Fig, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Panini + Cookbook Giveaway!

For me, the biggest challenge of getting dinner on the table on weeknights is deciding what to make. I have been having an absolute field day (field week?) with a new cookbook for busy families I was invited to review – High Flavor Low Labor, by J.M. Hirsch, the food editor for The Associated Press. Each of the 150 recipes is geared for weeknight cooking, with a simple premise: “Foods that taste great going into the pot need less work from you to taste great when they come out.”

I’m giving away a copy of the book!  [THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED] Read on for my review and find out how to enter. PLUS you’ll love the author’s Fig, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Panini recipe.

J.M. Hirsch, food editor for The Associated Press
Photo by Matthew Mead

In High Flavor Low Labor, author J.M. Hirsch and his adorable young son (who is depicted throughout the book) leverage “the Parmesan cheeses, balsamic vinegars, jalapeños, chorizos and wasabis of the world” to create high-flavor meals that can be prepared in a relatively short amount of time. Mercifully, he avoids the phrase “quick and easy.” In truth they are, but the emphasis of the book is really where it ought to be: on great-tasting food.

Among the recipes I’ve tried so far:

  • Baked Breaded Eggplant with Marinara – The panko crunch is terrific. I sliced the eggplant into strips for my two-year-old, who enjoyed the “sticks”.
  • Red Curry Beef – I’m still pretty new to making my own curries, but I found myself devouring this one. It was almost like a Thai sloppy joe, served over fragrant jasmine rice.
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Wilted Greens – I love the subtle flavor of anchovies in pasta dishes. This one has kale as well, so I didn’t have to come up with a separate vegetable to serve. Bonus!
  • Chicken Mole – This recipe was very rich and tasty but the chicken was not quite as succulent as my favorite mole poblano from Lotería Grill in Los Angeles. Of course, that takes many hours to achieve – this is very good for just 20 minutes of simmering.

If I had one criticism of the book it would be its use of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s all a matter of personal preference, but mine – particularly if big flavor is my goal – is always bone-in, skin-on and usually dark meat. Obviously, it’s very easy to substitute whichever cut you prefer. Oh, and he takes a little dig at “silly” panini presses. That’s okay, J.M. – I still loved your sweet and savory Fig, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Panini! I’ve shared the recipe at the bottom of this post.


Win a copy of High Flavor Low Labor!

To enter: Leave a comment on this post with your favorite flavor boosting ingredient you like to use when you cook. (For me, I tend to use balsamic vinegar and cinnamon quite a bit).

The giveaway ends Monday, September 20, 2010 at 12 PM PDT. [THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED] The winner will be announced by Tuesday, September 21, 2010. One entry per person, please. Due to shipping costs, you must have a U.S. or Canadian address to be eligible.


Fig, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Panini

Fig, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Panini
From High Flavor Low Labor, by J.M. Hirsch. Reprinted with permission.

Makes 2 servings

4-ounce log chevre (soft goat cheese)
4 slices rustic multigrain bread
2 tablespoons fig jam
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
4 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon butter


Spread a quarter of the goat cheese over one side of each slice of bread.

Spread 1 tablespoon fig jam over the goat cheese on 2 of the slices.

Scatter the oregano over the fig jam, then top it with prosciutto, then the
remaining slices of bread, cheese side down.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the
sandwiches, then set a heavy or weighted pan over them. Cook until the
bread is lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes.

Remove the top pan, flip the sandwiches, then replace the top pan and
cook for about another 2 minutes.

(My note: Alternatively, if you use a panini grill like I do, you can just heat it to medium-high and grill for about 3-4 minutes.)

The book’s publisher is providing one copy to me for review and one for the reader giveaway.


KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. sara wrote:

    I like using a little bit of pancetta, cooked until crispy, on top of lots of things. It has that good bacon-y flavor, but is cut so thinly that it doesn’t add a ton of calories.

