In scenic downtown Ann Arbor, there is a happy vegetarian restaurant called Seva. Many, many vegetarians and vegans bring their friends and relatives there for enchiladas and pastas and polentas. There you will find my sammich of choice: the panina caprese.

A panina caprese is, essentially, a transfer of an insalata caprese to a big hunk of bread, such that one might eat it with both hands instead of a fork. I love it, but I cannot eat at Seva all the time. So I decided to make my own sammich, and lo, it turned out even better than Seva's version!

You need:

Amounts of the ingredients depend entirely on bread size. Make sure you have enough to make one thick layer of each.

Whip out your bread and make a deep horizontal slice through it, leaving a hinge of crust along one side (or just get out two pieces of your bread of choice). I tend to get a wide, flat loaf shaped more like a batard, which does not have the trademark crispy crust of a baguette. I prefer this, as the sammich then does not rip up the roof of my mouth. You have been warned. That said, you can really use any quality bread for this. Sourdough would be good.

Open your loaf along the hinge at the side, and lay it as flat as possible. Brush both halves with olive oil, and dust with freshly ground black pepper. I would stay away from using too much oil, as the sammich may get a bit drippy. But don't leave it out entirely! Olive oil is fabulous and rich and tangy.

Layer one side of the loaf with thick slices of fresh mozzarella. You can use regular packaged mozzarella if necessary, but the fresh stuff is definitely better here. Add a layer of thick tomato slices, overlapping a bit at the edges. Over these shake a fine layer of salt. It can be argued that really good tomatoes need no salt, but then it's hard to find really good tomatoes, and I like salt on them anyway. So. I add salt.

If you are using roasted red peppers, rinse them (if necessary) and add a layer. The other day, I discovered a jar of peppadew peppers at the grocery store, and decided to try them in my sammich. They were excellent: sweet and spicy and complex. However, if you like a milder pepper, regular red bell peppers work just as well (and are a bit more authentic to boot, if roasted peppers can be said to be authentic here at all).

Finish the sammich with a thick layer of destemmed fresh basil leaves. I really would not use dried basil for this. Seriously, if fresh basil is that hard for you to find, order some seeds and grow it on your bedroom windowsill. Then you will have plenty of fresh basil as well as a bedroom that smells fantastic.

Put the halves of your sammich together. If you have used an entire loaf of bread, you should have a gigantic monster from which you can cut individual slices (plural sammiches: panini). If you have used a small baguette or two slices of bread, you will have something you can eat all by yourself. In any case, the sammich will probably be very thick and bulgy and a bit slippery. Use toothpicks or string (in the case of the whole loaf) to hold the sammich together, and provide plenty of napkins to eaters.

I think this would work well with Sensei's method of weighting sammiches: flatten them with a rolling pin, and place them under weights overnight, so everything mingles and marinates together. The only problem is that tomatoes tend to be very juicy, especially when ripe from the garden, and so the end product might turn out a bit soggy. Probably this could be solved by deseeding your tomato slices, though.

At any rate, the end product should be delicious and substantial, and perfect for summer dinners. Make two or three loaves, pack some thermoses of lemonade, and go have a picnic.

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