Sunday, April 25, 2010

In defence of bread — Eggplant, red pepper and Fontina panini

For me a sandwich for dinner ranks right up there with breakfast for dinner (aka Brinner). If you're with me on this one, then you may want to consider investing in a panini press, if you don't already own one. It makes great grilled sandwiches and quesadillas, and you can also use it to grill meat and vegetables.

This recipe, adapted from Bon Appétit, can be made with a grill pan or a counter-top grill or barbecue, if you don't have a press handy:



Olive oil (for brushing)
1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 large red bell peppers, cut lengthwise into 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips
8 1/2-inch-thick slices olive bread or country white bread or focaccia buns
8 oz Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
8 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried herbs basil
1 tsp dried oregano


Brush press, pan, or grill rack with oil; heat press, pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush eggplant rounds and pepper strips with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill eggplant until tender, turning occasionally, about 6 min. Working in batches, grill bell peppers until tender, turning occasionally and flattening with back of spatula for even cooking, about 6 min.

Place 4 bread slices on work surface. Divide half of Fontina cheese among bread slices; top each with 2 eggplant rounds, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of the dried herbs. Top each with 2 bell pepper strips. Arrange remaining Fontina cheese atop peppers, then top with remaining bread slices, pressing to compact.

Heat press, pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush pan with oil (if using barbecue, lightly brush bread slices with oil). Use can brush the press with oil, but I have never found that unnecessary. Place sandwiches in press or pan or on grill; cover and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 5 min per side.

Cut sandwiches in half to serve.

One unexpected benefit of my recent decision to give up meat has been that I've felt no pressure to weigh in on the Double Down debate. For those of you not already aware, the Double Down is KFC's latest sandwich offering that swaps the bread for two pieces of fried chicken.

Things seem to have quieted a little, but for a while every foodie, social commentator, and teenager with a web cam felt the need to share their opinion on the sandwich of the moment. Even the New York Times ran a profile! Because my dietary restrictions prevent me from even considering eating a Double Down, I can sit back and watch the debate from a place of bemused disinterest. The same holds true for the whole unpleasant low-carb trend in general.

Here are some of the more entertaining Double Down conversations from Serious Eats, the LA Times and Treehugger.  If you're hungry for more, several people have uploaded pics on flickr. And those aforementioned teenagers? You can watch their videos here, though I wouldn't recommend it.

I guess I've given myself no choice but to continue to enjoy my fillings between two pieces of bread — just the way I like it. Some restrictions can be surprisingly freeing.




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