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Young and Foolish: Grilled Vegetable Paninis with Cheddar Broccoli Soup


July 24, 2012

Recipe: Grilled Vegetable Paninis with Cheddar Broccoli Soup

I remember the first time I discovered Three Buck Chuck,Trader Joes’ infamous cheap wine. I was in college in NY and was throwing a party. Of course, being a student I hardly had two pennies to rub together, but my foodie tendencies were already starting to come out and I was determined that there should be more wine than anyone knew what to do with at this grand fête.

“You know about Three Buck, right?” a friend from the riding team whispered conspiratorially to me as we were tacking up our horses, her voice hushed and looking over her shoulder to make sure no one heard us.

“No? Is that a new horse?”, I asked, dread creeping into my voice that I would soon be getting hucked into the rafters by our latest “project” horse.

Back in the day when I thought Three Buck might be a very naughty horse I’d be stuck with.

She burst out laughing, and quickly recovering herself told me it was this “delicious” wine that was also only $3 per bottle. I was so excited to try it out I could hardly stand it. And so, after riding took myself (and yes, my riding breeches clad bottom) right back to the dorm to call my 21+ brother and ask him to bring a case of it when he next came to visit.

The wine (and the party) were, of course, sub par but we thought it was fabulous. Unfortunately for my budget, over the years I would be exposed to nicer and nicer wine, rendering my previously tried and trusted Three Buck, to be barely worthy of sangria, and certainly not good enough to ruin good short ribs with.

If you’ve never done an olive oil tasting, I highly, highly recommend it. You will not believe the differences among different brands, presses, and fruits.

Up until recently I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought about olive oil very much how my underage self had thought about wine. Something to get you from Point A to Point B, but not anything particularly special. This notion was firmly blown out of the water at a recent olive oil tasting event, with some of Seattle’s top bloggers, hosted by California Olive Ranch and Talk of Tomatoes at Farestart in Seattle. Over the three-hour evening I enjoyed Swirling, Sniffing, and Slurping oil from different top producers and learning how to dismantle all the different flavors, varietals, and brands.

The difference is staggering, a quality olive oil full of complex flavors and depth, and a bad one tasting like little more than watery oil. If you’ve never done an olive oil tasting, I highly encourage you to try. Get a collection of different oils, both domestic and international, pour small tastes in different wine glasses and then see what you think. Allowing the oil to first warm up via cupping the glass in your hand is recommended, following by Swirling it to release the flavors, Sniffing it to see what you pick up, and then Slurping it, allowing air to come in through your teeth and generally looking and feeling ridiculous as you make embarrassing sounds with strangers.

This simple, vegetarian dinner is all about delicious, farm fresh veggies brought to life with Arbequina olive oil. Frankly either the soup or sandwich would be plenty since they are both quite hearty, but together they make an especially lovely combination. Make it on a Meat Free Monday when you’re looking for something a little unexpected.

Grilled Vegetable Paninis with Broccoli, White Bean, and Cheddar Soup
Serves 2 + Leftover Soup

A lovely summer dish, celebrating what’s fresh and using quality olive oil to bring it all to life.

Broccoli, White Bean, and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Eating Well

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 pound broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups)
1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt + more for topping
Drizzle Arbequina Olive oil, I used California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin

  1. Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli, cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in beans, salt and pepper and cook until the beans are heated through, about 1 minute.
  2. Using an immersion blender, blend until completely smooth. Add in the cheddar and greek yogurt and pulse until smooth.
  3. When ready to serve add a small spoonful yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Grilled Vegetable Paninis
Use whatever veggies are in your fridge, the below is merely meant for inspiration

1 zucchini, thinly sliced with a mandolin
1 squash, thinly sliced with a mandolin
1 onion, thinly sliced
Coarse Salt and Pepper
Artichoke Hearts, marinated in olive oil
1/4 cup basil, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup arugula
2 thick slices, smoked mozzarella
2 pieces foccacia bread, cut in half
Drizzle Arbequina Olive oil, I used California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin

  1. Preheat grill to high, reduce heat to medium.
  2. Brush both sides of the veggie with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Add to grill and cook until marks showing and vegetables are tender. Remove
  4. Assemble the focaccia first with the cheese, then the thinly sliced vegetables, and artichoke hearts.
  5. Grill until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through.
  6. Add the arugula and basil, and enjoy!


