Vegetarian bbq "chicken" panini with collards & brussels sprouts

Where I used to work in Los Angeles, on Wilshire blvd, we had a great little cafe downstairs, called "The Garden Cafe".  We all used to trundle off to get a sandwich or a salad for lunch. They had a fantastic arugula and pear salad that I'd get on most days, but so many more temptations if I wanted to eat meat. They had this amazing Barbecue Chicken Panini that had bbq sauce, cilantro, and red onion which they served on a grilled ciabbatta with melted cheese. It was so good, I wished they had a vegetarian version. So now, I'm here working at home, and I finally have it. It's pretty simple, really. I just substituted tofu chicken strips (I like the ones from "Beyond Meat" and  I ramped up the veggies by adding some sautéed collard greens & shaved brussels sprouts.

After this, I'm cutting out the cheese in my life. Umm, somewhat...


"Beyond Meat" Southwest Flavor Chick'n Strips (Available at Whole Foods)
1/4 red onion
Small handful of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Barbecue Sauce 
1 cup leafy greens such as slivered collard greens, kale or shaved brussels sprouts


2 small ciabatta rolls
1 oz Gruyere cheese
1 oz light mozzarella

Mix together in small bowl Chick'n strips, sliced onion, cilantro and bbq sauce. Sauté the leafy greens with part of the red onion and set aside. Spray olive oil on outside of roll. On the bottom half of roll, layer on the gruyere, chick'n mix, greens, and then mozzarella before covering with other half. In lightly oiled grill pan, or panini press, heat until cheese melts, flipping halfway through. There you go. I use the light mozzarella to hold the calories down. MAKES 2 PANINIS.

Curried seitan panini with slivered collard greens, red onion, grilled zucchini & gruyere

I like experimenting with meat alternatives, so I'm always picking up items at the grocery store that interest me. My local Whole Foods Market carries Sweet Earth Seitan (Wheat Meat) in a curry flavor, and since I'm keen on curry these days, I picked it up. I've had such great vegetarian sandwiches at some of the wonderful restaurants here in Los Angeles, such as Mendocino Farms, Veggie Grill, Native Foods and Juicy Ladies. The things they do with Tempeh, tofu and Seitan!

I made this panini on a Wednesday afternoon when I was feeling the need for a splurge... but being early in the New Year, I wanted to keep the cheese, bread and calories on the low side. In the top photo I used homemade sandwich bread from my friend Susan Valiant from Mabel's Kitchen in Fresno, CA., a thick, dense and salty white bread. The second version uses a lower calorie Sourdough bread from Francisco International from Ralph's supermarket. Each slice is 60 calories, and although the sandwich looks flatter after pressed, I assure you it's still delicious and satisfying.


4 slices sourdough bread (Francisco International Sourdough Sliced Bread)
1/4 cup Light shredded Mozzarella
2 oz gruyere cheese
2 pieces Sweet Earth Curried Seitan, sliced lengthwise as thin as possible
1/4 thin sliced red onion
1 cup Collard greens, sliced thin (Trader Joe's is actually selling packaged shredded collards right now)
1/2 medium zucchini, sliced thin on the diagonal
Olive oil spray

Heat skillet on medium high, add olive oil spray, add onion, then thin-sliced zucchini. Cook until onions and zucchini are browned then add collard greens. Toss until wilted, add seitan strips and cook a bit more until setean is warm. Set aside.

In panini press, oiled grill pan or on grill: spray olive oil on one side of each slice of bread. Add gruyere cheese on bottom, then add veg and seitan mixture. Add Low-fat cheese on top. Place second slice on top and press on grill until cheese melts and bread is browned to a nice crunch. If you don't have a paninii press, just use another pan or even your spatula to press it, and turn sandwich as each side gets brown.