Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Simple Dinner Deliciousness

On a whim last night, I put together a simple dinner that ended up being quite tasty.  Greg was out of town for work, and I was on my own.  Typically, when he's away, I will just eat through whatever we have in our cabinets/fridge, and usually I end up eating things that are (to normal people) considered breakfast fare - cereal, oatmeal, egg sandwiches, etc.  However, yesterday I HAD to go to the grocery store because we had no milk left, and I absolutely need milk in the house at all times - so that I can munch on cereal whenever my little heart desires to do so.

So...in addition to milk, I bought a bevy of produce including fresh basil...which is absolutely divine when added to anything...and decided I would make SOMETHING that had fresh basil included.  When I got home, I decided to make a salad and a panini for dinner.  Having no thawed meat on hand (yes, all of our chicken, sausage, and random steaks are currently frozen, just waiting for the day they get to sit in the fridge for thawing and eventual grilling if the weather would just cooperate!) and having a desire to add some protein to the mix, I pulled out a can of white cannelleni beans and then began creating things.

First, I chopped up some lettuce, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, and red onion for my salad.  I added some shredded carrot also, and was done with that part of my meal.  For the main event (i.e. the part with carbs, hence my favorite part of the meal), I sliced a whole wheat ciabbata roll to use as the outter most part of my panini.  For the filling, I chopped up some fresh basil, sliced a tomato, and shredded some mozzarella cheese.  Then, I chopped some red onions and sauteed them in a tiny bit of olive oil to bring out the sweet flavor.  I set that aside, then put some minced garlic into my frying pan with some olive oil, sauteed just a short bit, then added a handful of the beans (rinsed and drained, of course!).  While it was warming up, I smooshed the beans into the garlic, making a kind of bean paste.  I added some extra virgin olive oil to this to get the mix a bit smoother, but it was still pretty chunky, which I was OK with.  I ground some black pepper into the whole thing then took it off the heat.

To build my panini, I spread the white bean mix on the bottom of my sliced roll.  On top of that I put my sauteed onion.  Then I placed my tomato slices down, followed by a LOT of chopped basil, and then the mozzarella cheese.  I topped this with my second half of the ciabbata, then put the whole thing into my George Forman grill for about 5 minutes.  The cheese got all melty, and the outside of the roll was crisp while the inside remained a bit soft.  And the flavors of all came together to make an all over awesome simple dinner.

I was going to take a pic of my creation, but couldn't wait to just dig in and eat.  The panini idea is simple though, you really can use whatever ingredients you like - I've made them with pesto, chicken, and sundried tomatoes before - and that's a totally awesome combo.  One of these days I plan to incorporate black beans and salsa into one of these bad boys and see how that goes.

The best thing about paninis is that you are able to really get creative with fillings - even with the bread you choose to use.

*If you don't have a George Forman (or similar) grill, you can use a non-stick frying pan with something heavy placed on top of the sandwich to "press" the panini - you'll have to flip it midway to get the crispiness on both sides of your sandwich, but trust me, it will be sooo worth it!

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