Posts tagged ‘Mozzarella’

April 12, 2012

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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September 6, 2011

PIZZA NIGHT

Pizza Margherita

Pesto Pizza

Carmelized Onion, Anchovy & Olive Pizza

When asked what his favorite foods are, my husband will always respond – a good sandwich (preferably a Philly Cheese Steak with Whiz), a killer hamburger (with cheese, of course) and pizza. He swears it’s all about the bread when it comes to a great sandwich, but when it comes to pizza he claims that it’s not only the crust, but the proper ratio of sauce to cheese. He firmly believes the less toppings, the better. I know I’ll regret saying this, but he’s right (just this time).

I’ve spent two days making pizza. I’m not a baker, but to my surprise the initial fear of using yeast and kneading dough were quickly erased. It was easy! I’d like to say we’ll never order takeout pizza again, but I think that’s a stretch. Homemade certainly doesn’t look perfect like what you pick up at the pizza place, but it definitely tastes great!

Here’s the dough recipe I used inspired by Emeril. There are many variations out there, some which use a stand mixer. I selected this recipe because you use your hands – it sounded like fun.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4oz) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix the water, yeast, honey and 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Stir and let sit until the yeast foams. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the teaspoon of salt and mix by hand until it starts to come together. Continue to add more flour a 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky. Both times I made it, I didn’t end up using all the flour. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it is smooth. Form into a ball. Put the remaining tbsp of olive oil in a large bowl and turn the dough ball to coat, cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit to rise for a couple of hours in a warm, not drafty place. It should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and have fun!

We made three kinds of pizza as you can see in the photos above. Pizza Margherita, pesto pizza (both with fresh mozzarella and basil) and the third is similar to what the French call a Pissadeliere and the Spanish call a Coca de Cebes. Using a pizza crust, I call it another opportunity to eat anchovies. I see a lot more homemade pizza in our future.

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