Caprese panino: ciabatta bread, vegan mozzarella, fresh basil and heirloom tomatoes
For years, I've lusted after many a high-end panini press. But being as frugal and space-conscious as I am, I could not bring myself to fork out $100 for something so large and seemingly frivolous. In the end, my patience and tightwad nature paid off. Last month, I saw a decent press that was petite enough to store in my city kitchen, advertised on sale for $20 at Macy's. I pounced.
Pressing: the fun part
Now I make panini at least once a week. It's easy and addictive. You can press any kind of bread: French bread, sandwich bread, and even tortillas. But after experimenting, I've determined that ciabatta bread, slathered in Earth Balance, or best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, works best and makes for the most authentic, Italian style panini. "Ciabatta" means "slipper" in Italian, and once you bite into this soft, flat bread, you'll see why. Pressing it makes it just slightly crispy.
The fun thing about panini-making is that improvisation is de rigueur. You can literally throw together a sandwich from anything and everything. Here, I married Tuscan white bean spread, fresh sage and artichoke hearts.
A meal within a sandwich
If you're feeling ambitious, you can saute some mushrooms or greens [spinach, broccoli rabe or kale] and add a slice or two of vegan cheese. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the contents of your pantry.