The Unforgettable Panini


“Too few people understand a really good sandwich.” – James Beard

OK OK, I’ll admit.  This isn’t a very camp friendly recipe without some pre-planning.  However, with proper planning, this little Panini could make you the star of any camping trip.  One sandwich is a meal.

It has taken me quite a long time to perfect this combination to what it is now.  Finally, some friends demanded the recipe after I posted a picture of my sandwich on Instagram.  I knew I had to share it but was leery of the preparation time in a camping situation.  However, this sandwich, when cooked over a grill pan on a fire, is absolute dynamite.  It is fresh, filled with flavor, and actually pretty healthy for a panini.

Let’s jump in with the main meal and then I’ll give you the recipes for the two toppings:


A happy sight
A happy sight


  • 1/2 C. Black or green olives (cut) – Let’s be honest, I do both types.  Yep, 1 C of olives!
  • 1 lb of mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 Jalapenos (sliced)
  • 1/2 white onion (diced)
  • 1 Red Pepper (diced)
  • 1 artichoke (roughly chopped after being blanched) – I just grab the ones that I froze from our garden that are already blanched.
  • 1/2 C. cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 C. spinach (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 Tbs. Avocado Oil
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  • Sriracha Pepper Sauce
  • Sun-dried Tomato Aioli (recipe below)
  • Cashew Garlic Spread (recipe below)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Panini Process:

  • Add 1 tbs of the avocado oil to a cast iron frying pan – you may need more through this process depending on your cast iron pan (Avocado oil has a high smoke temp so it is great for this application).  When the pan is hot, add the onion and peppers.  Let them soften a little but not so soft that you can see through them.  Remove them from the pan into a serving dish.
  •  Immediately, add the mushrooms to the frying pan with the smoked paprika and smoked salt.  Let the mushrooms brown for a few minutes then remove them from the pan an put them into another serving dish.
  • Next, add the artichokes, olives,  and 4 whole garlic cloves to the pan and roast them until they brown up a bit. Remove them from the pan.  Slice the garlic lengthwise into thin but long pieces.  Put the Artichokes and garlic in the same serving dish.
  • Last, roast the jalapenos until toasty brown.  If spicy food ins’t a factor, you can add these to the onions and peppers but I usually keep them separate to keep all campers happy.
  • Heat your grill pan over the fire or camp stove.  Put a little avocado oil in it to keep it happy.
  • Take one piece of bread (home made is our favorite!) and apply some Cashew Garlic Spread.  Since it is sticky, all of your cooked toppings will stick to it.  Apply all toppings you desire to have on your sandwich.  In addition to the partially cooked toppings, the spinach, cilantro, salt, pepper, and Sriracha pepper sauce can be applied without preparation and to your tastes.  Salt and pepper to taste
  • When you are”done” with one side, spread the Sun-dried Tomato Aioli to the other piece of bread and top your sandwich.  Using a brush, brush some avocado oil onto the “top” of your sandwich.  Place the sandwich on the grill pan oil side down.  Then, while in the pan, oil the other side of the sandwich.  If you have a cast iron press to place on the sandwich, do it.  They will turn out much better.  If you don’t, find a plate and a rock (poor man’s method).
  • Grill your sandwich for 2-3 min on each side until brown.  Remove from the grill pan, cut in half and eat!
  • Recipe serves 5.

*could be done in a regular cast iron frying pan if a cast iron grill pan isn’t available.  Just compress the sandwich down and put a weight on it.


Sun Dried Tomato Aioli
Sun Dried Tomato Aioli

Cashew Garlic Spread

We use this spread in lieu of cheese.  With the other rich flavors in the sandwich, the cheese seemed to make this little sandwich into a bit of a gut bomb.  Yet, every panini needs something tasty to hold everything together.  This spread is not much to look at but it is sticky, kind of nutty (which is nice with the smoky flavors), and lighter than regular cheese -which throws off the flavors of the sandwich.

  • 1/4 C. raw cashews (soaked in water for several hours and then drained IF you don’t have a high powered blender)
  • 1 C. hot water
  • 2  tbs. + 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 3/4  tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan.  Constantly stir over medium to high heat until it clumps and gains a consistency similar to melted cheese (soft and stringy).  Remove from heat and pan.  Store in a plastic container.  This spread is also good on tacos and in quesodillas in that it adds a creamy texture.

Sun Dried Tomato Aioli

Honestly, this sandwich wouldn’t be nearly as good without this Aioli.  I could eat this everyday until I died.  Like any good Aioli, this can have a lot of fat in it.  However, if you’re looking for a lower fat option that, as far as I can tell, is exactly the same, use Veganaise instead of Mayonnaise.

  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs basil (Chopped)
  • 2 Tbs pine nuts or Almonds
  • 1/2 cup dry sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 C Mayonnaise or Veganaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all ingredients, except the mayonnaise, in a blender and process until it becomes a thick paste.  Then mix together, by hand with a spoon, with the Mayonnaise/Veganaise.  Properly refrigerated, this topping can last up to 2 weeks.


So, there you have the epic “squished sandwich” -as my daughter says.  They are a bit of up front work but man there is little that tastes better on a camping trip or a cold winter’s night.

Below, you’ll find a bunch more photos!

Until next time,


dutch oven

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