Make your own panini night is a fun switch from the usual pizza – put together a do-it-yourself sandwich bar with a panini press on the end, and let the family build and grill their own. It’s a great fridge cleaner – leftover roast chicken, ham, salami, cheese ends and veggies are delicious in panini, as is pesto and roasted red peppers if you have some in the door of your fridge.
If you don’t have a panini press, cook your cheesy sandwiches on the stovetop in a skillet, grilled-cheese-style. The difference between a grilled cheese sandwich and a panini is the pressure from the top – to simulate this on the stovetop, weigh your sandwich down with another skillet set on top.
1/4 cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
8 slices grainy, ciabatta or other good quality bread
1-2 Tbsp. basil or sun-dried tomato pesto (optional)
8-12 thin slices ham, roast beef, roast chicken or salami
roasted red peppers, fresh arugula, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions or other fillings
4-8 slices aged cheddar, Gouda, provolone or your favourite cheese
Pour the oil into a small ramekin and stir in the garlic; set it aside for a few minutes. Heat a panini or sandwich grill until hot or a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Assemble sandwiches, spreading pesto on the inside and layering with meat, cheese and any additions you like (roasted tomatoes, peppers, caramelized onions), then brush the garlicky oil on the outside of the bread.
Grill for a few minutes, until golden and the cheese has melted. If you use a grill pan or cast iron skillet, set a second skillet on top of the sandwiches to press them down as they cook. Makes 4 sandwiches.