Sunday, April 20, 2008

Breaking in the Panini Press

A panini press is something I'd avoided buying for years. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps because it was just one more gadget to store in my cabinets. Or, perhaps because I figured it would go the way of the other small appliances I use only once or twice a year--relegated to the basement.
I'd written articles on indoor grilling and always included a section on contact grills (the less fancy name for a panini press), but yet I didn't own one. It seems as if everyone loves them---and George Forman has made a fortune selling them---but I never took the plunge. Then, a few months ago I was in Boston visiting college friends and saw a panini press on the counter. "I'd use it for every meal, if I could," my friend said. She was flabbergasted when I told her I didn't have one. "I can't believe you, of all people, do not own one!"

I thought about it on the drive back to Connecticut, and thought that maybe I should finally join the happy panini-making masses and pony up for one. I could even develop some panini making classes (Aha! A business expense!). So off I went to do my homework.

I ended up purchasing a Cuisinart Griddler....which works as a panini press and indoor contact grill, but when you swap out the ridged grill plates for the flat plates, you can open the grill flat and use it as a griddle to make pancakes, french toast, the works. The best part? The grill/griddle plates are dishwasher safe.

So far I haven't even found a spot in the cabinet for my panini press, since it has been on my counter getting daily use (I know, first flames). I've made a variety of panini (prosciutto/mozzarella, dessert panini, PB&J panini for my kids), I've grilled chicken breasts, and today I made a recipe for Whole Wheat Vanilla Pancakes I read over at the Cooking with Amy blog (by the way, they were delicious).

Fresh strawberries are coming into season, so try using them in a panini for a delicious dessert or snack. My Panini Dolci (dolce is Italian for "sweet") combine sweet berries with chocolate, making them a treat for the whole family!

Panini Dolci
Serves 4

4 slices country bread
butter, at room temperature
4-6 medium strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet are my favorite)

Preheat your panini press to medium-high heat.
Butter one side of each slice of bread, and put two slices butter-side down on the bottom plate of your press.
Arrange a layer of sliced strawberries on each piece of bread, and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top of the fruit.
Cover with the other slices of bread (butter side UP), and close the press. Grill for approximately 3-5 minutes, until bread is toasted (grill marks should be apparent) and the chocolate chips are melted.
Cut each sandwich in half and serve warm.

1 comment:

mom said...

Yippeee -- the griddler! I love grilled chicken, roated red peppers, sharp provolone, and pesto.