Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Blame The Kitchen - Panini's

"Don't blame the kitchen, blame the cook" is an old saying in the culinary crowd. I was reminded of this quote as I navigated my way around my mother's kitchen the past few days. 

Unfamiliar electric stove (gasp!), pots and pans that were not my beloved All-Clad, one set of tongs to choose from, one size whisk, I could go on and on.. but a good cook makes do. And make do I did. 

Cooking times will be different depending on your fuel source (gas or electric). Browning, sauteeing and baking will yield various results depending on your pans - you may have to move things around a bit. 

Perhaps a pantry lacks corn starch - what do you use instead to thicken? (flour, butter or arrowroot) There are always variations and substitutions you can make if you just use your head (and your tastebuds)

Here is a recipe that will work no matter if you grill it indoors or out, use a grill pan or a frying pan, have a panini press or a brick from your patio - the visual results may be a tad different, but the flavor profile will knock your socks off everytime - no matter the tools! 

Chicken Paninis (with lots of variations and options) - makes 1 big or 6 roll size sandwiches

1 loaf ciabatta bread (or 6 medium rolls)
1 pound breast of chicken, pouched and sliced (or 1 pound chicken breast lunchmeat)
1/2 cup pesto (store bought or homemade - recipe follows)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 6 pieces
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cups arugula
2 tomatoes (red or yellow) sliced (or roasted red pepper slices)
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil

Slice the ciabatta loaf through the center to make a big "roll". Or slice and open up the rolls
Spread pesto on inside top and bottom halves
Begin layering with sliced chicken
Top with a few basil leaves
Top with tomatoe slices
Top with arugula
Top with mozzarella cheese

Place the top half of roll on sandwich. Press down to slightly compress sandwich(es)

Preheat outdoor grill to low. OR
Heat frying pan to low OR
Heat indoor grill pan to low OR
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Drizzle a little olive oil in your pan or brush a little olive oil on your grill or directly on the bottom of the bread. Place on hot heat source (stove, oven, grill, pan, etc)

Immediately place a panini press, a brick (covered in foil) or a cookie sheet weighted with canned goods on top. 

Cook, grill, fry, heat for 4-6 minutes. Flip over and do the same for the top, a few less minutes. If you opted to make one big sandwich, slice into serving sizes. Serve warm with chips or fresh fruit (we're having cantalope and strawberries tonight)

There you have it. Lots of options for making a panini without a panini press. No excuses. Like I said, blame the cook, not the kitchen. 

VARIATIONS: Be inventive:
Use Ham & Salami with Roasted Red Peppers
Ham & Brie, Garlic and Honey
Turkey, Sundried Tomatoes and Provolone and Watercress
Salami, Swiss and Olives
Roast Beef, onions, provolone and roasted red and green peppers
The variations are endless. Use your imagination and enjoy!

Homemade Pesto: (with options of course)

2 cups basil packed (or flat leafed parsely) (or sun dried tomatoes)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano) grated
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds)
1 clove garlic
olive oil as needed
salt and pepper

You will need a food processor (or a heavy duty blender). Blend the basil, garlic and cheese together until fine. Add the nuts and continue to process until fine. With processor or blender running, beginning adding olive oil in a thin stream until desired thickness (it should be spreadable, not runny). Salt and Pepper to taste. 

Tip: pesto freezes beautifully. Spoon into small freezable plastic container. Drizzle a thin film of olive oil over top to cover, cover tightly and freeze. This will keep up to 6 months. 


  1. It is difficult to cook on equipment you're not used to. I love paninis.

  2. Debbie, yes, it can be a challenge. My family and I love all kinds of sandwiches, but I have found panini's to be the most versatile!


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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