Paninis: “Little Breads” that Equal Huge Flavor

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Recipes

Oh, paninis! Grilled cheese on PCP, also known as the Superman of cold weather food when paired with an appropriate soup.  Two slices of crisp, grilled bread with melty, fatty things between them. I am a sandwich kind of person to begin with, and Keegan Smith gave me an opportunity to touch on this after he talked about making them often for his family. They are easy to prepare, and just as easy to modify to suit the tastes of everyone at the table. What’s more, it gave me an opportunity to use the sandwich press that was given to my roommate last Christmas. We have an excruciatingly small kitchen, with four people’s belongings crammed, and very deliberately organized into specific cupboards.

Panini press

Yet another single-purpose appliance...?

Honestly, the last thing we have room for is another appliance to keep out on the counter. Let us not mention the fact, that our house is built-in the 40s and therefore, there are, maximum, two outlets per room. I have to say, that after finally putting the contraption to good work, I might just be willing to advocate for it, or at least take it off my friend’s hands when we part ways at the conclusion of our lease.


On page 194, The Joy of Cooking states: “Panini literally means ‘little breads’ but it is a common Italian word for sandwiches.” And when the definition is left THAT open, it’s really hard to narrow down the options for making them. Let us imagine the thousands of sandwich combinations in this city, let alone in the country or the world. I needed some more specifics before I started giving you ideas for your own sandwiches. After a little more research, I found that, although in America, panino are always thought of as being grilled, in Italy, they can be un-grilled rolls as well, usually made with ciabatta or rosetta bread. They are called panino, the plural of panini. Go figure, I theorized that the language laws of that would be a lot like those related to fungus/fungi… point is, more research was essentially counterproductive in narrowing my recipes down.

In the US, the places that serve the vaguest sandwich (since we’ve discovered that it can basically be comprised of anything) on the planet, prepare grilled bread with meat and cheese. I took it to another level though, as I tend to do…and made sandwiches that are an homage to a couple of the hole in the wall places that I’ve found in Portland that have some classic yet genius flavor combinations.

I let the little panini-press-contraption heat up as I sliced my cheese and got together the mise en place for this little session. I

Mise en place...



  • Crusty fresh bread if possible
  • Smoked salmon
  • Gouda
  • Olive oil
  • mayonnaise
  • Green onions
  • Capers

This sandwich is inspired by a little crepe and espresso place out in Gresham called Park Place Coffee. It is literally adjacent to Vance disc golf park and across the way from Rockwood. Think of it as the snack stand between the ninth and tenth hole…except you have to cross a very busy street (181st) to get there and it sort of doubles as a community center for the area. If you go this route, play Rockwood first to warm up, and finish on Vance because there are more tightly compressed trees and a couple long distance shots on the latter course. Anyways, the restaurant has both sweet and savory crepes, all of which are tasty, and my favorite is the smoked salmon and gouda.

This is making a sandwich, so I’m not going to break it down with an itemized list, because that seems pretty patronizing to me. Slice your bread, and if you want mayo, put a little on the interior of the slices. Add a generous amount of smoked salmon and sliced gouda. Capers have a pretty potent flavor, but so do all of the items on this bad boy, so be generous with them in addition to the green onions. Now put it together, and if you so desire, drizzle just a little olive oil on the outside of the bread. Flip it on to your griddle with a weight on the top side, or if you are fortunate enough to have one of the handy-dandy appliances I spoke of earlier, stick it in there until its melty, golden brown, and done.


Use lots of capers! This gives them a chance to stand up to the robust flavors of the gouda and salmon.

Mmmmmmmm...Smoked Salmon. Need I say more!

Finished product.



The other recipe that I tried for this is inspired by Sanborn’s, which is a breakfast joint located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South East Portland. This is no Hot Cake House to converge upon at four A.M. after a rowdy night of drinking  and dancing. No, my friends, this is the kind of place you could actually take your parents for brunch. Classy, well-lit, good product, and even reasonable service which can be pretty hard to find!


I stumbled upon this place when a best friend of mine was living in that neck of the woods. She and her honey were fighting, or maybe it was one of the times they broke up, but she was a wreck…and so I thought, you know what makes me feel good at ten o’clock in the morning after a night of crying, and talking? Booze and some real hearty food. We entered in search of mimosa, and stumbled upon their creation known as the BAMCake…oh yes! The BAMCake. This culinary masterpiece is the sophisticated successful artist to the retarded loser cousin that is the McGriddle. With it’s fresh local ingredients, the only really that it is comparable health-wise, is because of the sheer size. It takes up the entirety of the plate, but with good reason. The internal garnish of this behemoth pancake is made of Bacon, Apple, real Maple syrup and Cheddar cheese…hence the name.  Go forth, adventurers, and seek Sanbourn’s.

So instead of the salmon etc, I made a panini that had maple syrup drizzled on the interior sides of the bread, and was then stuffed with cooked bacon, thinly sliced apple, and some delicious sharp cheddar. Just like it’s cakey and successful friend, you need a nap after wards. I feel that it is my social and moral obligation to literally discourage you from operating any heavy machinery.

So thank you Keegan, for helping me have an excuse to not only write about sandwiches, but also to use Helton’s sandwich maker…That very contraption is how I will make the leftovers that I can’t continue to eat, and don’t want to look at, more desirable…which in turn helps me save money! Very nice!


Bundling up and signing off,

Lady Katie

  1. gmomj says:

    Lots of interesting things going on here!
    I think you put me in mood for a panini with lox.
    I make mine on a grill with a weighted pan on top.
    Yum Thanks!

    • I also love mine on the grill with a weighted pan on top, or even a textured grill press, unfortunately my living situation, particularly in January/February doesn’t always accomodate my taste…but that’s the nice thing about the machine…it is not dependent on weather or space. If I were going for taste alone, I would always vote for the real grill, but unfortunately I have to deal with a number of other factors as someone with limited funds, limited space, limited time…etc. etc. I agree that those conditions equal the best flavor and texture though! Thanks for the comment, friend!-Lady

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