Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reminiscing over Italy and the sandwich that came of it.

If you were to rewind ten years back you would find me eagerly stepping off a boat on a rainy April morning onto Italian soil. Six weeks of backpacking in South East Asia had left me ravenous for some good, crusty bread and I knew I wouldn't have to look far. An apparent dependency on all things yeasty had surfaced amidst the many bowls of perfect Pad Thai and sublime Nasi Goreng, and despite my love of those flavours, I couldn't help but dream about the focaccia and calzone of 'the Boot'.

I had arrived in Brindisi via a flight to Turkey and a boat from Greece and to me, this port town had it all going on. No, there was no Ponte Vecchio or Trevi Fountain, but I quickly found all I needed- a bakery.
It had just opened it doors for the day and the shelves were stacked high with the most knee-weakening array of Italian specialties I could have ever hoped to see. This small-town Canadian girl nearly swooned at the perfectly dimpled Focaccette al Rosmarino, fruit and nut studded Cantucci and Biscotti, rustic peasant Pagnotta and perfect Grissini.

I don't remember all that I purchased, but it was way more than I could possibly eat for breakfast. Standing at a small bar, I washed everything down with a perfect café and the gruff yet efficient clerk wrapped up the leftovers in brown paper and string for me, rations for the long train ride to Roma.
The rain soaked me as I walked the nearly deserted streets, but I barely noticed. My belly was happy and so was I.

I was to stumble upon a market a little later in the day and again satiate my bread-lust with a roasted vegetable-laden focaccia and a sausage-stuffed panini--both of which today's immense sandwich reminded me of.
I guess that is why we took this little trip back in time; flavors have a strong tendency to transport one back to a certain spot, no matter how many years have passed. How amazing that memory fails, but taste buds do not!

I finished my gastronomical feasting for the day with a lemon gelato and another coffee before heading to the station to catch my train. Brindisi had been good to me and the rest of Italy awaited.

Ciao Brindisi Panini
serves 2

1 Italian sausage, grilled, sliced lengthwise
2 slices slab bacon, cooked, or Pancetta
4 slices Provolone
1 red pepper, quartered and seeded
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into four
4 thin slices of lemon
1/4 red onion, sliced into 4 wedges
olive oil
Two crusty bread rolls, Ciabatta or 'petit pain'

Preheat grill.
Combine red pepper, zucchini, lemon and red onion in a bowl with a generous splash of olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and grill everything until soft and cooked. The lemons will only take a few seconds on either side.
Reduce the heat of the grill to low.
Slice buns in half, brush generously with olive oil and grill slightly. Pile all ingredients onto the bottom two buns and place the top bun on the pile. Yep, it will look gigantic!
Grill in a panini press until cheese is melted OR, if you are like me and don't have a panini press, simply wrap a brick with tinfoil and place it on top of the two sandwiches on the BBQ. You will need to flip the panini once if you are doing this.

Enjoy possibly the best sandwich you have ever had.


foodie suz said...

Oh, I heart Italy. We were there last year this time, and any mention of gelato, chianti, or panini brings me back there...I love that food rules in Italy!

That sandwich looks most delicious. Thanks for the memory.

Melissa said...

I love paninis. It's funny; when people ask me what my favorite food is I often feel stumped. But then I think there is nothing that I love more than a good sandwich with melted cheese puddling on the plate.

Terrie said...

Your posts are getting more lovely and sweeter as the sun is warming up. Guess that's why you're a sunshine momma, and bright blogger!Summer IS coming!And, nothing like a good fully stacked sandwich for anything summer!

LyB said...

My gosh, how you're making me wish I could drop everything and fly to Italy. Since that ain't happening anytime soon, I'll have to make that sandwich, ASAP! :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Everything about Italy has magical powers. Look how long the memory of this sandwich has stayed in your soul.

Allison said...

I lived in Italy for 6 years, and although my main abode was Milan, my love of Puglia knows no bounds.

