Homemade Spinach & Onion Panini

by Daisy

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This is one of those relatively quick meals that belies the time it took to put it together. I’m not sure when panini fever hit America, but I imagine it coincided with the introduction of numerous dedicated electric devices which, I assure you, are not essential to make this sandwich. If I want to press the thing, I put a heatproof plate on top of it in a skillet and put something heavy on top of the plate (no, not a jardiniere, a small crock or other). However, it is not necessary to press it other than a good squash with the back of a spatula (don’t tell the panini police). I use chicken that I bake off in advance or you can use a deli rotisserie bird. Really, any kind of cold cuts would be fine. Skip the chicken for a vegetarian version and substitute roasted red bell peppers, sauteed mushrooms or marinated sun-dried tomatoes.
Makes four panini.
Serve with bowls of soup or a simple salad. Maybe Ivory’s Sweet Potato Soup.

Spinach & Onion Panini

8 slices favorite bread, preferably a fresh, low-crumb bread with ample surface area
1 med. onion, sliced into rings

1 1/2 teaspoons oil

1 T. balsamic vinegar

ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 package frozen spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. ground thyme

salt & ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 chicken breast, baked and sliced thinly

8 oz. grated cheese, your choice (maybe a mozzarella/cheddar blend or provolone for everyday, or a crumbled chevre for a special treat)

1. Saute onion in oil until onion is beginning to brown. Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook until the onions are caramelized and the vinegar is reduced. Add pepper to taste and remove from heat.
2. Microwave spinach on high for 10-12 minutes. Let it cool enough for you to be able to squeeze out the excess water. Place spinach in a bowl and stir in mayonnaise, thyme, and salt and pepper.
3. To assemble the sandwiches, lay out your bread on a cutting board or other work surface. Divide the 8 oz. of cheese and sprinkle half of the cheese on four on the slices.

4. Put 1/4 of the spinach mixture, onion, and chicken on each of 4 (cheesed) slices of bread and divide the remaining cheese on top of it all. Slap on the remaining slice to assemble four sandwiches.

5. Make the dressing:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 T. balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, pressed
or minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

Wisk together vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and thyme. Continuing to wisk, drizzle in the olive oil until emulsified.
6. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Brush one side of the sandwiches with dressing and invert sandwiches, dressing side down, onto the skillet. Brush the “new”top slice with the dressing. When the bottom of the sandwiches is golden brown, flip them over and continue to grill, pressing down with the spatula or, as described above, with a plate and a heavy weight.

Note: Flipping such a large sandwich can be tricky. ( I guess this is where the panini press shows its genius–no flipping required.) I use a wide, strong spatula underneath. Then I perch my fingers atop the sandwich, spreading out my fingers to be as supportive as possible, lift and invert. Then I walk my fingers out from under the sandwich as deftly as possible while resting the flipped sandwich onto the surface of the skillet. Messy, but effective. You can also overturn a small plate over the top of the panino, “sandwiching” the sandwich between the plate and the spatula, lifting and turning it over with the spatula as before, then sliding the panino off the plate back onto the skillet.

Serve the remaining dressing on the side as dipping sauce.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

MrBrownThumb September 19, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The “panini police” LOL. Looks good I’ll have to try it.

Jo September 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

omg that sounds sooo good! Wow. Like I want one. right. now!


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