Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Melted Cheese!

You know what's great when it's cold outside and sleeting and still winter even though it's March and yesterday was 75 degrees?


A wise wise friend of mine once said: everything tastes better warm. And this is true if you omit ice cream, sushi, and a few other foodstuffs from your definition of everything. Which I do here. Particularly yummy is hot bread, melted cheese, and other sandwie type stuff. Layered, squashed and grilled--delish.

The panini, for any readers who've just stopped in from the Klingon Homeworld or other parts quite distant, is a sandwich of various yummy ingredients, including meat, cheese and sometimes veggies which is placed on a double-sided grill, pressed down hard, and toasted. The panini originated in Italy, long ago, when a returning Crusader stood too close to a fire in his chain mail, then accidentally sat down upon the sandwie his granny was making for him. No wait, a minute--that's how waffles were invented. I know not the actual origin of the panini but I know this: I love them.

We got an electric panini grill for Christmas, which is by far the easiest way to make a panini. But those who are still slaving solely over a stove top, do not despair, you can press and toast your panini the old fashioned way.

Make like you are grilling a grilled cheese sandwie, only heat up two skillets, the second being preferably heavy and made of iron. Then, put your sandwie inside the first skillet, a la usual, and place the second skillet, now super hot, bottom down on the sandwich, and press. Baring a second skillet, you could use a brick wrapped in tin foil and heated in the oven. Or a bacon press works too. (NB: if you burn your finger or annoy your mother with these tricks, don't come running to me. I shall deny having ever heard of you.)

Traditional paninis use ciabatta bread rolls. You can get them at Trader Joe's. Cut the top off, and then cut them in half. I like to use a good heavy multi-grain sandwich bread, 'cause it seems healthier. What goes inside a panini? What have you got?Traditional paninis contain Italian cold-cuts like mortadella, prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, etc. I use whatever cheese I have got, ham sometimes, sometimes turkey slices, and I like to slice an apple really thin and put that in the middle. Basically, you can use whatever you want. That's the beauty of sandwies--if you can fit it between two slices of bread, then it's cool.

Two tricks: make sure you put cheese against the bread, this will help the sandwie hold together. And lightly brush (or spray) the outside of the bread with olive oil. You can use butter if you've got it. Don't use margarine, please. It's totally pointless. A tiny bit of fat shall not kill you.

That's all there is to it. Your mileage may vary, but I doubt that your enjoyment will. Remember--a panini a day will keep the doctor away.

Next time, we shall discuss another grilled wonder: waffles!

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