There is just something about a good grilled cheese. It is like going home again. Almost everyone I know loves one. When you were sick as a child it was the best medicine only your mom could make. Crust or no crust, with American, cheddar or Swiss cheese, it was perfect.
I am not sure when the Panini press became so popular here in the U.S. Maybe it was really George Foreman who started the trend, but now they are everywhere. What is even better than a good sandwich you ask? Well, a good hot and crispy sandwich that has cheese oozing out the side.
Did you know that your Panini press could double as an indoor grill? It is perfect for grilling Eggplant, peppers, Portobello mushrooms and zucchini.
You don’t have to just make a grilled cheese. Here are a few combinations that I think you should try.
Grilled Eggplant, Portobello mushroom, Red bell pepper and Tomato with Fontina cheese and Fresh Basil
First, I use the Panini press to grill the veggies. Just rub them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. It only takes about 5 min per batch. I used 1 eggplant, 1 red pepper, 2 Portobellos. This makes enough filling for at least 4-5 large Paninis. Leftovers? Veggies like this are also great in pasta salads. Just dice them up. Yum.
Once the veggies are grilled take some good Italian bread and put down your shredded or sliced Fontina cheese. Look for it in the specialty cheese section. Good cheese can be a bit pricey but it is SOOO worth it. You will be amazed at the flavor you get from a small amount.
Layer the cheese, basil, peppers, Portobello mushroom and eggplant. Top with a thin slice of tomato and then some more cheese. Think of the cheese as the glue for the sandwich. The last thing you want is all of the veggies shooting out the side when you take a bite, ruining your nice Lululemon work out pants and making you have to actually take a shower that day.
Once you have it layered up, place it in the preheated press. It will only take a few minutes to get nice and crispy. Typically I do not use butter or olive oil on the outside of the bread when I cook them. You don’t really need any. Save those calories for some more cheese on the inside.
Caramelized Onion with Pear and Gruyere Cheese Panini
If you have never taken the time to caramelize onions, you are really missing out. They turn from breath killers to silky soft sweet gold. You need about 3-4 onions to make around 1 ½ cups of caramelized onions. They make a great spread. Just slice and cook in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter over medium low heat for 30-40 min stirring occasionally.
I sliced pears and layered them on Italian bread with the onions and some nice Gruyere cheese. The salty nuttiness of the cheese goes so well with the pears and onions. This combo would also be great diced and spread on crostini as an appetizer. Just grill for a few minutes. Delicious.
Nutella with Peanut Butter and Banana Panini
Ok this one is much more like dessert than lunch, but I couldn’t help it. I think Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) should be declared as the 8th wonder of the world. It is fantastic. I have made homemade crepes before with Nutella but those are so much work compared to this.
Spread one slice of bread with Nutella and the other with peanut butter. Place your thinly sliced bananas in between and grill. I did spread some butter on the outside of the bread on this one, just because I could. It was sublime.
Don’t have a Panini Press? Just use a nonstick skillet.
Here are some other combos I love:
Prosciutto, Arugula and fresh mozzarella
Tomato and Cheddar with Bacon
Turkey and Brie
Apple with Manchego Cheese
Goat cheese with Fig Jam
Roast beef with spinach and horseradish sauce
Eat up and enjoy!
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