grilled vegetable and prosciutto panini: pleasantly perfect pieces of paradise.

Vitamin D makes everyone happier. How can it not when it is given in the form of sunshine? As I walk to work, I constantly feel like God is approvingly patting me on the head with warmth. I also feel like that gentle pat addles me a bit, for I find myself prancing on the way to work as Mumford and Sons circulate through my eardrums. Many upraised eyebrows are directed my way. But how can you not just want to break out in a perpetual jig due to the incandescent rays?

Summer becomes the time to share that 'oh-so-good-tingly-glow-that-can-also-be-a-bit-carcinogenic' with friends. And what better way than with food.
Stelna, Irine, and Anne all came over for dinner yesterday (Anne after she had heard through Stel that I was having her and her sister over for dinner . . . Anne surreptitiously phoned me to see how I was doing, and when I asked her over for food as well . . . let us just say she was not that surprised). I applaud her stealthiness, however, I always want to feed as many as possible - so her clandestine phone call wasn't really needed. Take that to heart all you moochers out there.
It was hot out. And even more sweltering in my apartment - it is West-facing, and not very conducive to staying cold in the summer (I adore it, however, many of my more cold-blooded friends do not). So what was something I could cook, that would not warm up my friend's insides too much. Panini. Oddly enough, panini reminds me of summer days, on our sun-filled porch. I would sit out there, facing the ocean, with the briny-tinged breeze flowing past me, watching the eagles play, and eat a panini prepared lovingly by my mother.

The history of the panini is as disputed as any other dish out there that has so many variations (by the way, if you are ever looking this glorified sandwich up, there is also a company which has 'advanced solutions for document processing out there' - I can firmly state, this has nothing to do with eating). Panini is actually plural in Italian for 'small bread roll', while the singular is panino - but I don't think that really has the same ring to it. So 'panini' as a term stayed for the singular sandwich. The first references to this particular sandwich were in a 16th century Italian cookbook (the first recorded general sandwich was created by the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, in the 1st century BC, when, during Passover, he sandwiched nuts, apples, spices, and wine, between two slices of matzoh), but they became popular in the Western world in the mid-20th century. It was most likely originally sustenance for peasants, but the panini has now become the chic food of urban coffee houses, and is toted by the yuppie crowd as the perfect light lunch. I have become one of those yuppies, though I value this sandwich not because of how popular it is, but how I can stuff it. The memories of ocean and eagles don't detract from my esteem either. 
Grilled Vegetable and Prosciutto Panini

foccacia bread, cut into thick slices
extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
whole fresh basil leaves, about 8 or 9
two roasted red peppers, sliced *
1 medium eggplant, roasted and sliced *
small handful of feta cheese, crumbled
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced and dried on paper towel
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 tsp. mayo (optional)
1 tbs. bruschetta topping (optional)

*Either store bought or grilled yourself - the latter preferably. If you are grilling your own, follow the instructions for red peppers here, for eggplants here, and for onions here

1. Brush oil on one side of both pieces of bread. *If you were to grill your own veggies, this would be the point when you do.

2. Arrange one layer of each ingredient on one piece of bread, on the un-oiled side. Put other piece on top - oiled side out.

3. Grill on each side for a couple of minutes - until they have grill marks and are a golden brown and the cheese is oozy.

4. Pray. Blow on the cheese a bit because it might be inordinately hot compared to the rest of the sandwich. Eat. Enjoy.