Paninis are among the world's most awesome sandwiches. They tend to be simple consisting of a couple of slices of coarse bread, some meat, and some cheese that are pressed together. Traditionally they were grilled over a charcoal fire, but these days they're more often made using a panini press.
The trick to making a panini using a real fire is letting the coals burn down to medium heat, pushing them all to one side and then grilling the sandwiches off the fire. You still need to keep a close eye on them to prevent burning. But they come off the grill crackly from the olive oil, smoky from the fire, and luscious with meat and cheese. Also, be careful to choose substantial bread. Soft bread simply won't work properly.
The ingredient lists for these sandwiches are short and simple. That's because they rely on the best ingredients I can get and too many extraneous flavors detract from rather than add to the sandwiches.
General direction for all panini:
• 1) Place a slice of bread oil-side down on the grill.
• 2) Add fillings.
• 3) Add last slice of bread oil-side up.
• 4) Place a baking sheet over the sandwiches and press down - but not too hard. Weight baking sheet with couple of large cans.
• 5) Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until dark grill lines appear.
• 6) Turn sandwiches over, press down with baking sheet again, and weight down again.
• 7) Cook 3 to 5 minutes longer and serve.
Authentic Italian Panini:
This Italian panini uses simple ingredients such as fresh basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar to create an authentic Italian flavor. Serve with a fresh salad or fruit.
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
• 8 1-oz. slices Italian bread
• 8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham
• 4 1-oz. slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
• 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small dish. Using a basting brush, brush each slice of bread, on one side, with the olive oil mixture.
2. Heat a two-sided grill, or panini press, and coat with cooking spray. With the oiled side up, top 4 of the slices of bread each with 2 oz. of ham, one slice of cheese, and 1/2 of a tablespoon of the minced basil. Top each panini with another slice of bread, oiled side down.
3. Grill each panini about 4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, and the bread is crisp. Serves 4
Pesto Panini and Soup Recipes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
sea or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 large can roma tomatoes, crushed
2 quarts chicken stock
½ pound green beans, cut into ½” pieces
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup small shaped pasta, cooked and cooled
1 cup Swiss chard or spinach, cut into 1″ pieces
1 small lemon, juiced
2 cups cocktail meatballs, cooked, defrosted if frozen, optional
½ bunch basil leaves, packed
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
8 slices of thick French or Italian bread
sun-dried tomato pesto or Dijon mustard
4 slices Black Forest ham
1 cup Fontina cheese, grated, divided
1. If your slow cooker has an insert, place it over medium heat with oil; otherwise use a heavy fry pan. Add onions, carrots and celery, season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until translucent.
2. Return the insert into the slow cooker and add tomatoes, stock, and green beans. Cook on low heat for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
3. About 15 minutes before serving, add kidney and cannellini beans, pasta, Swiss chard or spinach and meatballs, if using. Serve with a swirl of pesto and lemon juice to taste.
1. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, add garlic and pine nuts. Pulse until you have fairly small pieces.
2.Add basil and pulse until it becomes a paste. Add cheese and pulse to blend; with motor running, add oil until you have a smooth paste.
3.Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
1. Heat a panini grill while you prepare the sandwich. Or if the sandwich is pre-made, remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
2. Brush pesto or mustard on one side of all 8 slices of bread. Layer with ham and cheese, cover with the other side of prepared bread. Brush the outside of the bread very lightly with oil or butter and place that side down on the hot panini press. Brush the slice of bread facing up with a little butter or oil and close the panini lid. Cook until the cheese is melted and the bread has toasted to a light brown.