Thursday, April 20, 2006

Panini! Panini! Panini! Crazy for Panini!

My dear husband(DH) buys kitchen appliances for me as xmas, anniversary, or birthday gifts. Don't laugh! That's what I ask for! YES, it is not romantic and YES, it is unusual, but so what, right? Gifts are supposed to make the ones who receive them happy and I am happy receiving this kind of gifts. My heart jumped with delight to see this Cuisinart panini grill came out of the box last Christmas. Pictures of grilled paninis, BBQed seitans, BBQed TVPs, satays, and grilled vegetables immediately filled my mind. As you can see, the kitchen appliances I asked for are not the CHEAP kinds but I usually did a thorough research in the Internet for months before hand: reading comments people made about it, asking for recommendations, and finding the style and model that is suitable to my need. It always pays off! I have been using this grill for almost everyday since I got it and DH is really eating well! It's a win-win situation.

The first thing I made on my new panini grill was a panini sandwich, of course, a Vegan Caprese Panini, with the help of Bryanna's best 'cheese' (pictured on the right) recipe from her newsletters. You can always buy Vegan Mozarella (Earth Kind is my favorite brand) from the market but it can be expensive. Vegan Caprese filling was a combination of 'cheese', fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh shredded basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), salt, and pepper. I arranged those in the middle of 2 slices of crusty artisan bread or sourdough bread brushed with EVOO on the outside. Then, I 'sandwiched' them in the panini grill. VOILA! Seven minutes later, a hot grilled panini sandwich was born. The filling was HOT! The 'cheese' was melted and warm.

Do you know how much a panini sandwich cost in a cafe called The Corner Bakery (a food chain) in my area? It's about US$6.49 for the sandwich only! After a bag of chips and a drink, your bill can go up to US$9.00. After making 16-17 paninis at your home, you will get your money back buying this grill and still can make some more. At our home, we didn't have to wait long. I made 12 panini sandwiches for 12 ladies who came to my party in February and they were loving it.

More? Yes, I made more, another type of panini, the 'Chicken' Pesto Panini. I made my own soy and seitan 'chicken' cutlet. Again, I learned it from Bryanna, and again, from her newsletters. I also made my own vegan pesto, Pesto Genovese, a recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen. A combination of 'chicken' cutlet, pesto, 'cheese', and sliced tomatoes or other veggies was very very good. The only veggie that was not good to put in a panini is LETTUCE. Don't ever put a lettuce in a panini sandwich. Remember, anything you put in the panini sandwich will be hot. You know, hot lettuce really tastes terrible! LOL! I learned this mistake!

I continued experimenting with other fillings for panini sandwiches such as marinated artichoke hearts, roasted bell pepper from jars, ajvar, raw baby spinach, grilled vegetables like eggplants, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Other than spinach, vegetables need to be grilled separately before they are assembled in the sandwich.

My wildest panini experiment was Vietnamese Style Banh Mi Panini! Is this a FUSION sandwich or what? I hope the Vietnamese and the Italians will not be angry with me for ruining their cuisine. :-) Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that is prepared in crusty French baquettes filled with meat slices, tangy marinated shredded carrots or daikon radish, cucumbers, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, moistened with mayonnaise and sprinkled with soy sauce or fish sauce. I often made the vegan versions and brought them with us when we travel. Once, someone saw us eating our vegan Banh Mi sandwiches at an airport in Jamaica. It probably looked so good that she asked me if she could find and buy the sandwiches we were eating in that airport.

The filling of this sandwich was the leftover BBQ TVP slices from Vietnamese BBQ Noodle salad from my previous post. The idea came when I ran out of noodles but had artisan bread at home. I added the tangy carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and sliced jalapenos too. I didn't use vegan mayonnaise since DH doesn't like mayonnaise. Instead of EVOO, I used Earth Balance brushed on the outside to add the 'buttery' flavor to the bread. It was delicious and unique!

It is so cheap to make panini at home. Each sandwich probably costs me only US$2.00. That is if you make your own 'cheese', Pesto, 'chicken', and BBQ TVP slices. It will be less if you make your own bread (Bryanna's sourdough bread) and grow your own basil or other veggies, too.


Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Wow, is all I can say!

Dori said...

Yum! What an awesome looking sandwich. WoW! I want me one of those!

Anonymous said...

We also were just gifted a panini grill for our wedding. I have never had one before, being vegan. Sorry if this is silly question, but do you cook all the "chicken" or soy before stuffing in bread? Is it more of a fancy sandwich toaster? That's the impression I get is that I have to cook everything first then stuff a samich in there to toast the entire thing. Seems healthy. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Yes, the "chicken" or soy chicken is cooked. You can buy soy chicken or deli slices (Tofurky) and they are already cooked. But you can add raw spinach into your sandwich and it will be wilted. A good slice of soy cheese will melt too. The good thing about this grill is that it heats the inside of the sandwich when it is pressed. If you use a toaster or just toast your sandwich on a frying pan, the filling will not be hot.

Unknown said...

This grill can be used to make pancakes. I just love it. I left it on the counter since I use it often. During winter I use it to grill veggies indoor. Very useful!