Gourmet Paninis

If you couldn't tell from my first recipe posting, I love cheese. The kind of love where, if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one food with me, it would probably be cheese. So, I was daydreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches the other day (because they are made from my food crush) and pondering how I could make the ordinary grilled cheese sandwich a bit more blog-worthy. And then I found this recipe: Fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Fig Jam. The ingredients are as follows:

4 soft French or Italian rolls
10-12 ounces fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced
8 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
¼- ½ cup fig jam or fig preserves, to taste
Soft butter for spreading on bread
I followed this pretty much as follows, except I used ciabatta bread (I thought the square shape was cute...ahem) and added some spinach for a little added color and, I suppose, some nutritional value. But mainly for the color. Also, I don't own a panini press, so I used my little George Foreman type grill thing instead. And since it is non-stick, I omitted the butter. Trust me, you won't miss it when it comes to flavor.
I like recipes like this, because you really can't mess them up. All you have to do is:
1) Slice your bread, and spread the fig jam liberally on one side (or both--I will explain why in a moment).
2) Pile on the prosciutto, slices of the fresh mozzarella, and some washed/de-stemmed spinach leaves.
3) Cover the sandwich with the other bread slice, toss into your George Foreman (or place in a warm skillet and press down with a panini press) and just squeeze the heck out of it. The sandwich will get more compact, have lovely little grill marks for presentation purposes, and oh yeah--be ooey, gooey, melty, salty, and caramelized from the fig preserves. Then, you eat, drool, and repeat.
Which brings me back to the fig jam. This needs a special mention, because I almost didn't buy fig jam. I'd never had it before, the stuff was $5 a jar, and the strawberry jam, $3 cheaper, beckoned invitingly to me from beside the fig jam on the shelf. But, I sucked it up and bought the fig jam to stay true to the recipe.
And holy shitake mushrooms, people, was it amazingly delicious. First, it lacks the tartness of most other jams, so it just accentuates rather than dominates the other ingredients of the sandwich. The flavor is much more....like raisin-flavored honey. Or heaven. And when cooked, the jam warms up and sweetens, becoming almost candy-like, which provides a nice contrast to the salty prosciutto. And now, I am making it a life goal to get the fig family into as many recipes as I can from here on out. Try the figs, people--you won't regret it!!
Finally, the finished product--enjoy!

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