Before this recipe, I never had a panini in my life. I’m telling the truth!
Oh, I’ve had multiple grilled cheese sandwiches, but I’ve never used a panini press and I’ve never ordered a panini at a restaurant, not because I am gluten free and can’t eat the bread (well, that’s part of it), but also because they’ve never really appealed to me. Why press the bread like that? Just give me my regular ‘ol grilled cheese in a pan.
And this is a horrible, horrible thing because I’m now finding that I FREAKING LOVE paninis and cannot get enough of them. Adam thinks I’m crazy and he’s a little panini-ed out, but I don’t think I’m going to stop. I’ve tried the panini press, and I’m never going back!
Okay… so for a little backstory…
When I was in Orlando last week at the Food Blogger’s Conference, they were giving away a TON of different great prizes from companies like OXO, Le Creuset, Kitchen Aid, Land ‘o Lakes, and so much more. I happened to be the lucky recipient of a Le Creuset Griddle and Panini press, Panini Flipper (the thing you use to flip your paninis in the pan), Anthropologie apron (I LOVE their aprons and already own a few), $200 Visa gift card courtesy of Land ‘O Lakes (and which we used to drink around the world that night in Epcot in celebration), and a number of Land ‘O Lakes free cheese coupons (who can say no to free cheese.. I know, I know, if you’re allergic or lactose intolerant, you can say no, but just bear with me here).
After winning, I was ECSTATIC! Who doesn’t want to win a great prize like this?! But I was skeptical because I had never made or eaten a panini. So I was thinking to myself, “What am I going to do with this?! Will I ever use it?!”
The funny part of the story was that I had to lug this huge, heavy Le Creuset panini press, which weighs like 20 insane pounds or something all the way from the middle of Epcot, to the monorail, and then across the long parking lot to my hotel room. It doesn’t seem like a far walk, but my arms were KILLING for days afterwards.
I just kept thinking to myself, “Oh man, this panini press better be worth it. I HAVE to use it now! I’ve gone through the pain of carrying it.”
I really do wish I had a picture of myself carrying this enormous thing through the park, I’m sure it was quite comical, especially when I got lost and was standing in a dead end of Epcot facing some fences and cursing the fact that I couldn’t remember how to find my way from the conference back to the entrance of Epcot!
Immediately when I arrived home, I knew the first thing I had to do was make paninis. As you know, I don’t typically eat meat during the week so I waited and waited until the weekend when I indulge in all kinds of bad foods.
This recipe is:
- Dairy Free
- Egg Free
- Fish Free
- Gluten Free
- Peanut Free
- Shellfish Free
- Soy Free
- Tree Nut Free
And this is what I created…
Turkey & Cheese Panini with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Cook time||10 minutes|
|Total time||20 minutes|
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 medium slices Your choice of allergy free bread (If you're looking at an egg free version, an egg free flatbread such as the kind from Kinnikinnick would be best)
- 1 tablespoon Allergy free butter spread
- 4 medium slices Cheese, or Daiya Dairy Free Mozzarella Shredded Cheese
- 6 thin slices Turkey
- 2 thin slices Red onion
- 4 medium slices Tomato
- 1/4 cup Arugula
|Before even heating your pan, make your balsamic reduction as per the recipe below.|
|Heat your panini press as per directions over medium. If using a regular pan and making this as a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich, heat your pan over medium for about 3 to 4 minutes until hot. If you want to test, splash a few drops of water on the pan. It should sizzle when it's ready to use. When finally ready to use, brush your pan and panini press (if using) with olive oil to coat.|
|While your pan is heating up, make your sandwiches. Spread one side of each piece of bread with a thin amount of allergy free butter or shortening.|
|Start stacking your sandwich with the butter sides outward. On each sandwich place 2 slices of cheese (or a small amount of shredded cheese), then 3 slices of turkey, half of the onion, 2 tomato slices (depending on the size of your bread and your tomato you may need more slices to cover), half your arugula, and then drizzle half your balsamic reduction over the sandwich before topping with your second slice of bread (butter side facing outwards).|
|Lay your sandwiches in your greased pan and cover with the panini press (or lid). Let cook for approx. 5 minutes.|
|Once the cheese begins to melt, flip your sandwich and cover again with the press (or lid). Cook for another 5 or so minutes until the bread has become browned.|
|Remove immediately and serve!|
Strawberry Balsamic Reduction
|Prep time||5 minutes|
|Cook time||7 minutes|
|Total time||12 minutes|
- 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Water
- 1 tablespoon Honey or Agave
- 3 medium Strawberries (Diced)
|Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.|
|Reduce heat and let simmer for approx. 5-7min, stirring regularly, until your mixture begins to thicken. It should resemble maple syrup. Remove from heat and drizzle over your sandwiches when ready as per the above recipe.|
I told you that recipe was a lot more simple than you think. It’s basically just making a grown up grilled cheese sandwich and if you have a panini press it makes it even easier. Before now I never, ever thought I would never need or use a panini press and I didn’t have one on my wedding registry for that exact reason.
But I was completely wrong. I always make intense grilled cheese sandwiches. I put onion and arugula and special mustards and olives and who knows what on my grilled cheese sandwiches and with a regular pan and with all the stuff inside, AND on little gluten free bread it’s almost impossible to flip and manage without everything spilling out. With a panini press though, the heavy cast iron press “presses” everything together while the cheese is melting and then once the cheese is completely melted and stuck to all the ingredients, it’s simple to flip.
I made Adam take a picture of me with my brand new panini press for you to see. Isn’t it the most beautiful color ever? After I got it I updated my wedding registry so all my Le Creuset would match this one because I loved it so much! haha
Please excuse my disheveled, crazy look – I felt horribly sick yesterday when I had Adam take the picture – there must be something going around and this is probably the first time I’ve been sick in a REALLY long time. YUCK!
Anyway, off to make more paninis for lunch today and maybe even for dinner (yes, I’m OBSESSED).
If you’re in the market for a panini press:
- I definitely recommend the Le Creuset one, which you can pick up at Sur la Table – Here’s a link to their site (there’s a button right now on the right hand side for all Le Creuset)
- OR, I also saw on Sur La Table’s website, they have their Breville Panini Duo Press (which is a little less work than the above) on sale at a pretty great price
What type of fun, grilled sandwiches do you like to make or do you stick to your normal cheese and bread?
Please leave your comments below because I’d love to try your recipes too! Next on my agenda, PB&J paninis with pickle, apple, bacon, and more!