September 11, 2010
A fun, quick, easy-to-make recipe that's great for a light meal or a hearty snack. Better yet, the whole thing comes together with only five ingredients, most of which you either already have or are super cheap to buy. I know a quesadilla is typically thought of as the Mexican grilled cheese sandwich, but this panini is definitely a close second.
The recipe instructs you to cut an opening across the top of a whole pita and then put the filling inside; maybe I'm the only person who struggles with pita bread prematurely tearing, so I just cut them in half instead. This seemed easier as well. Next, just spread the inside with a layer of refried beans, then add a piece of roasted red pepper (I roasted my own under the broiler, about 5 minutes on each side), some salsa, and a slice of cheese. The recipe suggests cheddar (or a soy cheddar), but I'd definitely say use pepperjack or a Monterey Jack for true Mexican-inspired flavor. The cheddar definitely made it grilled-cheesey. The suggested amounts for each pita filling may seem small, but they are actually perfect without over- or underfilling.
Once your pita is filled, grill using a panini press or other similar tool (I used my George Foreman...and I didn't quite achieve the browning I wanted) until the cheese is melted. Then you're done! The pita is tender and slightly crisp, and the beans are savory and hearty (make sure you use a GOOD brand of vegetarian/vegan refried beans...the Trader Joe's fat-free kind is NOT that great). The roasted pepper is chewy and almost has a sweet fruit-like taste, which is a nice complement to the tangy, spicy salsa. And of course, the melty, gooey, oozy cheese just brings everything together...Mexican comfort food, yay!
Make again? Yes, although I preferred my adapted version below...
"Mexican Pita Pizzas"
Spread refried beans on a pita, top with chopped roasted red pepper and grated cheese, sprinkle with chili powder and oregano to taste, and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, or until the pita is crisp. Slice into quarters, and serve with salsa on the side. Yum!
Vegan variation: Use a soy cheese (and make sure those refried beans don't contain lard or chicken stock!).
Vegetarian Times, April 2006