It doesn't get much better than having fresh, seasonal fruit paired with a really good cheese. There's apples and cheddar, pears and blue cheese, peach mango chutney with a locally made chevre, and today's combination is fig relish with Toma cheese. This is another creation from Plum Gorgeous, and every time I turn the pages of that book I'm inspired by another delicious idea. Our figs arrive at the farmers' markets a little earlier in the year here than they do in other places, and I grabbed some as soon as they appeared. They were cooked to a consistency of jam to make the relish for these panini. Toma, an Italian, semi-hard cheese, was a great match for the relish, but brie would have been another good option. Basil leaves and arugula were layered into the sandwiches, and if you're so inclined, as Kurt certainly was, prosciutto is a fitting ingredient here as well. The panini came out of the press nicely smooshed and melty inside and toasted crisp on the surface.
The only issue I had in making the fig relish was that mine didn't cook down as quickly as was mentioned in the recipe. The figs were stemmed and chopped and placed in a large pot with sugar, champagne vinegar, mustard seed, salt, and water. It was occasionally stirred as it simmered and thickened. The goal is for the mixture to achieve a jam-like consistency, and for mine, that took an hour rather than 20 minutes. You'll want to watch it as it cooks and remove it from the heat when you're happy with the texture. One other thing that I highly recommend is doubling or quadrupling the recipe. I only doubled it, and I'm already regretting not making more. The relish lasts for several months in the refrigerator, so you'll want enough that you can use it several times.
The acidity of the vinegar balanced the sweet figs, and the mustard seed added a nice hint of sharpness. More panini just like these will be in my future as will enjoying the relish with some pieces of cheese and a glass or two of wine. I definitely should have made more than double the recipe.