Food writer and recipe tester Linda Avery reviews cookbooks.
Facts: Harvard Press, 355 pages, $19.99 (or Amazon Paperback $13.48, Kindle $9.99)
Photos: about 93
Snowbound? Just bored? Feeling guilty about the New Year diet you’ve already put behind you? Maybe a panini is just what you need to snap out of it and get those creative juices flowing. Kathy Strahs’ The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook covers the subject from Aioli to Zucchini. You may be familiar with her blog PaniniHappy.comwhich has been inspiring panini fans since 2008 and encouraging readers to think outside the box.
You don't have a Panini press? Use a grill, a George Foreman grill or any countertop appliance. Truth be told, I’ve used a cast iron skillet with a weight on the Panini as you would a spatchcock chicken. Wrap whatever your weight (traditionally a brick) in aluminum foil, cook one side and at the appropriate time, flip the panini over and place the weight on again. It won’t have grill marks but it’s just as tasty. After all, didn't someone say necessity is the mother of invention?
Strahs is passionate about variety. As toothsome as baguettes are, she suggests using corn bread, tortillas, even pound cake as alternatives. In the “A Little Something Sweet” chapter she includes a recipe for Brie, Nutella and Basil Panini on brioche! Chapters are by main ingredient, i.e., poultry, meats, seafood, fruit/vegetable, cheeses and also panini for breakfast and brunch. Most of her combos are interestingly simple: Cheddar, Apple, And Whole Grain Mustard Panini; Gruyère and Red Onion Confit Panini; Speck, Taleggio, and Grill-Roasted Garlic Panini; and even the Spicy Elvis Panini (peanut butter, bananas, and bacon with sriracha).
Strahs says the panini recipe below is one that conjures up fall and anticipation of Thanksgiving, but to me it's timeless. Fig preserves are one of my favorites!
Turkey-Apple Panini with Fig and Gruyère
photo © Kathy Lipscomb Strahs
Yield: 4 panini
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 slices rustic whole-grain bread, sliced from a dense bakery loaf
1/2 cup fig preserves
8 ounces carved or deli-sliced roast turkey
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced
1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat.
2. For each sandwich: Spread butter on two slices of bread to flavor the outside of the sandwich. Flip over both slices and spread 1 tablespoon fig preserves on the other side of each. Top one slice with turkey, apples, and cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.
3. Grill two panini at a time, with the lid closed, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.