The real recipe here is the artichoke spread. Do what you will with the rest of the sandwich ingredients–but make the spread.

I’m sort of kidding with the “do what you will.” You want a bread with some heft–i.e. not the squishy Orowheat I always have in the fridge. Some sort of country white bread is ideal. You want a really melty cheese–provolone would be fine if you had it but fontina is ideal. And you want a grilled vegetable that excites you–the original recipe called for grilled eggplant but I feel torn about eggplant. I don’t want to peel the eggplant–I am anti-vegetable-peeling–but the skin just gets tougher as you grill it and then when you bite into the sandwich the skin produces some unfortunate drag that bums me out. But I love grilled squashes, and when I was originally entranced with this sandwich last year I made it repeatedly with grilled zucchini.

Today I made it with grilled yellow squash. It goes very well with whatever overspiced curried soup you’re trying to make disappear.

Grilled Vegetable Panini with Fontina, Artichoke, and Capers
serves as many as you like (makes enough spread for 6-8 sandwiches)
adapted from Gourmet

The original recipe calls for artichoke hearts in a jar. I dislike them so I seek out frozen, which I usually find in big bags at Trader Joe’s or in small, overpriced cardboard spinach boxes at the supermarket.

Artichoke spread:

1 small garlic clove or 1/2 of a large one, peeled
2 T mayonnaise
1 T capers, drained
6 oz. (or so) frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and squeezed dry

Sandwich assembly:
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, oiled, salted, and grilled or broiled until soft (around 5 minutes)**
sliced fontina cheese (the original recipe says 1/4 lb. for 4 sandwiches)
Italian or french bread
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a food processor, finely chop the garlic. Then add the capers, mayo, and artichokes and pulse until you’ve formed a coarse, spreadable paste. (My mom taught me to do the garlic first because if you just throw it in with everything else it doesn’t get finely chopped.)

Warm up a panini grill (I know–it takes up precious counter space but seriously, it makes great panini). If you don’t have one, warm up two small, heavy frypans over medium heat.

Smear the artichoke spread evenly over one slice of bread. Press however much cheese you enjoy into the spread. On the other piece of bread, pile a single layer of grilled veggies and dust them with salt and fresh pepper. Flop the cheese bread onto the veggie bread. Paint the outsides of the sandwich with olive oil.

Grill the sandwich in your panini press for around 5 minutes, or until the bread is crunchy and the cheese is melting out the sides. You’ll know it’s done when you can hear the mess the cheese is making on the hot grill surface. (If you’re using frypans, put the sandwich into one pan and stack the second on top of the sandwich. Stack some bowls in the top pan if it isn’t balancing well. Lower the heat on the lower pan to low (low low low) and check the sandwich every couple minutes.)

Remove the sandwich from the grill and let sit for a couple minutes before slicing it in two.

**Whenever I’m planning to grill I get some veggies to do up as well–they are very versatile once you’ve cooked them. You can chop them up and add them to a pilaf of brown rice and israeli cous cous; you can toss them with fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; you can make this sandwich; you can put them in a frittata; you can add them to an arugula salad with goat cheese and lemon dressing; etc.

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