paninicover

Milan Panini Shop

Although the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956 and a precursor appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook, panini sandwiches became trendy in Milanese bars, called paninoteche, in the 1970s, when office workers were looking for quick lunch choices. Trendy U.S. restaurants, particularly in New York, began selling the sandwiches, whose popularity then spread to other U.S. cities, each producing distinctive variations of of the sandwich.

Food historians generally agree, panini, as we know them today, originated in the sandwich shops of Italy, perhaps as early as the 1960s. A survey of newspaper articles confirms that the panini sandwich caught the American consumers attention in the mid-1970s. As time progressed, panini evolved from upscale fare to trendy sandwiches for everyone.

Panini for Lunch

Panini for Lunch

In many English-speaking countries, a panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno] from the Italian, meaning “small bread, bread roll”) is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. The plural form of “panino” in Italian is panini. Examples of the bread types used for panini are ciabatta, foccacia and Italian baguettes. The bread is cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients or other foods and then pressed in a grill. There is widespread availability and use of sandwich presses, often known as “panini presses” or “toasted sandwich makers.”

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In Italy classic filling combinations are:

mozzarella, tomato (plus arugula and/or prosciutto);
prosciutto and fontina cheese
prosciutto, chese and olive tapenade;
bresaola, goat cheese or stracchino (plus lettuce and/or tomato);
speck (smoked cured prosciutto from Tyrol), arugula and cheese
grilled vegetables and cheese.

When Italian panini are offered outside of Italy, they tend to differ quite substantially. The biggest no-no’s are the use of:

More than one kind of meat (this is very unlikely in Italy);
Large amounts of meat (in Italy, more than a few slices would be considered overpowering);
Too many ingredients (in Italy, it’s never more than 3 or 4 in total);
Any kind of dressing (oil and vinegar are for salads, not for sandwiches);
Honey-mustard, barbecue sauce, spicy mayo (since they don’t exist in Italy).

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Breville 1976

 

 

 

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Do you know who invented the sandwich press?

Thomas Edison. Before sandwich grills, people had to toast each slice of bread individually using an electric toaster or a griddle. The sandwich grill made it possible to brown two slices of bread at the same time. Unfortunately, Edison’s novel approach to sandwich-making didn’t get much attention from home cooks. It was discontinued in the early 1930s, according to the museum at Thomas Edison’s winter estate in Fort Myers, FL, where the celebrated scientist’s sandwich grill is on display. Edison’s contribution to the world of grilled sandwiches was entirely forgotten by the time Breville came out with its panini press in 1974.

A panini press, which is essentially a two-sided grill, used to grill a sandwich. This method may also be accomplished by placing the sandwich on a grill, pressing down firmly with a spatula, then turning the sandwich over and repeating the process. Depending on your preference, the outsides of the bread may or may not be buttered or brushed with extra virgin olive oil to give it a crisp texture.

Thinly sliced grilled chicken, turkey and roast beef can also make delicious panini. The meat needs to be cooked before being placed in the sandwich — grilling a panini only heats it through and does not actually cook the meat. After you’ve selected the bread, meat and cheese, decide on the extras.

Some popular additions to panini include spinach, roasted red peppers, basil, olive oil, olives, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and oregano. For a vegetable panini, use eggplant or zucchini, or any other vegetable that can be grilled. Panini make for a delicious and filling meal that is simple and quick to make and one that can be customized to your tastes.

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Classic Italian Panino

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • One 6″ rectangular piece focaccia or ciabatta bread
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto or speck
  • 2 thin slices taleggio or fontina cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup arugula
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Split the bread in half and place prosciutto, fontina, and arugula on the bottom half. Drizzle with vinegar, season with salt and pepper and cover with the top half. Place in a panini press and grill just until the cheese begins to melt.

paniniporkItalian Pork Panini

2 servings

In central Italy, herb-and-garlic-seasoned pork roast is called porchetta. If you cannot find delicatessen porchetta (sold in some specialty food stores), use roasted pre-marinated Italian pork tenderloin. Cool the pork before cutting into thin slices. If you can’t find the olive mix, chop some garlic-stuffed green olives and mix in a bit of olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread
  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced porchetta or cooked Italian-seasoned pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons minced green olive mix or tapenade
  • 2 ounces sliced Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Divide pork, olive mix and cheese between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread.

Brush the outsides of the bread lightly with oil.

Place sandwiches on a panini grill or stove top griddle. Cover with grill top or a grill press.

Grill 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt.

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Tomato, Artichoke and Fontina Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread
  • 4 slices Italian Fontina cheese (3/4 ounce each)
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, well-drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions

On two slices of bread, layer half the cheese, artichokes, spinach, two slices of tomato and the remaining half of the cheese.

Top with the uncovered bread slices.

Cook on a panini maker or indoor grill until bread is toasted and the cheese melts.

paninigrilled

 

Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • One small onion (sliced)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or yellow (seeded and each cut in 4 wedges)
  • 2 zucchini (sliced)
  • 4 oz. (100 g) provolone, scamorza or fontina cheese (sliced)
  • One handful of fresh arugula
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread

Directions

In a small skillet, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Grill the bell peppers and zucchini on a stove-top or outdoor grill (lightly sprinkled with salt) for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

When the peppers are ready, put them aside and peel off the skin (it should come off easily – if it doesn’t, let the peppers rest for 10 minutes in a sealed zip-lock while they are still warm).

Assemble the sandwich by layering the cheese, the grilled vegetables, the onions and the arugula on one half of the bread slices. Cook the sandwiches in the press until the cheese melts.

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Pesto Chicken Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (2- to 3-ounce) Ciabatta rolls or foccacia bread
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 ounces mozzarella or fontina cheese, sliced
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced grilled or roasted chicken
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Slice the bread in half. Spread the cut sides if the bread with pesto.

Top one side with chicken, cheese and tomatoes. Place the top on and brush lightly with olive oil, if desired.

Place in the grill or on a griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden and the cheese starts to melt.

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