As summer gives way to kids heading back to school and the first glimpses of cooler weather tucked into chilly mornings or cool evenings, now is the perfect time to plan an end of season picnic for family and friends alike. Pressed sandwiches tend to be among my favorites and all manner of fillings can be shared. And if you have some vegetarians in attendance (and even if you don't), consider this amazingly flavorful panini when putting together your menu.
Packed with a sautéed mushroom mixture seasoned with fresh thyme and balsamic vinegar, it also boasts roasted red pepper, fresh basil, and delightfully tangy goat cheese. That's not to love? In fact, I always make about twice the number of sandwiches I think I'll need and these are always gone before everything else. They are that good!
These sandwiches play well with all the normal picnic accompaniments from pasta and potato salads to chips and watermelon. If you want to make the mushroom mixture a day or two in advance, that will also save you time on the day of your big event. Just don't eat it all before then!
- 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil - divided
- ½ red onion - chopped
- 1 lb. baby bella mushrooms - diced
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 T. fresh thyme - finely chopped
- ¼ tsp. coarse salt
- 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 loaf of ciabatta bread (12-16" long)
- 4 oz. goat cheese - crumbled
- 2 roasted red bell peppers - patted dry, cut to fit the sandwich
- 1 small bunch of basil leaves
In a sauté pan, add 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions, stir to coat, and turn heat down to medium low. Cook the onions stirring occasionally until softened and slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl; set aside.
In the same pan, add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Keep the heat on medium high and add the mushrooms, spreading them out into an even layer. Stir infrequently for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are dark golden. During the last minute of cooking, stir in the garlic. Transfer the mixture to the mixing bowl with the onions and add the thyme, salt, and vinegar. Stir throughly.
Cut the bread horizontally. Brush the insides lightly with olive oil. Spoon about the mushroom mixture on bread, pressing it together so that the mushrooms stick together. Top with the crumbled goat cheese, roasted red bell pepper, and basil. Place the top piece of bread on the panini.
Place the panini on a hot grill pan or panini press and place something heavy on top like a cast iron skillet or lid. Cook/toast for about 4-5 minutes until toasty (a few dark spots are okay) and the cheese begins to melt. Flip the panini and press again for about 3-4 minutes or until heated through. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into individual sandwiches.
- Yields: 4 sandwiches
- Preparation Time: 25 minutes