The grilled cheese you loved as a kid has grown up, mature and sophisticated in the form of the panini. Panini are popular choices on many restaurant menus and are simply, hearty pieces of bread, grilled with various filling on a unique press. The simple preparation and adaptability make panini a great weeknight dinner option.
Around our house, almost any leftover will eventually find its way into a panini. Be creative. Any combination of ingredients that you like will make a great panini.
Bread, bread, bread – The most important component of a panini is the choice of bread. Stay away from traditional loaf sandwich bread. The soft texture will not achieve a toasted crust and may fall apart when fillings are added. Think bakery bread, rolls or buns. Be sure to choose bread that is thick enough to hold all of your ingredients together.
Meat – Your local deli counter is stocked with many varieties of cold cuts that are ideal for panini. Try different selections than your normal ham and turkey that you order for cold sandwiches. Grilled chicken, seafood, barbeque, pork tenderloin and meatloaf are excellent choices if you are using leftovers.
Vegetables – Most vegetables can be used cold or cooked. The exception is lettuce, which should always be served cold.
Cheese – My best friends are cheddar, gouda and brie. Cheese is my favorite part of a panini. Choosing a cheese that melts well is essential. Stay away from hard, firm cheeses like parmesan. Semisoft and medium cheeses are best.
Condiments – Think of condiments as the glue that holds your panini together. Use them sparingly. They should compliment the panini rather than overpower it. Brushing the outside of the bread with extra virgin olive oil is a simple touch that will add a lot of added flavor.
TRUFFLE GRILLED CHEESE
Makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices of tuscan bread
4 slices of cheddar cheese
4 slices of fontina cheese
4 slices of gruyere cheese
Preheat the panini grill to medium. Lay slices of bread on a clean, dry work surface or cutting board. Layer the three cheese slices between the slices of bread. Butter both sides of the bread with truffle butter. Use a small amount as a little goes a long way. Grill for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
*Note: You can find truffle butter in the dairy section of specialty grocery stores.
BEEF & CHEDDAR
Makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices of sourdough bread
1 pound of deli roast beef, sliced thin
8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced and sauteed
Horseradish spread (recipe follows)
Preheat the panini grill to medium. Lay slices of bread on a clean, dry work surface or cutting board. Spread a thin layer of horseradish spread on the bottom pieces of bread. In order, top with onions, roast beef and cheddar cheese. Grill for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Whisk mayonnaise and horseradish in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
CHOCOLATE & BANANA PRESSED POUND CAKE
Makes 4 desserts
8 slices of Sara Lee pound cake, cut into ½” thick slices
2 bananas, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
Preheat the panini grill to medium. Lay slices of pound cake on a clean, dry work surface or cutting board. Spread a layer of Nutella on the top and bottom slices of pound cake. Layer bananas on top of Nutella. Grill for about 6 minutes or until Nutella is just melted. Serve immediately.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share with Wilson Living readers? Send your original, unpublished recipes to Stacey@wilsonlivingmagazine.com.