My mom asked me the other day whether I’d made this panino lately, and I said I hadn’t. I don’t know why, but I seemed to have forgotten about this deliciously light panino, good for vegetarians and lent observers, and perfect to savor on warm spring days. Sadly, the panini I’ve been making recently have been all but sophisticated: a few slices of ham and cheese, some pickles, on the grill – done! With Easter approaching, I’ll be away from work and school for a few days, and I’ve decided to use this spare time to do more cooking and to remake a few of my family’s favorite dishes. I think this panino is a good way to start my culinary spring break. 🙂
I went to the local grocery store to buy the veggies needed to make the panino and came across an odd variety of elongated cherry tomatoes. They looked fresh and quirky – and went straight into my basket!
Here’s what you need to make this panino:
1lb container cherry tomatoes
5 small bell peppers, of various colors
1 medium zucchini
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small bunch arugula
2 tbsp dry oregano
Whatever bread you have on hand (I had a French bread, not pictured)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Slice the peppers and the zucchini. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Put the veggies in a baking dish and spread the oil and the oregano evenly on top. Use your hands to make sure all veggies are uniformly covered with oil (use more oil if necessary) and/or oregano. I use a lot of oregano because we really like its flavor. Reduce the quantity if you’re not an oregano fan.
Put the dish in the oven and let the veggies roast for approximately 45 minutes. About 30 minutes into cooking, take the dish out of the oven and spread the shredded mozzarella cheese on the veggies.
Put the dish back in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the veggies are golden brown. Take the baking dish out of the oven and let the veggies cool down.
Preheat the panini grill.
For French bread, cut the bread in half and scoop out the middle. (Ignore this step if you’re using sliced bread.) Add a layer of sour cream on each half. As you may have noticed by now, I use sour cream extensively in place of mayo. We are used to eating a lot of sour cream – plus I also think sour cream tastes better than mayo. It’s just a matter of opinion and eating habits, I suppose.
Cut the spring onion finely and sprinkle it on top of the sour cream. Put a generous serving of roasted veggies on the bread which makes up the bottom of the panino.
Add plenty of arugula…
…then put the other slice of bread on top and grill the panino for 1-2 minutes, or until golden-brown. Serve with extra roasted veggies on the side.
This panino is light yet satisfying, and the roasted veggies come together to provide a multifaceted flavor experience, which is given meaning and direction by the assertive and aromatic taste of the oregano. The mozzarella adds a charming robustness to the ensemble, and the arugula is there to counterbalance any semblance of winter, and to put us straight into a new and fresh spring season.
As I’m eating this panino I can only be thankful that winter is finally gone (or so it seems), and that we are free to enjoy the light and pure first days of the spring. I have constantly longed for warm weather during this past Chicago winter, and I’m content that spring is here, and that I can go out more, cook lighter dishes – and be at my happiest.