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Panini

September 29, 2011

In Italian, panino, literally means “small bread roll”, its plural form being panini.  Panino in Italian also is the word used for sandwich.  But unlike in the United States where almost any food item served in between to slices of bread could be termed a sandwich, in Italy a sandwhich is generally made from a roll, or loaf of bread, cut horizontally, filled with any number of ingredients and then pressed by a warming grill.  That type of Italian sandwhich has become known as a panini, where it is specifically a pressed sandwich and not one where the bread is toasted.

For my husband and I, a panini has become a simple dinner meal that we’ll make when we don’t really feel like cooking, or when we have extra cold cuts laying and bread lying around that we’re trying to get rid of.  Since the filling for a panini can be virtually anything you want it to be, it makes paninis a simple and easy option for dinner.  Basically, you just take your left overs and throw them all between 2 slices of bread and press it together.

Shortly after Christmas this past year, during the after Christmas sales, my husband and I saw a great deal on a panini press, so we decided to purchase it.  It’s become a great tool for us and a terrific addition to our kitchen gadgets.  It’s basically fool-proof, you just plug it in, and turn up the temperature on the dial.  When the machine is heated to the temperature you need it, the green light turns on and tells you that you’re ready to go.  You lift up the handle and put your prepared sandwich in between the top and bottom panel, then lower the top panel down on top of the sandwich.  You press down and let the hot grill do its work to “cook” the sandwich.  If you want pretty grill marks on your pressed sandwich, just turn your sandwich on the grill pan 90 degrees about halfway through the “cooking” process.  When your sandwich is done, just cut the sandwich in half (on a bias to make it look pretty) and you’re ready to eat.  Depending on what you put in your sandwich, you could have dinner on the table in 10 minutes or less!

Your panini can be as gourmet, or as simple, as you want it to be.  That’s the beauty of it all, you can customize it the way you want it to be.  Paninis are also a really good way to get rid of some food sitting in your refrigerator.  For instance, I had rotisserie chicken leftovers one night along with some wheat bread I needed to use and some cheese, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes in my refrigerator; the perfect makings of a rotisserie chicken panini.

I decided to spice things up a bit by taking my horseradish dijon mayonnaise and kick it up a notch by mixing in some fresh chopped basil and rosemary and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  Mix it together for some really creamy, flavorful mayonnaise that I spread on the slices of wheat bread.  I then layered in the sliced cheddar cheese, juicy red tomatoes, crisp iceberg lettuce and heated up sliced rotisserie chicken.

This alone is enough to make a good rotisserie chicken sandwich to eat.  But throw it in the panini press, heat it through, make the bread nice and crispy, and you’ve got yourself a panini for dinner, or lunch, or whatever meal you want.

There are tons of different variations to the panini.  You can take home-made pesto (basil, toasted pine nuts, fresh grated parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil blended together) and use that as the spread for your bread.  Add in some grilled chicken and some tomatoes and cheese and you’re done!

You can also use all different types of bread, from normal sandwich bread (wheat, white, grain, etc). to sourdough bread to ciabatta bread.  You just want to make sure that the bread you are using isn’t already too crusty, because as the panini bread press toastes the bread, you don’t want it to be so crusty you can’t bite into your panini.

Paninis are also really versatile and can be served with anything.  If you feel like one panini isn’t for dinner then it can easily go with a bowl of soup, or a small side salad, or a side of veggies.  Really, it’ll go with just about anything.

Can dinner get any easier?  A panini press can spice up your dinner and turn it from bland to glam!

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    October 3, 2011 9:14 pm

    I really wanted a panini press, but I already have so many kitchen gadgets I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. I love tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwiches in the summer. Right now I just oven-bake them. And they’re really good that way, but you need the right kind of bread. Still eyeing the panini-maker….hmmm….

    • October 3, 2011 9:34 pm

      We got our panini press on sale right after Christmas on sale. We were eyeing for awhile. We ended up buying it online for less than $20. It’s great. Makes making sandwiches so easy! What kind of bread do you usually use?

  2. Amanda permalink
    October 6, 2011 11:47 am

    I buy it at CostCo – it is like little chiabatta breads (just a little bigger than a hamburger bun). I just keep them in the freezer and take them out one-by-one when needed. They bake up so good and the moisture from the tomatoes and the tons of cheese I always put on everything doesn’t make it too soggy. But with a panini maker I would think you could use almost any kind of bread you have on hand.

    • October 6, 2011 12:38 pm

      So, it’s dough that you’re buying at Costco? And then you can just freeze and them pop them in the oven one by one as you need it? So, I’d find it in the freezer section? That sounds so good to me. I hate having to buy fresh bread or rolls, and then not using them and having them get all moldy.

      As for the panini maker, yeah, you can use any type of bread. You want it to be able to stand up to some moisture and not get too soggy. We’ve used regular sandwich bread, sourdough bread, rolls, etc.

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