There are days that we are so busy I just don't have the time or the inclination to cook a full meal. The night was like that. The kids were going in ten different directions and no one was home at the same time. On days like this I pull out the panini press, lay out some bread, vegetable, cheeses and meats and let everyone use their imagination.
A panini is a sandwich typically made with cheese, meats and/or vegetables which is then pressed and grilled to perfection. The great thing about them is that you are only limited by your imagination.
I would recommend constructing your sandwich in this order from bottom to top: bread, condiment, cheese, meat, vegetables, cheese, (more condiment if you like) and top with your second slice of bread. This will allow the cheese to melt and the the meat and vegetables to warm enough to have the flavor blend well. Using a study bread is best.
We like to use sourdough, french, nutty multi-grain and rolls or baguettes. Keep in mind that rolls and baguettes get crispier on the outside than sliced bread so try to choose one that may be a little softer. As for condiments, all I can say it have fun. Some of our favorites are basil or sun dried tomato pesto sauce, Dijon mustard, artichoke spread, olive tapenade, or barbeque sauce. This is also a great way to use up left over vegetables, I will often add asparagus or green beans from a previous meal. Some of the vegetables we like in our sandwiches are tomatoes, onions, asparagus, green beans and artichoke hearts. My boys have tendency to leave out the veggies completely. As for cheese, well we could go on all day, there is cheddar, jack, Muenster, Bree, Havarti, Parmesan, Asiago....well you get the idea.
After assemble your sandwich place it in a hot panini press and allow it to grill for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is nicely toasted. If you don't have a panini press no problem you can still make these wonderful sandwiches. Take your assembled sandwich and place it in a skillet. Place a second skillet on top of the sandwich and weigh it down with a couple cans of soup, this will press the sandwich together. Cook the sandwich until toasted on about 2 or 3 minutes, remove soup cans and top skillet, flip sandwich over and replace top skillet and cans. I have had some people tell me they have wrapped a brick in foil and used that to press the sandwich while it cooks in a skillet. The idea is to use something heavy enough to press the sandwich but also be safe around heat. Also if you have a George Foreman grill those will work also, just watch as you close the grill that the top of your sandwich is not pushed off. I have used a silicone spatula to hold the sides in place as I closed the lid.
As you can see there are few rules to making a panini, and that is half the fun. Here is one of my favorite combinations.
I used sourdough Dijon, cheddar, deli slice turkey breast, asparagus, roasted marinated red peppers and Asiago cheese.
Ryan took a different route with Dijon mustard, Bree and ham on sourdough.....
Great now I want one with Bree, pears slices and caramelized onions.
Anyway, moving on, I decided to throw together a salad with some left over cucumbers also.
I used about 1-1/2 cups diced cucumbers, about 1 cup diced tomatoes, hand full (or two, I love this stuff) feta cheese, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
What could be better?