Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper Panini
Summer is coming to Chicago...slowly. As seems typical, we haven't had a tremendously warm spring, but we remain hopeful that warm summer days are right around the corner. With that hopefulness, I find myself daydreaming of picnics at Millenium Park concerts, promentary point, Chicago Botanic Garden, or Ravinia. And, these sandwiches, from Joy of Cooking All About Vegetarian, are among the best picnic meals around because all the ingredients can be prepared in advance and the resulting combination is extraordinary. So, with anticipation of warm summer nights, I am sharing the recipe for a delectable picnic.
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips about 1/4" thick
Cut crosswise into 1/2"-thick slices:
1 medium eggplant
Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with:
2 tbsps olive oil
Broil the eggplant 4" from the heat just until tender, about 4 minutes each side. Remove from the heat. Split in half horizontally:
Four 4-inch squares focaccia (recipe below)
Spread the bottom halves generously with:
Tapenade (recipe below)
Arrange on top:
4 ounces slices fresh mozzarella or crumble feta or goat cheese
1 large ripe tomato, sliced
Divide the eggplant and the pepper mixture on top and cover with the top halves of the focaccia. Press together gently and serve.
Divide in half and roll each piece out to a 1/2"-thick round:
Transfer these to well-oiled 10-inch cake pans. Let rise covered with plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Ten minutes before baking, dimple the dough with your fingertips and drizzle evenly with:
Olive oil (as much as 1/2 cup)
Dried herbs or course sea salt
Bake the focaccia until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from the pans to cool on the rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
Tapenade (Caper Olive Paste)
Combine in a food processor:
2 cups black olives, preferably oil cured, pitted
3 tbsps drained capers
3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps brandy or lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, coursly chopped
2 tsps fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
salt and ground pepper to tast
Pulse until the mixture is till course but of a uniform consistency.