Back-to-school tasty recipes by Eitan Bernath
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Back-to-school tasty recipes by Eitan Bernath

As my parents know, people close to me know, and maybe even you know, I am not a big sandwich person. I do love hamburgers and grilled cheeses, but my sandwich acceptance ends there. Maybe, someday, I will change; that’s the benefit of only being 20, I have many years ahead of me to become a full-time Sandwich Man. Until then, the Vegetarian Italian Panini has *temporarily* converted me!

This panini is pack with every good vegetarian ingredient under the sun. I absolutely love mushrooms, and this one has portobello caps that are seared off with soy sauce, to give them that extra, umami, meatiness you crave when you eat a big sandwich. The provolone is sharp and a little funky, and of course, melts into an Instagram-worthy cheese pull when you grill the whole sandwich together. The red onions add bite, the roasted red peppers are smoky and sweet, and the giardiniera, which is a medley of pickled vegetables, is perfectly briny and tangy. I’ve saved the best for last, which is the Basil! Balsamic! Mayo! Let me just warn you, you’re going to want to dip everything in this, you’re going to want to slather it on after the shower, you’re going to want to go ahead and quadruple the recipe as written! It’s literally that insanely delicious, and the main reason that I am a part-time Sandwich Man!

Vegetarian Italian Panini

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4-6 portobello mushroom caps
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 roasted red peppers
2 ounces sharp provolone, grated or thinly sliced
2-3 thin slices red onion, broken into rings
½ cup giardiniera, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 small garlic clove, grated (about ½ teaspoon)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf ciabatta, sliced in half horizontally

Instructions

Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add vegetable oil, heat until shimmering, then add portobello caps. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown and reduced in size. Flip caps, season with salt, and cook for 8-10 minutes more, or until juices have released and cooked away. If needed, turn mushrooms so they are gill-side up, and drizzle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce evenly over mushrooms. Cook for 1 minute, then cook and flip for 2-3 minutes, or until soy sauce has cooked off. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

Remove peppers from oil and cut into 2 or 3 large, flat pieces. Use paper towels to pat dry very thoroughly. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, basil, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Heat a panini press, or a large, flat griddle, to medium-low heat.

To assemble sandwich, divide basil balsamic mayonnaise between bottom and top of bread and spread evenly. Top the bottom half of the bread with mushrooms, cheese, peppers, red onion, and giardiniera in even layers. Top with top half of bread, then place on panini press and cook until sandwich is compressed, and cheese is melted, 8-10 minutes. If using a griddle, press using a large, heavy skillet or pot to press the sandwich, cooking each side for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 4-6 pieces. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

M&M Sugar Cookies

Anyone who knows me knows that I consider cookies their own food group. It sounds ridiculous to say it, but I consider cookies an essential part of my life. They’re the perfect chewy, slightly crunchy, and a compact treat to satisfy my ever-growing sweet tooth. I’ve done some more sophisticated cookies in the past (like my Mexican Chocolate Crinkle Cookies), but today I am sharing a super simple classic. M&M Sugar Cookies are easy to make and super versatile. You can swap out the M&Ms for any of your favorite chocolate treats!

Ingredients

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups M&M

Instructions

Cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract, then beat until fully combined. Pour in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, then mix until it just comes together. Add in ¾ cup of the M&Ms and mix until fully incorporated.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scoop out two tablespoon sized chunks of dough and roll into balls. Place the balls into a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then take out of the oven and top each cookie with more M&Ms to cover most of the top. Bake for an additional minute then remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a minute then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Cookies are best within the first three days of baking.

Eitan Bernath is a 20-year-old chef and entertainer. Boasting more than 7.5 million followers, he’s the principal culinary contributor on The Drew Barrymore Show and a contributor to The Washington Post, Saveur, and The Kitchn.

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