Because this is my first post of the New Year, I feel compelled to say something about resolutions—which is strange, because I actually don’t make New Years resolutions (I make Birthday Resolutions which, to me, make infinitely more sense if one is resolving to do anything for a full year). But, because 99% of the world does make New Years Resolutions (or at least pretends to) I think it’s worth mentioning that 2013 is going to be a big year for Harlem, especially FOOD in Harlem. Having lived on both the East and West sides of Harlem over the past 11 years, I have witnessed the dramatic transformation that we have undergone culturally, financially, economically, educationally, historically, and culinarily. Gentrification is here, and it becomes more and more glaring as the current residents get priced out of the only home they have ever known and the new building that slowed during the beginning of the recession is now charging full steam ahead. Cost of living is skyrocketing—rent, electricity, and food, but there is still immense unemployment and underemployment among the majority of my neighbors.
These factors (as well as the continued national economy struggle) make it even more difficult for our community to demand and support a food system that is local, organic, sustainable, and healthy, especially in the cold winter months where we only have one Farmers Market that is open one day per week. Up against the huge fast food conglomerates that stay open 24/7 and sell vague imitations of what food should be for pennies, our Farmers Markets and CSAs, which are a bit more pricey, can’t be supported by the very population that needs their products the most. So, because we all need to eat, and we all need to save money, this panini is a use-what-you’ve-got-and-make-it-tasty masterpiece, inspired by the idea of stretching what’s in my fridge even further than I intended it to go. Comprised of all leftovers from my New Years totelloni making (check out the twitpic), this Panini is a great way of stretching the dollars you spend and trying to get one more meal out of them.
Braised Short Rib Panini
(makes 2 panini)
4 thin slices of sturdy artisanal bread (I used organic rosemary bread from Whole Foods)
Leftover blanched kale (squeezed dry of excess water)
Leftover chèvre, mascarpone, and Herbs de Provance mixture
Leftover beef, carrots, onions, and celery (strained)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Melt a small amount of butter in the bottom of a shallow sauté pan and place the sandwich in the pan. Some may advocate to spread a layer of butter on the bread before you put it into the pan, but I find it much less complicated to just put both of them in the pan and to let the heat do the work. If you don’t have a Panini press (which I don’t) you can build one right on you stove top using other kitchen items. Here is my makeshift press, and if you can’t tell what I’ve got going on there, it goes like this: sauté pan, sandwich, triple layer of heavy duty foil (also comes in handy when flipping sandwich), heavy bottom sauce pan, and a heavy can of grapeseed oil. You can build yours however you want as long as you make sure of two things: First, the sandwich needs a weight on top of it to press it; and Second, make sure that whatever you decide to press your Panini with is heat safe and won’t burn or melt when you put it on top of the sandwich.
Once your Panini is nicely browned and crisp on one side, add a bit more butter to the pan, flip and repeat until the other side is equally browned and crispy.