Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Panini. And then some.

You know how Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle Home have a section devoted to kitchen appliances? I behave like a kid set free in a candy store there. Actually, I behave like me-post-diet in a candy store there.

After much grovelling, I made Mum buy us a panini-maker (Morphy Richards). Ever since it made its appearance, the humble triangle-sandwich maker has been hibernating in the dark recesses of the store cupboard. You can grill vegetables and meat, toast bread, cook a burger patty... I don't know if the warranty will be valid after the first couple of crazy tries, but there's a tasty way to find out!

I made this panini on one of those days I had to fend for myself. And since I've got a lousy exam in ten days, I have to pretend I've mugged 100 Multiple-Choice-Questions instead of cooking up a storm. Plus, I was hungry and I needed food. Fast.

There's no set recipe as such. We've all made a version of this sandwich on that hungry day. Open your refrigerator. Find the most appealing thing there. Make a sandwich out of it. Think peanut butter, mustard, tuna, apples, eggs, anything.

My eyes fell on a can of black olives (un-pitted and un-fun). When I pulled it out, I discovered. the holy grail. A nice block of Feta cheese. Feta cheese is difficult to find. Even Nilgris, to whom I'm eternally loyal to, does not steadily retail it. And when it is, you can go home knowing that you spent 125 bucks on a small bar of cheese, but it is money well-spent.

Salty, crumbly cheese; half-a-handful spins the humble sandwich and churns out a Grilled Mediterranean Panini, one that you pay close to 200 bucks for at French Loaf.

Grilled Mediterranean Panini


Bread-8 slices
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
Spinach- 1 cup, washed very carefully and shredded
Feta cheese- 3/4th of a cup
Olive Oil-1 tbsp
Dried Herbs (Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
Black Pepper, crushed or Chilli Flakes- to taste.

Extra ingredients of your choice- not authentic, but your palate won't complain, will it?
I add olives and jalapenos. You can add mozzarella cheese, capers, an omelette or maybe even sneak in leftover grilled chicken.


Prep the vegetables. You can substitute the peppers with zucchini or plain old capsicum if that's what you find at the grocer's. Do not use raw eggplant in a quest to get Greek-y. That needs the eggplant to be sliced thin, salted, rested, drained and pan-fried. Try keeping the proportions even though.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Put all of the vegetables except the spinach on a foil-lined tray (Yes, I know spinach isn't a vegetable... either way, don't add it here). Toss them with the Olive Oil. Extra-virgin would be a treat. OK. I'm lying. Extra-virgin is a necessity.

You'll notice how salt isn't added here. Feta cheese is naturally very salty so a forgotten addition would lead to a Sodium OverDose. Experience is the best albeit an expensive teacher.

Throw them into the oven and let it roast away for 20 minutes. Make sure the oven setting is on Bake or Broil. You'll know when it's done; the kitchen will smell heavenly.   

When the veggies look blistered and caramelized, take them out. Chop up the garlic in it.

They don't have much of a taste right now. Stay cool.

 Add in the feta, spinach (yes, raw spinach), herbs, pepper, and the aforementioned Additions-of-your-choice. Toss it all again. Taste it. Add extra olive oil, salt (if you need it), chilli flakes (if it's not hot enough).

Place a scoop of it between two slices of bread (butter it if you're lucky enough to be able to afford to). If you're serving it to company, try ciabatta or a honey-mustard bread. I used Modern Multi-grain bread; that'll do nicely for my face for weekday brunch.

 The pre-heated panini maker would do the rest. If you don't have one, any normal griddle greased with a little olive oil would do. As long as it doesn't smell of Masala Dosa.

When it's steaming inside and gorgeously crisp on the outside, it's ready!

You can also stuff the mixture into a roti and call it a wrap. You could place it on top of sliced baguettes and stick them in the oven, and they come out as bruschetta. You can stuff it into Pita bread with Tzatziki. You can make Quesadillas, heck, even triangle-sandwiches, with them. Puristas will cry. But you'll thank me for it.

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