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Dinner in Minutes: Paninis perfect choice for busy nights

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
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. If you have a panini press, by all means use it.

A crisp crust enclosing warm, tasty fillings with melted cheese — no wonder paninis have become so popular.

Here's a quick dinner with almost no prep work for this busy time of year. The sandwich is filled with low-sodium ham from the deli, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese.

Or, if you prefer, Monterey jack, Swiss or a stronger cheese such as Gorgonzola can be used instead of Cheddar.

If you have a panini press, by all means use it. If you do not, I have given directions for making the sandwich in a saute pan.

Cook the paninis over medium-low heat so the insides will warm and the crust will be crisp and golden, not black.

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 4 cups of ready-to-eat, Italian-style salad greens with 1 cup of torn, fresh arugula and 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat vinaigrette.

Believe it or not, pink meat goes with pink wine. Try a crisp, dry rose.

Linda Gassenheimer is a food writer for the Miami Herald. Write to her in care of Living, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, D.L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St., Pittsburgh, PA, 15212, or email tribliving@tribweb.com.

Ham and Cheese Panini

1 small ciabatta (about 6 ounces)

Olive oil cooking spray

2 medium cloves garlic, crushed

6 ounces sliced, low-sodium ham

12 cup sliced, drained, canned roasted red peppers

12 cup reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

Several fresh basil leaves

Cut two 2 12-inch pieces from the bread. Slice them open horizontally. Coat the top halves with the cooking spray and sprinkle garlic on top.

Place the ham on the bottom halves. Place the roasted red pepper over the ham. Sprinkle the cheese over the red pepper and top with 5 or 6 basil leaves. Cover with the top halves.

Heat a nonstick skillet large enough to hold both paninis over medium-low heat and coat with the cooking spray. Add the paninis and press them down with a lid. Saute for 3 minutes.

Turn the paninis over and press them with a lid. Saute them for another 3 minutes.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 492 calories, 19 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 1,428 milligrams sodium

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