“At first glance, these may appear ambitious for sandwiches. But wait: The asparagus can be grilled or parboiled if you’d rather not fire up the grill, and it can be done ahead of time,” suggests Sasha Muniak, founder of Mangia. The sauteing of the onions takes all of 10 minutes. Which leaves the walnut bread. Now that’s what you should use your time looking for here.
24 spears asparagus
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small white onions
6 slices of walnut bread
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- If you are grilling the asparagus: Begin by preheating the grill. While it heats, trim the asparagus. Hold each stalk by the end and bend the stalk. The thick white end will snap off about one-third of the way from the end. Discard it. Brush the tips with olive oil and place them up on the grill across the bars. Grill for 2 minutes and turn with long kitchen tongs. Grill for another 2 minutes and remove. If you want to parboil the asparagus: Snap the thick stem ends off the asparagus as directed above. In a large skillet, bring about 1 inch of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt—this will maintain the asparagus’s bright green color. Add the asparagus, cool for 3 minutes, or until tender, and drain.
- Peel, then cut the onions in half lengthwise. Place each half, cut side down, on a cutting board and thinly slice.
- In a medium skillet, saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring until translucent.
- Preheat the ocean to 350 degrees F.
- Toast the bread lightly on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes. It should be firm, but not dry. Cut each slice in half.
- To assemble the panini, arrange the 12 pieces of bread in front of you on the counter. Top each one with 2 asparagus spears and 1 teaspoon of sauteed onions. Season with a few twists of your pepper mill.
Prepping in advance: The asparagus can be grilled or boiled 1 day in advance of serving. Let cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Remove and let stand 1 hour at room temperature before making the panini.
V a r i a t i o n
Roasted rounds of butternut squash lend great color and an interesting sweetness to this vegetable combination. Roast the rounds ahead of time. When you assemble the panini, place a round of the squash on each piece of bread, then proceed with making the sandwiches as directed.
Roasted butternut squash has a sweet caramelized flavor and lovely soft texture that adds something unexpected to salads, sandwiches, and paninis in particular. When selecting a butternut squash for roasting, pick one with a long neck. Our reasons for suggesting this are not entirely aesthetic. Slices from the neck are generally uniform in size. Just as important, there are no seeds in the neck, which means that all you have to do is prep the slices, is to skin them. The bottom of the squash, also cut into slices, can be roasted as well, of course. You will have to contend with slices that have hollow middles, which require seeding before you can roast them. That said, do not let size or the configuration of a slice, wherever it has come from on the squash, deter you.
To Roast Butternut Squash Slices
1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil for bushing the slices
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin on the squash. Cut the neck off and slice it crosswise into ½ -inch0thick slices. If desired, halve the squash “bowl,” seed and remove the strings, and cut it crosswise into slices, too. Place the slices on a baking sheet, brush with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the slices begin to caramelize around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Serves 6 as a side dish