Friday, September 24, 2010

Paninis (AKA Asiago Cheese Bread Part Two)

If you remember the Asiago Cheese Bread I posted a bit ago, I finally pulled some of it out and made good use of it, as requested by the husband. Every so often, for a quick, easy and versatile dinner, we will make a couple of Panini. He suggested that instead of the crusty artisan bread we buy for it, we should try using the cheese bread. He’s a genius, I tell you.

Ironically, my first panini sandwich was from a quick service restaurant in Paris. I had no idea that it was even Italian in origin. It had ham and cheese and was grilled to perfection between the plates of a panini press. The press grills both sides evenly and at the same time, and squishes the sandwich down. The result is a thin, crispy, melty sandwich that haunted my dreams for years. Ok, maybe that’s a little overdramatic, but it was definitely a step above your ordinary grilled ham and cheese. When I returned from Paris, I wanted to recreate the sandwich, but I thought it would be impossible without a panini press.

I tried a few ‘pressing’ options, some with more success than others. First attempt ever, my hand. Hot butter, hot cheese and a hot pan. Ouch. You’d think I would have stopped to consider maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. But that is how mesmerizing a good Panini is! Next I tried a pan on top of the sandwich. It worked better, but was still a little unwieldy. And I was terrified I would somehow scratch the nonstick cooking surface. My personal favorite was my last attempt. A rock. Literally a five-pound rock my mom had brought back years ago from a trip she took to Arizona. With a little aluminum foil, I transformed it from a lowly doorstop into a makeshift Panini press.

Finally, several years later, we were given our griddler. It’s a griddle, indoor grill and, you guessed it, Panini press! What a glorious day when I could finally make my first ‘real’ Panini without the use of a rock!

If you don’t have a Panini press, you can still make a Panini, you just need to find something weighty to press your sandwich down. The fillings are endless. My husband, the carnivore, loves pepperoni, salami and capiccola ham with marinara sauce and provolone cheese. I take roasted potato, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms and some goat cheese for mine. I love that we can satisfy our individual cravings for dinner without actually having to cook two entirely different meals.


There isn't really a recipe for panini, it is more of a method. I preheat my griddler to the 'sear' setting, aka as hot at it can get. If you're using your stovetop, I'd venture that medium would be good since you don't want to burn your bread.

Layer anything delicious between two slices of bread, lightly brush with olive oil or spread with a little butter, and press! I usually leave them in for about a minute and a half, then rotate ninety degrees for the cross-hatched grill marks. I leave it on for another minute or two, until the cheese is melty and it's all heated through.

You can fill as suggested above, choose your own, or even make a dessert panini with nutella and bananas.

My mouth is watering.

1 comment:

ASH said...

haha I use an indoor grill and a lid from a pot and hold it down with my hands. I actually tried my waffle maker too .. but things get a bit squished in there. :P

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