Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Panino a Go-Go

It was all systems go on Saturday for my fourth and final 27th birthday brunch. (Yes, I milked it for all it was worth).

After learning that my Nana has had a panini-maker stuffed in her cupboard for several years, I decided I'd put it to good use and make various Italian panini as the centerpiece of my meal.

To select the right ingredients, I remembered back to summer when I practically lived on toasts (Italian version of grilled cheese with prosciutto) and panini. They were always so simple, usually one or two components, so keeping to tradition I chose these three Italian classics: Panino Caprese, Panino Verdura, and Panino con Prosciutto e Brie.

Grilling zucchini and eggplant for the Panino Verdura

Panino Caprese with mozzarella, tomatos and fresh basil

Things got off to an interesting start when I realized that the panini-maker was missing the handle, so the art of pressing down firmly now included the risk of being scorched. Using an oven mitt and a little elbow grease, I dug in while my brother-in-law and mom worked on our side dishes: Creamy pumpkin soup and a fresh beet salad with goat cheese, Sherry vinaigrette and candied walnuts.

Putting my muscles to work

Panino con Prosciutto e Brie

After only about 3-4 minutes on each side, the Ciabatta bread was branded with those panini-perfect grill lines and the cheese we gooey and piping hot. Tutti a tavola per mangiare!

The scheduled dessert (at my request) was to be Nutella pizza, a recipe I first tasted at my host dad Albino Gargiulo's local pizzeria in Sorrento. On Friday, I went shopping for what I thought were all two of the essential ingredients: Nutella and pizza dough (pre-packaged).
Well, Mr. Boboli neglected to mention on his packaging that there's mozzarella cheese and garlic baked into his "Original Italian Pizza Crust." And while they are three of my favorite flavors, a cheesy, chocolaty, garlic-infused pizza would not have gone over well at the table.
So, that's the skinny on the Nutella smeared saltines. They were a definite Plan B effort--a tasty one nonetheless. But that's coming from a Nutella-holic, so perhaps I'm not a valid critic.
Speaking of...mark your calendars because World Nutella Day is coming up in February!


Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Random...we just updated the date for WND 2009 today! :) Hope to see your entry :)

Courtney said...

super random! I was just scouring your site for the '09 date. February 5th it is! I promise my entry will be more inventive than Nutella saltines. ;)

Lauren (Lo) said...

looks delish!!!

Rita Kent at TesoroFino.Com said...

I have to tell you that I simply adore your blog. You lived my dream! I am an Italian/American in hopes to some day live in Italy! It's just harder when you've got 3 kids in school! Come and visit my Italian/American blog and enjoy some of my experiences as the American Daughter to 2-Italian Speaking Parents living in a neighborhood where nobody did things our way:

Courtney said...

Thanks for the heartfelt comment Rita. Your blog is really impressive and a joy to read as well. No one does things like Italian-Americans...we're a rare and wonderful breed, don't you think? ;)