The lazy days of summer – are you feeling them yet? The calendar says it’s officially here, but we’re just as busy as ever in my house, with certain things even causing stress, making me count the days until we can leave town for some much needed down time on our favorite beach.
My style of vacation cooking is pretty simple; the only tool I bring along to our rental cottage is my favorite chef’s knife, since the kitchen there is supplied with the major essential – a lobster pot.
Other than seafood just out of the ocean, I can’t wait for all the summer farm produce. All I need is a loaf of great bread for making sandwiches to pack for the day. I don’t know why, but even sitting in a beach chair doing not much of anything, digging my toes into the sand every now and then, makes me really hungry.
But I won’t be spending a whole lot of time planning meals – as always, simplicity is key.
This sandwich can be assembled the night before or in the morning in advance of heading out to the beach or wherever summer takes you. I love the way freshly roasted peppers and eggplants smell and taste, but to make things even easier (and keep the oven off), jarred roasted peppers, marinated tomatoes and roasted vegetables from the prepared food section of the grocery store will make a fine sandwich, too.
Mix up the filling of this sandwich - try thinly sliced prosciutto, red onion, roasted zucchini or use goat cheese instead of mozzarella.
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 small garlic clove, sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Roma or plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
- 1 small (about 3 inches diameter) eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles
- 1 loaf ciabatta (I used an 8 x 5 rectangular loaf)
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced into wide strips
- 8 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼-inch thick
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To make the pesto, put the basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic and salt in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Slowly add 1/3 cup olive oil while the machine is running; scrape down the bowl and add 1 or 2 tablespoons more oil if needed, until pesto is creamy and blended.
- Place a large rimmed baking sheet on middle oven rack and heat to 425 degrees. When the oven has reached temperature, remove the hot baking sheet and pour ¼ cup olive oil over the bottom. Arrange the tomatoes and eggplant on the sheet; sprinkle with salt to taste and roast 20 minutes, until browned.
- Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and tear out some of the excess dough; divide the pesto onto both halves of the ciabatta and spread evenly over the bread. Layer the bottom half with the bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and mozzarella; grind black pepper over to taste. Close the sandwich and press down firmly.
- Wrap sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Put a brick (or a cast iron skillet weighed down with a few cans) on top of the sandwich to flatten for about 2 hours or overnight.
- Unwrap the sandwich and slice into serving pieces.