Panini are the upscale Italian cousins to the average Joe grilled cheese sandwich, and these panini, made with pear and prosciutto are a perfect match with creamy soups. Feel free to mix up the cheese; I like to add a generous grind of pepper on top of the pears before topping too. You can use any type of pear you like, but Anjou pear’s sweet, citrusy tang pairs well with the goat cheese. If your pears don’t yield slightly to a squeeze, ripen them on the counter for a few days.
This is inspired by my favorite vegetarian sandwich at Chez Lulu, a cafe and bakery in Birmingham, Alabama. I love the combo of thinly sliced sweet pear with pungent goat cheese, lightly dressed greens and toasted nuts. I used a plain version of our Knead-less Olive-Rosemary Bread, but any type of whole grain bread will do the trick.
We’re calling this a “butter” but it’s really more of a cross between butter and sauce–a thin butter or a thick sauce, if you will. It’s inspired by an abundance of gorgeous pears in a holiday gift box and adapted from a recipe of Farmgirl Fare, a delightful blog that chronicles life on a 240-acre farm in rural Missouri. Most of the sweetness comes from the ripe pears themselves (any variety will do here), but a touch of brown sugar adds a caramel-y touch while the whole star anise brightens the overall flavor. It’s dandy spread on toast or dolloped on waffles or pancakes, and it would be a delicious condiment with our Spiced Roast Pork.
4 pounds ripe pears (any variety), cored and cut into chunks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
3 whole star anise pods
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Place pears in a food processor; pulse until pureed (depending on the capacity of your processor, you may need to do this in batches). Add sugar, juice and salt. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13-inch (4-quart) baking dish. Add star anise. Bake at 300 degrees F for 3 hours or until thick, stirring every 30 minutes. Cool completely (mixture will continue to thicken as it cools). Refrigerate up to 1 week.