11 Jan Hot off the press: Panini for breakfast, lunch and dinner
In Italy, cured meats such as salame, prosciutto and mortadella most often appear in panini, but for me, getting a panini grill for Christmas provided for a week’s worth of fun experimenting with various bread and filling combinations and learning the ins and outs of the newest addition to our collection of kitchen appliances.
The advantage of making a grilled concoction in a panini press is that both sides of the bread get toasted at the same time while the filling gets warmed and melted, creating a toasty treat with a hot filling in no time at all.
With various heat settings and height adjustments for the press plates, the sky’s the limit on what you can grill with the panini press: bruschetta, homemade English muffins and even ice cream cones. I can’t wait!
If you’re in the market for a panini grill, it pays to do some research before making the purchase. I love the Breville Panini Press I received as a gift because of its various heat settings and adjustable hinge allowing you to control the height of the top grill plate, preventing unfortunate squishing of filling ingredients.
That said, if you don’t already have a griddle or a waffle iron, spending a bit more to get the all-in-one model that Cuisinart makes may be a good option for you. Another selling point of the Cuisinart is that the removable plates are dishwasher safe, making cleanup a snap.
Oh sure, some people will tell you there’s no need for a panini grill. You can use a foil-wrapped brick (!) or a frying pan and a spatula to make perfect panini sandwiches. I am here to tell you, once you fire up your panini grill and explore the possibilities, you might just think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Hot off the press is this week’s Special of the day: Panini for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with recipes for French Toast Panini with Cinnamon Apples and Maple Cream Cheese Filling, Mini Reuben Panini and Steak Sandwich Panini with Onions, Peppers and Provolone. Happy cooking!French Toast Panini with Cinnamon Apples and Maple Cream Cheese Filling (makes 8 full pieces) 2 apples 2 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon sugar 2 eggs ½ cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 3 tablespoons maple syrup 1 teaspoon maple extract dash of salt 16 slices buttermilk bread Powdered sugar for garnish, if desired Cinnamon for garnish, if desired In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt butter and sauté apples briefly. Add cinnamon and sugar and stir to combine. In a shallow dish or pie plate, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla. Set aside. Using electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, maple extract and salt until thoroughly combined. Preheat panini press. Spread about 1-2 tablespoons maple cream cheese over bread slices. Top half of the bread slices with 2-3 tablespoons cinnamon apples, leaving a border of just maple cream cheese. Place remaining bread slices spread with maple cream cheese over the top of the cinnamon apples, pressing edges to seal. Carefully transfer filled French toast to egg mixture, turning to coat. Transfer assembled French toast to preheated panini grill, adjusting top grill plate to high so it doesn’t smash the French toast and squish the filling out. Grill until light golden brown and warmed through. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and additional cinnamon, if desired. Enjoy! Mini Reuben Panini (makes 10-12 mini reubens) 1 cup real mayonnaise ¼ cup chili sauce 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 1 teaspoon onion, minced Salt, to taste 1 package cocktail rye bread (deli) ½ pound deli corned beef, shaved ½ pound swiss cheese, thinly sliced 1 cup sauerkraut Preheat panini grill. Make the Russian dressing: In a medium bowl, stir together mayonnaise, chili sauce, horseradish, onion and salt to mix. Spread a thin layer of Russian dressing over the rye breads. Top half of the rye breads with corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese. Put remaining rye breads on top of assembled sandwiches. Place on preheated Panini grill, adjusting height of top panini plate so it doesn’t squish the reubens. Grill until lightly toasted and cheese is melted. Serve with additional Russian dressing for dipping. Enjoy!
Steak Sandwich Panini with Onions, Peppers and Provolone (makes 4 sandwiches) 1 pound sirloin steak 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 yellow bell pepper 1 red bell pepper 1 sweet onion ½ pound provolone cheese, sliced 8 slices garlic sourdough bread 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced Grill the steak: Using a sharp knife, slice steak into long thin ribbons. Heat panini grill on sear setting. Brush grill with olive oil. Close lid. Grill for one to two minutes, until cooked to desired degree of doneness. Remove from panini grill and set aside. Turn off panini grill; when cool, wipe clean. Set steak strips aside. Season with garlic salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill the Vegetables: Grill peppers. Brush one tablespoon olive oil on panini grill. Heat panini grill to sear. Place pepper strips on heated panini grill. Close lid. Grill for two minutes. Remove peppers from panini press. Grill onions. Brush one tablespoon olive oil on panini grill. Heat panini grill to sear. Place onions on the heated panini grill. Close lid. Grill for two minutes. Remove onions from panini press, set aside. Change heat setting to panini. Assemble Sandwich: On bread, layer provolone cheese, peppers, steak, and onions. Top with second slice of bread. Brush with garlic olive oil. Set on pre-heated panini grill, adjusting top panini plate so sandwich is not squished. Brush top with garlic olive oil. Grill for one and a half to two minutes or until bread is grilled. 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced Serve with steak sauce for dipping. *Could be made with leftover steak, sliced into thin ribbons.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.