Finding the right balance: not all smoked cheeses are created equal
I don’t know why, but I’ve always found the taste of smoked cheese to be absolutely enchanting. So, I’m always dreaming up recipes where I can use this favorite food. This is why smoky provolone found its way into today’s panini.
Smoked provolone is not as potent as some other smoked cheeses (like smoked Gouda for example). Its delicate smokiness is incredibly pleasing. And it doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients in this sandwich: the balance of flavors is just right. As the panini cook and the provolone softens, the tangy tomato and creamy avocado are permeated with its delicious smoky flavor, making every bite addictive.
This easy summer panini might just become your new favorite lunch!
So, if your panini press has been collecting dust in your pantry, it’s time to dust it off and put it to work… your taste buds will thank you for it!
Food & beer pairing: Belgian Pale Ale with smoked provolone panini
A Belgian Pale Ale is delightful with the panini. The nutty, slightly crisp malt character of the beer and its hoppy notes harmonize beautifully with the smoked cheese – a refreshing and deliciously light pairing!
Smoked provolone panini with tomato, avocado and basil
active time: 30 min
- 2 – 10″ long (or 4 – 5″ long) ciabatta rolls – cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz (225 g) smoked provolone, cheddar or gruyère – cut in 1/8″ slices (use a mandoline or box grater)
- 2 medium, ripe tomatoes – cut in thin slices
- 1 large, ripe but still firm avocado – halved, pit removed, and cut in thin slices
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 12 medium basil leaves
- Step 1: Brush the cut side of the bread with olive oil. Spread half of the cheese slices on two bread slices. Top each slice with the tomato, then the avocado slices. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top with the basil leaves, the balance of the cheese slices and the remaining slices of bread. Press together firmly to seal the sandwiches.
- Step 2: Preheat a panini press to medium-high to high heat. When the press is ready, place the panini on the bottom griddle and lower the top griddle down gently at first so that the fillings don’t slide out. As the panini cook, you’ll be able to press the top griddle down a bit more firmly. Cook the panini for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese has softened and the tops are golden. Remove panini from the press. Cut in half so that you have 4 panini, and serve immediately while still piping hot.
- Cook’s note 1: Provolone is not a cheese that melts easily, so it will only soften as you cook the panini. If however you are using gruyère or cheddar, these cheeses will melt quickly.
- Cook’s note 2: If you do not own a panini press, you can make these sandwiches with ciabatta slices instead of rolls. Brush the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches with olive oil and cook them in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden-brown and the cheese has melted.