Posts tagged ‘Peppers’

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.



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



  • 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



  • 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


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!

March 30, 2012

Roasted Hot Peppers & Lemony Ricotta

Assorted Italian Hot Peppers

On a recent work-related trip to Long Island, New York, I was fortunate enough to be taken to an Italian Market. With all the amazing foods around me, my first instinct was to grab a cart and do some serious food shopping, but I was 3 hours from home, and I only had a couple of minutes to look around. These beautiful peppers instantly caught my eye. I couldn’t leave without grabbing up an assortment to take home. I actually stated out loud that I couldn’t leave that day without these peppers! My insane food obsessions are with me at all times. I think I should start traveling with a cooler in the trunk, so I can randomly buy groceries wherever I go. You know, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

I have a close friend whose Italian grandmother lived with her growing up. She was an adorable, non-English speaking, straight off-the-boat from Sicily, grandmother. A few years ago my friend shared her grandmother’s recipe for baked ricotta. Simple and so delicious. She served it with an olive, lemon zest, sun-dried tomato spread. I really do have a dear friend who lived with her little Italian grandmother and who shared a recipe for baked ricotta, but my romanticized memory of her Sicilian grandmother was all wrong, damn it! At this point I don’t think she’s even from Sicily! When I spoke with my friend to confirm the origins of the recipe for this post, she ruined it with the truth… the recipe was from her mother who found it in some magazine years ago. Oh well… regardless, I’m sticking with my memories of what I thought was her grandma’s recipe, and Anne Burrell’s baked ricotta from her book, Cook Like a Rockstar, as inspiration to make this cold ricotta spread to serve with the hot peppers. No baking required here. Lemony, creamy and soothing against the heat of the peppers – this ricotta partners perfectly with the roasted peppers and garlic.

Ready for the oven


  • About 2-2 1/4lbs assorted hot peppers (long hots, small chilies, frying peppers – you choose, just make sure they’re spicy)
  • 2 big heads of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the peppers: for cubanello/frying peppers, remove the core and cut in half or into thirds – like big rings. Cut long hots into 2 inch chunks or thirds, keeping seeds intact. Any small chilies can be left whole. Line a large baking dish with foil and add the peppers and whole peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat and give it a generous sprinkle of coarse salt. Using your hands, toss everything around ensuring it’s completely coated.

Place in the preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting for another 35-40 minutes or until the peppers and garlic cloves are soft and slightly golden on the edges. You want the peppers to slump but still hold together. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. Put in a serving dish and drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.

To store any remaining peppers, place in a bowl and add olive oil to just cover the top of the peppers. Put in the refrigerator, covered. These will still be delicious for a few days. Serve at room temperature.

Roasted Italian Hot Peppers & Garlic

These peppers are really good with fresh mozzarella on ciabatta, or as I served them here with this lemony ricotta spread on crusty whole wheat baguette.


There’s really no science to this combination, so my apologies for not having exact measurements.

  • 1-1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whip it up like you mean it! The olive oil will help the ricotta become a bit fluffy, so just add enough oil until you like the consistency. You should only need about 1 tbsp.

Spread this deliciousness on bread and top with roasted hot peppers and mushed roasted garlic cloves. YUM!

I’m serious…. YUM!

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