kale in a steamer basket over the water and cook for 6 minutes, until bright green and still toothsome; allow to cool.
Assemble the panini. Split the bread and spread one side with mustard, then layer on the ham, pear, kale, cheese and remaining slice of bread.
Toast the panini. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and place the sandwich in the pan. Press down with a spatula for 15-20 seconds to compress and help the bread toast evenly. Cover the pan with a lid and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Lift the sandwich with a spatula and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil again. Place the sandwich back in the pan and press it down with the spatula again. Cook for couple minutes, until the bread is thoroughly toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.