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It's the fifth meatless Friday in Lent and Tuna Paninis are on the menu

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This year’s meatless Lenten Fridays are winding down; there are just two more after today.

Tonight’s meatless dinner – paninis – are less elaborate and more casual. Additionally, the use of canned tuna fish make the paninis super easy to make.

Panini means sandwich in Italian. According to the Calphalon website, the origin of the panini predates refrigeration, which is why they were originally made with a cured meat like salami or pepperoni. Later, Italians began experimenting with various rustic breads and adding different cheeses and vegetables to their sandwiches. Still later, someone – it is not known whom – tried heating the panini, melding the bread, melted cheese, meat, and vegetables into one mouthwatering burst of flavor. God bless that culinary adventurer whomever he or she may have been. Today the panini is almost always grilled or toasted and served warm.

A fancy panini press isn’t needed to create delicious paninis at home. It’s great to have one, but basically any type of electric grill, such as a waffle maker, sandwich press, or even a George Foreman Grill can be used to make a panini. If none of these is available, a non-stick skillet will also work, as long as you have something heavy, like an aluminum foil-wrapped brick, or a heavy iron skillet, to press the panini as it is cooking. The marks from the electric panini press add to the panini's appearance, but it will taste just as wonderful without them.

In keeping with the repertoire of meatless Lenten Friday meals, tonight Tuna Paninis are on the menu. The following recipe is adapted from one found in “The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook” by Kathy Strahs. This recipe uses fresh spinach in place of the arugula and sliced cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. It was made without a panini press on the stove in a skillet.

Here’s the recipe. Makes 4 paninis.

For the filling:

2 (5-ounce) cans solid white albacore tuna packed in oil
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paninis:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 slices rustic bread
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced and seeded
8 slices cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Drain the tuna, reserving 2 tablespoons of the oil. Combine the tuna, reserved oil, capers, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Season the tuna with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat the panini press or skillet.

3. For each panini, brush olive oil on two sides of bread. Flip over one slice of bread and top with a few leaves of spinach, the tuna salad, tomatoes and cheddar cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, oiled side up.

4. Grill until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve with a green salad and sweet potato fries. Click here for a sweet potato fries recipe, but if time is short, there are several brands of frozen sweet potato fries that are quite good.

Check out Kathy Strahs' website for more panini recipes.

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