Don’t judge me for judging you… but I do judge.
I believe everyone should know the beauty of a simple sandwich made with ingredients practically still covered in dirt, smelling of the garden, warm from the sun.
I live in the city. The city of Philadelphia, not New York. I do not have the aforementioned garden.
But lots of other people do, and they bring me that beautiful produce.
When I build a recipe, I always think first and foremost about what items are at the peak of their season just then and there. However, I also believe in buying the best of imported products now and again. There is one brand of olive oil I used to buy in Florence, Italy when I lived there for a year, and I would just die to get some on my hands now. Until I can sneak away for a weekend of delicious Tuscan food and pack my suitcase with cloudy pressed Florentine olive oil, I settle for the imports at my local market.
For the basil, I simply pick some from the pot on my windowsill (which is still alive after a few weeks) or buy the most vibrant bunch I can find at my local farm market. You’ll know it’s good if the smell of home instantly fills your kitchen upon unpacking the bunch. At least, that is what it smells like in my house.
Tomatoes are so easy at this time of year. I prefer the ugliest tomatoes I can find, knowing that they will be passed on by even though they are the tastiest. They are hearty and almost meaty and I love to eat them like apples, sprinkled with salt. For this panino, I like to cut big thick slices and let a bit of the juice drain off so they don’t make the bread soggy.
Speaking of the word panino, it is panino, not panini, and I judge because of that. I don’t know where the crazy started, but it should be paninO for singular and paninI for plural. I don’t know why this bugs me so much, but it does. It annoys me almost as much as hearing Giada say “Mozzarelllllla” with her strong Italian accent in the middle of an English sentence.
When it comes time to select your cheese, try and find a local dairy farm. My Whole Foods carries the most delicate local mozzarella that just melts in your mouth, and when they have stock I usually buy more than one container. DiBruno’s also makes some in house that will make you think you’re in Italy.
After you have all of those ingredients, all you are missing is the bread. Go for the best! I like to use fresh ciabatta bread, but use the best option your local bakery has.
When you buy the highest quality ingredients, you can get away with making a panino for a guest. You can also get away with calling the simple list below a recipe.
2 large portions of ciabatta sliced in half (about 1/3 loaf)
1 large summer tomato, sliced
handful fresh basil
1 large ball of mozzarella
olive oil for brushing the bread
kosher salt to taste
Preheat a panino maker or grill pan. Layer 2 pieces of the ciabatta bread with the summer tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Sprinkle a dash of salt over each piece. Cover each with the second piece of bread and brush the outside of each sandwich with olive oil. When the grill pan or panini maker is hot, add the sandwiches and grill until the cheese is nice and melty and the bread is crunchy. Enjoy!
This is definitely one of my favorite late summer meals. Yours?