  1. Matt says:

    Great dinner sweetheart! I do think it was $2 chuck back then…

    • Erina says:

      An endorsement for a vegetarian dish from you darling is high praise…I’ll take it.

      $2 buck chuck though, eh? Geeeez, we’re getting old…or maybe inflation is just through the roof. That must be it…

  2. Ahhh how I used to love three buck chuck – and how sad I am that I don’t anymore! Fortunately, there are still plenty of very good budget wines out there. I love the idea of an olive oil tasting like that, and these veggie dishes look out of this world.

    • Erina says:

      Yes, indeed. Expensive definitely doesn’t equal good, that’s for sure. When you’re in NY you should do an olive oil tasting…seems very East Coast. And thanks for the kudos on the veggie dishes. We definitely don’t eat meat free enough, but trying to increase it!

  3. Both of these soups look and sound insanely good! Love that they’re made in record time too! =]

    • Erina says:

      The record time is key! The broccoli soup can literally be made in less than 15 minutes, makes a bunch, and is a great leftover. Especially on a Monday, usually after a weekend of fun I want something healthy, but quick. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Eileen says:

    This soup sounds perfect–I love the white bean element for protein and texture. 🙂

    • Erina says:

      Thanks Eileen! Yes, the pureed white bean is magical in that it gives you that thick, creamy consistency without loads of cream and cheese typical to other cream of broccoli soups. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. emmycooks says:

    Isn’t that olive oil something? And it’s so attractive garnishing your soup, on top of tasting great. 🙂

    • Erina says:

      I can’t get over how much better it is than what I’ve been cooking with and eating for years…crazy talk!

  6. I need to pick your brain and get the Olive Oil Cliff Notes! I love soups with beans pureed – so thick and comforting.

    • Erina says:

      You got it lady! It really was super interesting and now I can’t get over how different all the olive oils in my cupboard taste!

  7. You have me crave for some cheddar soup! Looks droolworthy!

  8. Christine says:

    This looks amazing… really, I’m drooling. I’m a total sucker for tasty and filling soups & I love the addition of beans here. And a panini too! Yes! Sign me up 🙂

    • Erina says:

      Thanks Christine! I’m totally with you…a soup must be filling, otherwise, what’s the point? What I love about this is how filling and satisfying it is, while also being very healthy. Double bonus!

  9. Kim Bee says:

    First of all it’s nice to meet a fellow foodie. And a fellow foodie who’s also a horse lover to boot is extra special. Love the photo of you and your horse.

    We actually went to a market that had an olive oil and sauce tasting bar. Was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. We spent eons sampling different ones. It is really amazing how different they all are when you take the time to try them.

    Love your soupl And paninis rock my world.

    • Erina says:

      Kim, I was excited too to see a fellow horse gal when I noticed your Twitter pic…we are few and far between I think! Had such an amazing ride last night that I got home late and ended up eating chicken fingers and buffalo sauce for dinner….OOPS! Look forward to chatting more!

  10. Erina says:

    Droolworthy…I love it!

  11. ValleyWriter says:

    It’s still Two-Buck Chuck in California (technically $1.99)! I think they raise the price when they have to ship it out of state. But more importantly – if you are ever in SoCal – Temecula Olive Oil Company is a must try!! They have some amazing offerings – and do tastings!

    • Erina says:

      Oh fabulous! I quickly see myself becoming Olive Oil obsessed, so I’m very excited to hear about other great places to check out. Thanks for the tip!

  12. Karista says:

    Haha! Great post! I love the picture with you and the horse. So darn cute! I love horses, had one when I was growing up. But she was just a sweet ole southern mare who loved her trail rides through the mountains. No fancy shows for her. She was a biter and didn’t play nice with other horses. 🙁 So great seeing you at the olive oil tasting!

  13. […] recently co-hosted a dinner with California Olive Ranch at FareStart in Seattle. Bloggers and media folks attended and we chatted up a storm while sipping olive oil and learning about the […]

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