I hardly ever think of panini recipes in advance. Most of the time, ideas come in the spur of the moment – and upon opening the fridge and making a quick inventory of whatever is in there and can be used. After all, I think this is one of the purposes of panini: to bring wholesomeness and flavor to one’s dinner table without being overly complicated to assemble.
It’s near the end of summer – and it’s really, really hot.
These past few days have been very hot and humid in Chicagoland, and work in the kitchen has been unbearable. It feels like the whole house is a melting pot of simmering, sticky heat, and the air conditioning in full swing hardly makes any difference. The days start off with a glorious sunrise and a cool wind which promises mild temperatures – however, that is never the case. Soon, the temperature starts climbing, and everybody frantically runs for shelter from the heat. On this weather, a glass of cold water and a shaded area are my best friends.
There is no better time to eat salmon than during the summer, when this gorgeous fish is at its most flavorful. As it leaves the ocean and rides the streams of the Alaskan waters in search of good spots to spawn, the salmon makes an amazing journey, during which it reaches peak condition. Unsurprisingly, the demand for salmon increases in the summer. Packed full of protein and good fats, this nutritious fish can be used in a variety of healthy dishes, and it tastes great alongside vegetables.
Summer just isn’t summer if you don’t spend it away from the computer once in awhile – I came to this simple realization earlier this week, when my husband and I took a couple of days off and ventured out of Chicago. It was not a long break by any means, but it did allow us to relax and to recharge our batteries. Plus, it also made me remember how much I loved walking in the countryside, feeling light and invigorated, enjoying every breath of fresh air and admiring the colorful fields and the pensive forests.
We got back home late in the evening after a long drive, and I wanted to make something quick to eat as a light dinner. I still had a batch of homemade vegetable sauce in the fridge, so I decided to use it to make ham and cheese panini.
This is a dish which takes some time to prepare, but the end result is so worth it! The sweetness of the red bell peppers and the pungency of the garlic come together beautifully and elevate the humble chicken, rendering it moist and flavorful. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone, and the sauce is amazingly wholesome. I need to exercise a great deal of self-restraint whenever I make this dish, especially with regard to the sauce. This is one of my favorite sauces to dip French bread into, and to savor for minutes on end.
When I lived in the UK I used to be an avid watcher of cooking shows – Ready Steady Cook, MasterChef, Nigella Express, Saturday Kitchen, and many others. It was one of these shows that introduced me to a strangely looking vegetable I’d never seen before: the artichoke. I read more about this veggie and was not sure it was worth the bother, so for years I steered clear of artichokes, intimidated by their appearance and by the supposedly complicated preparation techniques involved. Fortunately, in time I have learned to control my “fear” of artichokes, and nowadays I often use marinated artichoke hearts to make panini.
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.