grilled vegetable sandwiches

Summer is ending.  Fall is arriving…slowly, but arriving.  We had a couple of evenings recently where we sat on the patio and enjoyed what had the makings of a cool breeze.  I think we’ve survived another desert summer!  Which is good and bad, because that means summer veggies are going by the wayside.  But it also means fall root veggies, key to many comfort foods and soups, will be in abundant supply.

While flipping through a cookbook looking for something entirely different, I came across these grilled veggie sandwiches which sounded (and looked) delicious.  My usual cooking routine includes incorporating a meatless meal or two each week.  And, since no one has put up too much of a fight, I’m not rocking that boat.  These veggie sandwiches were the perfect meatless meal, and made for a tiny celebration of the end of the season by using the last of the summer veggies.  For those of you in colder climates, the benefits will be two-fold: enjoying the last of summer vegetables and lighting up the grill one more time – before the lid is frozen shut!  Enjoy!!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches (recipe courtesy Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, Oxmoor House Publishing)

dressing©zouptonuts

sliced©zouptonuts

marinade©zouptonuts

grillbasket©zouptonuts

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp light mayo
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into eighths
  • 1 (1 lb) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions:

  • Prepare grill.
  • Combine mayo and minced basil; cover and chill.
  • Combine oil and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bell pepper, eggplant, onion, and zucchini to dressing mixture;; toss vegetables to coat.
  • Place bell pepper and eggplant on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill about 6 minutes.  Add onion and zucchini; grill 5 minutes.  Turn vegetables often, baste with dressing, and cook just until tender.  Remove from grill and keep warm.
  • Place bread on grill, cut side down, and grill 2 minutes.  Turn bread, cut side up, and place half of cheese slices on bottom half of bread.  Grill 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt.
  • Spread mayo mixture over top half of bread.  Top bottom half with vegetables, remaining cheese slices, and top half of bread.
  • Serve immediately.

sandwich©zouptonuts***Cook’s Notes:  I used a grill basket for the veggies, which made worries about losing vegetables through the grill grates a non-issue.  Choose a nice, hearty roll.  The ciabattas are great because they hold up well to the moisture from the dressing, grilled veggies, and melted cheese.  Also, I came across this little gem while working on the post; the website for the book Simply in Season, which offers a fruit and vegetable guide for tips on how to choose, store, prepare, and use selected fruits and vegetables.  Good stuff!

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couscous with carrots and golden raisins

Couscous is a blank canvas.  You can paint it with whatever flavor palate you choose:  savory, hot and spicy, warm and mellow, sweet, salty, or pretty much anything you can imagine.  This is one of the many ways I prepare couscous, and probably one of my favorites.  I love the combination of flavors: warm spices combine beautifully with the sweetness of the carrots and golden raisins.  It’s a super easy way to dress up couscous for entertaining or a holiday meal.  It’s also good cold the next day.  Enjoy!

Couscous with Carrots and Golden Raisins

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced about 1/4-inch thick (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous

Directions:

Put the carrots olive oil, butter, salt, cinnamon, ginger, in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the water and raisins to the carrots and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, pull the saucepan off the heat, cover, and set aside until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is plump and tender (about 10 minutes).

Fluff couscous with a fork and serve.

DSC_5643

Cook’s Notes:  This makes a ton of couscous, so feed a crowd or count on leftovers if you don’t reduce the recipe.

roasted cabbage rounds

I love cabbage.  There are people out there who need to be convinced, cajoled, tricked into eating cabbage.  I’m not one of those people.  On any given day, I probably have cabbage in my veggie crisper.  In the summer it morphs into slaws and salads.  In the fall it takes the form of soups and stews.  But the other day I was looking for a vegetable side dish and came across this recipe (which seems to be making the rounds on Pinterest).  If you’re so inclined, you can follow my pin boards there, too.

But, I digress.  Anyway, I saw this recipe and had to give it a try.  It originated at MarthaStewart.com and, despite my eye-rolling at all things Martha Stewart, I do concede she employs a lot of really talented and inspired people (No, Martha, I don’t believe you come up with all these amazing things on your own).  I used the remnants of a head of Napa cabbage I’d used for a salad recently and, admittedly, I don’t think it held together as well as green cabbage might have.  But it was simple and delicious and made for what I thought to be a perfect vegetable for a cool, fall evening dinner.  Roasting veggies mellows their flavor so nicely, and that held true for the cabbage.  The caraway seeds were the perfect burst of savory flavor, too.

The original recipe says to roast for 40 to 45 minutes, but the Napa cabbage may be a more delicate cabbage.  I pulled it at about 37 minutes and it was quite done.  It might even have come out a handful of minutes earlier, so watch it closely at the end of your cook time.  Enjoy!

Roasted Cabbage Rounds

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp plus 2 more Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch thick rounds (I used Napa)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp caraway or fennel seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Place 1-inch-thick rounds in a single layer on sheet and brush with olive oil.
  3. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds.
  4. Roast until cabbage is tender and edges are golden, 40 to 45 minutes.

This recipe is also linked up over at Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday.  Click over and I guarantee you’ll find something good to eat!!

soupe au pistou

I’m a huge fan of soup.  Honestly, I’d make soup a few times a week if I could get away with it; big, hearty soups packing great punches of flavor, served with steamy, crusty bread, and good wine!  But I can’t get away with it.  So, I appease myself with once every couple of weeks.  With the weather warming up, I’ll probably start to cut that back even further and just start a mental countdown to November…or, December.

This particular soup caught my eye because, while it’s technically a vegetable/minestrone soup (albeit French), it seemed really hearty; lots of veggies, some pasta, and beans.  So, I whipped it together (not quite that fast), sampling as I went along.  Every time I sampled it, I thought, “Bland, bland, bland.”  I was really, really disappointed.  So when I ladled it out, I did so with a caveat: This isn’t my best effort.  It was truly garden-variety average.

And then I added the pesto (pistou), grated in some cheese, and the whole soup changed.  It went from ho-hum and mundane to Ooh La La in a twirl of the spoon.  Wow!  Delicious!  Bold!  Hearty!  All those things I was hoping this soup would be.  The pesto and cheese is really the crowning glory.

The recipe below is a variation of one I found at Epicurious.  I’d looked at any number of recipes (101 Cookbooks, David Leibovitz, Ina Garten, etc)., and they’re all remarkably similar with only subtle, cook-inspired differences.  Most, if not all, call for using water instead of chicken stock.  Hence, the really bland flavor in my first attempt.  This time I used chicken stock which, arguably, means it’s not authentic Soupe au Pistou, but tough et vous!  I like it better with stock!  I think you will, too. Enjoy!

 

Soupe au Pistou

Ingredients:

  • 1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large thyme sprig
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dried cannelloni beans, rinsed and soaked
  • 1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups water or low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup medium pasta shells

Directions:

  1. Cook celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
  3. Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
  4. Divide among four bowls and top with the pistou.

Pistou:

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

Put the garlic and tomato in a blender or food processor with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Begin processing. With the machine running, add the basil leaves, and then pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth, thick, but fluid paste. Transfer about 2/3 of the paste into a serving bowl to pass alongside the soup.