An Open-Faced Sandwich with Spicy Greens and Avocado. A delicious sandwich that takes 5 minutes to make. Packed with leafy greens, creamy avocado and a pinch of heat from infused chili oil. A quick snack or lunch recipe for a busy day. Inspired by a meal at my favorite sandwich shop in Florence, Italy - Semel. Also, I shared a post about traveling through Florence, Italy where I highlight Semel. You can view it here!
Making my way through the maze of alleyways past Santa Croce, dodging Vespa riders, begging gypsies, groups of tourists and locals, I’m led to a lunch spot, the lunch spot, one that promises to flip my view of sandwiches undoubtedly.
I turn the corner towards the bustling Sant' Ambrogio market and veer to the left, making my way closer to that sandwich shop. I stop at the end of the block, turn back around and circle the street again. In a moment of confusion, I stop, put my glasses on and hanging from an accordion-like door a sign reads, ‘the best panino in the world’. Ah, at last, I’ve found it, Semel.
No larger than a shoebox, I walk up the single step, shuffle between a few Italians who are with one hand, eating what looks like a delightful panino, and with the other speaking enthusiastically the only way an Italian knows how to do – with their hands.
At the counter a tall, bearded man, with a grin so warm it’s as if you’ve known him and his paninos for ages, greets me with a zealous, “Buon giorno, bella! (Good morning, beautiful! )”. Gazing at the menu, while fumbling to form a proper Italian phrase, one aside from a greeting, the man checks in, “English?”. Ah, yes, and with that we had our first of many conversations in broken Italian and broken English, making sense of each other with the most expressive of hands. What I gathered at Semel is that a glass of wine is $1 and each panino is just as good as the last, yet, the savory panino must be followed by the dolce panino (sweet sandwich) – one slathered in melted dark chocolate and orange marmalade. Not wanting to offend my new Italian friend, I said yes to everything.
As the months went on, I stopped by Semel for lessons in Italian and to enjoy my favorite set of paninos, this vegetarian one, followed by the dolce, and enjoyed with a glass of wine. Those lunches filled my afternoons and emptied my wallet (I mean, I was a poor 21 year old student) until my year in Italy finished.
Four years after I said my final goodbye to Marco, I made my way back to Florence last winter. As I ventured seamlessly through the allies that once perplexed me, I quickly arrived at the open doors of Semel. I stepped up the one stair, caught eyes with Marco and with a smile so grand it warmed my heart in a matter of milliseconds, Marco greeted me with gusto, ‘Che bella sorpresa! Ciao Maria, bella! (What a beautiful surprise! Hi Marie!)”.
Now that is a comfort that I never want to forget. And neither is this panino :)
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 5 minutes
Ingredients for the Sandwich:
-3 cups frisee lettuce
-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes
- 1 avocado
- drizzle of honey
- rye bread (or bread of your choice)
- pecorino cheese (optional but I love a few small slices)
- sea salt
Simply mix the olive oil with the chili flakes and let this sit for about 30 minutes – allowing the heat from the chili to infuse into the olive oil. Then pour the chili oil on top of the frisee, with a pinch of sea salt, and massage until each strand is coated. Toast the bread and layer slices of avocado, pecorino cheese, frisee, drizzle of honey and frisee. Enjoy!
Enjoy a special piece of Italy! If any of you are planning a trip to Florence, please do me the favor of having a panino at Semel - a whole in the wall panino shop that will blow your mind. And please get this sandwich there, followed by their dolce sandwich - you will be eternally thankful :)
Also, I shared a post about traveling through Florence, Italy where I highlight Semel. You can view it here!
And thank you for sharing your creations on instagram! Its been so fun seeing your take on a few classics from the blog :) You can find me at #8thandlake. You can also find me on Snapchat with my username: marie8thandlake
Lots of love from the West Coast,