Not your average panini!
I decided to really double the level of flavor when I made this panini. I wanted to create a turkey panini with bold flavors that would be perfect for a bar snack sandwich.
Panini sandwiches originated as bar snack food in Milan Italy. As you can imagine, Italian bar owners do take great pride in their snack food. The last Italian restaurant that I worked in was a family style place. The bar and lounge was very popular for NY Jets football fans. The owner would personally make fine focaccia snack bread with many different traditional Italian toppings for the patrons. Those olive oil saturated focaccia snacks were mouth watering great tasting bar favors!
A Haitian cook at the restaurant, who was a bit naive, asked the owner why he did not offer sandwiches to the patrons as bar favors. The Italian owner replied by saying "You mean panini? Panini is Milano bar food. We are from Napoli!" I just laughed, because I knew better than to ask that question. Italians are proud of their regional cuisine and flavored focaccia was popular as a bar snack in Napoli.
A panini can be pressed gently on a flat panini grill or a ribbed panini grill. For a dry panini crust with good fresh ciabatta bread, I prefer a flat grill instead of a ribbed grill. For a panini crust that can benefit from being brushed with olive oil, a ribbed panini grill is best. Most commercial panini grills are equipped with both flat and ribbed grills. Grilled vegetable panini or tuna carciofi panini taste better with an olive oil brushed grilled crust. Roasted turkey seems to taste better with a dry toasted panini crust.
The difference between a panini and a Cuban sandwich is that a Cuban sandwich is pressed very flat. There are only 2 or 3 variations of a traditional Cuban sandwich. However, that leaves room for creating new breeds of Cuban sandwiches like the ones I have posted in this blog. Panini are not pressed as flat as a Cuban sandwich. They are gently pressed, because the texture of ciabatta bread is so nice!
There are endless variations of panini, as long as the ingredients are Italian. There are specific panini recipes for the Milan region. Non Italian ingredients seem to go better with Cuban bread or French bread. The French call their unpressed crusted snack sandwiches croque.
There is a wide open world for creating innovative Cuban sandwiches and French croque sandwiches. Both are considered to be street vendor style food, so trendy non traditional flavorful ingredients can be used on those styles of sandwiches. For panini made with ciabatta, traditional Italian ingredients are the best choice. Turkey has recently become a traditional favorite meat in Italy, because it is a healthy choice and it tastes good with other Italian ingredients. The new tradition of Italian turkey cuisine was the inspiration for recently posting a couple of Italian turkey panini sandwiches in this blog. Tacchino panini cucina di Italia!
Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto:
You can mince and puree the ingredients for this spread the old fashioned way, but it is much easier to make in a food processor!
Simmer 8 sun dried tomato halves in water over low heat, till they become soft and reconstituted.
Remove the tomatoes from the hot water.
Coarsely chop the sun dried tomatoes.
Place the sun dried tomatoes into a food processor.
Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped onion.
Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
Add 1 tablespoon of Modena balsamic vinegar. (Modena Italy is where balsamic vinegar originated. Balsamic vinegar from Modena has the best flavor profile!)
Add 1 pinch of basil.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Pulse the food processor for 5 seconds at time, till a smooth spreadable pesto is formed.
Add a tiny bit of virgin olive oil, if the paste becomes too thick.
Set the balsamic sun dried tomato spread aside.
Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
Add 4 finely chopped garlic cloves.
Saute till the garlic starts to become a golden color.
Add 2 handfuls of baby arugula leaves.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Saute and toss till the arugula becomes wilted.
Place the wilted garlic arugula into a bowl and set it aside.
Tacchino Panini with Balsamic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Garlic Arugula and Provolone:
Cut a 6" to 8" long piece of ciabatta bread.
Split the bread in half horizontally.
Spread the balsamic sun dried tomato pesto on both halves of the ciabatta.
Place the garlic arugula on the bottom half of the sandwich.
Place 4 to 5 ounces of thin sliced roasted turkey on the garlic arugula. (Roasted turkey from a delicatessen is fine for this recipe.)
Place a few thin slices of provolone cheese on the turkey.
Place the top half of bread on the sandwich.
Place the sandwich on a panini grill that is set to medium heat.
Gently press the sandwich, but do not squash the sandwich completely flat like a Cuban sandwich.
Grill till the ciabatta becomes crust and the sandwich ingredients become warm.
Cut the sandwich in half to create 2 triangles.
Place the panini triangles on a plate.
Garnish the pate with an Italian parsley sprig, black olives and a gherkin dill pickle.
Deliciously Italian! This is a great tasting panini sandwich. Peppery garlic arugula and balsamic sun dried tomato pesto taste great with turkey! Ciao Baby! ... Shawna