Saying 'Cheese' Again
The path to getting my blood calcium to a normal level was arduous and painful, but hopefully behind me now. One of the things I missed a lot during this time was 'cheese', and it was something I was waiting to get back to. So I went a little crazy last week and bought no less than five types of cheeses, which will now be savored with some good bread or crackers, or alone, and as an ingredient in various things, inspirations for which are already gushing forth - but first, I had to make this favorite sandwich, which is based on a fairly common vegetarian offering in cafes and restaurants. I never seem to tire of it; it is that delicious.
This sandwich relies a lot on the flavor and freshness of the main ingredients, and is perfect in summer when farmers' markets are overflowing with some terrific eggplants, peppers, and basil. In fact, our local farmers' markets have some amazing bread and goat cheese too, so nearly all the ingredients can be bought there. Naturally, this is a great choice to take for summer picnics, and I have found it to be quite a crowd pleaser, whether the people are vegetarians or not. Even kids have loved it, much to the disbelief of their parents. There is usually atleast one person who asks me how 'exactly' I make it, which I am only happy to tell. Here I have given the details of the main components of the sandwich, which involves cooking the eggplant, roasting the peppers, and making the pesto.
You can do this with either red or yellow peppers or both. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Slice the top and bottom off the peppers and then cut the "walls" of the peppers. Rub them with a little bit of olive oil. Lay these peppers skin side down on a baking sheet, and roast for 20-25 minutes. Sometimes I also put some slices of red onions drizzled with olive oil right next to the peppers. While the peppers are still hot, pick them up with tongs, put them in a bowl, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. This causes the peppers to steam, and when they are cool, it is easy to peel the skin right off.
Preparing the Eggplant
The eggplant can be either grilled, pan fried, or baked, and the pan fried one is by far my favorite, since the eggplant stays moist, and you can control each slice to be cooked evenly. The advantange of the oven baked version is that it does not need any attention.
For that, pour 3-4 Tablespoons of oil in a cookie sheet and put the tray in the oven while the oven preheats to 425°F. Use a firm globe eggplant, and slice it about 1/4 inch thick. Place these slices in a pot of salted water, and place a weight (like a saucer) on top, so that they do not float up. When the oven is heated, drain the eggplant well, and place each slice on the cookie sheet without overlapping. Cook for 15 minutes, flip the slices, and let cook for another 15 minutes. At this point the eggplant slices should be cooked golden brown on both sides. If they seem dry, brush a little olive oil on it.
Make a simple pesto with a bunch of basil leaves, several cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, a handful of pinenuts, a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and if you like, some grated parmesan cheese. Put all these things together into a food processor and puree.
I usually use a flattish loaf like ciabatta or herb slab, to make a giant sandwich that I slice into four or six, but this time I used ciabatta rolls to make individual sandwiches.
Putting the sandwich together
Slice the bread horizontally. Spread pesto on the bottom part of the bread. Top with eggplant, peppers, onions (optional), and sprinkle salt to taste and some paprika. Spread the goat cheese thickly on the inside of the top half of the bread, and cover. Press tightly. Slice if required.
Update on the state of the machine
As promised the pictures are up! I managed to recover my data, but will need to do reinstalls of a lot of software. So, it will be an uphill climb for a while.