Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Tomato Panini

Everything is better with bacon. Whoever came up with that saying knows what they’re talking about. And it couldn’t be any more true than with eggs.

Bacon and eggs are the consummate breakfast combo. They are probably are ordered in tandem at cafes across the country more than any two other foods that go together.

And during the winter, when days are the shortest of the year and sunshine is at a minimum, the eggs in such a sandwich can be an important source of vitamin D. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reviewed egg nutrient data and results showed that one large egg contains 41 IU (International Unit) of vitamin D, 64 percent higher than before.

Here’s a bacon and egg sandwich — in panini form —  from the American Egg Board, which is sure to help you get some added vitamin D.

Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Tomato Panini
2 eggs
2  tablespoon water
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons butter, room temperature
4  slices whole wheat or white bread
4 slices fully cooked bacon
4 slices tomato
2 slices Swiss cheese
Heat panini press according to manufacturer’s directions. Beat eggs, water, salt and pepper in microwave-safe bowl until blended. Microwave on High 45 seconds; stir. Microwave until eggs are almost set, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
Spread butter evenly on one side of each bread slice. Layer bacon, tomato, scrambled eggs and cheese evenly on unbuttered side of 2 bread slices. Cove with remaining bread, buttered side up.
Grill sandwiches in panini press, on medium-high heat, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
Notes: Sandwiches can be grilled in a skillet over medium heat, turning once, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Don’t overcook. Scrambled eggs will continue to cook and firm up after removed from microwave.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 386 calories, 21 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 229 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 24 grams protein:, 273 milligrams calcium.

Brie, Apple and Smoked Turkey Croissant Panini

Apples, pickles and cheese. Now, there’s a combination that’s hard to beat. Combine them them turkey breast and some nice bread slathered with honey mustard, and you have the makings of a pretty tasty sandwich.

I came across a recipe for such a sandwich today in a release from the Wheat Food Council, which was promoting National Bread Month.

The sweet and savory sandwich is heated on a panini press and is ready to eat  in 5 minutes. And if you don’t have a press, no worry. Simply improvise with two skillets and a heat-proof weight such as a tea kettle.

Brie, Apple and Smoked Turkey Croissant Panini
2 medium croissants, regular or whole wheat, sliced in half crosswise (see note)
2 tablespoons cranberry mustard or honey mustard
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey breast
2 sweet or dill gherkins, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 slices brie, about 1 ounce each
½ medium Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, thinly sliced
Spread mustard on  the cut sides of the croissants. On one side of each croissant, lay half the turkey, pickles, brie and apple. Top each sandwich with the othe half of the croissant.
If  you are usng a panini press, place the sandwiches in the press, close it and cook over low heat for about 4 minutes, until cheese has melted and the bread is crisp.
If you do not have a press, put the sandwiches in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and set another skillet (large enough to cover the sandwiches but small enough to sit down inside the first skillet) on top of the sandwiches. Weigh the top skillet down with a small, heavy saucepan, a tea kettle filled with water or other heat-proof weight (a clean brick will work, for example). Cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove top skillet, flip the sandwich, replace the top skillet (and weight) and cook for about 2 more minutes, until the cheese has melted and the bread is crisp.
Cut sandwiches in half and serve hot.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 440 calories, 22 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 21 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 90 milligrams cholesterol, 1,290 milligrams sodium.
Note: To lower the total fat, use whole wheat or Italian bread in place of the croissant.

Peanut Butter Jammie Dodgers

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could be the most popular sandwich in America. Undoubtedly, over the past 50 years, and perhaps longer, many kids grew up eating them.

I have fond memories of eating P&J sandwiches as a kid. I especially liked them when they were made with homemade jelly. Things haven’t changed much over the years. I still love the combination a lot.

Each fall, we can several jars of jelly and jam, so all I need is peanut butter to satisfy any of my cravings for the all-American favorite.

Here’s a British twist on the P&J sandwich. In the recipe, crisp peanut butter biscuits are sandwiched with jam to create a sweet chewy center.

