Inspired by Elvis and his love for sweet, savory, and all manners of crazy (bacon, marshmallow cream and Miracle Whip, to name a few ingredients) stuffed in between two humble slices of bread, I came up with my new favorite lunch. This panino is layered with sharp cheddar, hazelnut butter, dried figs, and arugula, wedged between hearty wheat bread and grilled in my waffle iron! Never before have I picked out fried bits of crusty cheese from my beloved breakfast appliance, but man, it was so worth it. Read more for the details on this easy, flavorful sandwich.After a year of ordering delicious, layered, grilled sandwiches from my neighborhood deli it dawned on me that I could create an oozing, multidimensional, toasty treat at home with my waffle iron. Really, a panini machine is just a waffle maker in disguise! To form my dream flavor combination, I turned to local, Oregon crops (hazelnuts, figs and arugula) as the base of this unctuous, plucky sandwich. This sandwich is a great example of disparate, seemingly unlikely textures and flavors, coming together to form a unique and beautiful taste. To me, that's the magic of cooking! When I embarked on this sandwich, I wasn't sure how it would turn out, from the ingredients to the use of the waffle maker. Mind you, I've had many cooking failures, but I'm happy to report this Oregon Summer Panino was a triumph!
Sweet, salty, fatty and sharp — the balance of tastes is just right. It makes a lovely, sophisticated appetizer, when cut into long strips, but it's best right off the waffle iron served unadorned, with just a few pieces of fruit or greens. There's nothing like a perfect sandwich, right?
2 pieces wheat bread
1 tablespoon hazelnut butter
1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thin
10 arugula leaves
2 dried figs, sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter (for greasing the waffle iron)
Turn waffle maker to medium-high setting. Allow to warm up. Butter one side of each of your bread pieces, flip over and fill with ingredients. Spread hazelnut butter on non-buttered side of bread, then place arugula leaves, cheese and finishing with the dried fig slices. Top the sandwich with the other piece of buttered bread, so the buttered sides are facing out.
Place sandwich into heated waffle iron and close. Cook for about three minutes, until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)