This past weekend was spent with our kids and their families at my daughter’s home in New York. The weather was perfect, which meant much time was spent outside biking, racing sailboats, tubing, kayaking, swimming, playing cornhole, and watching fireworks. Together we number eleven. With six adults and five children (and three dogs!), it takes a little bit of planning to ensure everyone is well fed and happy!
As a certified, card carrying Italian, I have the most fun around a table either eating great food, talking about great food or planning the next meal with the people I love. This weekend was no exception. This roasted vegetable sandwich is one of my favorites for feeding a crowd. While there is a bit of preparation involved, it is well worth the effort. Almost everything can be done in advance. Not only will that save you time, I have found that it improves the flavor, as well.
If you would like to make the recipe even less daunting, and more cost effective, purchase roasted red peppers instead of roasting your own. I am able to get a large jar of roasted red peppers for approximately $3.00, but raw peppers usually cost more than $1.00 each. Canned tomatoes (any style) may also be substituted for fresh, and will result in a more intense tomato flavor. Just make sure you drain them well before using them.
I make everything in advance and layer the peppers and the eggplant in a container with a few cloves of garlic and a little olive oil. It will last this way for at least a week in the refrigerator. I often use a sturdy ciabatta loaf and assemble the sandwiches a few hours ahead of time. It is delicious!
I hope you will give this recipe a try, and let me know if you liked it as much as Gabriella did.
- 3 red peppers
- 2 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick disks
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cored, or substitute 1 cup imported canned plum tomatoes, drained of juices
- 1 large onion cut into 1/8's
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- ½ head of garlic, cut along the clove
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar (or substitute red-wine vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
- 8 slices crusty French or Italian bread from a large round loaf
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- To roast the red peppers, place either over a gas burner, under the broiler or in a very hot oven (450 to 500 degrees), turning frequently until the pepper skins blacken. Place the peppers in a paper bag or covered bowl until they cool. Gently peel away the skin, cut in half and carefully remove the seeds. Roasted peppers can be covered with olive oil and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Sprinkle the eggplant slices with about one-and-a-half tablespoons of coarse salt and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Place the tomatoes, onion wedges and rosemary sprig in a lightly oiled oven-proof skillet or pan, just large enough to contain the vegetables. Place the garlic, cut-side down, on top of one of the tomatoes. Generously brush the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, tossing the vegetables lightly to coat them with oil and juices. Remove when the garlic and onion are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes. The tomato will be very soft, its skin split.
- While the vegetables are roasting, rinse the eggplant slices under cold water and dry well with paper towels. Place the slices on an oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Bake in a 450-degree oven, turning once, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Take the roasted garlic and squeeze the head to release the softened cloves into the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion, flesh of tomato, discarding the skins, one teaspoon of Sherry vinegar, two teaspoons of lemon juice (if desired) and two tablespoons of olive oil. Process, using short pulses, until the mixture is the consistency of a relish.
- Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil and lightly toast on the rack of the 450-degree oven.
- To assemble the sandwiches, place a quarter of the eggplant and roasted pepper slices on each of four slices of bread, oil-side up. Spoon on about two or three tablespoons of sauce.