The Perfect Panini

I’ve committed a lot of time to the sandwich at 4plates. Creating unique sandwiches, finding ways to use leftovers to make a sandwich, talking about sandwiches, and of course, eating sandwiches. I’ve declared that the sandwich is my husband’s favorite food group, and other than the banana, it could quite possibly be the perfect food. According to Alan Davidson’s Oxford Food Companion, the origin of the sandwich is generally attributed to the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. He was said to have eaten his food in the form of a sandwich to avoid having to stop playing cards. Meat tucked between two pieces of bread, kept the cards free from meaty, greasy fingers… lovely.

The sandwich has evolved far beyond the Earl’s slab of meat on bread. Almost every culture has their own version of the sandwich. It’s no surprise that the Italians have perfected the marriage of meat and bread with their panini sandwich. Whether made on a hearty ciabatta, perfectly baked focaccia or slices of Italian boule, it’s fantastico!  We received a panini press years ago as a gift, and I have to admit we use it often. It makes the insides deliciously melty, and the bread gets that perfect grilled crunch. No oil or butter needed on the outside of the bread, eliminating unnecessary calories. I have a Delonghi machine, but there are many brands & styles available. For around fifty bucks, you can get yourself a nice electric panini press.

GRILLED CHICKEN WITH APPLES & BRIE

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced grilled chicken breast
  • Sliced Granny Smith apples
  • Brie cheese
  • Whole grain baguette
  • A schmear of Dijon

ROSEMARY HAM, MANCHEGO & FIG PRESERVES

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced ham (Serrano or I use Boars Head Rosemary Ham)
  • Manchego Spanish cheese, sliced
  • Fresh rosemary (just a few chopped leaves sprinkled inside the sandwich)
  • Fig preserves
  • Hearty sliced Italian boule or other rustic bread

FRESH MOZZARELLA, ROASTED PEPPERS, BASIL LEAVES & BALSAMIC

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Whole basil leaves
  • Roasted red peppers (jarred is fine here, just pat them dry before putting on the sandwich)
  • Sliced Italian bread
  • Drizzle of good balsamic vinegar

MIX AND MATCH PANINI PAIRINGS

Many a panini has been made in our kitchen. Here is a list of a some delectable ingredients that you can put between a hearty hunk of bread. It’s like the old Chinese restaurant menus… pick one from column A, two from column B and pray the fortune cookie you picked has you winning the lottery.

MEATS: Prosciutto, capicola, spicy soppressata, grilled chicken & good quality sliced turkey

CHEESES: Goat cheese, smoked or fresh mozzarella, super sharp provolone, fontina, Manchego & brie

VEGGIES & GREENS: Arugula, baby spinach, swiss chard, kale, artichokes, sliced avocado & of course, tomatoes

GRILLED VEGETABLES: Eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, yellow squash & red onions

SPREADS & SAUCES: Basil or sun-dried tomato pesto, fig or raspberry preserves, olive tapenade, balsamic drizzle & Sriracha for that spicy kick

* Don’t forget you can sweeten it up too. Nutella and banana could be the best combo yet!

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5 Comments to “The Perfect Panini”

  1. I have a friend who is a stickler for grammar. We love to wind him up by one of the group casually mentioning that they had a panini for lunch. He will jump in to the conversation and say “it’s panino. Panini is the plural.” He is right but I don’t think the rest of the world is paying attention…
    Best,
    Conor

    • Ha! I don’t think they are paying attention either. I actually looked it up when I was writing this. There are sites that write paninis for the plural – definitely not right. Even my panini press is called a panini press not a panino press… I will have to look further, now you have me intrigued (confused). I don’t like to publically display incorrect grammar either 🙂
      Regardless, it is a delicious sandwich!
      Have a great weekend!

  2. We haven’t yet splurged for a press yet- we make do with our Calphlaon NS fry pan and an All Clad lid…but “pizza sandwiches” as they are fondly known in my house are a frequent menu item. That grilled chicken and apple, thugh,is making me desire a press madly!

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