If you are looking for a hearty weekend lunch or a weeknight dinner that can be varied according to individual tastes, a sandwich is a pretty good place to start. Making a Panini is an easy way to spice up the meal, especially in cold weather with a side of soup. To make the Panini today I started with small loaves of half-baked ciabatta bread from Trader Joe’s. A hearty bread such as ciabatta or sourdough holds up nicely to the heat you will be adding to cook the panini and allows for a lot of ingredients stuffed inside. A little trick to add flavor and a little more crunch is to toast the inside of the sandwich first. Today I really went wild toasting the bread in a cast iron skillet that had a thin layer of bacon grease and roasted garlic…delicious.
Like I said you can really make any combination you want, I will share what I used today as it was amazing! This is enough for 4 small sandwiches.
4 small loaves of ciabatta bread, fully baked.
3-6 Tbsp of oil of choice (I used bacon grease)
2-3 cloves of roasted garlic
8-10 slices of fresh shaved Prosciutto
4 Tbsp of light spinach and artichoke dip (see previous post)
fresh shaved parmesan cheese
4 thin slices of fresh mozzarella
1/2 avocado, sliced thin
1 handful of arugula
1 small zucchini thinly sliced, sauteed until cooked adente.
1. Prepare your bread first: Cut loaves in half. Heat heavy skillet over medium heat to warm bacon grease (or oil of choice). Add thinly sliced roasted garlic to hot bacon grease, stirring for about 1 minute. Place sliced bread in skillet cut side down to brown in bacon grease, when you remove bread try to keep the garlic slices on the bread for extra flavor.
2. Prepare your sandwich by smearing spinach and artichoke dip inside top half of bread. Place a slice of mozzarella cheese on bottom side of bread, layer with zucchini, followed by prosciutto, avocado, a few pieces of arugula, fresh shaved parmesan (to make this a breakfast sandwich we added thinly sliced hardboiled eggs to a few as well).
3. In your heavy skillet on medium-low heat place the sandwich in the pan. If you have a panini press, use it to smoosh the sandwich gently. Flip over after a few minutes when bottom is browned and cheese is starting to melt.
A few secrets to a good panini:
-Place cheese in sandwich twice, once on the bottom and once on the top of your pile-up, this will keep the panini together better once cooked. You don’t have to use the same kind of cheese, I used mozzarella on the bottom and parmesan on the top.
-Slice all ingredients very thin so they can be layered smoothly to prevent them from slipping out when you take a bite or press the panini.
-Cook on lower heat for longer periods of time to allow center to get hot and cheese to melt.
-If you are using sliced bread (like a grilled cheese), butter the outside with a mixture of butter and mayonnaise (50/50 mix) to avoid burning while cooking.
-A classic combination that never fails: tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and a smear of pesto.