In my experience, eating dinner is the last thing you want to do when you get home late, on a freezing cold night. You just want to shower and cuddle up under the blanket, hoping that spring would be upon you soon (if only this were true!). Still, on this cold Chicago weather, what can be more enticing than a hot panino, oozing cheesy goodness, nutritious, and quick to prepare? I think panini are the perfect quick comfort food: You can make a healthy meal out of only a few ingredients in very little time. A fresh panino and a hot cup of cocoa – that’s my new idea of dinner bliss.
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.
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.
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.