By Kathi Dameron
"Arrivederci Roma. Goodbye, goodbye to Rome."
The lyrics sang across my heartstrings as I climbed aboard the train and settled in for the three-hour journey.
As the clanging and puffing high-speed Eurail train rolled out of the station, I reached into my travel bag and pulled out the rustic country bread sandwich – the panino I had purchased earlier that morning from an irresistible display of authentic edible hearth-baked masterpieces.
It was a great adventure to be traveling across Italy by backpack and rail with dad’s blessing and dad’s financial backing. Even though many years have come and gone since that passage of time when the world stretched wide open with its panorama of possibilities, my memories are as fresh as if they had just been baked.
At the time, my dad’s third wife suggested to me that I should journal my experiences.
“Write some travel articles, dear, that you can later put into a book,” my high-achieving stepmother with her freshly inked PhD advised. But instead I gave her prophetic suggestion “the boot” and simply stepped into each day of my Italian adventure with gusto and verve, allowing the experiences to become forever pressed into the pages of my memory bank.
Like any traveler enthralled with a new destination, I reveled in the delight of discovery.
I learned that new culinary discoveries are often as memorable as the magnificent art and architecture of the places visited.
On that day my panino lunch, enjoyed during the stunning and scenic train trip to the great renaissance city of Florence, left a lasting impression on my idea of a great tasting picnic sandwich.
True Italian panini’s are expressions of simplicity, anchored in absolute freshness with perhaps occasional bursts of pungent, aromatic, fruity or creamy richness.
Having once savored a true panino, it is difficult to say arrivederci to this great tasting edible masterpiece of pure simplicity.
More Ideas from Kathi
If the splendid days of springtime beckon you outdoors why not create your own Tutto Italiano or “all things Italian” spring picnic? Whether you are into styling your own backyard trattoria or are more in the mood for an adventurous jaunt to some hideaway off-the-beaten-track with a picnic basket in one hand and the hand of a companion in the other, you are bound for an adventure that will satisfy more than your taste buds. My picnic menu begins with panini sandwiches, to which you might add:
A pesto-laced and garlic-infused antipasto pasta salad of rich jeweled morsels of sun-drenched tomatoes, ripe olives, creamy imported cheeses, al dente pasta and artichoke hearts bathed in fruity olive oil.
A basket of luscious strawberries, red grapes and figs.
A rapturous homemade tiramisu torte with just the right high-octane notes of java for a sweet edible finale.
Perhaps a few select Italian-flavored musical CD’s, a good bottle of Italian vino and perhaps someone wonderful with whom to create a new memory.
How-To Create a Classic Panino Picnic Sandwich
The classic combination that I like to make merges thin sliced imported proscuitto with creamy mozzarella and a flavor-popping organic herb-salad blend. But don’t stop there! Be brave and experiment with your own unique translations!
focaccia, bagette or other rustic bread
imported Italian prosciutto
fresh mozzarella cheese
organic mixed herbs or similar greens with a wild and peppery taste
olive oil, infused with fresh minced garlic
freshly ground black pepper feast
Cut the focaccia or baguette in half horizontally.
Drizzle just a drop of garlic-infused olive oil on each side of bread. I spread it with a fresh basil leaf.
Layer proscuitto, mozzarella, and herbs on bottom bread slice. Grind black pepper and drizzle another drop or two of infused olive oil.
Wrap sandwich in a bit of parchment. wax paper or cellophane, tie with raffia or ribbon and affix a pretty label. Refrigerate until you pack your picnic basket.
Special note: The term "panino" refers to one sandwich while the word "panini" denotes more than one sandwich.
(c) Kathi Dameron 2007
Kathi Dameron is a former caterer and event designer. She owns Kathi Dameron and Associates.She can be contacted at email@example.com