Grilled eggplant and kale panini with asiago and parsley pesto
My last meal would have to include bread. It’s one of those thing I would not want to do without and I am not talking about the gluten free versions. Good, hearty, country style loaf with thick, chewy crust and dense, moist crumb, that’s what I am talking about, the kind of bread you’d bake in a community oven in a village in Tuscany or Provence. Needless to say there is always bread at our house and it doesn’t last long.
When I visit other cities I like to check out their bakeries and often tuck a loaf of this or that in my suitcase to bring home. Earlier this week we went on a short Vancouver excursion and were served this incredibly delicious rustic bread at a market to table restaurant called The Farmers’ Apprentice. The restaurant is small and typical “hole in the wall” sort of thing but at the moment it is one of the top restaurants in Vancouver, receiving accolades from food critics and industry insiders alike, let alone the dining public who flocks to dine there to the point that it’s difficult to get a table for dinner unless you call a few days in advance. I heard about the restaurant from my friend and blogger Val of More Than Burnt Toast and knowing Val, who is a kindred spirit foodie, I knew I shouldn’t miss it. We couldn’t get a table for dinner but lunch was possible (no reservations required for lunch) and we made our way to Granville to give it a try.
With the appetizers we were served this incredibly organic country bread with thick chewy crust, beautiful moist and dense crumb and mild sourdough flavour. It was served with sweet roasted onion butter and a little olive oil and I immediately fell in love with the bread. Upon inquiry (no, they don’t bake their own bread) we were referred to a local bakery where they buy this bread daily. It is called Beyond Bread Bakery, located some 10 minutes drive from Granville on W 4th Ave. between Alma and Dunbar. Needless to say we headed straight there after lunch to buy their bread. The bakery specializes in all organic breads individually prepared and shaped daily by hand. The shop itself is small with a few tables available for sampling a sandwich on one of their breads together with homemade soup and coffee service, all made with local organic ingredients. We bought our country loaf and this is the bread I used today to make this eggplant panini. I should have bought a few more loaves.
One thing that every cook should have in their kitchen is a panini maker. There are different types, the electric panini press and the cast iron skillet with the heavy press-lid from Le Creuset. I have them both and love them all. They make a great grilled sandwich. You can also grill the vegetables for the sandwich on the panini maker, and that’s what I did today.
On my last trip to the market I found a few beautiful pink eggplants now waiting in the fridge, destined for a pasta with eggplant dish, but I could spare one for a panini for lunch. I cut the eggplant into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick, then let them drain briefly on paper towels while the panini maker was heating up. I already had parsley pesto in the fridge, made from my last parsley harvest a few days ago. I also had good Asiago cheese which I grated for the sandwich and a few clean kale leaves that I washed earlier for a salad I was planning on making later for dinner. What else would be nice? Oh yes, I made these lovely sweet and tangy pickled yellow zucchini the other day, it would go lovely with this grilled sandwich.
The rest was easy. I brushed the eggplant slices with olive oil and placed them in the panini maker to be grilled. In the meantime I started building the sandwich: brushed the outside of the bread slices with olive oil (helps with the grill marks), spread some parsley pesto on each slice, sprinkled the cheese on, arranged a few kale leaves on top of the cheese and by now the eggplant was grilled with nice grill marks on it. There goes the eggplant on each sandwich, salt and pepper, close it up and into the panini maker it goes. A few minutes later you have this golden beautiful and flavourful grilled sandwich to serve with your favourite pickles (try the yellow zucchini recipe here).
Who knew there was so much to tell about a simple sandwich recipe?
1 small eggplant
4 slices good country style bread
Parsley pesto (see recipe below)
A few kale leaves
Salt and pepper
Heat up the panini maker to high.
Cut the eggplant into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick and let drain on paper towels for a few minutes while the panini maker is heating up.
Brush the outside of the bread slices with oil.
Spread each slice with some of the parsley pesto and then sprinkle with the grated asiago.
Lay a few kale leaves over the bread.
When the eggplant is ready with nice golden grill mark remove from the grill and lay over the bread.
Top with the top slice and grill in a panini maker until the top is golden, grill marks showing and the cheese is tarting to ooze.
Remove to a cutting board and let rest a couple of minutes, then cut in two.
Serve with good pickles.
2 small garlic cloves
1 tablespoon capers without the brine
Large two handfuls of flat leaf parsley (or 2 bunches that you buy at the store)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2/3 cup olive oil
To make the pesto place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it reaches the consistency of pesto.