I was visiting one time and absolutely starving and so stopped in at a local mini-mart. Up the back they had all their salumi and cheeses and bread and the little old lady happily put together two paninis for my with prosciutto crudo (oh how I love and miss it) and mozzarella for the princely sum of about 2 thousand lire. nearly nothing.

My other favourite Italian panino is from a Milanese establishment called panino giusto. Amazing sandwiches, but at more than $15 a pop, they would want to be.

My Pugliese sandwich was on par, and so much better value.

Sue said...

Isn't it amazing how food can put us right back in the place where we first had it, even a decade or more later? What a great panini!

I wouldn't mind some Nasi Goreng either.

Coleens Recipes said...

Now THAT is a real sandwich!

Homemade Heaven said...

Oh that sandwich looks like heaven!

Maria said...

what an impressive sandwich. I have been to Italy and loved every second. I hope to go back again and soon!

Debbie said...

Paninis are one of my favorites. They are so good and hearty!

Culinary Wannabe said...

Your post has me swooning - and sad! For months my husband and I have been planning our anniversary trip and have been debating between Italy or Hawaii. Very different, I know, but they were on our "before we have kids" list. And we finally decided to lay on the beach, but your story makes me want to call my travel agent stat! Not to mention that sandwich looks like one for the record books.

Hilary said...

I still remember the divine pizza I had in Brindisi the day I stepped off the ferry from Greece. Now I don't know if it really WAS that good or if I was just sick of souvlaki! Sure imprinted a memory, though.

Susan said...

Funny! I just finished writing a post about making something my mother used to make and the memories around that. Then I read yours. Which looks delicious, by the way. As everything I have tried from here is. I just made a batch of your chocolate raspberry muffins again this week. My absolute favorite. I almost have to lock them up and throw away the key so I don't eat them all at once :) So thank you for all your delicious recipes!

Aimée said...

Hi Sue- Sounds like you had a good time. Isn't it lovely in April?

Hi M.Houseman- I hear you. Bread and cheese pretty much sum it up.

Hi Grammy- Thanks! I do love the sun...

Hi Lyb- It's a very poor substitute, but maybe if you enjoy it with some Chianti...

Hi Lydia- Too true.

Hi Allison- Lucky you! Italy must be truly in your blood.

Hi Sue- Nope, nothing wrong with a mound of fried rice!

Hi Coleen- Amen!

Hi Rose- Thanks! It was pretty close.

Hi Maria- Thanks. Good luck with those itchy feet!

Hi Debbie- Really a meal in sandwich form.

Hi Culinarywannabe- What can I say? I've travels a fair bit and no place comes close to Italy... Well, the longer you wait, the better the wine will be, so they say.

Hi Hilary- This town has made an impression on more than a few people for these very reasons, I'm sure.

Hi Susan- That's so sweet, thank you!

Elyse said...

What a fabulous post! Sounds like you got to visit some wonderful places. I think you should do a post about Greece, too!! Meanwhile, this panini looks amazing. I love that it brings back such fabulous memories for you.

Dolce Baci said...

Oh my gosh that looks so yummy! I have to try it thanks for sharing!

Cheryl Arkison said...

I've never been to Italy, but you can find a good Italian sandwich in Little Italy. I'll have to settle for that.

Unknown said...

I love Italy and all the food that comes from it this looks amazing.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

This looks like an amazing sandwich. Must try! I love your story- fresh off the boat, head for a bakery. I knew you were my kind of woman.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful food memory. That sandwich looks fantastic, too. One of our local markets has a whole host of sausages available -- I'll have to try some variations!

Emily said...

The panini sounds incredible! I had no idea you had been to Italy. I'm so jealous!

Andrea said... are making me think of our last trip to year ago the end of this month (we had our 10 month old daughter it tow too!). I think of going back ALL the time! We still have some wine left that we brought home from the trip...I think it's time to crack a bottle!

kickpleat said...

Wow, what a beautiful looking sandwich!! I so want to go to Italy now.


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