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Vegetable Pesto Panini

Dear readers, I promise I am not “punking out” by offering you an idea for a sandwich. This is an exceedingly delicious sandwich. It also has just seven ingredients, can be made in 10 minutes and satisfies the need for hot comfort food on a cold winter day.

One more disclaimer: we do not usually eat sandwiches for dinner. In fact, I can probably count on one hand, the number of sandwich dinners I have had in the past year. Because I pack dinner leftovers for lunch, I don’t usually eat sandwiches for lunch either, hence why they are kind of novel as part of my dinner rotation.

Back to the sandwich…which I somewhat strangely had the idea for during my morning breakfast.  In my head, I was already thinking about the dreaded weeknight shopping trip that happens when you’ve hosted family, driven to the airport twice that weekend and never make it to the grocery store.  What I wanted was something warm, gooey and still pretty good for you. We paired the sandwich with a generous green salad and then made them again for lunch a few days later with a mug of tomato soup.

Here’s what I did, but this is a recipe that’s open for improvisation:

During my shopping trip, I bought some excellent Italian sliced Tuscan bread (La Brea is great in a pinch), some sliced baby portabella mushrooms, 6 pieces of provolone cheese and a jar of roasted red peppers.

As soon as I was home (it was already 7:15 p.m.), I got a handful of mushrooms sautéing in a little butter and olive oil, and I mixed up a tablespoon of mayonnaise with a teaspoon of pesto. First, I spread a little butter on one side of the bread, then added some pesto mayonnaise (I found a little went a long way), layered on some fresh spinach leaves (about 5 per sandwich), added the cooked mushrooms, about 1 1/2 roasted pepper pieces and 1 1/2 slices of cheese. Then, I added the second piece of bread with mayo spread on it and put the sandwich butter-side-down on my griddle pan. A large-bottomed frying pan would also work.

Not having a Panini maker (and not wanting one either), I used my heaviest frying pan to press the sandwiches down and stacked that with a couple cans to keep it steady. It’s a little wacky-looking, but it works great!

After about 4 minutes on the first side over medium-high heat, I removed the can-frying pan contraption, added a little butter to the top piece of bread and flipped the sandwiches over. I replaced the frying pan for another 3-4 minutes until the cheese melted, the spinach wilted and the sandwich was good and bubbly.

It was the perfect mix of convenience, ease, cheese and vegetables that made us very happy to sit down to the table. And you could easily make this a meal for one (or six), or cut the sandwiches into fourths for a party. Besides, didn’t you want to know what to do with all that pesto in your freezer?

Stay tuned for the Christmas cookie celebration December 13, 14 and 15, where I’ll be posting a tested cookie recipe each day.

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1 comment to Vegetable Pesto Panini

  • I’m not usually a vegetable sandwich guy, but this looks amazing. And of course the universe wouldn’t implode if you added some grilled chicken. Nice panini-press workaround. Who has the counter space for all those gadgets?