Thursday, July 10, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Press Grill

Press Grill
741 N. High St.
Columbus, OH
(614) 298-1014
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Alright, so it's time to reveal something about myself.  I love to maintain lists of things, whether it be music or video games to check out or life goals.  One such list includes restaurants I heard good things about, but haven't tried yet.  Press Grill was on the list and since we were near the Short North, Lyndsay, Isaac and I decided to head there for lunch. 

Press Grill is a fairly small space and it's bar takes up about a third of that space.  Considering it was a Saturday, in the Short North, during Comfest, I expected a wait.  We could have all sat at the bar immediately, but I thought that would be weird with a four-year-old (though another dad was enjoying lunch at the bar with his newborn in a carrier).  However, our wait wasn't very long and before long were looking over the menu  and admiring the purple walls and black and white photography on the walls.

The menu has some standard pub appetizers and entrees like burgers, pizzas, and onion rings.  It also has some creative sandwiches like Adobo pork and a salmon sandwich. It is also worth noting that they have some pretty great daily specials, like 60 cent wings on Tuesday or Thanksgiving dinner every Thursday evening.

We started with some fried calamari, which I have been craving.  It was quite good for an Ohio pub, though not quite up to par with what I used to get living in Boston.  That having been said, we polished them off pretty quick and were looking forward to our entrees.

Lyndsay ordered a daily special, a hot caprese sandwich $8 and I ordered the Cajun Tilapia Sandwich $8. Lyndsay's sandwich was interesting, mostly because I've only had Caprese salads (fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil) cold.  Serving it hot intensified the tomato flavor and the melty fresh mozzarella reminded me of a parm-style sandwich.  Her nicely toasted bread did a good job soaking up any juices without getting soggy.  My Cajun Tilapia sandwich was absolutely delicious.  In addition to the flavorful battered fish fillet it also had salami, fontina, grilled onions and peppers, lettuce, tomato, and creole mayo.  My only complaint with the sandwich is that it was not remotely spicy, which I expected from something using the words Cajun and Creole in the description.

How I Was Inspired
I decided to take what I liked about Lyndsay's hot Caprese sandwich and what I like about Panzanella (Italian bread salad) and mix the two together to make a hot Caprese Panzanella.

In the bottom of a pan I mixed together some olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme, rosemary, and sliced garlic (not pictured) and then cut about a dozen roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and put them cut side down on the infused oil.  I baked them at 325 degrees for about 2 hours until the skins were very wilted and they were very soft.

Meanwhile I took a baguette, cut it into 1 inch cubes, and toasted it in the same oven with the tomatoes for about 15-20 minutes until they were well-toasted.

Also while the tomatoes were cooking I cut up 8 oz. of fresh mozzarella into bite-sized pieces.  You could also use mozzarella pearls if you would like to save a little time and have a more consistent appearance.

Finally, I tossed the hot tomatoes with the dried bread cubes, the mozzarella slices, and a little balsamic vinegar.  When I make this again, I will not add the mozzarella before plating as they melt too fast.  Instead, they should be added by each person when they are ready to eat.  After this shot, I tore up that basil leaf and spread it around. Basil chiffonade would be the better choice. Anyway, regardless of a few missteps in presentation, it was crazy delicious.  It was everything I like about Italian put into one dish.  I also baked some chicken and had it on the side, dragging each slice of chicken through the leftover sauce on my plate to great effect.  Here is the recipe if you want to try it at home.  And you really should, though the tomatoes took some time, it was incredibly easy to make.

Hot Caprese Panzanella

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 16 individual sprigs of fresh thyme
  • leaves of 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-14 roma tomatoes, stems removed and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 baguette, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces or mozzarella pearls
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  1. Mix the olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste in a 9 by 13 roasting pan.  Add the tomato halves, cut side down, and roast for about 2 hours at 325 degrees until the skins are very wilted and the tomatoes are soft through. Also toast the bread cubes in a separate baking sheet for 15-20 minutes until dried out and toasted.
  2. After the tomatoes are cooked, toss them with the bread cubes and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl and serve, topping with the mozzarella and basil to taste.

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