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Dining Hall Hacks: The Panini Press Isn’t Just For Sandwiches Anymore

After I realized how excited everyone gets for the days that grilled cheeses are pre-made and served at Dewick or Carm, I began to think about how you can not only make these yourselves, but that there are also dozens of other delicious meals you can (surprisingly) make on the Panini press.

Forget about Chipotle – on themed taco or fajita nights, it is time to break out the wraps from the sandwich bar and fill it with your favorite food! Lucky for you, you do not have to be a vegetarian to get the guacamole for free! When building the burrito or quesadilla to put on the Panini press, it’s best to keep your foods piled high in the center in order to keep cheese, chicken or anything else from oozing out of the sides and burning onto the griddle top. While it is the prime time to make a warmed burrito or crispy and oozing quesadilla when there is a taco bar beckoning to be used, remember that both cheddar and mozzarella cheeses can always be found at the salad bar if all you’re looking for is a cheesy pick-me-up on that random Tuesday lunch after your Bio 13 exam.

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Source: Naturallyella.com

For a day when all you want are carbs on carbs (which may be every Sunday after going a little too hard the night before? I don’t know your life though…), pray that Dewick or Carm has chicken patties, breaded to perfection, which can be flawlessly paired with tomato sauce, cheese and maybe even fresh spinach from the salad bar (if you want to pretend to be healthy) between two fluffy pieces of bread. The key to making the perfect chicken parm panini is to crisp up the sandwich on a medium-low temperature to cook from the inside out. Otherwise, you will be left with a cold and melt-less cheese inside and with the potential of burning the outside from too high of a temperature.

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For a special breakfast treat anytime of the day, you no longer have to rely on cereal or waffles. I don’t know how, why or when this dawned on me, but one day I decided to take the waffle mix (maybe the line was too long?), and marched over to the panini press where I then poured the perfectly imperfect circle onto the panini press at around 400 degrees. You may be thinking, “Wait, how does this even work? How can you make a pancake on a panini press?” Well the main trick is to not close the panini press and so you are practically just cooking a light and fluffy pancake on a griddle or in stove top pan. You then just wait until you see small bubbles popping along the top of the batter to know when your “anytime breakfast treat” is ready to be flipped. Tasty Tufts Tip: if making more than one pancake, take off the first pancake, and re-close the panini press to return it to the original temperature of 400 degrees for ideal browning of the next pancake. Second Tasty Tufts Tip: Get fancy with it. Spread nutella, brown sugar, fluff, nuts or anything else you can scrap up from around the dining hall and put it in between the pancakes you just shockingly made from scratch (sort of). Then, place the pancake sandwich back on the panini press until the outside is crisped and the inside is gooey, and caramelized deliciousness. Just wait until its sundae night and you can make these pancakes with chocolate chips, Oreo bites and Reese’s pieces!

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Some last clues for using the panini press at the dining halls here at Tufts:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings! Pesto, a perfect panini ingredient, is almost always available at the same bar you would find your peanut butter. Grilled chicken, found at every lunch in Dewick, can always be jazzed up between two slices of bread with a handful of toppings.
  • Put sauces, dressings, and any other condiments in between your other panini ingredients when making a sandwich to keep from the chances of having the bread rip from moisture of the liquid mixed with the hot pressure of the panini press.

Many people veer away from using the panini press as it causes many burnt and ripped disasters but these recipes are worth the failures and embarrassment (it wasn’t me?). Now, get excited the next time you see the panini press! It can be your friend, I promise!

-Jay Sheintop

Cover photo source.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Hi! Thanks for all the great ideas! My only concern would be the use of Nutella, peanut butter, etc with the pancakes–I’m personally allergic to tree nuts, so when people use Nutella in the panini press, I’m at risk of an allergic reaction, as I’m sure many other people are. Please spread your Nutella/nut products on pancakes/paninis later, and don’t use them in the panini press!

    Thank you!

    October 1, 2014

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