Toasty paninis a perfect choice for busy nights

December 11, 2013 

A crisp crust enclosing warm, tasty fillings with melted cheese — no wonder paninis have become so popular.

Here’s a quick dinner for this busy time of year with almost no prep work. The sandwich is filled with low-sodium ham from the deli, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese.

If you have a panini press, by all means use it. If you do not, I have given directions for making the sandwich in a saute pan.

Paninis are typically made with ciabatta, an Italian bread named for its slipper-like shape. You can use a large baguette, Italian sub roll or focaccia instead.

Complete the meal with a salad made by tossing four cups ready-to-eat Italian-style salad greens with a cup of torn, fresh arugula and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat vinaigrette.

HELPFUL HINTS

Nutrition: This meal contains 521 calories per serving with 35 percent of calories from fat.

Substitutions: Monterey jack, Swiss or a stronger cheese such as Gorgonzola can be used instead of Cheddar.

Heat: Cook the paninis over medium-low heat so the insides will warm and the crust will be crisp and golden, not black.

To buy: 1 small ciabatta (about 6 ounces); 1/2 pound sliced, low-sodium ham; 1 jar roasted red peppers, 1 package reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese; 1 bunch basil; 1 bunch arugula; 1 bag washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad greens.

Staples: Olive oil spray, garlic, reduced-fat vinaigrette.

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