Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gastronomy: Hail to the Panini

It has been quite awhile since I had a Saturday lunch at home where I could relax, have a beer, and enjoy cooking. If you are like me, this seems to be a common reoccurring theme after you have children. Cooking sometimes becomes more of a necessity than a pleasure. If you ever have a free Saturday with friends or family, take the time to make a great lunch together at home. People tend to congregate in the kitchen and there are lots of simple, innovative recipes that can involve everyone and be really enjoyable in the process.

Last Saturday, we made panini. You’d be surprised how simple, delicious, and versatile this warm, mouth-watering sandwich can be. The easiest way to make a quality panini, is to invest in a sandwich maker or panini press—I am amazed at how many times we have repeatedly used this small appliance. (If purchasing an additional gadget during these tight times doesn’t fit your budget, my friend uses a cast iron pan and a lid weighted with a potato.) If you have older children, offer a variety of ingredients and let them invent their own sandwiches.

The following recipe is for turkey, mushroom, and spinach panini, but, really, the sky is the limit. Try a soft brie, tart apples, smoky bacon prosciutto, or sweet roasted peppers—just about any flavor combination that sounds good to you, will, most likely, make good panini. The only advice I would give is to be careful not to use too many ingredients with a high salt content; once the ingredients are heated on the press, the salt is released. I made the mistake once of making a ham and Irish cheddar—it was almost inedible. Also, be sure to use UNSALTED butter. And, above all, serve with a great beer and enjoy your Saturday together. Bon appetite!

Turkey, Mushroom, and Spinach Panini (4 whole sandwiches or 8 halves)

8 pieces of good-quality sour dough bread
½ lb turkey breast, naturally roasted
4 slices provolone cheese
8 oz mushrooms, sliced A couple handfuls baby spinach
1/8 c cooking sherry
½ stick unsalted butter*
Sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat Panini press to medium.

For mushrooms, over medium heat on the stovetop, warm a large skillet; add 1½ T butter. Add mushrooms and sauté for approximately 4 minutes. Add a little salt, pepper, and sherry, in that order. Simmer until sherry is dissipated. Set aside and cool.

Using the remaining butter, spread a thin layer on one side of each piece of bread (be careful to not use too much, or sandwiches will be greasy). Divide and layer turkey, spinach, mushroom, and cheese on 4 of the unbuttered side pieces of bread; top each half with the 4 remaining pieces of bread, butter side up. Place 2 sandwiches on the press at a time; press down for about 1 minute. Continue to cook sandwiches for approximately 4 more minutes; repeat. Allow sandwiches to rest for additional 5 minutes.

*I have tried these sandwiches using olive oil instead of butter, but have found that the unsalted butter is far superior in taste and texture.

Details: to purchase a panini press.

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Anonymous January 8, 2009 at 3:13 PM  

You guys always make me so hungry!

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After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

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A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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