    Posted 9.15.10 Reply
  2. Sophia Lee wrote:

    GOCHUJANG! I’m a hard-core gochujang fan. It gives such a sweet, yet spicy, an utterly complex kick!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  3. Melissa wrote:

    Does garlic count? I seem to add it to everything!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  4. Tom wrote:

    I put garlic in everything…my girlfriend is not too happy about it though.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  5. Tara Sabo wrote:

    Vanilla extract from Mexico. Seriously, it’s the best VE you’ll ever use.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  6. Michelle wrote:

    I use cumin constantly. I probably put cumin in things that have no business having it, but I love it.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  7. Michelle wrote:

    Love to use sundried tomatoes & balsamic vinegar & kalamata olives!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  8. sara wrote:

    i like to use a lot of garlic!!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  9. Loren wrote:

    For baking, I frequently turn to vanilla and cinnamon, even though I know there are lots of great combinations out there. For cooking, I love adding parmesan to many of my dishes. I just made spaghetti squash with a little butter, parmesan, salt and pepper and it was just perfect!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  10. jordan wrote:

    garlic (in almost anything!) or balsamic vinegar (one that is thick and very good quality) for drizzling just before serving 🙂

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  11. Susan Anderson wrote:

    My favorite flavor booster is green chilies.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  12. lauren wrote:

    When baking, definitely chocolate in some form. When cooking, probably a seasoned salt.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  13. Amy wrote:

    I like to use garlic in tons of things!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  14. Mindy wrote:

    Depending on the dish, I like balsamic vinegar or a splash of soy sauce. I’m also totally making this panini…I have an overabundance of fig jam in my fridge right now. 🙂

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  15. Darlene wrote:

    Dijon mustard! Esp on broiled chicken, and if I combine with olive oil, garlic, and lemon, I put it on fish. It immediately deepens the flavors.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  16. carole wrote:

    Gotta be garlic…

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  17. peter sinish wrote:

    this time of year fresh basil and chocolate always find a way into my cuisine.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  18. Foodelf wrote:

    Sherry vinegar and/or fresh lemon juice just brightens and wakes up all the flavours in a dish.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  19. Lisa O Shea wrote:

    My favourite is garlic, especially in chicken dishes, yum yum!!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  20. Cindy wrote:

    If I have to narrow down to one ingredient i use in everything it would be salt. i may not always use a lot of but it’s something i think definitely adds flavor when you need it.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  21. Ericka H. wrote:

    I use balsamic alot myself, but I use a lot of cayenne too.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  22. jessica wrote:

    I add garlic in everything!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  23. Dick Bennett wrote:

    I like using anchovies. While most people don’t like their taste, when added in moderation they add to the richness of the flavor. I have used them in combination with garlic in many vegetables including beans and broccoli to boost their flavor. Add olive oil to a pan, mince both the garlic and anchovies saute for a minute or two and add the cooked vegetables.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  24. Dan wrote:

    Hi Kathy:
    Two flavor boosters I turned to often are nutmeg, and, like most other folks, garlic. Nutmeg is great in soups, stews, sauces……….very subtle.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  25. Colleen wrote:

    I’m a fan of good bacon. Adds a wonderful salty richness.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  26. Mandi wrote:

    I’d have to say my favorite is garlic or basil … but most of all I like to change things up and try different flavors.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  27. Samantha Long wrote:

    I love to use rosemary..great for meat and potatos.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  28. Lisa wrote:

    I love hot peppers and seracha sauce on just about everything.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  29. audrey wrote:

    I love to throw a touch of fresh mint into everything that I cook. It adds a really fresh flavor to everything and it cleanses the pallet as well. By the way, using goat cheese and figs, sooooooo yummy! I stuff my dates with goat cheese, great snack and appetizer.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  30. Krista wrote:

    I like to use cinnamon too and vinegars. Both seem to add a bit to any dish you can make.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  31. Vicki wrote:

    I usually go for some kind of chile. Or lemon juice to perk things up.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  32. Susan wrote:

    I love basil. It gives so much flavoe to all kinds of foods.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  33. Erica Hebel wrote:

    A small amount of bacon is a very tasty addition to recipes. I also add chicken stock to a lot of things.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  34. That panini does look heavenly.

    My favorite flavor-boosting flavor is garlic, for sure. In baking, it’s almond extract.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  35. Amy wrote:

    I cook with a lot of garlic. I also use red pepper flakes to add some zing. Vinegars, for sure. Pancetta or Prosciutto are always great ways to bring on more flavor. Pretty much what everyone else said! (Mustard is such a great/easy way too, but my palate hasn’t really gotten on board with that one yet.) So, I don’t know about the rest of the cookbook, but the panini you highlighted? Swooooon.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  36. Heidi wrote:

    I use a pinch of love, just kidding couldn’t resist.

