Today, post #2 covering my Pure Flavor veggie cooking bonanza, where I highlight the taste and versatility of eggplants. I’m so excited to be writing about good, nutritious food!
I had a colorful assortment of Pure Flavor baby eggplants and I immediately thought I should use them to make my family’s version of baba ghanoush, one of the oldest recipes ever posted on this blog. In the end however, I decided to push myself a little harder (lol) and after some thinking and experimentation I came up with this vegetarian panino recipe, in which I married the gorgeous eggplants pictured below with the Pure Flavor Aurora Sweets peppers. More on these peppers will be revealed in my upcoming veggie post #3 (hint, hint!)
As usual, I found a lot of inspiration in my small herb garden. For this recipe, I used a handful of fresh thyme and oregano leaves.
For a meatier texture and feel I also used two lonely mushroom caps I had in the fridge. Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, and it would have been a pity to leave them out. More veggies means a merrier panino, right? 🙂
Chop the oregano and thyme and place in a medium-size bowl. Cut the eggplant into slices about 1/4in thick and add them to the bowl. Also add the mushroom caps, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Combine the ingredients until the veggies are coated in oil and chopped herbs uniformly. Store in the refrigerator overnight.
This is yumminess in the making:
The next day, take the eggplant slices and mushroom caps out of the bowl and spread them on a preheated nonstick grill pan.
Grill the veggies over a medium heat for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and soft, turning them once during cooking.
Once cooked, take the veggies out of the pan and set them aside on a plate lined with paper towel to remove the excess oil and/or moisture.
I used the same grill pan to grill the sweet pepper halves until they turned soft. As you can see from the pic below, I grilled more than one sweet pepper on this occasion – and you’ll know why once I reveal my veggie-loaded recipe #3, over the next few days: 😉
Once softened, take the pepper halves off the grill and set aside.
I searched high and low for a good leafy green to complement the feta cheese & sour cream element of my panino, and in the end I picked watercress. I used to eat a lot of watercress when we lived in the UK, mainly in soups and sandwiches. The Brits like it so much that they actually have a Watercress Festival and a National Watercress Week every year to celebrate this unassuming and delicate, yet amazingly nutritious green! In Chicagoland, you can find watercress at select specialized grocery stores. I found the bunch below at Rich’s Fresh Market:
For my panino filling, I followed “the rule of equal three’s” and used equal quantities of feta cheese, sour cream and chopped watercress. Place these in a medium-size bowl and mix with a spoon until well combined.
Cut the baguette roll in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside. Using a brush, moisten the inside of the roll with extra virgin olive oil. Add a layer of feta, sour cream & watercress mixture on both halves.
Add two slices of Emmental cheese on the half roll which is going to make up the bottom of the panino. This choice of cheese is yet another tribute to my culinary past. I used to eat a lot of Emmental when we lived in Europe, and was thrilled to find this sweet and nutty cheese variety on sale at the local grocery store!
Add 4-5 slices of grilled eggplant on top of the cheese.
Add the grilled pepper halves on top of the eggplant…
…then add the grilled mushroom caps.
Add the two remaining slices of Emmental cheese.
Finish off with the other half roll, and press gently to allow the panino elements to blend in together.
Grill the panino for about 30 seconds or until golden brown.
Take the panino off the grill and cut it in half. Serve warm.
Showcasing veggies with all their nutritious goodness and natural beauty, this recipe satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and I hope you like it at least as much as we do.
Stay tuned for veggie-loaded recipe #3 – the perfect dish to celebrate July 4th! 🙂