I know any photo involving gooey, melted cheese is guaranteed to set your mouth a-watering, but trust me when I say that this sandwich is legitimately one of the most delicious ones that I have ever tasted. There's the fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe loaded with garlic and spicy red pepper flakes, and a sweet, slow cooked tomato jam, all pressed between a loaf of Italian bread like a crispy panini.
I am usually skeptical about any savory recipe that calls for sugar, and nine times out of ten I will opt to leave it out. However, this recipe calls for an entire cup of the stuff for only one and a half pounds of tomatoes, which is pretty intense. Clearly, this tomato jam is supposed to be sweet... So I bravely followed the recipe—or at least I cut back on the sugar far less than I really wanted to. I still couldn't bear to put in more than three quarters of a cup, if that.
Sure enough, after an hour of slow cooking the tomatoes with lemon juice, and a little cumin and fresh ginger, not to mention the sugar, it was rich and syrupy, but very, very sweet, almost to the point of being cloying. And yet, there was more than just sweetness in there, thanks to the cumin and a dash of red pepper, so Nathan and I took a leap of faith and assembled the sandwich as directed. Lo and behold, it totally worked.
Obviously, the tomato jam is still undeniably sweet, but the broccoli rabe is bitter and spicy, there's a little bit of saltiness from shredded provolone, and the melted mozzarella's creaminess binds it all together. Somehow, it all balanced out, resulting in one of the most delicious flavor combinations I've ever stuck between two slices of bread.
And, for good measure, what good Italian doesn't want to make a delicious tasting sandwich in the colors of the flag of our motherland?
Also, panini press. Hell yeah. (I used my dutch oven, but it was still pretty sweet.)
Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, Fresh Mozzarella, and Tomato Jam Sandwich
1½ lb plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
a scant ¾ cup sugar (or a whole cup, if you're very very brave)
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
½ lb broccoli rabe
2 tbsp kosher salt
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup shredded provolone cheese
1 lb fresh mozzarella, drained and thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
4 large sesame-seed cemita-style rolls (or any soft crusty sandwich roll/loaf of Italian bread)
Combine tomatoes, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, cumin, black pepper, pepper flakes, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat until bubbling. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 1 hour. Cool the jam, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a gallon of water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli rabe and salt. Cook, stirring constantly until water returns to a boil, about 1 minute. Transfer broccoli to bowl of ice water and let sit 2 minutes. Drain well in a salad spinner and chop into 1 inch pieces. Transfer to medium bowl.
Add garlic, pepper flakes, and olive oil to a small skillet and heat over low heat until garlic is sizzling, about 5 minutes. Pour garlic oil over broccoli rabe and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in cheese.
Split sandwich rolls or loaves. Spread a few tablespoons tomato jam on top side of rolls. Spread broccoli rabe on bottom sides and top with mozzarella. Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Close sandwiches and toast on a panini press or in a large skillet weighted down with a Dutch oven until crisp and melted. Cut as desired and serve.