Rapini Panini

This is a variation on the BLT- it’s a bacon, rapini and tomato sandwich. My love of rapini is vast and enduring; it’s definitely not for everyone (my husband asked if he could have his sandwich without rapini– request denied…) but I love its bitterness– especially when served with fatty stuff like bacon and cheese or a rich pasta dish. You could always substitute sauteed spinach if you don’t like rapini (or can’t find it) and of course, it makes a nice vegetarian sandwich without the bacon.

For the rapini (also called broccoli rabe):
1 bunch rapini
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
pinch of crushed red pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; boil the rapini for 4 minutes (dunking it under with a wooden spoon occasionally). Drain in a colander for a good long time to get all the excess water out of it. When it’s cool, squeeze the rapini to drain out the water.
In a medium saute pan, heat the oil, garlic and crushed red pepper; add the rapini and sautee over medium-high heat for around 6 minutes or so.  It should still be bright green but you definitely don’t want this vegetable “al dente”. Set aside. This is also excellent as a side dish or stirred into a pasta.

For the sandwich:
sliced hearty Italian bread
cooked bacon
sliced cheese, whatever you like- I recommend fontinella, a good mozzarella, monterey jack, provolone etc. (combos are good too)
Dijon mustard
sliced tomato

Brush the outsides of the bread lightly with EVOO; put a thin shmear of dijon on one slice of bread and layer the sandwich with the bacon, rapini and cheese, starting and ending with cheese. I like to put the tomato on the sandwich after it is cooked on the panini maker rather than before but that’s a matter of personal preference.  Grill in a panini maker until the bread is brown and crisp and the cheese is melted.

Note: I have discovered that baking the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet at 375ยบ for about 30 minutes or so until brown and crisp is MUCH easier than frying it in a pan; the bacon stays nice and flat and there is no splatting.

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