    I know this is a given but “kosher salt” is what I add to most everything, is that too obvious? Garlic would be next.

    Love your blog, you are the reason I started making bread when you mentioned “bread in 5” for a panini, changed my life! Thank you so much!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  37. Alexandra wrote:

    I’m so not original it seems, but I love garlic, olive oil, rosemary as well as lavender (on chicken).

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  38. Joan wrote:

    I like to spice things up a bit by adding a shake or two of red pepper flakes to many dishes.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  39. Sabrina wrote:

    Definitely garlic!!!!!!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  40. Ivy wrote:

    I love adding balsamic and red wine vinegars to any tomato-based sauce/soup/stew. I think it adds another dimension of flavor along with lots of fresh herbs.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  41. Karen wrote:

    Hmm, depends on what I am making! Vanilla or almond extract for baking…..finely ground mustard for salad dressings…..a dash of soy sauce or Worchestere for meats….and garlic salt always adds a little kick….nothing too exciting really.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  42. Sharon wrote:

    Caramelized onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar. I chop up basil and put it on almost everything. A sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan is never a bad addition.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  43. Cheryl wrote:

    I just got home from work and all the recipes you mentioned sounds yummy! I’ll have one of each, please. I hope to win this cookbook, all figs are my favorite fruit. Incorporating them into a meal is the smart thing to do to have your 5 servings of fruits and vegies.

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  44. Robert wrote:

    I’m a big fan of cumin. Depends on what I’m making of course, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a flavor that can’t be beat!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  45. HG wrote:

    I love love love annatto for soups, though I think it may boost the color more than flavor!

    Posted 9.16.10 Reply
  46. April in CT wrote:

    I’m crazy over cumin!

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  47. Linda J wrote:

    My favorites are pretty simple. I always start with pepper – and a little salt. Other things may get added later, but those are first.

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  48. Sophie Hung wrote:

    For savory dishes, I’ve found that a little bit of toasted ground coriander seed adds a delicious flavor to pretty much anything, especially Mexican and Asian foods.

    For desserts and other sweets, Penzey’s double strength pure vanilla extract is liberally added to everything. 😀

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  49. Terri wrote:

    I use a lot of garlic…love it…

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  50. grace wrote:

    nothing tops cinnamon for me!

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  51. dineindiva wrote:

    Salt and Pepper can not be underestimated and are often underused.

    Posted 9.17.10 Reply
  52. deb wrote:

    I love using fresh garlic. The Panini recipe looks fabulous. Went to the store to buy figs and no one had any……..(one of the many trials of living in podunk)

    Posted 9.18.10 Reply
  53. Deborah Frans wrote:

    I like to brush the bread with basil flavored olive oil and then ‘dust’ it with parmesean cheese.

    Posted 9.18.10 Reply
  54. Theresa N wrote:

    My favorite is rosemary.

    Posted 9.18.10 Reply
  55. vickshi wrote:

    can’t beat salt and garlic as taste enhancers!

    Posted 9.18.10 Reply
  56. My all time favorite go to flavor booster is lemon and pepper and garlic salt!

    Hope I win 🙂

    Posted 9.19.10 Reply
  57. susitravl wrote:

    I use cilantro a lot – we eat Mexican Food often.

    And GARLIC – couldn’t live without it.


    Posted 9.19.10 Reply
  58. Baebara wrote:

    I use good old kosher salt but also a good squeez of lemon it brightens everything up. We can all use a little help on what to get on the table.

    Posted 9.19.10 Reply
  59. I totally need a copy of this book. Things have been crazy lately & I can’t stand dinner time!! I use balsamic a lot too, but I’d probably have to say Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

    Posted 9.20.10 Reply
  60. Ashlee wrote:

    Freshly ground peppercorn medley. Never underestimate the power of something as simple as pepper 🙂

    Posted 9.20.10 Reply
  61. Beth wrote:

    I tend to use garlic salt quite a bit, and when appropriate, red pepper flakes!

    Posted 9.20.10 Reply
  62. Karen Gold wrote:

    Please enter me in the contest!! I like toasted sesame oil!

    Posted 9.20.10 Reply
  63. Hi there, I love fresh lemon zest and juice and flavoured salt – tangerine salt, lavender salt, garlic salt…. and I soooo need this book

    Posted 9.20.10 Reply