I have this thing for summer fruits and fresh Chèvre cheese.
The berry and stone fruit families are walking with the gods this summer and I have been dying to prepare and capture a food moment like this one.
Bing and Rainier cherries, Chèvre, and arugula panini.
With these unexpected and fulfilling summer sandwiches, it’s an experience for all of the senses.
These two varieties of freshly halved and pitted cherries give off sharp and sour aromas while beaming with their color and vibrance. In each bite you experience the intense crunch of the ciabatta directly into a tangy layer of creaminess from the chèvre and tart cherry juices. I love the consistency of the firm Rainier cherries and juicy Bing cherries paired with a dry and soft goat cheese. To your tongue, it’s a feeling with so many subtle elements.
The element of acidity in a sandwich is always important to me. You know when you have that thick center cut slice of tomato in your sandwich and it just gives that juicy, sweet and acidic “pop?” Here, the cherries fill that similar duty. I find this to be such a brilliant combination of flavors.
With this sandwich, I’m making my way through this hot summer in New York.
Tasting is always my favorite part and these are the simple ingredients that come forward in each bite; crispy, grilled bread with olive oil, a layer of spreadable goat cheese topped with tart cherries, freshly cracked black pepper & sea salt, a light squeeze of lemon juice, and lastly another swirl of fruity olive oil atop a small mountain of peppery arugula and rainbow micro greens. In it’s entirety, it all comes together brilliantly. This is a sandwich bursting with wonderful contrasts in both flavor and texture from five promising ingredients.
Part of what makes me so excited about food is making it visually appealing. With this sandwich, I wrapped the panini in some parchment, sliced it, and served it in the cartons I purchased my cherries in, while still making sure to display the array of colors in the ingredients between the layers of ciabatta.
I also love the dish’s versatility. There are literally endless possibilities you could run with in making a panino like this one. Though strawberry season has now passed, they would likewise be a truly great substitution if there weren’t cherries on hand. Strawberries and goat cheese in salads are always amazing. Now that’s a concept right there.
In the next three weeks we will be seeing a lot of peaches and nectarines, perhaps a few of these quartered could be a perfect substitution for the cherries? Plums?
A nice taleggio would serve really well as cheese to melt with the ciabatta and fruit as an alternative to the chèvre.
If summer fruits aren’t an option or a preference, you could use some marinated artichoke hearts or a jardiniere with the arugula and chèvre instead. These are definite favorites that pair really well with one another. I would even slip in a couple thin slices of hot soppressata, dry salami, or proscuitto in somewhere. These panini are easy to prepare and are endlessly versatile.
With all that said, I can’t get enough of summer’s gorgeous offerings and the inspirations I receive from them. So much so that I’m going blackberry and blueberry picking today.
I bet you can guess what the secret ingredients might be next time?
Chèvre, Cherry, and Arugula Panini
Makes 2 Panini
2 loaves ciabatta
1 tb extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chèvre cheese
2 cups bing or rainier cherries, halved, pitted
1/2 bunch arugula
1 tsp lemon juice
freshly cracked black pepper
Pre-heat a panini press or grilling pan over the stove.
Over a cutting board, slice each cherry in half and use your hands or a device to remove the pit. Reserve all halved and pitted cherries in a bowl and set aside. Slice ciabatta loaves in half and drizzle with a light layer of extra virgin olive oil on each side. Spread an even layer of the goat cheese on each bottom slice of the ciabatta. Place the the cherry halves over chèvre layer by slighty pushing them into a snug position. Once covering the entire bottom half of the sandwich with cherries, top each sandwich with some arugula leaves. Drizzle the greens with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt and crushed black pepper. Put the top slices of ciabatta to cover and complete the sandwiches. Drizzle or brush olive oil over the top ciabatta slices and place them in the panini press to heat through until the olive oil crisps the outside and grill marks are intact on the surface. When making this in a pan, a heavy foil wrapped brick or any other heavy cooking item works nicely to help achieve the “pressed sandwich” characteristic to this panino.