Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Paninis, Real and Fake

Apparently, this is not a real panini
Wikipedia tells me that a true panino (panini is the plural) is a sandwich made from other than sliced bread, such as a ciabatta roll. So I guess my panini shown here is just a toasted sandwich. Nevertheless, I will call it a panini, because I made it in a panini press.

In cold weather, these sandwiches make wonderful meals. They have several virtues: they are warm, they hold a lot of filling tidily, and they lend themselves to experimentation. (If you prefer not to experiment, there are many panini recipes online.)

There are several secrets to making a good panini. First, use a bread that has some heft; you don't want the outer covering to fall apart. Second, use something in the filling that helps everything stick together. I usually add some sort of cheese—sometimes even two or three types. Third, mix a variety of flavors, bland and sharp, mild and savory. A few pieces of chopped olive, sun dried tomato, or chopped scallion, for example, can add some zip to an otherwise bland sandwich. Finally, don't burn it. My panini press is a cast-iron pan with a heavy ridged weight that rests on the sandwich. I preheat both the pan and the weight, brush them with a bit of oil, add the sandwich, and then turn down the heat. This allows time for the filling to melt without the bread burning. Usually, I turn it only once.

The panini shown above has one slice of ham, one slice of provolone, a few crumbles of goat cheese, a few slivers of cheddar, roasted red peppers, sliced tomato, some chopped scallion, and some shredded spinach. Other useful ingredients include black olives, pesto, sundried tomatoes, mayonnaise, mushrooms, and any leftover meat, sliced thin.

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