Ham and cheese panini with homemade veggie sauce: Cook less, enjoy summer more

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Summer just isn’t summer if you don’t spend it away from the computer once in awhile – I came to this simple realization earlier this week, when my husband and I took a couple of days off and ventured out of  Chicago. It was not a long break by any means, but it did allow us to relax and to recharge our batteries. Plus, it also made me remember how much I loved walking in the countryside, feeling light and invigorated, enjoying every breath of fresh air and admiring the colorful fields and the pensive forests.

We got back home late in the evening after a long drive, and I wanted to make something quick to eat as a light dinner. I still had a batch of homemade vegetable sauce in the fridge, so I decided to use it to make ham and cheese panini.

Ingredients

1/2 lb Polish ham

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup homemade vegetable sauce

Handful of spinach leaves

1/4 French bread

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Preheat the grill to 400F.

Cut the bread in half lengthwise and spread the homemade vegetable sauce on both sides. Add a layer of sharp cheddar cheese – the veggies in the sauce will give the bread an earthy sweetness, which will contrast with the sharpness of the melted cheddar. Add a generous layer of ham, then add a layer of spinach leaves. Add more ham on top of the spinach, and finish off with another layer of cheese. Grill the panino for 3 minutes and serve it with a spoonful of warm sauce on the side to dip the panino into, if desired.

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I like to use plenty of ham and cheese, but you can adjust this recipe to accommodate your preferences and/or dietary needs – for instance, you can use less ham, or you can even eliminate it completely and use sauteed mushrooms instead, for a vegetarian panino.

This is just another example of how you can use homemade vegetable sauce to enhance the flavors of your dishes. I love the versatility of this sauce and I highly recommend it for panini. With only a few ingredients, our late light dinner was quick to make and very flavorful. I now know that having a trusted sauce on hand makes things a lot easier:  You can cook less, and enjoy summer more.


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