You make panini, of course! A panini is a pressed sandwich, usually served warm.
The panini press is more versatile than that however, and you can also use it to grill meats and veggies if you don't have a grill, or live in an urban setting where having a grill might be out of the question.
I recently made some panini for a client of mine, Chicken Pesto and Fontina and Black Forest ham...delish. There are a couple of secrets to a good panini. The first and the most important I think, is the bread. You have to use a strong, durable, crusty bread that can withstand the moisture of the filling. The second is the fat you use to grill your bread with. For the pesto and more savory panini, a good quality olive oil works. For something as luscious as oozing Fontina cheese, a high quality butter works.
The panini press is a dual cooking surface piece of equipment, and nonstick. You don't have to flip the food when it's cooking. I used the panini press to cook the chicken (it marinated in fresh, minced garlic and olive oil first for about 2 hrs). Always season your meat prior to cooking w/a liberal sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
Once the chicken was cooked, and the bread sliced, I spread it with some basil pesto, (sundried tomato pesto would work great as well). I gave the bread a liberal splash of olive oil and stuck the sandwiches in the press to cook.
After about 5-6 minutes, on a medium to medium high heat, this is what the paninis look like:
Here's the finished chicken pesto panini:
Can't leave out the Fontina and Ham panini:
As I mentioned before, the press is also good for grilling veggies and works especially well with zukes, squashes and peppers....
So, if you have a panini press shoved away in some cabinet in your kitchen somewhere, consider pulling it out again. If you are limited with your space and want a versatile cooking tool, consider purchasing a press :)