Paninis are a great lunch option. They are filling yet not too heavy that you feel like you just ate 10 pounds of rocks.
I usually opt for vegetable paninis but that’s mainly because I am too impatient to cook any meat to add in, such as chicken. My ingredients for this are whatever vegetables and cheeses I have in the refrigerator at the moment. Today I found mushrooms, roasted red peppers, sweet onions, basil, and havarti cheese. Havarti cheese is superb in paninis. It has a great melted texture, as well as a nice subtle flavor. Paninis are also a great way to fit in vegetables into your diet that you usually don’t enjoy eating on their own. For me, it’s usually eggplant. They are just a little too booger textured for me. Other ingredients that I highly suggest putting in this sandwich is Boursin cheese, goat cheese, brie cheese, pesto, prosciutto, eggplant, or sundried tomatoes (not all of these at once…unless you have a gigantic loaf of bread and a healthy appetite). Paninis really taste great with all sort of ingredients.
First: slice all of your vegetables. Remember to slice your ingredients evenly. You don’t want one undercooked piece of onion to surprise you during your chowing. Take these sliced vegetables and throw them into a frying pan with some olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper (never the pre-ground kind!) and saute over medium high heat.
Second: While these ingredients cook, start assembling your sandwich. I usually like to keep whatever cheese I have chosen to enter my belly as the first layer of my sandwich. I find that this keeps a lot of the ingredients from falling out easily once melted. Place the havarti cheese on the top half of the ciabatta bread. Next, place some fresh basil on the cheese. On the other half of the bread, place the roasted red peppers. I suggest you pat dry these after taking them out of the jar…unless you want an extremely juicy sandwich.
Third: by this time, your vegetables should be cooked through. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and blast that vent fan! Allow this to simmer for a couple minutes. Allowing the vinegar to simmer makes it much sweeter and allows the vegetables to absorb the liquid. I’m an avid fan of not having a far too vinegary and dripping sandwich.
Fourth: place your cooked vegetables on your pre-layered sandwich. If you have a panini press, then you know what to do. If you’re like me and lack such a glorious machine, take a frying pan and something heavy. I used a cast iron pan but you can use anything else that will be heavy enough to flatten the sandwich. A baby perhaps? Let the sandwich crisp up in the pan for about 2 minutes on each side on low heat. This will let the ingredients bind together inside the bread.
Fifth: Finally, slice your sandwich and eat away!