Roast pepper panini: comforting yet light, and great to eat in the summer

There is something really comforting in eating cheese on freshly sliced bread. To me, it’s simplicity at its best – and it’s also the symbol of many happy memories. I love this combination because it reminds me of my childhood and of me eating feta cheese with white bread and juicy red tomatoes alongside my parents. Back then we used to travel quite a bit in the summer, and being on the go and on a tight budget meant that we didn’t care much for fancy restaurants. It was all about improvisation – improvisation with a few simple ingredients, bought from local producers who sold their fruits and veggies on the side of the road.

To me, eating cheese on bread is also very practical: simple and light food is great on sunny days, when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the hot kitchen. Last but not least, I also wanted to bring variety into our diet. I used to make cold sandwiches for my husband to take to work every day, but after awhile he got bored of them, so I thought I should improvise by making panini on the new grill we’d bought a few months ago but never used. Childhood memories coupled with the need for practicality and variety have thus made me embrace the Italian panini as a great lunch choice.

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Simplicity works its magic in this recipe. I had deli sliced ham and provolone in the fridge and also some Italian bread (which I sliced poorly with my unsharpened knife) and a big jar of red roasted peppers. I turned on the grill and set it to 375F. I spread extra virgin olive oil on the bread slices with a pastry brush, and then started assembling the deli combo: one slice of provolone, then several slices of deli ham, then one provolone, then ham again, then half a roast pepper (make sure to dry the roast pepper with a paper towel, otherwise the brine will make the bread mushy).  I put another slice of provolone on top of the pepper and ended with the bread. I then put the panino on the grill for 3 minutes.

This is the first panino I photographed for my blog and the first I ever made in our new home in Chicago. The flavors worked well together, the kitchen smelled wonderful, and overall I was pleased with the end result. I just wish I’d used a better knife to cut the bread. Hopefully I’ll do a better job next time.

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