If you read my blog from yesterday, you know that my daughters, Kristina and Kara, are on their way to move Kara to the East Coast. I miss them both already, as I always do when they are not here, and I knew the first few days would be hard trying to get used to Kara not living here anymore. Thank goodness I have my blog to write because it will take my mind off of Kara’s now empty room, although I can still smell her perfume! I went to my cookbook library in the basement and decided to find a book that sounded like something I wanted to make for lunch or dinner. Aha! A panini – that was it. I hadn’t looked at this book in months. I carried it upstairs, opened it up, and staring me in the face was a note card taped to the inside cover that reads: “Happy Birthday Momma! I Love You!!!… Kara.” It was like she was talking to me telling me I would be fine today, and that she was still here in spirit.
Mario Batali says in the introduction that he has eaten every single dish in the book, not as an advisor or paid consultant, but as a fan, and a chef. The authors, husband and wife Jason and Jennifer Denton, fell in love with the sandwiches of Italy, which they say are a far cry from the over-stuffed American sandwiches. Italian sandwiches are lighter, crispier, and made with simple fresh ingredients. Panini’s are thin and toasted, bruschetta is an ideal mate for wine, and tramezzini has a few ingredients between soft white bread, like tea sandwiches- crustless and small. The Denton’s brought back their enthusiasm to New York’s Greenwich Village and opened up their own Italian sandwich place. They relied on their Italian memories to build a menu with the same balance of textures, flavors, and quality that they had experienced in Italy. Being in a small New York space with no room for an actual kitchen, a panini press was ordered from Italy, and took up most of the available counter space. After the American mind-set of being used to ordering a sandwich and getting it quickly, at first many people couldn’t understand why it took longer to make a sandwich – that is, until it was tasted. The restaurant quickly developed a loyal clientele.
The book explains about breads to use, which can make or break a sandwich, the superior meats from Italian butchers, and the freshest of ingredients for each sandwich. All of the condiment recipes are featured, including pestos, mayonnaise, mustards, and relishes. There is also a chapter with beverage, brunch, salad and antipasti ideas, such as olives, cocktails, and frittatas. Truly, you will want to lick the pages, but instead go buy the book and get cooking. Kara, whenever you are able to come back home for a visit, I’ll make your favorite panini with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. Or maybe I’ll go make it now so I can think about you. Thank you for the book. I miss you already. (And thank you for the iPad surprise video message!)