Panini Party


I know I know, I am being trendy. Paninis seem to be all the rage lately, and for good reason – they are simply fabulous, given the right ingredients. We had Kate & Jim over last night for dinner before heading out to our dance class (getting ready for our weddings, you know!). I was in the mood for roasting vegetables, I had a good amount of goat cheese, and I had picked up a loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread. So, I settled on paninis.

I cut up some eggplant, zucchini, portabello mushroom caps, red peppers, and red onions and marinated in balsamic vinegar, a dash of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Silly Jim does not like eggplant and ‘shrooms, so I also made a couple pieces of chicken (I knew Ben would appreciate that too). I sealed that up in a baggie with some olive oil and fresh herbs from the deck. Speaking of Ben, I must say, he grills the best chicken ever. Seriously. We’ve finally struck the balance of getting the right low heat for the right amount of time, and I must say, it always comes out so tender and moist! So anyway, we grilled up the chicken and vegetables, and I also roasted some garlic, and chopped up some basil. And then we had a free-for-all sandwich assembly par-tay. To go with our paninis, I made my new “specialty” – grilled squash fries. I know, you’re thinking, what?! But really, these are a new favorite of mine! I love butternut squash and wanted to try it out on the grill. It’s got a lot less calories than potatoes or sweet potatoes too! If only it wasn’t so hard to prep, but that’s alright, I’ll deal. I peel it and cut into thick strips, and par-boil for a couple minutes, then plunge into ice water. After draining, I spray with olive oil and toss with salt, pepper, and fresh chopped sage and thyme. Then they get thrown on the grill till fully tender and laced with lovely grill marks. So good!
Here’s a hint: you don’t need a fancy panini press to cook a fantastic panini. People have been using the good ol’ forman grill for ages, or even just a heavy pan to press their sandwiches. You should have seen Ben’s response when I asked “Honey, do we have any bricks anywhere?” I was fully expecting the answer to be “no”, but he gave me that endearing you-have-three-heads look and said “yeah, I think there are some beside tree outside from the previous owners.” Perfect! We brought some bricks in and wrapped them in doubled-up foil. I sprayed the griddle with olive oil, put a sandwich down, sprayed the top, and pressed down with the brick. Just like a grilled cheese, it’s important to use low or medium heat, or else it will burn quickly. After a few minutes on the first side, we flipped and continued cooking. Mmmm. Total roasted veggie – gooey – goat cheese – garlicky goodness!

I don’t always do dessert, but I found a great recipe to try it. See, I had been searching for a lower-fat cobbler recipe. Something not loaded with butter, because honestly, I save that stuff for the weekends. When I came across Elle’s recipe, I knew it was the one! I was very excited by the simplicity of the ingredients and of course, the lack of butter in the recipe. I’d almost go ahead and say it’s entirely fat free, though I forgot to check the label on the Bisquick (and I used the healthy-heart variety, even better). If not fat free, it’s very low in fat.

I’ve also been dying to cook with rhubarb (this was a new ingredient for me!) and I loooove strawberries, so I made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler. I used more fruit than Elle suggests (I probably had about 3.5 cups total) but I still had a healthy crust-to-fruit ratio (very important!). I substituted fat free, light vanilla yogurt for the buttermilk, and therefore I could ommit the sugar in the crust as well. I found it to be a bit thick, so I added milk till it reached a better consistency (honestly, I was not in my most sober state of cooking at this point, so I couldn’t tell you how much exactly!). I also added a generous shake of cinnamon. This was so delicious and easy, and I really look forward to making it again with different fruits. And who can argue with guilt-free AND delicious? Certainly not me :)
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One Response to “Panini Party”

  1. 1

    Renea — June 23, 2007 @ 9:31 pm Reply

    My mouth is watering looking at all of this wonderful food!!

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