Panini Sandwiches are very famous in Italy as the great grilled sandwiches. They are very versatile in its preparation with many possible ingredients. Most commonly used are cured ham and cheese. The bread used for making the panini sandwich should be relatively dense to hold the ingredients. For ultimate results, panini bread such as ciabatta and focaccia should be pulled out from the oven before it turns brown; it is called white bread ''pain blanc''. Ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough campagne and pain de mie are among the best choices for grilled sandwiches. A panini sandwich is a seared sandwich from which the cheese must melt but the rest of the ingredients should remain at room temp. In order to achieve that, you would need a commercial grade panini press. It allows the sandwich to get the grill marks in less than 3 mins. Great news, your cast iron griddle will do just that.
The pizza Margherita appears to have been invented in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito, chef at Pizzeria Brandi. The pizza was allegedly created in honor of Italy's unification, with the three toppings – basil, mozzarella, and tomato – representing the green, white, and red of the Italian flag.
To make the focaccia bread, follow my recipe linked on the ingredients list. My focaccia recipe makes 8 portions – save remaining bread for later use. Bake focaccia for panini at 500ºF/260ºC for 12 to 14 minutes.
In a small saucepan, reduce balsamic vinegar along with sugar to syrupy consistency. If it ends up too thick, add more balsamic – give a quick boil and set aside. Once at room temperature it should get to honey-consistency. Reduced balsamic vinegar can beautifully enhance fresh strawberries, citrus fruits and caprese salad.
In a saucepan, sweat onions and basil stem with olive oil for 5 mins on medium heat. Add olives and garlic and cook until fragrant – add pinch of salt. Add tomato sauce and lemon zest. Cook for 20 mins or until sauce has thicken enough to spread. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Slice bread lengthwise. Use approximately 80g of tomato marmalade and 80g cheese per sandwich. Add tomato slices and season with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Top with a few leaves of basil and add a drizzle of balsamic reduction and olive oil. Enclose sandwich and grill.
Heat up cast iron griddle on low heat. If using a panini press, follow the manufacturing instructions. When cast iron begins to smoke; it's ready. Grill sandwich for about 2 minutes on each side, gently pressing the bread down as it grills. Let rest a min or so before slicing. Enjoy!