P1240033Lately my mom has been very clingy, aka she has been requesting I prepare food for her. This comes as a major surprise for me as I always get into cat/dog situations with her because I like to hoard, and she (acts like) she doesn’t like to hoard. So when it comes to matters of the kitchen, I never hear the end of it whenever I restock the pantry.

P1240074And since we have a well-stocked kitchen, we decided to make a Panini Bar for dinner. You can literally pull off items and leftovers from the fridge to make this happen, but this is the ToT version of it. I love sandwiches and always complain that Manila needs to have a decent deli sandwich joint. Until that time comes, I’ll be making these with my Breville Panini Press.

P1240046To make a simple but sumptuous Grilled Veggie Panini, you can pick some vegetables you have on hand. I like Bell Peppers so these are great for grilling.

P1240051If you want to stay healthy yet achieve the hearty flavor that meat provides, get some gorgeous giant portobello mushrooms. You can cut these up, or grill them whole like a mushroom burger.

20123For the Grilled Veggie Panini, I like a combination of bell peppers, yellow zucchini, asparagus and mushrooms. Cut them up evenly so they all cook together.

P1240047Since you want to keep the freshness of the vegetables, all you need is some good olive oil (I used truffle oil to pair with my truffle cheese below) and some sea salt and pepper. Make sure you season well as the vegetables let some water out.

20124After seasoning, put on a grill pan and turn around when the grill marks appear and the vegetables are tender and soft.

P1240081I like a bit of a char when I grill the vegetables because it lends a smoky flavor that caramelizes the sugars in the peppers.

P1240070To assemble, first warm the bread. For a panini, the bread is the most important aspect. Get a baguette or a foccacia from a good deli, but for this meal I used Batard (french loaf bread).

P1240075If you can get artisanal bread that has rosemary or herb in it, it will enhance the flavors of your vegetables.

20122If you have time, it’s great to make your own balsamic vinegar cream. Balsamic tends to be watery on its own which makes the bread soggy. I like to get a little bit of balsamic vinegar (has to be from Modena!) and heat on low fire until it thickens and evaporates a bit. What you’re left with is a sauce-like consistency that has intense flavor which will heighten the vegetables even more.

P1240077If you have some bottled pesto in the fridge, go grab it and spread some on one side of the sliced batard. You can also make your own pesto if you are a purist, but if you’re literally pulling things from your fridge you can look for prepared sauces to liven up your panini.

P1240078Pesto on one side, balsamic cream on the other. Trust me on this, you will not regret it.

P1240084To assemble, literally pile on the grilled vegetables on one side, making sure you get a bit of everything. If you think eating a vegetable sandwich seems like such a diet, you haven’t tried this yet.

P1240092The piece de resistance is to top the veggies with a beautiful robust cheese. I picked a truffle noir cheese, which puts an earthy umami in your mouth that is sooooo amazing.

20125You can get the truffle noir cheese, alongside the Mozzarella di Buffala at Santi’s. Worth every penny.

P1240072Et voila! Now tell me this vegetarian panini doesn’t appeal to you at some level?

P1240093Now if you want something heartier, a caprese with prosciutto panini is the BESTEST sandwich in the world. When I was living in Santa Monica, not a week went by that I didn’t indulge in this deli delicacy from Bay Cities. Here’s the main thing you need to have: beautiful paper thin slices of prosciutto di parma. You don’t need a lot since it has a very intense cured flavor, but once you start, you really can’t stop.

P1240095From bottom to top, layer some slices of roma tomato (roma  is the type used in Italian cooking, not perfectly round, but red and bursting with flavor), arugula (for the peppery taste) and prosciutto di parma atop a slice of baguette with pesto.

P1240100Layer slices of mozzarella di buffala (buffalo mozzarella). Don’t be stingy, fresh mozzarella is not salty and has a juicy creaminess to it. I could eat this on its own.

P1240102           Crack some fresh black pepper and top with balsamic cream spiked-bread. This is perfect at room temperature, so no need to heat up. And here you have, my favorite sandwich in the whole wide world. Like I said, you can literally get these things from your fridge, and just improvise with the sandwich components. I hope you try these two ideas out and let me know what you think.

What’s your favorite sandwich and WHERE can I get some?