More Than Just Panini: 6 unusual ways to use your Panini press

With Panini sandwiches’ texture and look, it’s no wonder they are wildly popular in the United States.Imagine taking a bite out of a smoking hot, crisp, perfectly grilled Panini oozing with all kinds of cheeses. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, America thinks so too. Paninis have become one of the choice sandwiches in the past 15 years, and seem to boast promising income potential for venues around the country. But Panini makers can be expensive and bulky, which may deter some venues from purchasing them. However, once they realize the full scope of uses for which Panini presses can be employed, they may be convinced of the worthiness of the appliance. Here are six unconventional ingredients which can be prepared with a panini press.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are the top vegetable crop in the United States. They are an integral part of our diets, making up French fries, hash browns, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and more. They can be boiled, baked, fried, roasted, grilled, microwaved….or prepared in a Panini press. Hash browns can be browned to perfection in a Panini maker, while being pressed into a uniform shape for even cooking. Smashed, grilled potatoes become a no-brainer when made in this machine as well.

2. Chicken

Customers usually expect grilled chicken to be served adorned with those beautiful grill marks. However, it can be hard to get those marks on both sides of the chicken without overcooking it, when using a regular grill. Panini makers can solve the problem by quickly and efficiently getting the chicken marked while cooking it evenly from both sides, allowing better control of the doneness without worrying about the grill marks. This benefit goes beyond chicken: meat, fish, and tofu can be conveniently “grilled” this way as well.

3. Fruits and Vegetables

Grilled vegetables make for delicious pizza toppings, sides, sandwich fillers, and salads. Though most restaurant kitchens have a grill top or grill pan which can be used for preparing grilled veggies, Panini presses can speed up the process by blasting the vegetables with heat from both sides. Smoked goose breast or bacon wrapped around asparagus can be grilled deliciously using a Panini press.
Fruits can also be grilled in a Panini maker. Nectarines, peaches, apples, grapes, pineapple, and pears are just some of the fruits that can transform a dessert or a salad when grilled. Herbs and spices can be added as well, creating a one-step easy preparation.

Flatbreads

Though Panini makers are usually used to toast already made bread, they can also be used to cook bread dough. Flatbread prepared in a Panini press can be used as a base for focaccia, pizza, and garlic bread. It can be topped with salads or meat, soaking up the flavor and adding a unique component to the dish. Flatbreads can make up appetizers, main courses, or bread baskets to offer with salads or at the beginning of a meal. The weight from the Panini press will ensure the flatness of the dough during cooking, by preventing it from rising. If the dough is sweet, a dessert or breakfast similar to waffles or homemade ice cream cones can be made.

5. Polenta

Polenta can be served soft or hard. Soft polenta is the polenta as it is right out of the pot, but if allowed to cool, it hardens to the point where it can be sliced and grilled. Soft polenta can be delicious with grilled corn mixed in, and as you probably guessed, corn kernels can be grilled in a Panini maker. Hard polenta can be grilled in a Panini maker to get a crisp outer texture and, of course, grill marks. Thin layers of hard polenta can even be layered with cheeses, and vegetables before grilling to create an unusual polenta appetizer or main course.

6. Cheese

Panini presses offer a simple way to make cheese crisps. Choose the cheese or mixture of cheeses, and just place them on the press. Herbs and spices can be added as well, giving an interesting look and varied color to the crisps. The wavy shape can form the cheese crisps into an impressive garnish. Halloumi cheese can also be grilled on the press for use in salads and sandwiches. Grilled halloumi has an aesthetic golden crust, and gets a soft, but slightly chewy texture on the inside.

As you may have been convinced, Panini presses are a versatile tool for both commercial and home kitchens. Especially in small spaces, multipurpose appliances are extremely convenient. Aside from creating the extremely popular Panini sandwiches, Panini presses can make it easy to prepare a wide assortment of other foods as well, making it a key tool for the kitchen.

Parchment Paper Vs. Wax Paper

Wax paper can be used for preparing truffles and chocolate designs, preventing the need to worry about the paper sticking to the finished product.Every cook has felt the dismay of realizing that those roasted vegetables are in no way going to make it off that tray in one piece. You should have put more oil on the pan, or on the vegetables, or both. How are you going to cover it up so the plating doesn’t come out looking sloppy? You don’t have a choice, the order must go out, so you plate it as well as you can and try to cover up the imperfections.
And so the next time you attempt the seemingly simple feat of roasting some vegetables, you douse them vegetables in oil, and the tray too, just for good measure, and end with a finished product that, though beautiful and in one piece, tastes more like oil than the main ingredients. And so next time, you should try using parchment paper.

Parchment paper and wax paper are undeniably useful tools in any kitchen, commercial or home. Though, yes, you can manage without them, the sheer influence they will have in improving the kitchen experience makes them worth the investment. Yes, see it as an investment: less oil used, less time spent scraping off the burnt remnants off the pan, and better food presentation. Though in the end, you may break even in terms of financial aspects of the investment, the saved frustration will be greatly appreciated. Cooks make wide use of parchment and wax papers during food preparation, but in order to make the most of these tools financially, as well as guarantee a safer experience in the kitchen, the differences between them must be understood.

