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Ham, Tomato and Cheese Panini

Panini are versatile. You can make nearly any kind of sandwich using your family’s favorite ingredients: tuna and cheddar, steak and provolone, or mozzarella and tomato with pesto, to name a few. To add zip to your panini, spread with whole-grain mustard or add chopped spicy olives or sun-dried tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices sourdough bread or pain au levain, each 1/2 inch thick 
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 24 small, thin slices Gruyère or white cheddar cheese 
  • 8 thin slices ripe beefsteak or other large tomato 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 4 to 8 thin slices country-style ham 

Directions:

Preheat a stovetop panini grill, a heavy sauté pan or a ridged stovetop grill pan over medium heat, or preheat an electric panini grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Match up the bread slices, creating 4 even pairs, and then lightly butter the outside of each slice. For each sandwich, place 1 bread slice, buttered side down, on a work surface and layer with 2 cheese slices, then 2 tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper, then add another 2 cheese slices, 1 or 2 ham slices and then 2 more cheese slices. Top with the remaining bread slice, buttered side up. (At this point, you can wrap the sandwiches and refrigerate them for up to 1 day.)

Working in batches if necessary, place the sandwiches in the grill and close the top plate, or place in the sauté pan or grill pan and press down firmly with a flat, heavy pot lid. Cook the sandwiches, turning once at the halfway point if using a stovetop pan, until the bread is golden and toasted and the cheese has melted, 10 to 14 minutes total. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Family Meals, by Maria Helm Sinskey (Oxmoor House, 2008).