January 31, 2009

year-round paninis

While reading the newspaper (or, uh, my AOL homepage news) a month ago, I came across an article about how people on average only eat about 10 different meals per year. Of course, as a likely decision of a foodie, I was determined to prove that I was different, and so I created a food table. It was perfect timing- January 1st. So, for the past month, I've recorded each dinner I had eaten every night. I hardly have any "staple" recipes in my house- I like to try new things, see. But a few years ago I came across Giada Di Laurentiis' grilled vegetable paninis. The recipe itself really served as more of an inspiration for further experimenting as opposed to being followed to a T, and is very versatile. I usually substitute whatever vegetables I have on hand, and just used sliced whole wheat bread instead of a baguette, but to each his own. This is a must.

Though Giada doesn't grill her paninis, I insist that you do. Whether it be with a panini pan, press, or a George Foreman grill, grill them; the cheese melts and the bread gets warm and crusty- YUM. 

Grilled Vegetable Paninis
Adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis

1/4 cup olive oil
2 small japanese eggplants or 1 medium to large regular eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 yellow onion, chopped (not finely)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 baguettes (I usually use presliced whole-wheat bread- BreadAlone's Whole Wheat Sourdough is my favorite)
1/2 cup Basil Pesto
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
8 large basil leaves, optional

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the oil over the eggplant, zucchini, and onion slices, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the eggplant, zucchini, and onions until they are tender and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side. Cool completely.

Cut each baguette into 6 pieces. Working with one baguette piece at a time, slice in half and spread both sides with pesto. Working with the bottom slice of the baguette, stack 2 slices of eggplant, 2 slices zucchini, 1 slice onion, 1 slice tomato, 1 slice mozzarella, and 1 slice of roasted pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place top half of baguette on top and continue with remaining baguette. **Place in a panini press or pan, and grill until flattened and cheesy!**

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