Parchment Paper

What it is: Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is usually a cellulose-based or silicone-lined paper. It is often used as a disposable, non-stick surface, mostly for baking and roasting. By lining a cookie sheet or roasting pan with this paper, the pan will require minimal washing afterwards, since the parchment paper is both grease resistant and moisture resistant. Parchment paper can be found in rolls, sheets, or precut to fit pans of different sizes and shapes.

Pros: Parchment paper can have various useful applications in the kitchen. The non-stick surface facilitates moving the foods from the cooking surface to the dish on which it will be served, without ruining its appearance, while the grease and moisture resistant characteristics minimize the cleanup which must be done in between baking subsequent batches.

Cons: Using parchment paper on roasting pans generates an extra expense. Parchment paper is more expensive than wax paper.

When to Use: Parchment paper is convenient to use when cooking any ingredient in the oven since it is heat resistant. Besides being used to line pans when roasting and baking, it can be folded around fish and vegetable dishes for cooking “en papillote.”

Wax Paper

What it is: Wax paper is, as may be deduced by its name, paper covered with a thin layer of wax. Wax paper is similar to parchment paper in that it is moisture proof and nonstick. However, it is not heat resistant, limiting its potential applications in the kitchen.

Pros: Wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, making it ideal for use when heat is not required.

Cons: Wax paper should not be used in the oven! It is not resistant to heat, and can be a fire hazard if used in the oven. Additionally, the melting of the wax in high heat conditions can give the food an undesired taste.

When to Use: Since wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, it should be used for food preparations which don’t require the paper to be placed in the oven. It can be used as a base for decorating cakes and cookies and as a surface for cooling truffles and chocolate decorations in the fridge. Folding parchment paper into a small, cone-like structure, filling it with a sauce such as chocolate sauce, and cutting off the end of the tip, creates a tool for writing on a cake, decorating plates, and garnishing pastries.

The Bottom Line

Parchment paper and wax paper can both be useful in any kitchen, especially commercial kitchens. However, they aren’t absolutely necessary. If a kitchen plans to purchase only one type of paper, they should choose parchment paper since it can be used for a wider range of applications. When both are available, wax paper should be used for “cold” preparation of foods, while parchment paper should be used in the oven. By balancing the use of these two types of cooking papers, businesses can reach the safest and most cost effective solution.

How to Brew Different Types of Coffee

Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant, grown in various regions around the world such as India, the Caribbean, and Ethiopia.According to the National Coffee Association, 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. I, for one, view drinking a cup of coffee as the defining point in starting my day. The public’s addiction to coffee has been expressed in more than just statistics of $40 billion spent of coffee in the U.S. each year; the many different types which have been created over time in all parts of the world, attest to the popularity of the drink.
If the market share of the drink is not enough to convince businesses that coffee is worth keeping on hand, the versatility of the bean makes an even bigger case for using coffee. Chocolate-covered coffee beans can be used as garnish, while concentrated, brewed coffee can be used in desserts. From mousse to coffee flavored brownies, coffee lends itself to use in sweets. Coffee can also be used in spice rubs of meats, and sauces for chicken and meat, adding a slightly bitter, deep flavor.
The first step to selling coffee in a coffee shop or restaurant is knowing how to prepare the different popular types. This article provides basic information about the most common types of coffee, offering a good starting guide for how to prepare coffee and which equipment to purchase to best serve customers.

1. Espresso

Espresso is a small, very concentrated shot of coffee made by forcing very hot water through finely ground coffee beans, under pressure. Espresso is most easily prepared using an espresso machine. The beans should be freshly ground for maximum flavor, and the water should be high quality. A thin layer of foam at the top of the shot is formed from oils and other components of the coffee beans, and is associated with the quality of the beans. Businesses selling coffee should invest time and effort into make their espresso as good as it can be, since it also serves as a base for many other coffee drinks such as cappuccino and café latte.

2. French Press

French press is a relatively simple coffee brewing method, which consists of brewing and filtering the coffee in one pitcher. The grinds are topped with hot water, and after three to eight minutes, depending on who you ask and the freshness of the coffee grinds, the strainer can be pushed down. Using freshly ground beans will make for the most flavorful coffee. The method takes a relatively long time, but is a great way to get the best flavors out of the beans and into the water, when done right.

3. Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is prepared based on a similar method as French press, but without the filtration. The coffee grinds and sugar, if wanted, are place directly in the serving cup, hot water is poured on top, the coffee is stirred, and then the drinker waits for the grinds to settle before drinking the coffee. Leaving the grinds in the cup allows the flavors to be extracted from the grinds throughout the drinking process, but requires the drinker to pay attention to the amount of coffee left in the cup: eating the grinds is very unpleasant in many opinions and should therefore be avoided. Turkish coffee is almost always served black (without milk).

4. Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is more than just cold coffee. Throughout the brewing process, the grinds do not come into contact with hot water. The cold extraction results in different chemical compounds in the finished product, when compared to hot-brewed coffees. Namely, cold brew coffee is appreciated for its low acid content and higher levels of caffeine when compared to hot brewed coffee. Cold brew coffee is prepared by placing the grinds in a pitcher with water, and letting it sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight. It is a great type of coffee to serve in the summer, but is not usually heated and served hot, after preparation. Since cold brew coffee rarely has the bitterness which some hot brewed coffees have, it can easily be drunk without adding milk, and can also be a great base for ice cream and other desserts.

5. Drip Coffee

Drip coffee is the most commonly brewed coffee in diners and homes. The technique consists of pouring hot water on top of coffee grinds in a filter, and collecting the drip as it comes through. As the water makes its way through the layers of ground coffee, it extracts the color and flavor compounds. This method produces a relatively light coffee, since the time for which the water is in contact with the grinds is minimal, and it is not coupled with high pressure and temperature, as with the espresso brewing technique. Also, some of the flavor compounds may stay trapped in the filter, leading to a less flavorful cup of coffee.

Coffee is undoubtedly one of the world’s favorite drinks. Various cultures have entire ceremonies centered on coffee preparation. The best coffee preparation technique depends on the drinker’s flavor preferences, and in general each coffee lover knows exactly how he/she like his/her coffee, and has a defined, preferred preparation technique. Restaurants and coffee shops should offer a few different types of coffee, if possible, in order to best cater to all customers.

The Pros and Cons of Yelp

Studies show that a bad review on Yelp can have detrimental financial effects on businesses.

Yelp is a website where the public can rate and review various local businesses. Based on the average rating of one to five stars and the number of reviews, businesses are rated compared to other venues in the vicinity. According to Yelp’s “About Us” page, it was founded in 2004 to help the public find local businesses. They had an average of about 142 million monthly visitors in the first quarter of 2015, and users have written over 77 million reviews. Yelp provides business owners with an option to set up a free account, from which they can post photos and message their customers, as well as purchase ads. In this way, it provides a great platform for positive word-of-mouth to spread through social media, potentially boosting a venue’s image in the public eye. However, at the same time, a negative review can ruin a business, presenting a downside to the service.

Chez Pannise, for example, often a top-rated restaurants, has only four stars on Yelp and has received particularly nasty reviews such as:

“Look, 100 years ago or whenever Alice whats-her-name came up with the oh-so-brilliant idea of serving stuff that’s fresh and local (DUH, like rural people have been doing FOREVER), but guess what .. tons of places have taken the concept light years beyond anything ms. alice does and they do it far, far better…”

On the other hand, Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine, California, is the top-rated restaurant in the United States for 2015, according to Yelp, and has received praise such as:

“***DO NOT MISS THIS SLICE OF BBQ HEAVEN***
As a BBQ aficionado, this gem ranks in the top 1%!!
Owner Hank loves what he does and loves whom he serves!…”

The contrasting examples above make the case for keeping in mind the pros and cons of Yelp when opening a business page, and when deciding how to run a venue.

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Pick Your Peppercorns

Black, white, pink, and green peppercorns can add color and complexity to a dish

Pepper, together with salt, makes up the most basic of spices, included in almost every type of cuisine. Almost every savory recipe calls for salt and pepper to taste, without specifying exact amounts, because they are so basic and necessary in flavoring, that most home and professional cooks are able to eyeball the necessary amount which will make the dish come out perfect according to their taste preferences. Pepper has some health benefits as well. It has antimicrobial properties, possibly helping prevent infection, and is also thought to help in the digestive process. Pepper contains some key vitamins and minerals, and may have some therapeutic properties against pain, cancer, bronchitis, and malaria. Like most spices, for food it should be used in appropriately small amounts. An overload of pepper can make dishes inedible and may have negative side effects for the diner. If plain old ground black pepper isn’t exciting enough for you, many other types of pepper exist. Below is a guide to some of the common types of peppercorns available.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is the most commonly used type of pepper in the United States. It has a spicy taste, and is often made available in shakers, alongside salt, on restaurant tables. You would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant kitchen without black pepper handy and used in dishes, and for good reason, since its taste can enhance pretty much any dish when used in small amounts (like salt). Black pepper is a dried form of not yet ripened, and therefore green peppercorns, sometimes boiled briefly before the drying process to help the darkening process during the drying. The slow-drying process allows enzymes within the pepper to darken its color. Purchasing it in the form of peppercorns, and grinding it close to the time it will be used, will help it keep its flavor longer compared to the pre-ground form. Peppercorns are also the chosen option for flavoring clear stocks and soups, since it can be strained out after cooking. If a restaurant was to choose only one type of pepper to keep on hand, black pepper would be it.

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