I started this blog, like many others, to document my love for food and as a means to organize my recipes (as I am not the most organized person in the world). But, I have to admit, I have a bit of a secret mission, an ulterior motive. That is, to show people a new way to think about vegetables. It’s no secret that the majority of folks out there do not eat the recommended number of fruits, let alone vegetables. By no means am I trying to force anyone to eat their kale or broccoli, just want to show those that may be interested, those testing the waters when in comes to preparing vegetables, that there are interesting and tasty ways to do so.

Who doesn’t like a good sandwich? What I love about this sandwich is that it excites all the taste buds: sweetness from the onions and roasted eggplant and squash, saltiness from the prosciutto, spiciness from the chile sauce, bitter from the kale, and just a hint of fat (in the form of some tasty, sharp Wisconsin cheese) to bring it all together — held together by two thin slices of toasted multigrain bread. I find the symphony of flavors rather interesting, as they don’t hit you all at once, but rather a cascade of varying notes. When you first bite into the panini, you taste sweet; this is followed by saltiness; and then spiciness on the back of your palate.

You don’t need a fancy panini press to prepare this sandwich. Just a hot frying pan and a heavy pan (such as a cast-iron skilllet) to place on top. Just 3 minutes or so per side, and voilà, you have a delicious sandwich (that’s also healthy, but shhh, you may want to keep that part a secret).

I prepared the chile sauce and onions a day in advance, to make assembly of the panini a snap. This also allows the flavors to come together as they rest in the refrigerator for a day or two.


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Vegetable and Crispy Prosciutto Panini

1 eggplant, Japanese or Chinese, sliced ~1/4 inch thick
1 yellow squash, sliced ~ 1/4 inch thick
~ 1/4 cup grated cheese (used a sharp Wisconsin cheddar)
Chile Sauce (see recipe below)
Red Onion Jam (see recipe below)
Prosciutto, 3 to 4 thin slices
2 slices multigrain bread, lightly buttered
1/2 bunch kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to coat the eggplant and squash
Squeeze of lemon
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Smoked hot paprika

Note: you can prepare the chile sauce and red onion jam ahead of time.

Roasting the Vegetables

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the eggplant and squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked hot paprika to coat. Roast until golden brown and slightly crispy; flip, and roast until the second side is golden brown. Set aside.

Sauteed Kale

Heat a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the kale. Squeeze a little bit over of lemon over the kale. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.

Crispy Prosciutto

Place the prosciutto in the same pan used for the kale. Cook until crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside.

Chile Sauce

1/2 cup oil (used olive oil)
~ 3/4 ounce (1/2 cup) dried chiles (used a combination of chile de arbol [15,000-30,000 scovilles] and pulla [5,000-15,000 scovilles, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with side of a knife
2 star anise
Sea salt to taste

Note: Feel free to alter the ratio and type of chiles depending on your desired level of heat.

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chiles and oil. Let sizzle 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 4 minutes. Let cool. Place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the star anise and season with salt.

Red Onion Jam

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves
4 dried chiles, such as chile de arbol
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Sea salt to taste

Heat a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the oil, onions, garlic, and chiles. Season with salt. Cover and cook until the onions are soft ~ 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, and honey. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Assembling the Panini

This is the easy part. Butter (the outside of) two slices of bread. Layer on some cheese, 3 to 4 slices eggplant and squash, kale, prosciutto, some onions, and a drizzle of chile sauce.

Heat a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, place the sandwich in the pan. Top with a heavy pan (such as a cast-iron). Cook ~ 4 minutes until nice and golden brown, flip, place the cast-iron back on the sandwich, and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Serve warm and while the bread is still nice and crispy.

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