A few years ago, I went through a ratatouille phase — there was an easy recipe in an issue of Everyday Food, and so I made it. A lot. We had ratatouille crepes, ratatouille omelets, and straight-up ratatouille. Eventually, like all things I inadvertently run into the dining ground, my husband gently asked me to put a stop to it. No more eggplant stew, please, dear wife (or something maybe phrased a bit differently).
Well, we’ve had a lot of eggplant in our CSA box lately — and while I love a good eggplant parmesan, my above-referenced spouse isn’t wild about it. I still make it a couple times a year, but otherwise I’m looking for things to do with the aubergine. A few times this summer, we had made the grilled vegetable panini from the recipe section of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you’ve never made them, I recommend them heartily; if you have a gas grill (which we now do, in our rental house) they are an easy and delicious weeknight dinner in the late summer. Monday, though, it being already-fall and all, I was lacking tomatoes, which are a necessary topper for the panini. What I did have were some gorgeous shitake mushrooms, organically grown by a local farmer on logs year-round, and available at the farmer’s market for $9/pound (a good price, if you’ve ever shopped for shitakes).
The other thing I didn’t have on Monday was a working gas grill… I couldn’t get it to light. So I improvised by broiling the eggplant slices and peppers, and cooking onions and mushrooms on the stovetop. The great thing about this dinner is that you can cook all the vegetables ahead and assemble/broil the panini very quickly right before serving. I’m always looking for dinners that can be started early, since that hour or so before dinner is always the craziest time of day. Of course, if you have a working grill, you can cook everything (except the shitakes, unless you use a foil pouch?) that way instead.
These were good. Tasted right on a crisp evening.
Early Fall Vegetable Panino
serves 2 for plenty of supper
- one medium-sized eggplant (or 3-4 japanese eggplant), sliced length-wise into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 red bell pepper, quartered, seeds and ribs removed
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 oz. shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)
- 1 baguette
- 6 oz. fresh mozzarella
- a couple handfuls of arugula
- olive oil, salt and pepper
1) Cook your veggies (can be done a few hours in advance):
Preheat your broiler, and move your oven rack to about 6″ from the top heating element. Brush eggplant slices and peppers (skin side) with olive oil. Salt the eggplant (no need to salt the peppers, since the skin will be removed). Place peppers (skin side up) and eggplant on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, and broil about 10 minutes, or until the peppers are blackened in a lot of places. Remove the sheet and let cool to the touch. Once cool, rub the thin skins from the peppers (discard) and slice the flesh into strips.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the onions and thyme, and cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are brown and the skillet is almost dry (about 15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove to a plate.
Heat another tablespoon oil in your pan. Add the mushrooms, and cook over medium-high heat until beginning to brown (about 3 minutes — don’t let them get mushy). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove to a plate.
2) Assemble the panini (15 minutes before serving):
Preheat your broiler. Cut the baguette in half length-wise, and into sandwich-sized lengths. Layer onto each piece of bread: eggplant, then roasted peppers, then onions, then mushrooms. Top with slices of mozzarella. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about 5 minutes). Top your panini with arugula, drizzle with olive oil, and salt to taste. Serve with a fork.
Happy October! New site coming within the week!
* Apparently, the word panini is the plural form of panino (paninis is not a word at all, which somehow seems good to me).