Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Make a Panini Sandwich on a George Foreman Grill

Ham and Cheese Panini on a George Foreman Indoor Grill

The Half Fast Cook is having grilled Panini sandwiches made on the standard little George Foreman grill tonight. Yes. You can make paninis on the GF instead going out and buying a panini press which is expensive and just one more kitchen appliance that probably won't fit in the cabinets.

I had my first panini in New York City. Yum. But, those paninis are expensive and even the cheap frozen ones at the grocery store kind of make you step back and say, "Ouch." We're talking a sandwich. Buy some bread, meat, and cheese, and you can eat all week for the price of a pre-made panini. Lord, I think I'm channeling my mother again. She washes out the zip lock bags.

Since I thought that restaurant panini was so rocking good, I decided I needed some way to make paninis at home. The George Foreman was sitting there on the cabinet, and I figured it was a press grill so was a similar concept. You're really just looking at a grilled sandwich but cooked from the top and bottom at the same time instead of putting the sandwich in a skillet and flipping it.

How to Make a Panini in a George Foreman Grill

1. Get some sturdy bread - not the soft Bunny bread that tears easily. You want something with substance, since the bread bears the weight. We don't have loads of choices on bread here, so I usually buy a loaf of crusty French bread and just slice it thick myself.

2. Butter two slices of bread - just the sides that will come in contact with the George Foreman grill. You would think that would go without saying, but trust me when I say it needs to be said. People email me their kitchen mistakes. Bless them. It helps me help you.

3. Put a slice of bread buttered side down on the George Foreman indoor grill and add meat/cheese (or whatever you want) and top with the other buttered slice of bread butter up toward the top plate press.

4. Close the lid on the George Foreman and let the sandwich grill for a few minutes. The time can vary depending on the specific model (and some adjust on the temps), but my standard little George Foreman runs about 3 to 4 minutes for a fairly crispy toast on the bread. I like my really dark to be honest, but I held myself back for the photo.

That's the Half Fast way to have yummy panini sandwiches at home without having to buy a panini press and without paying through the nose.

My favorite panini is egg salad. Yes. I kid you not. It sounds kind of gross, but I had one years ago done in a skillet, and it's like the breakfast sandwich from heaven. Just mix up some egg salad. Then, don't spread it on too thick. A little goes a long way and mashes out the sides if you overdo it. That's my kitchen secret of the day. Make yourself a panini and think about trying out the egg salad panini.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

Now, I know it's easier to go grab a can of Libby's pumpkin off the shelf, but if you have a pumpkin or if you're feeling your cooking mojo, then it's not hard to make your own pumpkin puree.

In the south, jack-o-lantern pumpkins are called cow pumpkins and generally fed to the livestock. Cooking pumpkins are the smaller, darker colored pumpkins that don’t look as pretty. Of course, I guess it's all in what you consider pretty though.

If you use your jack-o-lantern pumpkin, then increase the spices called for in the recipe. Otherwise, your dish will taste kind of bland.

There are three basic ways to prepare fresh pumpkin to be used in recipes:

1. Baked Fresh Pumpkin – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin in half and clean out the seeds and stringy stuff. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Brush a little melted butter on the cut edges of the pumpkin. Place the sides cut side down on the cookie sheet. Cook for around an hour or until the pumpkin is soft. Cool. Remove the pumpkin skin. Cut into pieces and blend or put through a food processor until the mixture is smooth like canned pumpkin.

2. Boiled Fresh Pumpkin – Remove the seeds and strings. Peel and cut the pumpkin into chunks. Put pumpkin chunks in a large pan. Cover with water. Bring to a light boil. Cook until tender. Cool. As with the baked method, blend or food process the pumpkin until smooth.

3. Microwaved Fresh Pumpkin – Clean seeds and strings out of pumpkin. Cube with rind on. Place chunks in a microwave safe bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cook on medium until soft. Check every 5 minutes as microwave times vary. Once chunks are cool, peel off the rind. Blend or food process until smooth just as in the other methods.

If the pumpkin puree looks runny, there are two ways to thicken it up.

How To Thicken Up Fresh Pumpkin Puree

1. Put the pumpkin puree in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Cook until it reaches the consistency desired. This just takes some of the water out of the fresh pumpkin.

2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Place the strainer in a big bowl. Pour the fresh pumpkin in the strainer. Leave this in the refrigerator over night. The excess liquid will drain off and can be rinsed away the next morning leaving you with thicker pumpkin.

You will probably have more pumpkin than you need for your recipe, unless you buy a really small pumpkin. You can freeze the leftovers. Most recipes seem to call for 2 cups, so just measure out two cup portions and seal in zip lock bags.