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Recipe #183: Grilled Eggplant, Orange Bell Pepper, & Oyster Mushroom Panini with Melted Gorgonzola

Posted Oct 21 2010 8:24pm
This recipe was tonight's dinner. :)

Since I recently noticed that there weren't any sandwich recipes on this blog, today was the day I decided to rectify that. ;) Of course, a lot of sandwiches probably don't even require a recipe, but this one is a little bit more involved, so, if it's your first time making panini, it's probably advisable to follow the recipe instead of just skimming over the ingredients. :)

I don't know about you, but I don't happen to own a panini maker because I honestly hardly ever make grilled sandwiches. Also, their general operation seems to require quite a lot of oil, as evidenced by the rather greasy panini I've tried in restaurants & won't ever order again. ;) A sandwich drenched in oil? Um, no thank you. :) However, as shown in the below recipe, you can make a healthier version of panini, even without a panini maker, and still get that wonderful grilled taste & aroma, without all the fat.

Even with a reduced fat recipe, panini can be surprisingly filling. And so, a little goes a long way....

Grilled Eggplant, Orange Bell Pepper, & Oyster Mushroom Panini with Melted Gorgonzola

Grilled Vegetable Ingredients:1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil3/4 c. Indian eggplant , sliced crosswise into 1/4" rounds (about 1 medium-sized  Indian eggplant )1/2 c. orange bell pepper, halved lengthwise, & then sliced into long, 1/2" thick strips (about 1/2 large pepper)1 c. oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced2 tsp. garlic
Vegetable Seasoning:1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste1/2 tsp. ground marjoram1 tsp. ground oregano
Sandwich Base:1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil2 large, thick slices of rustic bread1/4 c. ripe Gorgonzola cheese
Garnish:6 large, whole, fresh basil leaves
Directions: Marinate all of the cut-up vegetables in lemon juice for about a 1/2 hour. With a pastry brush, evenly coat the bottom of a  nonstick square grill pan  with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil (i.e., a 1/2 Tbsp). Make sure the oil gets into the grooves of the pan, which will ensure that vegetables cook but don't get soaked in the oil. (This way, the olive oil will bubble up from the grooves on occasion, but won't saturate the vegetables.) 
Grill the vegetables: Set stovetop range to medium-high heat. Grill the eggplant slices first for a few minutes before adding the other vegetables, since they'll take the longest to cook. Next, add the orange bell pepper, followed by the oyster mushrooms. From a good distance above the pan (i.e., for even distribution), season the vegetables on both sides with kosher salt (i.e., for faster cooking!), ground black pepper, ground marjoram, & ground oregano. Cook all of the vegetables for several minutes per side, until you get nice grill marks on both sides. When ready, transfer vegetables to a small bowl & set aside. Next, add garlic in a small corner of the pan, & cook until raw smell disappears. This should only take a few seconds, so watch the garlic carefully to make sure it doesn't burn. Turn off heat & scoop out garlic with a heat-proof, non-metal spatula, to avoid scratching the pan. Add garlic to the same bowl as the other vegetables & thoroughly combine. Set aside. 
Grill the bread & cheese: Brush pan once more with (1 tsp.) extra virgin olive oil. Turn heat back on to medium-high & grill bread slices on one side until grill marks appear, flip, & then grill bread on the other side, quickly spreading the pristine (i.e., yet-to-be-grilled) side with  Gorgonzola . Bread slices will cook very quickly, so check the undersides by lifting them up with a spatula after about a minute or so. When ready, remove from heat & transfer to a plate.
Assemble the sandwich: On one of the slices, pile on vegetables, evenly distributing them in layers across the bread. Top the final layer with whole, fresh basil leaves, and close the sandwich by placing the other slice on top, cheese side face-down. Serve immediately.
Yield: Makes 1 sandwich. (Repeat above procedure for multiple servings.)

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