Panini

My new favorite kitchen toy is the Cuisinart Griddler, which I use to make panini. In addition to these countertop appliances, there are also handheld cast-iron presses that you can use with a grill pan to the same effect. Actually, their prices are similar, and I really didn't know which would be better to have. I didn't have to decide: This was a gift, and I love it. While I use it mainly as a panini press, the fact that it has interchangeable smooth griddle plates and opens all the way to double its cooking surface area means I’ll be using it for pancakes, too. But let’s talk panini: While we’ve all had the hot grilled sandwiches at restaurants, I first had a homemade panino (the rarely used singular of panini) while staying at my friend Michele’s house. Michele and her husband are also vegetarians, and making panini is her standby plan for Sunday night suppers. She makes hers with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and cheese, drizzling the bread with a generous amount of olive oil before grilling them. They’re crisp, decadent, and so much more satisfying than a cold sandwich. I’ve replicated her recipe at home a dozen times or more since that visit. A tip with the onions: slice them thinly, sauté in olive oil until very tender, sprinkle with a little brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and continue sautéing a few more minutes. These onions alone could make any grilled cheese sandwich special. I used ciabatta from Target in this photo, but I've also made panini with the large oval whole-wheat loaf from Central Market.

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