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When a cold sandwich just won't do, upgrade to a warm panini. Panini's originated in Italy and refers to a grilled sandwich made with a baked roll or anything other than sliced bread. The bread is what makes this sandwich stand-alone. It's not a grilled cheese; it's a panini!

Artisan bread, such as a French baguette, ciabatta, focaccia or a bagel are dense, hearty breads that make a good foundation for your panini. What goes on the inside is up to you and your taste buds, but keep in mind two things: first, don't use so many fillings that the bread is high in the sky like a club sandwich. The sandwich should be thin enough that the two slices of bread almost touch at the ends. Second, think nutrition. Meats, such as bacon, salami and pepperoni can be added sources of sodium and saturated fats. Plus, when used in combination with cheese and a mayonnaise-based sauce or even pesto, the calorie count starts to climb. Try sticking with just one sauce or spread, and choose either a meat or a cheese. The rest of the panini can be filled with nutritious veggies!

A panini press works great, but it's not a must-have tool. Panini's can be a made in a skillet or outdoor grill. Simply place a heavy, smaller skillet on top the panini, and weight it down with a few canned items. You're now on your way to making a great panini!

Grilled Eggplant Panini (Printable PDF)

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼–inch slices

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Black pepper to taste

8 slices ciabatta bread

2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise

4 slices mozzarella cheese

⅓ cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained

8 large basil leaves

Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. Grill eggplant for 4-6 minutes. Flip eggplant slices over and grill for an additional 2-4 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Spread mayonnaise on one side of each bread slice. To assemble, lay bread on the grill, mayo side up. Top with grilled eggplant slices, 1 slice of cheese, peppers and basil. Top with another bread slice, mayo side down. Press down with spatula. Toast paninis 1-2 minutes, carefully flip, and toast other side for 1-2 minutes. Cut in half and serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 320 calories, 15 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 13 grams protein