Of all the things I regret not eating in Italy this past spring, panini were near the top of the list. I know, it's just a sandwich, right? But there is something irresistible about the crispy bread, gooey high-quality cheese and slightly spicy condiments that just melts me.
I opened the refrigerator this afternoon after ten miles of marathon training in the gray and slightly rainy damp. I still have great salumi left over from making last week's risotto, plus some fabulous Sardinian cheese called Fiore Sardo, a mild firm sheep's-milk cheese with salty-sweet qualities. Suddenly a thought pinged in my head: OMG! Panino!
Like the kitchen-sink risotto from earlier this week, a panino can be made with whatever you have in your refrigerator. I used leftover cooked chicken, salumi, basil, cheese and salsa verde (recipe here), but you could use any combination of meats, cheeses and condiments. Instead of salsa verde, olive tapenade or roasted red peppers might be options.
|Seriously, I now keep this around the house at all times. It's also great in scrambled eggs.|
Good-quality bread is key. I used whole-grain bread because it was what I had, but given the option sourdough would be my choice. Make sure not to slice the bread too thickly, or the panino won't crisp, and that would just be sad.
Start by mincing a clove of garlic and combining it with two tablespoons olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Brush one side of each slice of bread with the olive oil-garlic mixture, then lay the slices oiled side down on a work surface. Heat your pan (preferably a grill pan) to medium and then brush the slices of meat with the leftover olive oil. When the pan is warm, briefly grill the meat on each side; remove and set aside.
Assemble the panino using your chosen ingredients. On the unoiled side, place the meat, cheese and condiments. Top with the other slice of bread, oiled side out.
If you are using a grill pan that doesn't have a lid, use another pot as a weight on top so the bread is really pressed into the pan. This is what causes the crispy sear.
Depending on how much heat your pan conducts, grill for a minute and a half to two minutes on each side, then flip it over. No rocket science here: just a warm, crispy, satisfying Sunday lunch.
Adapted from epicurious.com
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 slices bread, 1/4" thick
3 ounces cooked chicken, thinly sliced
1 ounce thinly sliced Fiore Sardo cheese
6-8 small basil leaves or 4 larger leaves, torn
4 thin slices salumi
Condiment of choice (salsa verde, drained roasted red peppers, olive tapenade)
Assemble the panino according to the directions above. Serves one, and unless you really love the person eyeing your sandwich, don't share.