Confessions of a Veggie Sandwich Lover…

I have a sandwich obsession. I just LOVE any combination of veggies, cheeses and spreads packed onto a great slab of bread, grilled panini style or openface and broiled. I had a sandwich a couple weeks ago that I am still dreaming about. The combination of spicy arugula and cool cucumber with the cheese was heaven! After leaving the restaurant, I immediately wrote down the ingredients and tried to recreate it at the homefront. Here is my best rendition. You don’t need a fancy panini maker, any skillet will do.
This is an opportunity for total creativity, so have some fun and make it your own signature combination!

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Crispellini Panini (have your kids chant that 3 times fast!)
(adapted from a sandwich I had at the Crispelli restaurant in Berkley)

sourdough bread (or any sturdy bread you like), sliced and buttered
goat cheese, and a mozzarella or Gruyere cheese, sliced (you could get by with just one cheese but I really enjoy the complexity created with 2 cheeses)
garlic powder
salt and pepper
Roasted red peppers
cucumber, sliced thin
Arugula, or any other spicy green, rinsed and spun dry

Butter one side of each piece of bread and place them butter side down (I know it seems messy, so do it on a large cutting board). Smear on the goat cheese or crumble on the feta. If you are using goat cheese, liberally sprinkle salt and garlic powder on top. If you are using feta, skip the salt as the feta will be salty enough, but feel free to sprinkle on the garlic powder. Pile on the strips of red pepper, cucumber slices and then pack on top a bunch of arugula.

Now place the sliced mozzarella or Gruyère on top of the lettuce to keep it in place. Heat your skillet to medium heat and run a swab of butter around it to grease the pan. When the butter stops sizzling place your pieces of bread with all the fixins in the skillet, butter side down (sorry, it may seem obvious, but sometimes we all miss the obvious, right?).

If you have a lid that you can put on top it will help melt down the cheese just a bit faster. Once the cheese is looking a bit melted, place the top piece of bread on top, butter side up and flip the whole thing over. You will need a big spatula (a metal one works best for this dish) and you may need to use a finger or two to assist and keep it all together. Cook a minute or two longer on the second side, checking to make sure the bread is not burning. Remove to a platter and cut in half before serving to release a little heat and enjoy the lovely colors of your sandwich!

Another great sandwich combination and one of my favorite dishes to make on a leisure Sunday is a grilled vegetable platter. It is super easy because most of the cooking takes place outside on the grill and the rest of it is simply assembling dressings, cheeses, and condiments on a big platter and then heading to the deck. Additionally, the veggies displayed on a platter make a gorgeous presentation for entertaining. Serving is super easy because everyone makes their own sandwich from the platter, piling on their favorite spreads and enjoying their own favorite veggie combination. Oh, and did I mention how delicious veggies are when grilled? The flavors are intensified, a bit caramelized from the natural sugars, and with a hint of smokiness!!

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Grilled Veggies with Spreads and Artisan Breads
(The funny thing about grilled veggies is that they shrink down so you can eat twice as much! So, gauge the amount of veggies based on each person having 2 sandwiches and at least 6 pieces of veggies per sandwich.)

Ingredients (any combination of the following)
– Olive oil and butter
– Onions, sliced thin (you can caramelize them in the pan as I do below, or use scallions and grill them whole)
– Arugula, or any spicy green, or lettuce if you prefer
– Fresh Herbs: Basil, thyme, oregano
– Zucchini (sliced 1/2″ thick)
– Summer Squash (sliced 1/2″ thick)
– Eggplant, (sliced 1/2″ thick, no need to peel, unless it is super huge and the skin is very tough)
– Peppers, (sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed)
– Fennel bulbs, (sliced in half lengthwise so that the stem is still holding it together)
– Cheeses: feta, goat cheese, cheddar, Gruyère, mozzarella, parmesan, blue cheese, Manchego; any of these will do!
– Spreads: pesto of any variation, hummus, olive oil, balsamic vinegar
– Bread: any good artisan bread such as focaccia, sourdough, multigrain, thickly sliced. Don’t pick a soft bread that easily falls apart, because you are building a major sandwich!
– Garlic: heads of garlic, fully intact with the paper removed and drizzled with oil, salt and pepper, wrap in foil and place on the grill an hour in advance of the veggies Mushrooms: You can do Portobello caps, placed top side down, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, or pats of butter, and blue cheese or feta chunks placed over the gills, wrapped lightly in tin foil. They take about 20-30 minutes to cook to tender so place them on the grill well in advance of the rest of the veggies.)
– Tomatoes – I like to slice tomatoes for the platter, but only when they are in season and really ripe. I don’t grill them because I find they get too messy and taste just as good fresh.
– Toasted pine nuts
– Olives of any variety

