Chicken Panini
[1] What’s better than a sandwich, a grilled sandwich! Here, panini American style, with chipotle chicken, bacon and ranch dressing. Get the recipe from What’s Cooking, Love.

Panini Press
[2] An electric panini press, no stove required (photo courtesy Breville). If you have a George Foreman grill, you can grill panini, and vice versa: you can grill fish, meat and vegetables on a panini press.

Panini Pan
[3] If you don’t want to store a bulkier panini press, a stovetop panini pan stores more easily (photo courtesy Calphalon).

Stovetop Panini Press
[4] Before modern kitchens, sandwich were toasted using a device like this, held over the fire. In your modern kitchen, you can hold it over the flame on your stove (photo courtesy i.Pinimg).

 

August is National Panini Month. It’s also National Sandwich Month. Panini are grilled Italian sandwiches, and panini is Italian for sandwiches. So what gives?

Well, you can have celebrate National Sandwich Month with your favorite fillings on bread or toast; or you can grill them on an electric or stovetop panini press. Pretty much any conventional sandwich filling can be grilled.

The difference between panini and toasted bread sandwiches is the crispness. Before grilling, panini are brushed with oil or butter, and the heat and pressure of the panini press creates much crisper, crunchier bread.

THE HISTORY OF PANINI

According to Wikipedia, the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956. In Italy, the first appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook.

But it took a few centuries—all the way to the 1970s, to be precise—for the sandwiches became trendy in Italy.

The flash point was in Milan, in sandwich bars called paninoteche. Basic flat grills soon gave way to ribbed plates that created the desirable characteristics: melted cheese, crisp bread and grill marks. (A panini press can also used for regular grilling of meat, fish and vegetables.)

In the 1980s, the term “paninaro” arose to describe the stylish young people who patronized panini bars. They were categorized as fashion-fixated and obsessed with consumer goods as status symbols. (And they liked crispy sandwiches.)

In the 1980s, panini crossed the pond, appearing on the menus of fashionable casual restaurants in the U.S. Classic Italian ingredients were offered—prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula, for example. But soon, popular American fillings appeared—ham and swiss, for example.

By the way, panini is the plural form of the word, but it’s a compound noun. So whether you’re ordering one or ten, it’s still panini. Panino, the singular, is a roll or a small bread.

FOOD TRIVIA: Italians had no word for sandwich. During World War II, when G.I.s in Italy sought sandwiches and asked for meat and cheese on a roll, “panini” became the term.
 
 
PANINI RECIPES

  • Cheddar Panini With Salami, Fresh Tomato & Red Onion Relish
  • Colby-Jack Panini With Honey Glazed Ham & Lemony Arugula
  • Ham & Baby Swiss Panini With Fig Jam
  • Italian Tuna Panini
  • Mozzarella, Pesto & Fresh Tomato Panini
  • Panini With Vermont Sharp White Cheddar & Homemade Pickled Vegetables
  • Provolone Panini With Prosciutto & Rosemary Roasted Peppers
  • Smoked Turkey, Pine Nut Pesto & Sharp Provolone Panini
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    PANINI TIPS

  • If you don’t have a panini press, you can use an electric countertop grill or a gas grill.
  • Add a fruit or vegetable condiment: caramelized onions, cranberry sauce, diced fruit, fig jam, mango salsa, pickled vegetables, etc. They’re a nice counterpoint to the crunchy bread as well as the fillings.
  • You don’t have to limit yourself to Italian breads like ciabatta and focaccia, delicious as they are. Use what you have on hand.
  • Any sandwich can be grilled, including peanut butter and jelly.
  • Create dessert panini, using fresh or mild aged cheeses (brie, e.g.) with fruit, Nutella, preserves, etc.
  • Brush the surface with butter or oil, to make the bread crunchier. If you don’t want the calories, try butter-flavored cooking spray.
  • Place wet ingredients in the center of the filling. Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel, for example. You can also coat them in panko breadcrumbs.
  • To keep greens crisp—arugula, lettuce, spinach or watercress, for example—keep them on the side until the sandwich has been grilled. Then, quickly lift up the top and tuck them in.
  • Slice with a chef’s knife (straight edge), not a serrated knife, for a clean cut.
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    THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food

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