Crunchy & Creamy, Loaded Tex-Mex Panini

Considering our love for Tex-Mex cuisine and the infamous portion sizes down here in Texas, at some point your fridge is bound to have leftovers from a homemade taco night or local fajita dinner. If not, Trader Joes is your one stop shop for the no-work-involved ingredients that make this colorful masterpiece. So leave your measuring utensils in the drawer and instead channel your inner creativity as you chef up a “kitchen sink”, flavor-laden panini.

Note: ingredient portion sizes are up to your personal preference, but as a guide to work off of, you can estimate around 1/4 – 1/3 cup of each layer in the panini (unless otherwise noted)!

Ingredients :

  • A large wrap or 2 tortillas of your choice
  • Refried or mashed beans, black, pinto, black eyed peas, or whatever you have in the fridge/pantry
  • Charred corn
    • Shopping tip: this is ready to go in the frozen section of Trader Joes or Whole Foods; saves labor and adds more flavor than canned!
  • Shredded cheese, cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican blend, cotija, or queso/velveeta 
  • Grilled bell pepper and onion strips
  • Taco or fajita meat, any kind
    • Note: I had leftover ground turkey that I prepared the night before for taco salads; I browned the meat with a taco seasoning packet 
  • Cooked sweet potato or butternut squash, mashed, spiraled, or sliced
    • Shopping tip: you can now find them spiraled (uncooked) in the produce section of many grocery stores or at the Whole Foods salad bar (where you can just buy a small amount!). 
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika, to sprinkle on the sweet potato or squash.
  • Zucchini
  • Mashed avocado or guacamole
  • 2 Tablespoons minced green onions
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh jalapeños and/or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Tortilla chips, Fritos, or your “crunch” of choice
  • Optional toppings: salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes; For topping: salsa or sour cream
    • Substitution tip: I use whole milk Green yogurt in place of sour cream since I never have it on hand.

Procedure:

  1. Heat your grill pan/panini press or skillet. If you are using a cast iron grill pan, set the flame to medium-high.
  2. Begin layering your ingredients as follows. Note: make sure you leave enough room on the other half of the wrap so that you can fold it over and fully cover the layers other side. The layers add up in height pretty fast!
  3. First, spread the beans. This layer will act as an “adhesive” for the next layer.
  4. Cover the corn in cheese.
  5. Add the bell peppers and onions on top of the cheese, evenly distributing them to the edges.IMG_7118
  6. Do the same with the taco or fajita meat.  Note: the goal is to keep the layers relatively even in height. It is okay if the middle is a “piled” a little higher because you will end up pressing in down during cooking, which will cause the ingredients to push toward the edges. 
  7. Add the sweet potatoes (or butternut squash) and sprinkle the smoked paprika on top. Then, layer on the zucchini.IMG_7117
  8. On the other side of the wrap, spread the avocado. Optional: depending on your preference, add salt, pepper, and/or red pepper flakes.
  9. Next, add the green onions and jalapeños on the guacamole layer (which will adhere them and prevent them from falling out… that’s the KEY in a panini with multiple loose ingredients!).
  10. Lastly, add your “crunch” of choice on top of the zucchini.
  11. Fold the avocado side over the other half. Use a spatula to assist with the transfer of the panini from the prep surface to the cooking device, placing the first cheese layer closest to the pan.IMG_7120
  12. Press down on the panini to achieve grill marks and melding of the layers. Cooking time will vary depending on the device you are using. If using a grill pan, flip the panini with the spatula after about 2 minutes when grill marks are apparent and the cheese is melted.
  13. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until you feel the panini is heated throughout. Use a sharp, serrated knife (such as a bread knife) to cut the panini in half .
  14. Top with salsa and/or sour cream. Note: you may need to resort to a fork and knife!
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