A crisp crust enclosing warm, tasty fillings with melted cheese -- no wonder paninis have become so popular.
Here's a quick dinner for this busy time of year with almost no prep work. The sandwich is filled with low-sodium ham from the deli, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Paninis are typically made with ciabatta, an Italian bread named for its slipper-like shape. You can use a large baguette, Italian sub roll or focaccia instead.
Complete the meal with a salad made by tossing four cups ready-to-eat Italian-style salad greens with a cup of torn, fresh arugula and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat vinaigrette.
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-- Monterey jack, Swiss or a stronger cheese such as Gorgonzola can be used instead of cheddar.
-- Cook the paninis over medium-low heat so the insides will warm and the crust will be crisp and golden, not black.
Ham and Cheese Panini
Makes 2 servings.
1 small ciabatta (about 6 ounces)
Olive oil spray
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
6 ounces sliced low-sodium ham
1/2 cup sliced, drained, canned roasted red peppers
1/2 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
Several fresh basil leaves
Cut two 2 1/2-inch pieces from the bread. Slice them open horizontally. Spray olive oil on the top halves and sprinkle garlic over the oil. Place ham on the bottom halves. Place roasted red pepper over the ham. Sprinkle cheese over the red pepper and top with 5 or 6 basil leaves. Cover with the top halves.
Use a panini press or nonstick skillet.
Nutrition: 492 calories (35 percent from fat), 19.1 grams fat (8.4 grams saturated, 7.9 grams monounsaturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 32.7 grams protein, 46.2 grams carbohydrates, 1.8 grams fiber, 1,428 milligrams sodium.