Ah, the panini maker. It's one of those household items you yearn for when you don't have one, yet one that collects dust in the back pantry when you do have one. It's sort of like the backyard swimming pool of kitchen appliances. I'll have to admit, up until the other day, my own panini maker was sitting on top of my refrigerator, lonely and unused. But a recent burst of creativity (and surplus of fresh vegetables) changed that. Here's a fresh and hearty sandwich recipe that you can put together and press into your panini maker within a few minutes. It even includes an easy homemade Dijon-parsley vinaigrette. You can use any meat or cheese you like, but this particular recipe calls for roast beef and gruyere, my favorite deli meat and favorite sandwich cheese...
Makes: 1 sandwich Prep time: 15-20 minutes Cook time: About 12 minutes
Ingredients: For the sandwich: 2 slices French bread (or the bread of your choice) 2-3 thin slices roast beef 1 slice gruyere cheese (or several tablespoons grated gruyere, or the cheese of your choice) 3-4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced 4-6 spinach leaves, trimmed 2-3 red cabbage leaves, very thinly sliced 2-3 thin slices red onion 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the dressing: 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Turn on panini maker. If applicable, set to medium-high setting.
2. Make the dressing: Whisk together red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and parsley. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
3. Wash, dry and slice the vegetables (mushroom, spinach, red cabbage and onion). Lightly toss the sliced mushrooms in the vinaigrette and set aside.
4. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan. Add the red onions and soften, cooking over medium heat about 2 minutes. Add the red cabbage and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
5. Brush dressing onto the inside slices of the sandwich bread. Layer all the vegetables (raw and cooked) onto one of the slices of bread. Add meat and cheese. Place other slice of bread on top.
6. Lightly drizzle both outsides of the bread with remaining 2 tablespoons (or perhaps even less) olive oil. Press into panini maker until light golden brown. (If using a medium-high setting, this should take about 12 minutes.)
My Notes: Why the vegetable saute? To be honest, I sort of cheated with the red onion-and-red-cabbage saute. I sauteed them the night before for dinner, and just used the leftovers in my sandwich. You can nix these components if you don't feel like sauteing, but I thought the cabbage gave a textured light bitterness that paired well with the slightly sweet but tart red onions. And this mixture is a nice contrast to the raw mushrooms and spinach.
Why the vinaigrette? Because this panini is essentially a salad (with protein and cheese) tucked into bread, the vinaigrette gives a boost of bright flavor, one that complements the veggies perfectly.
Why toss only the mushrooms in the vinaigrette? For flavor and neatness. The mushrooms are little pieces that carry the vinaigrette well. Because they're little, they won't drip oil 'n vinegar onto your panini maker, and they keep the sandwich easy to eat.