*A note on eggplant. I've found, especially if you are buying your eggplant, that it's best to use it within a day or two. It goes bad quickly. What we've picked from our garden seems to last a bit better simply because it's fresher. Also don't slice it open it until just before you are ready to cook it. It gets discolored quickly once cut.
Grilled Veggie Panini - from Giada De Laurentiis
1/4 c olive oil
2 small japanese eggplants or 1 medium to large regular eggplant cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 baguettes (each about 2 feet long) or other speciality bread (I used Oro Wheat Sandwhich Thins, 100% Whole Wheat)
1/2 C Basil Pesto (recipe below)
8 ounces fresh water-packed mozzarella cheese, drained, sliced
2 tomatoes, slices
1/2 C roasted red peppers
8 large basil leaves, optional
2 C fresh basil leaves
1/4 C toasted pine nuts (I used slivered almonds because it was what I had and it was GREAT!)
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I just put mine through a garlic press and toasted it with the nuts)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 C (about) extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 C grated parmesan (I just used the regular old stuff you buy in the bottle and keep in the fridge, nothing fancy)
If your nuts aren't already toasted, heat a skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil and toast your nuts and olives together for just a few minutes. In a blender (I used a small hand blender we have because it seemed to be better for the amount I was making) pulse the basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper until finely chopped. With the blender still running gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer to the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in 1/2 C of cheese. (The recipe doesn't call for it, but I then had to add more olive oil because the cheese soaked up all the moisture in the original mixture!). Season with more salt and pepper if needed. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate).
Directions for the sandwich:
Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Drizzle the oil over the eggplant, zucchini and onion slices, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill these veggies until they are tender and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side. Cool completely. (I tried to use our George Foreman grill and it worked OK, but didn't make really nice grill marks and I had to do it in small batches. I ended up giving up and just broiling most of my veggies, which seemed to work just as well!)
Prepare your bread (this size of recipe is made to serve 12), spreading with pesto and adding the slices of eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomato, mozzarella and roasted pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If your bread is really soft I would actually probably toast it before prepping the sandwich.
*Other options: We actually didn't have any mozzarella so did without the cheese and it was still REALLY good. The cheese probably adds a bit more heartiness to it however and would be a delicious addition. We also added Roasted Red Pepper hummus, which gave it a totally different flavor, but was a really nice compliment to the other flavors in the sandwich.
Despite all the "fancy" ingredients and what appears to be kind of a gourmet sandwich, it was actually really easy to put together and really delicious.
Up soon...a few more eggplant recipes. I had them coming out my ears this year so experimented with a few things that turned out nicely. I will share soon...hopefully :)