I don’t care for kitchen gadgets. Most really delicious food can be made with a knife, a pan and a flame. I do make a few exceptions, especially when the gadget was thought up by the Italians – not exactly a gadget laden bunch. Granted, they are lovers of espresso and Ferrari. But, any decent Italian can make you a marvelous pasta with a pan and a hot plate. I have witnessed that first hand. Kirk Francis once made a few of us a pasta in a cheap motel room with a hot plate and his fishing knife. I still remember how incredible it was and that was 15 years ago.
The Panini maker is like a waffle iron on steroids. They usually have adjustable temperature and are quite versatile. This morning my wife was lamenting that she wanted a toasted bagel but, since one of our kids had caught the toaster on fire last week, she was out of luck. I suggested the panini maker and it came out great. The main and most amazing use is to make the famous Italian Panini.
Traditionally, the panini is made with some sort of cheese, cured meat and great rustic bread. Since cooking is 2 parts imagination and one part ingredients on hand, you can make a panini with whatever you have in the cupboard and fridge. I suggest a hearty bread though, as it needs to be able to take the pressure as well as soak up any of the juices pressed out of the ingredients inside.
You don’t actually need this machine to make a panini. A grill or a grill pan and a heavy object like a brick (wrapped in clean aluminum foil) will produce similar results.
- 2 Pieces of Rustic Bread
- Portobello Mushroom, sliced thin
- Yellow Squash, sliced paper thin
- Mild Cheddar or Mozzarella Cheese
- Avocado, sliced thin
- Tomato, sliced
- Panini Maker (or method described above)
- Chef’s Knife
- Mandolin (optional)
- Slice all of your vegetables. If you want a really thin squash or zucchini you can use a mandolin. Another gadget but they are just a fancy knife and are really cheap. If you have a spot in your kitchen for it, I recommend you get one.
- This is the same as making a grilled cheese except you are not going to flip the sandwich. Butter the down side of one piece of bread.
- Build the sandwich, layering cheese, vegetables, tomato.
- Butter one side of the other slice of bread and place it on top, butter side up.
- Close the machine and cook at about 375 for 3-5 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted.