Documenting the struggles of one woman trying to live recipe-free.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Fresh Mozzarella, Tapenade & Arugula Panini
It's no secret that I'm always daydreaming about a career that doesn't involve practicing law. A frequent fantasy is to run a store of some kind. My ideal would be a yarn store, situated in a cool looking house with an area where customers can work on projects and have cupcakes and tea. John says that it would just be our living room, not an actual business, but I see nothing wrong with making people feel so comfortable, like they're guests in my home.
Alternatively, my friend Liz and I have frequently dreamed about opening a coffee place that promotes social justice activism. We'd offer free refills if you show us that you wrote a letter to the editor while you were using our free WiFi and host conversation circles and neighborhood events. We'd call it the Human Bean.
The latest fantasy has been inspired by my neighborhood. There's an amazing park that's under construction just a couple of blocks from my house, and recently, a cute little space opened up on the main avenue that is also near the park. I envision that the one thing my neighborhood really needs is a cute place that sells ice cream and sandwiches that people can pick up and enjoy while they're walking through or hanging out at the park. I'd need to learn how to make some seriously good ice cream, but I already know at least one sandwich that would be on the menu: this panini made with fresh mozzarella, tapenade, arugula and fresh basil.
This is such a great sandwich on its own or served alongside a bowl of soup. The peppery arugula and the basil add a fresh, verdant flavor to the saltiness of the olives that's rounded out by the smooth milkiness of the fresh mozzarella. Of course, I don't know why I'm even trying to write a description of how good this is-- it's grilled cheese essentially, so of course it's good!
1 tbsp butter, melted 2 small cloves garlic, smashed 4 slices of a crusty Italian bread, cut on a bias. 6 thin slices of fresh mozzarella 6 leaves of fresh basil, cut into smaller pieces 1/2 cup of arugula 4 tbsp of olive tapenade
Melt the butter with the garlic so that the garlic flavors the butter. Heat a medium-sized pan over medium low heat. Brush the garlic butter on 2 slices of bread then flip them over and top each slice with 2 tbsp of tapenade, 3 slices of mozzarella, the basil and arugula then top with the other slices of bread. Place the sandwiches buttered side down in your heated pan and weigh them down with something heavy like another pan or in my case, two small cast iron skillets. After about 3-4 minutes your cheese should be melted and a nice, browned crust should have formed, but you may want to check to make sure you don't burn the sandwiches. Butter the tops of the sandwiches then carefully flip them over. Weigh them down again and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until toasted on the other side. Slice on a bias and try not to burn yourself by eating it fresh out of the pan.
This is totally my favorite sandwich of late, and I actually frighten myself a little because it makes me realize how much I'm like my dad with this little sandwich shop fantasy described above. A couple of years ago, my father really impressed himself with his teriyaki chicken sandwiches and wanted to run a restaurant that served them exclusively. I don't think this sandwich can be an exclusive menu item, but if I do open my little store, I suppose I could make room for his chicken sandwich too. :) What other sandwiches should be on my menu?
This has been a year of terrible personal loss and and terrifying challenges in the form of finishing law school and trying to find a job in this economy. So although the world probably does not need another food blog, I started this as a means of keeping my head above water, to keep me balanced and sane, and to keep tabs on my culinary experimentations. The goal is to live recipe free, to be one of those home cooks who can look at what's available in my community supported agriculture (CSA) share box, on sale at the store, in my husband's garden, or leftover in my refrigerator and transform it into something delicious. I'm translating my efforts into recipes that I can look back on to improve upon or if someone who stumbles on this wants to try it out at home and give me ideas for improvement.
I have no formal cooking training. Anything I know has been gleaned from watching cooking shows, reading food blogs/cookbooks/magazines, and trial and error. I can't say that what I post here is worth replicating at home, but people in my house found it tasty so I'm posting it here primarily for my future reference. Also, if you're a stickler for precise measurements, most of mine are estimates unless it came in a package that told me how much was in it.