First, bring a skillet to medium heat and pour in 2 Tbs of olive oil, 1 Tbs of butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and stir them around to coat the onions with the oil. Turn the heat down to low and allow the onions to caramelize for at least 10-15 minutes (they will be golden brown). Occasionally stir the pan; if they start to stick to the bottom, add a 1/8 cup of water and stir them around. Make sure the heat is low and they don’t burn.

While the onions are caramelizing, pull out your veggies and wash and slice them lengthwise as noted by each vegetable in the ingredient list. Using a pastry brush, brush each side with olive oil and stack them in a pyrex dish. If you have metal skewers handy, use them because skewering the peppers makes it easy to flip them. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, as you go.

Head out to the grill. It is really helpful if you have a friend or partner to man the grill while you go back and assemble the platter. If you are on your own, set up the platter first (see further down) and then grill the veggies.
Start your grill with a medium flame (gas) or if using charcoal, get the coals hot and then even them out in one layer so the heat is fully distributed in the grill. Place the veggies on the grill going lengthwise in the opposite direction of the grate so you don’t lose them thru the grate. Grill them for 2 minutes on the first side, with the lid on the grill. Check for grate lines. If none, give them another minute or so and then flip them and grill another 3 minutes on the second side, with the lid on. Check to see if they are tender by poking with a fork.
NOTE: Gas vs. charcoal grills, as well as each veggie, cook differently so err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking. Veggies always taste better when firm as opposed to mushy!

Pull out a large platter and arrange your greens/lettuce, herbs, cheeses, olives, nuts, and caramelized onions, leaving room for the grilled veggies. You may need two platters if serving more than 4 people. Make sure to include all of your spreads as well, with spoons.
When the veggies are done, pile them back in the same pyrex dish and then transfer them to the serving platter. I find this works best when entertaining so I can take my time artfully placing them on the platter, as opposed to arranging them directly off of the grill.
Serve the veggies, with bread and wine if you like, and enjoy the essence of summer!

I have included a picture of the platter, so you can see the amount of veggies used for a family of three. Sorry, no sandwich pictures available as we went into a feeding frenzy before I remembered to take photos!!

A couple final things to note; last week while reviewing my post dated July 8th, titled “Week 6- Recipe Frenzy”, I realized that I left out two key components for the “Napa Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Miso Dressing” recipe. I forgot to list the dressing ingredients oil and soy sauce! To those of you who may have muddled thru that recipe trying to figure out how in the world to make it work, please accept my apology. I have since corrected it to read properly. If you are still the owner of some napa cabbage and carrots, please do do give the recipe a try.

Also, this week I had planned on doing some preserving of our CSA veggies by way of making and freezing quiche. As life would have it….life happened….and the prep work for those homemade quiche crusts did not happen! So that project has been bumped out to one of my August posts. Stay tuned.

I hope you enjoy the sandwich suggestions. I am working on some side salads tonight for the week, to be posted tomorrow and of course everyone has a favorite Chocolate Beet Cupcake recipe and I am no exception, so check back this week!

Lisa McLean

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This entry was posted in Arugula, basil, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, garlic, green onion, lettuce, Oregano, salad greens, summer squash / zucchini, tomato and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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