Peanut Butter Jammie Dodgers
4 ounces butter, softened
2 ounces crunchy peanut butter
4 ounces soft brown sugar
5 ounces flour
3 tablespoons jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 or 4 baking trays.
In a bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter and sugar until well-blended then add the flour and mix thoroughly.
Divide the mixture into 2 pieces and roll each one on a lightly floured surface into a cylinder shape about 4 inches long. Use a large sharp knife to cut each roll into 8 slices.  Don’t attempt to roll out the dough.
Cut a small hole in the center of 8 of the biscuits using a minicutter or a small sharp knife.
Space the biscuits well apart on the prepared baking trays, pressing them down lightly to make them slightly larger and bake for 10 to 13 minutes. They won’t spread a lot during baking.
Remove from the oven (they will still be soft), then place some jam on the top of the biscuits without holes but do not try to spread it, and allow to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, they should have started to firm up. Carefully place the holed biscuits on top of the ones with the jam then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool and harden.
Yield: 8 3-inch sandwiched biscuits.

Tuscan Tuna Sandwich

There’s not a much better time to make a sandwich than during the summer. And it’s usually pretty easy to come up with fresh ideas for sandwiches during the summer, too, since garden fare is at its peak.

And now is a perfect time to start experimenting, with it being National Sandwich Month.

Take a step beyond your basic ham and cheese with the following recipe for this tuna sandwich (courtesy of Spice Islands), which combines the sweet, mild flavor of dill with the savory flavor of garlic and tosses tuna, capers and fresh greens in a balsamic vinaigrette for a flavor combination that goes beyond your everyday sandwich.

Tuscan Tuna Sandwich
1 6- to 7-ounce can or pouch of  tuna, packed in water
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces fresh baby salad greens
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
8 slices Italian style bread, grilled or toasted
Place tuna, capers, dill weed and garlic powder in a mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add greens and vinaigrette; toss gently.
Divide tuna mixture evenly on 4 slices of bread; top with remaining slices. Serve immediately.

New Wave Tea Sandwiches

There’s nothing more British than the tea sandwich, which may take a number of different forms. But generally, these little sandwiches are finger food that is easy to handle and can be eaten in two bites or less.

Something like these would be perfect fare for watching the Olympics on television, and the following creative sandwiches that were adapted from recipes in “The Meat Free Monday Cookbook” (Kyle Books, $29.95) might be just the ticket for people who don’t want to go overboard.

Carrot and Hummus Crunch
2 coarsely grated large carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
½ chopped red chili
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Sourdough bread slices
Greek yogurt
Cilantro, chopped
Fry carrots in a pan with olive oil, garlic cloves, chili and caraway seeds over moderate heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool. Spread sourdough bread slices with hummus, top with grated carrots, dollops of Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Green Club Sandwich
3 slices whole-grain bread
3 tablespoons hummus
½ avocado, sliced
Arugula leaves
Alfalfa sprouts
Cracked pepper
Toast bread. Spread 3 tablespoons hummus over one slice, top the sliced avocado, some arugula leaves, alfalfa sprouts and cracked pepper. Prepare another slice of toast the same way and place on top. Place the final slice of toast on top.

Cheese and Onion Sandwich
¼ cup soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
Olive oil
½ red onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Mix  goat cheese with cream cheese. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add sliced red onion. Let sweat. When it starts to wilt, add sugar, salt, freshly ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Spread the goat cheese mixture over a slice of whole-wheat bread, top with red onion and a handful of arugula leaves, and a second slice of bread.

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

What constitutes a great Philly cheesesteak sandwich? Some will say the perfect one consists of a hoagie roll, several slices of good quality beef, a bunch of caramelized onions and, of course, a cheese that’s tasty as well as gooey when it melts.

The original Philly cheesesteak sandwich was created by two Philadelphia brothers, Harry and Pat Olivieri in about 1930. According to one account, the two operated a street-side hot dog grill in the home of the Liberty Bell. One day, Pat said to Harry, “Here’s a quarter. Go to the Italian Market and buy a hunk of steak.”

The brothers cut up the steak, grilled it with sliced onions, and slapped it on a roll. A cab driver who drove by asked what they called the sandwich. “I guess you call it a steak sandwich,” they said, and sold it for a dime. And that was the birth of the Philadelphia steak.

