You know those high end bistro sandwiches that combine crispy fresh vegetables, enticing toppings, then grilled to a crusty perfection? Suddenly a sandwich becomes a gourmet meal. This same flavor explosion can be created at home and much easier than you think. When I made this last week, if we didn't have a big salad to go with the sandwiches, I'm pretty sure Dan and I could have put away two in one sitting. Any way you slice the layers of creamy avocado, fresh spinach, basil, and tangy eggplant, the sandwich is no longer simple lunch fare. It's let's have again and again any meal fare.
If you sandwich repertoire consists of peanut butter and jelly (which can hold its' own as a fabulous sandwich), don't be discouraged by a longer ingredient list than you may be used to...the end result is well worth it! I've listed double the amount of eggplant (you won't use a whole one here) to save for a couple days worth of sandwiches or use as a layer in lasagna. Also, the roasted red bell peppers can be located in the pickle aisle in a glass jar...weird, right? I'm only warning you as I've looked several times before in the canned vegetable aisle. Although you can make your own, the jarred ones packed in water are nice to keep on hand for a sandwich like this or tossed into pasta.
Grilled Spring Vegetable Sandwich
1 medium eggplant
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (15oz) can of garbanzo or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 avocado, sliced
8 slices of crusty bread (such as ciabatta)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare eggplant by skinning (can get tough when cooked) and slicing into 1/4" slices. Salt one side of the eggplant and set on plate. You'll notice sweat buds appearing on the surface; this will eliminate any of eggplant's bitterness. After about 10 minutes, wipe the salt and released moisture off with a paper towel. Brush slices with balsamic vinegar and place on coated cookie sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through until eggplant slices are tender. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add garlic still in peel to roast.
2. Blend or mash together beans, olive oil, water, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, and black pepper. **Time saver: you can use hummus here and add the thyme for the savory infusion.
3. Preheat a non-stick skillet or panini press if you have one. Spread a thin layer of margarine on the outsides of the sandwich slices. Assemble the sandwich with a layer of bean puree, roasted red bell peppers, basil, spinach, onion, and sliced avocado. Grill both sides and serve them hot and crispy...you'll feel like you're devouring bistro bliss!