the Root Source challenge on Cookthink to come up with a recipe incorporating pineapple, my synapses started firing and I became determined to come up with a creative panini recipe entry. I hit upon a tasty one over the weekend and I’d been looking for time over the past few days to write it up and submit it. I was finally ready to do it this morning, but it looks like I missed the deadline – doh! As many of you know, “deadline” is kind of a foreign term when you’ve got an infant Oh well, it’s still a great sandwich, so I will share it with you all nonetheless! Want to skip ahead? Click here for the final recipe.
- Bread: Ciabatta
- Condiment: Olive oil
- “Meat”: Pineapple
- Cheese: Goat cheese
- “Goodies”: Cilantro
THE INSPIRATION: So, as I mentioned, what sparked me to pursue a pineapple panino (say that 3x fast) was a recipe contest whose deadline passed before I had a chance to enter it. Bygones. What inspired me to try this particular combination of grilled pineapple with prosciutto and goat cheese was the Christmas Eve dinner my mom made this past Christmas. She did a baked ham and this wonderful pineapple casserole – kind of a sweet and savory bread pudding. Ham and pineapple is a classic combination and for good reason – it’s the salty-sweet thing. But the custard in this pineapple casserole added yet one more savory element that made the whole thing absolutely addictive. So when I went to create this sandwich, I thought goat cheese might yield that same creamy-savoriness – and with the pineapple, prosciutto and a few fresh sprigs of cilantro, the final result had a shot at being a flavorful success.
THE PREPARATION: I learned how to cut up a pineapple in Hawaii a few years ago on my honeymoon. I’m glad I did, because while I can appreciate the canned kind there really is no substitute for the real thing. I cut off the top (I was taught to twist it off with my hands, but this one was sharp – ouch!) and then ran my knife down the sides to remove the outer rind. Then I sliced it cross-wise into 1/2″ slices and cut out the core with a paring knife.
As soon as the pineapple slices made contact with the panini grill (at 400 degrees, for a good sear) I heard the sizzle and some pretty nice tropical-like aromas began to fill my kitchen! I learned right away that it’s pretty important that the slices all be pretty close to the same height – some of mine were taller than others and as a result only the tall ones were able to see any grill marks. I’ll definitely note that in the final recipe. After about 7 minutes they looked done enough to remove from the grill, with a nice caramelization on the outside.
THE CONSTRUCTION: I finally found ciabatta! Not sure why it was so elusive at my local Vons, but I persevered this time and found it at Albertson’s instead. I divided my roll into four individual-sized pieces and split them lengthwise. I didn’t really have a special condiment in mind for this panini recipe – I wanted the pineapple to be the star and there were already other strong flavors – so I went with just a simple drizzle of olive oil inside both halves of the bread. I lay a slice of prosciutto on the bottom piece of ciabatta and then topped it with a slice of the grilled pineapple, two 1/4″ thick medallions of goat cheese, a few pieces of cilantro and the top half of ciabatta.
After cleaning off the panini grill and lowering the heat to 350 degrees, I put on the sandwich to grill at medium height for 7 minutes.
THE RESULTS: Just what I’d hoped for! The photo doesn’t really do it justice – yes, it’s a little bit messy but for what it might lack in aesthetics it more than makes up in terms of taste and texture. The crunch of the grilled ciabatta is almost satisfying enough in itself – but the fillings are not to be outdone. The pineapple, which is plenty sweet on its own, is especially candy-like with the caramelization it obtained from the grilling. It’s complemented very well by the salty prosciutto – the thin slice is just enough to give the smoky ham flavor without taking away from the featured attraction. The mild and creamy goat cheese, as hoped, provided a nice, savory balance. And the cilantro…well, I just love cilantro (sorry, Mrs. Nudelman!!). It brings a freshness to whatever you put it in and this sandwich was no exception. All in all, I really enjoyed this sandwich. It may not have been entered into any contests, but hopefully you’ll find that it’s a winner! (I even cheesed myself out with that one )