It wasn’t until 22 years later that cheese was added, first Cheez Whiz and subsequently provolone and American cheese and pizza sauce.

I got to think about the sandwich today after seeing one advertised at a Holiday station while getting some gas for my car. While I didn’t rush in and buy one, it made me think twice. Here’s a recipe that I might give a try, although it does appear to be a bit extravagant.

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons applewood-smoked bacon drippings
2 ounces Spanish onions, julienned
2 ounces green bell peppers, julienned
5 ounces choice rib-eye steak, sliced 1/16 inch thick
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 pinches fresh thyme
½ cup warmed cheese sauce (such as Cheese Whiz)
1 8-inch ciabatta or hoagie roll
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a hot pan pour the vegetable oil, the bacon fat, and onions and saute until golden brown. This should take 10 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to burn or they will become bitter instead of sweet. Next, add the green peppers and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the rib-eye, shred with 2 spatulas and cook until well done (about 5 to 7 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and the thyme and pull off of the fire.
Place the bread in the oven for about 5 minutes and then slice in half but leave the back connected. Place the meat mixture evenly over the bread and pour the warm cheese sauce over the top. Close the top of the sandwich, place it on a plate, grab three napkins and a beer, and chow down.
Yield: Serves 1.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 1,284 calories, 74 percent of calories from fat, 106 grams fat (38 grams saturated, 40 grams monounsaturated), 247 grams cholesterol, 43 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 2,312 milligrams sodium.

Breakfast Club Sandwich

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, and that means a night of celebrating for a lot of people. And what better way to end an evening of fun than to have a nice snack to appease your appetite.

The following recipe, adapted from one in “The Big New York Sandwich Book” by Sara Reistad-Long and Jean Tang (Running Press, $23, 2011), would be welcome at my table if I stayed up late enough to ring in the new year. But it would have a better chance showing up for breakfast, since it the club contains bacon and eggs as well as a spicy mayo, avocado and  tomato.

Breakfast Club Sandwich
6 slices thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 eggs
Ground black pepper
4 slices whole-wheat, multigrain or white bread
Spicy mayo (see note)
1 or 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large Hass avocado, sliced lengthwise
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet or on a sheet pan in a preheated 350-degree oven. Drain on paper towels.
Place a nonstick griddle or a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter. When butter melts, crack eggs into the pan; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 minutes. Gently flip each egg; cook on the other side for 1 minute.
Meanwhile, toast the bread until golden brown. Spread spicy mayo to taste on 2 slices. Top each mayo-spread slice with 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon and sliced tomato; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add avocado; season again. Close the sandwiches and serve.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 745 calories, 53 grams fat (17 grams saturated), 485 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 11 grams fiber, 1,220 milligrams sodium, 80 milligrams calcium.
Note: To make spicy mayo, stir together ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons ketchup and 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce.

Ham and Cheese with Turkey Sandwich

I’m hoping to get down to Dakota Harvest Bakers ( sometime soon. I recently received an e-mail detailing the downtown bakery’s March menu and bread schedule. DHB is introducing three new sandwiches this month

Queso Olé (vegetarian) is described as a grilled cheese sandwich with pepper jack and queso cheeses on oatmeal whole wheat bread served with a side of salsa. Nut N’ Honey (also vegetarian) is honey cream cheese mixed with chopped pecans on cinnamon raisin bread.

But the sandwich I’m looking forward to trying is the Pesto Pig — smoked ham, provolone and basil pesto on ciabatta bun.

I sampled a couple of the sandwiches that DHB has offered since opening a few years ago. Perhaps my favorite was the pulled pork, which I was introduced to by a former co-worker, Megan LaPlaca. Megan used to rave about the sandwich so much that I finally had to try it. And believe me, I wasn’t disappointed.

I really like ham (pork) and cheese type sandwiches. Whenever I make pork in a barbecue sauce, a sandwich or two over the next couple of days always is in order.

Of course, I like regular ham and cheese, too. Here’s a variation of that sandwich, which is popular in Florida.

