The Weekend Panini

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A sandwich can be a harried thing during the week: slapped together, thrown in a plastic bag, eaten wherever and whenever the schedule requires. But on the weekend it can become an entirely different thing, an almost langorous culinary project (okay, that’s pushing it). Still, on the weekend, everything does slow down a bit and a sandwich can be truly cooked, constructed, assembled, and elevated. It can be a panini, that romantic Italian preparation we’ve all fallen for.

It’s something kids can help with and teaches them a bit about patience and process in the kitchen: waiting for that lovely transformation by heat, pressed in a machine or between two heavy pans on the stove, all gooey and melty and melded.  (in the photo, you’ll see what passes for a panini press in my house, and which cost all of 2 bucks. The big pan was a hand-me-down from my mom, the little one from a yard sale) There’s virtually nothing more comforting during fall. Here are two favorites that the kids (and adults) adore.

The Brit
This is an homage to Matthew’s upbringing in Wales, where sharp English cheddar melted on a buttery grilled cheese was the taste of childhood.

-7 grain bread
-sharp cheddar, preferably English but any will do (the high fat stuff melts up better than the low fat; take your pick. a little fat’s good for growing)
-arugula (Matthew and the brits call it rocket; the kids might like that one)
-a bit of hearty mustard (only the slightest hint; you want a little acid balance, not a full bore blast that could turn off timid palates)

Heat a heavy pan over medium-low. Assemble the sandwich and place on pan. Place another heavy pan on top to press it down. Cook for a few minutes, taking care to toast but not burn the sandwich. Wearing an oven mitt, remove the top pan, flip the sandwich, replace the top pan, cook until all melty and melded. (obviously, this technique stands for the following recipe too)

The Yuppie
While the ingredients are French-ish/European-ish in origin, this sandwich is about as 1980s American yuppie as you can get when it comes to the ingredients, which, hilariously, have become new favorites among kids. My 5 year old daughter loves the tangy goat cheese and the sweet intensity of the sundried tomatoes. I like that she’s eating a pretty lean protein and getting her antioxidants.

-rustic country white bread
-goat cheese
-sundried tomatoes from a jar, drained of most of their olive oil, but with a bit left on for that richness you want
-fresh basil (or flat leaf italian parsley pulled off the stem; i know, it’s nothing like basil, but it’s green and plays nicely against the sweetness of the ingredients)

Stack it. Cook it.

Tell us about your favorite panini/grilled cheese, we’d love to hear and share.
—Hugh

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