Farm Fresh Paninis {New Challenge from The Inspired Plate}

This is my favorite time of year at the Farmer's Market and family farm stands in our area. Produce just seems to be bursting from every garden and farm, a final fireworks show before summer leaves us.

For August's challenge from The Inspired Plate we are focusing on the amazing local markets that are the best way to celebrate any season we are in.

Nearby, there is a tiny family farm stand that I visit obsessively (4-5 times a week in July and August). Every day is a surprise for what we may find there... Basket-fulls of bright cherry tomatoes in rainbow colors, ranging from deep purple to golden yellow. Personal-sized cantaloupes so freshly picked that they still have a prickly rind, their sweet aroma filling the truck during the short drive home. Palm-sized eggplants with a color so rich that you can see why "Aubergine" is their true name.

These tiny eggplants have been a creative challenge for me. I wanted to take advantage of their small size, what's the point of chopping them up for stir frys or a pasta dish? Here are some savory Eggplant, Tomato & Basil Paninis (no bread used) which are perfect late summer appetizers. With their small size, we had to grill the eggplant slices by themselves, then stack the layers of sharp english cheddar, fresh basil, and ripe tomatoes.

There is a large eggplant on my counter, currently awaiting our Le Creuset panini pan...I suspect using the larger produce will make it possible to grill these as an entire sandwich.

Don't miss the rest of The Inspired Plate's posts for this month! Please start with Laurie Vengoechea, Southern California Food Photographer's gorgeous post, so inspiring!!

On lucky days I snatch up this stand's tomatillos, freshly picked the day I get them. At a mere 10 cents each I couldn't help but put a few dollars worth into the back of the truck (our basket was already full to the brim with tomatoes) and make the simplest Verde Sauce that inspired the next day's Green Enchiladas. These might be one of the most beautiful fruits around. Like delicate little green chinese lanterns...