Ham and Cheese with Turkey Sandwich
8 slices egg bread, such as challah or Cuban bread
2 tablespoons each: mayonnaise, mustard
4 slices each: ham, turkey, Swiss cheese
4 dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
Spread the sliced bread with mayonnaise and mustard. Layer ham, turkey, cheese and dill pickles on bottom slices of bread; top with remaining slices.
Wrap the sandwiches in foil or plastic wrap; press sandwiches using your hands or a heavy skillet.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 408 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 18 grams fat 6 grams saturated), 76 milligrams cholesterol, 41 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 1,624 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

The Reuben Sandwich — Another Whitey’s Favorite

I’ve been thinking a lot about Whitey’s since hearing of its closing Wednesday. Mostly, I’ve been recalling some of my dining experiences at the iconic East Grand Forks restaurant.

I’m not the only one who’s been reminiscing. Around work water coolers, exercise equipment at fitness centers and even in other eating establishments, people are talking about the memorable times they spent at Whitey’s.

Chuck Haga, a friend and co-worker of mine, relayed a message from a former colleague, Mary Jane Smetanka, who now writes for the Star Tribune in the Twin Cities. Mary Jane fondly recalled the chicken and dumplings that Whitey’s used to serve when she worked at the Herald. On one occasion when a group of us went to Whitey’s to dine on that tasty meal, the Pulitzer Prize Award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh joined us. That led me to blog about chicken and dumplings.

Another item on Whitey’s menu that I used to choose occasionally, and one that was mentioned on several of my Facebook friends’ pages and the Herald’s online comment section, was the Reuben Sandwich. I’m not sure what was most appealing about the Reuben for me. I love sauerkraut, and I love cheese. And rye bread is pretty tasty, too.

So, in a follow-up to yesterday’s posting, here is a recipe for a Reuben. I’m sure it won’t be as tasty as the ones Whitey’s used to serve, but it’s worth a try.

Reuben Sandwich
3 tablespoons Thousand Island Dressing
2 ½-inch-thick slices rye bread
1½ ounces sliced Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1 cup sauerkraut, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
4¼-inch-thick slices corned beef (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Spread 1 tablespoon of the dressing on one piece of bread and top with half of the cheese, half of the sauerkraut and all of the meat. Spread another tablespoon of the dressing over the meat and top with the remaining sauerkraut and cheese, in that order.
Spread the remaining tablespoon of dressing on the remaining piece of bread and place on top of the cheese, dressing side down. Press firmly to close the sandwich, then evenly spread the butter on the outside of the sandwich.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat, place the sandwich in the paN and press down on the sandwich with a spatula. (Alternatively, you can cook the sandwich in a sandwich press.) Cook until the bread is crisp and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is golden brown, the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warmed through, about 4 minutes more.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

I just love it when people stop me and want to share a cooking experience. Just this morning, a co-worker of mine, LoAnn Stadstad, called me aside as I was  leaving the building to tell me about her recent experience with eggplant.

LoAnn said she had an eggplant that was starting to get soft and was wondering want she could fix. She happened to be watching chef Bobby Flay on TV, and guess what? He was preparing something with eggplant — a sandwich with roasted  red peppers. LoAnn proceeded to tell me about the episode and how she fixed her delicious sandwich.

One of the reasons I’m so happy she told me about the recipe is that we have three eggplants in the refrigerator vegetable crisper that were harvested from our garden just the other day. I also have some sweet red bell peppers that are ready to be picked, so getting the recipe was timely.

Here it is for those who are interested. I’ve always been a big fan of Bobby Flay and can’t wait to try the sandwich.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich
½ cup prepared mayonnaise
4 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise
Canola oil
2 red bell peppers
1 loaf ciabatta, sliced lengthwise in half
½ pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Fresh basil leaves
Baby arugula
Combine the mayonnaise and garlic in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Heat a grill to high.
Brush the eggplant on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Brush the peppers with oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until charred on all sides, remove, place in a bowl, cover and let steam for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and the seeds.
Put bread on the grill, cut side down, and grill for 30 seconds to warm through and crisp slightly. Spread the bread with the mayonnaise mixture and top the bottom half with eggplant, peppers, cheese, basil and arugula. Cover with the top of the bread and serve.