Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dinosaur Kale and Feta Panini

As today was my first trip to the farmers' market in quite some time (since the Sunday before Thanksgiving if we're entirely accurate), I got really excited and picked up some fresh bread and some kale with the brilliant idea of making a grilled cheese.  I love grilled cheese and I have been tempted to throw some kale in there for awhile.  This panini was really the combination of a bunch of ideas from several different sources.  The idea of adding kale to a grilled cheese first came from a cashier at Trader Joe's who told me that he puts kale in his mac n cheese.  It seemed like an interesting idea and I have been toying around with the idea of adding squash to my mac n cheese for awhile, so why not add some kale?  But that got me thinking about the combination of kale and cheese. Then one day I was flipping though Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing and I saw that she had a Kale Panini in there with farmers cheese or feta cheese, blanched kale and pickled chilis.  When I had been thinking about a grilled cheese I had been thinking more of a fontina or other creamy cheese that melts really well with something else saltier thrown in to give it a little more flavor, but a panini using feta seemed to make sense.  I think Alex was a little worried by the idea of the kale dominating the cheese (and I was too) so we decided to go with feta because it is assertive enough to hold its own against most ingredients.  And then today we were eating lunch at inoteca and they had a speck, mozzarella and pickled red onion panini.  So Alex threw in the idea of quickly and lazily pickling some shallots and throwing them in our panini for some sweetness and some acidity.  I had originally been planning on sauteing the shallots in with the wilted kale, but that sounded even better.  Alex has been on a roll lately with the suggestions.  I'm not exactly sure what has gotten into him, but I like it!

So throw it all together and bingo, bango, you have a panini!  And it was a  really tasty panini if I do say so myself.  I thought the flavors worked really well together.  The feta was salty and creamy (thanks to Andrea Reusing for that idea), the shallots were sweet and punchy, and then the kale was garlicky and savory.  If was just very satisfying.  It had enough of the grilled cheese aspect to it to resemble comfort food, but was sophisticated and complex enough to make it new and exciting.  Plus the addition of the kale made me feel a little less gross afterwards.  As much as I love grilled cheese, sometimes it just sits like a lump in the bottom of your stomach, but this sandwich didn't do that at all.  I think it had a lot to do with the proportions of cheese to kale and the addition of the shallots.  Go team Boyne!

Recipe after the jump!

Dinosaur Kale and Feta Panini

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, plus 1 tbsp
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tbsp evoo, plus additional for drizzling bread
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups roughly chopped kale, thick stems discarded, rinsed and still a little damp
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 slices of country bread, cut about 1/2-3/4 inch thick

Combine 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, salt, sugar and warm water in a non-reactive bowl.  Add thinly sliced shallot and set aside.

Heat an 8-inch saute pan over medium heat.  Add evoo.  Once the evoo is hot, add the garlic and saute until fragrant and just beginning to turn lightly golden.  Add the kale.  Stir to coat kale in the garlicky oil.  Add remaining tbsp cider vinegar to help create some steam.  Toss kale as it begins to wilt down.  Season with s&p.  Cook until the greens are nicely wilted and tender, about 3 minutes (don't overcook the greens into mush - you still want there to be some texture, but you don't want them fibrous and raw either).  Remove from heat.

Heat a panini pan or a panini press over medium heat.
Top 1 slice of bread per sandwich with a layer of the sauteed kale, crumbled feta and pickled shallots.  Add the remaining slices of bread on top.  Drizzle bread with evoo.  Place paninis on the prepared pan/panini press and place the lid on top.  Cook panini about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove from pan/press, cut paninis in half and serve.

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