Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BLT Panini with Cheese

Trying to give a few L-Bs away (any takers?), I am not eating BLT Paninis.  Not that I couldn't have a half; I could.  But I'm counting my calories and watching my protein; I'm eating way more vegetables and I was already eating vegetables at every meal.  Dave (the hub), however, is not on my program.  South Beach really did the trick for him last year (as it didn't for me), so while he doesn't eat a panini every day--or any other sandwich--he does indulge once a week or so.

Anyone who cooks for themselves has their shortlist of easy favorites and my guess is the list often includes a much-loved, go to sandwich.  A panini morphs the most mundane into a warm, welcomed meal.  Takes vegetables and meat to a new combined level, if you will. Even a PBJ or everyday grilled cheese takes on a new life when made into a panini.   Leftovers breathe afresh when weighed down by cast iron until steaming hot and tender--think sliced cold chicken with roasted red peppers or pot roast with grilled onions.   (Don't forget to use a spread on the inside or to season your ingredients, except for PBJs, of course.)

At the top of Dave's shortlist is a BLT, though he typically waits for the fresh tomatoes to come in the back door in August.  Still--he'll come down from his office or in from shoveling anytime at the mere pop-pop-sizzle-sizzle of bacon fat flying around the skillet.  I actually think it's the aroma, which doesn't translate into words, or does it? The aroma of bacon is warm, smokey, salty, pungent, back-of-the-throat, and creates a head-swaggering, swallowing, eyebrow-raising, one side of the teeth clench-tap expression on his face.

He was sick, but not too, and just wanted something- he wanted to be babied I think.  (I have the crud now and he cooked for me last night, too.)  So this is what he got:

 I am not a big electric gadget-buyer, so have no panini press.  Instead, I use a grill pan with a cast iron meat press on top of it- used for outdoor grilling.  I bought my meat press at a garage sale or Good Will, I think; you could also try the hardware store.  Worth the search.

Rather self-explanatory, but here's the process:

1.  Cook 3 pieces of bacon (I like Nueske's best.) Drain on toweling.  
2.  Heat grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
3.  While heating, make the sandwich:

-Slice  a 6-inch piece of baguette in half, lengthwise. Brush exterior with olive oil; spread inside with hot mustard
-Place exterior sides of baguette down and layer 2-3 slices peppered tomatoes and cheese on one side and bacon with a small handful of salted fresh spinach (or other greens) on the other.  Put halves back together to form sandwich.
-Put panini carefully down on grill.  Place meat press on top and let cook 2-3 minutes or until browned and cheese is softened.
- Using tongs, turn and let the other side brown.  When cheese is melted, take the panini off and plate.
(This might take 8-9 minutes in a panini press.)  Serve with potato chips and a big pickle, of course.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

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