Grilled Summer Vegetable Ciabatta Sandwiches

Posted by    |  July 29, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Recipes

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the amount of food I had for dinner and decided I needed some guests. I walked over to my neighbor’s house and asked if Kerry, her sister, Chris, and their kids would like to join us for dinner. “Wonderful! What’s for dinner?” Kerry asked.

“Roasted Summer Vegetable Ciabatta Sandwiches with hummus and basil,” I replied cheerily, spinning on my heel and racing for the door. “See ya in a few.”

You see, I know Kerry well enough to know that menu was going to make her nervous. She’s the Midwestern sort who likes predictable food. I knew this meal would sound a little exotic to her.

I could see her apprehension as we all sat down to eat. I averted my eyes as she took her first bite, not wanting her to notice me watching for her reaction. I didn’t have to see it: I heard the moan. “This is amazing, Jill. Just amazing. I love it.” A mealtime silence that only accompanies the best food lingered for a few minutes.

“You know, Jill. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t think I was going to like these when you told me what we were having. But I just love them.”

I’da never known…

These sandwiches really are delicious. There’s something perfect about combining garlicy, tangy hummus, bright basil and sweet, earthy veggies. One might wonder whether a veggie sandwich is substantial enough for supper. It is.

I’m gonna be a little loosey-goosey with ingredient amounts here. I mean, c’mon, it’s a sandwich. You can figure out the amounts.

Ciabatta bread: I like ciabatta because of the big wonderful air bubbles that hold globs of hummus. It also has enough texture- a chewy, slightly crunchy one- that contrasts with the softness of the vegetables inside.
Summer squash: Zucchini, yellow squash or pattypans are all good. Use a variety.
Bell peppers, sliced into large, flat pieces
One recipe hummus
Fresh basil leaves, whole
Sliced cheese, such as mozzarella or provolone

Prepare the bell peppers
1. Heat your grill to high heat.
2. Place the peppers skin-side down over the hottest flames of the grill. Burn the skin until it is thoroughly charred.
3. Remove from heat to a bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand for 3 minutes.
4. Rub the charred skin off the peppers and discard. Set the peppers aside.

Prepare the vegetables
1. Slice the squash into large slices of ¼” thickness.
2. Brush the vegetable slices with a light sheen of cooking oil on both sides. Salt generously with kosher salt. This is a great kid job.
3. On a grilling tray, cook the squash. Move them around with tongs every few minutes to ensure even cooking. Alternatively, the slices can be cooked directly on the grill grate.
4. Cook the squash until the pieces are just done, taking care not to overcook them. You want them to be a bit “al dente” here. If they’re overcooked, they’ll be too mushy and will want to squish all the veggies out of the sandwich when you take a bite.

Toast the bread
1. Turn the grill down to medium-low or use dying embers. Brush the bread lightly with olive oil. Lightly toast the sliced part of the bread (the part that will be on the inside of the sandwich) for a few minutes. We’re just trying to create a little golden color and smoky flavor as we warm up the bread.

Assemble the sandwich
1. Spread one side of the bread with hummus, layer with cheese, fresh basil, and vegetables. Think about balance as you layer the sandwich. Too much basil and you won’t taste the zucchini. Too much zucchini and the sandwich will lack texture. Get it?

Off Script…
For something more authentically Italian, use a Cannellini bean spread in place of the hummus. There are lots of recipes online, but the basic idea is similar to hummus: cannellini beans, garlic, salt and olive oil.

Eggplant makes a great addition to this sandwich. Just grill it like you would the squash, only cut it just a bit thicker.  A thick slice of beautiful summer tomato would be wonderful as well.

You can make this sandwich with other kinds of bread. However, you want to choose something with some texture. A really soft bread is going to offer a mouthful of mush. A great sandwich requires contrast.

This works well as a make-ahead meal. Grill the veggies beforehand and reheat to assemble and serve.

Use any leftover grilled veggies in a quiche.

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