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.

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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