The panini grill. Maker of grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches and grilled beef sandwiches, and not much else — or so I thought.
I confess that when I chose to pull the panini maker out of my pantry for this month’s column, I was sure I’d be able to say it was not a kitchen accessory I needed. After all, my goal this year is to clear my kitchen of unnecessary or unwanted items. While I have rid myself of some things, I haven’t tossed as much as expected. That’s why, for this column, I stacked the deck in my favor. Then the deck turned out to be better than I remembered, and I fell back in love with my panini maker.
I don’t know about you, but when you hear the word panini, I think sandwiches. That’s because all I explored in my copy of Tiffany Collins’ “200 Best Panini Recipes” cookbook were sandwiches. Once I dived into my research a bit more, I realized my mistake.
Yes, panini sandwiches are delicious, but so are quesadillas, French toast and grilled fruits. My lack of imagination had my panini maker gathering dust on the bottom shelf of the pantry when it should have had a place of honor on the counter — especially now. The humidity is brutal. I do not plan to turn on my oven until fall. My husband is perfectly fine grilling most of our dinners, but I like knowing I have another option.
Did I mention I love panini sandwiches?
It’s my belief that to make something special on the panini grill, you must begin with the basics. In this case, I mean bread. (Technically, in most instances, I mean bread, but that’s a column for another time.)
I suppose one can use generic sandwich bread if they choose, but why do that when there are so many options available? Ciabatta, French bread, Italian, croissants, focaccia — the possibilities are endless. And when the temperatures finally decrease, and we’re complaining about the cold, you can turn on the oven and bake your own bread for the panini maker. For now, though, I leave you with an easy recipe that will satisfy your hunger and, hopefully, encourage you to check out more panini cookbooks and recipes.
CHICKEN FAJITA QUESADILLAS*
3/4 cup diced chicken
1/4 cup tomatillo sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 8- to 10-inch flour tortillas
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream, guacamole and salsa
Preheat panini grill to high.
In a bowl, combine chicken, tomatillo sauce and cilantro; set aside.
Brush one side of each tortilla with butter. Place on a work surface, buttered side down, and spoon chicken mixture onto half of each tortilla, dividing evenly and leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle each with half the cheese. Fold tortillas over filling, pressing gently to pack.
Place sandwiches in a grill, close the top plate, and cook until filling is hot and cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Cut each quesadilla in half and serve immediately with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.
*This recipe was originally for beef fajitas, but I substituted chicken.
Source: “200 Best Panini Recipes” by Tiffany Collins (Robert Rose; 2008)