Italy's greatest cultural export in the last decade
has been the seductively simple, yet flavor bursting
pressed sandwiches known as panini. Traditionally
found in cafes, bars and trattorias from Firenze to
Napoli, Venezia to Turino, the popularity of the Italian panini has surged
across Europe and recently
to North American shores.
Panini is simply the Italian name for sandwich*,however
it is almost always used in reference to sandwiches that are placed in
a two-sided cooking press that compresses and grills the sandwich until
hot and toasted.
Unlike an American style sandwich cooker or pie iron, a Panini Press is
not designed to crimp the bread of the
sandwich. Rather, the goal is to uniformly compress the sandwich as it
toasts without the ingredients or
bread being trimmed by the edge of the cooker. The end result of cooking
in a Panini Press is a sandwich
with a surprising depth of flavor and layered composition.
Using expressive and fresh ingredients are key to the traditional panini
sandwich. This starts with quality
artisan bread such as ciabatta rolls, foccacia or baguette
- sliced open and filled with your choice of vegetables, cheese or meats.
Once the sandwich is composed, lightly oil the outside of the bread, place
in the Panini Press,
close the latch and place over medium heat (stovetop, campfire or barbeque
grills - charcoal or gas.) After
about 4 minutes, flip the Panini Press and continue
cooking for another 4 minutes or until the sandwich is
hot and toasted. Cooking time varies with the bread and ingredients used
so just use this as a guideline and after you've made a few panini you'll
develop a feeling for the cooking time.
Panini can vary from the simple prosciutto, mozzarella & tomato to
more complex recipes that involve prep cooking such as chicken breast
with roasted red peppers and
pesto mayonnaise (remember that all uncooked meat
such as chicken must be precooked before using in a sandwich.) The diversity
in ingredients, experimentation and creativity used in conjunction with
such a simple cooking device is what makes using a Panini Press so fulfilling.
Remember that the idea is not to overwhelm the sandwich with too many
ingredients, but to focus on the
balance of flavors and textures that you want to bring out when the panini
is pressed and toasted.
Panini Ideas To Get You Started:
Ricotta, Roasted Peppers
Basil, Mozzarella, Tomato, Balsamic Vinegar
Eggplant Caponata, Roasted Red Peppers, Goat Cheese
Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Arugula
Pesto Mayonnaise, Chicken, Red Pepper
Ham, Mushrooms, Gruyere
Tomato, Mozzarella, Coppa Salami
Ham, Gruyere, Tomato
Mozzarella, Tomato, Pancetta
Ham, Emmental Cheese, Basil
Tuna, Olives, Anchovies
Roasted Eggplant, Goat Cheese, Basil
Tuna, Tomato, Olives, Mozzarella
Gorgonzola, Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Mixed Greens
that's not entirely accurate.
Although in the US the common term
used is "panini", this actually denotes
the plural form of sandwich in Italian
with "panino" being the singular.