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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gourmet Sandwhich - Grilled Vegetables with Pesto on Artisan Bread

Last month we visited a local bistro. They had a Tuscan style menu and one of the things we ordered was a lovely grilled panini sandwhich. It had grilled vegetables, cheese, pesto and we really enjoyed it. I was quite eager to reverse engineer it and make my very own version of it. So, after a couple of days, I made a fresh batch of pesto, made some strawberry balsamic vinegar and I was on my way. The resultant sandwhich was lipsmacking.

So, this year, when we decided to celebrate my daughter's birthday in the park, and I was trying to come up with a suitable menu, I realized these sandwhiches would be perfect as the main course. Everyone loved the sandwhiches, and I received a lot of compliments. I made around eighty sandwhiches and once you read the recipe, you will realize how easy these are to scale up. So, if you are looking that dish that will wow your guests and won't have you slaving over the stove for hours, this is it!

The following ingredients list is for one ciabatta roll and will provide about 6-8 servings on how large you cut your sandwhiches.

1 loaf of bread (use ciabatta, or garlic bread or rosemary bread)
1/4 cup basil pesto (click on the link to see recipe from another post)
1 tbsp strawberry balsamic vinegar
pepper jack cheese, slices - at least enough to create one layer over the bread
1 large red onion, sliced
1-2 zuccinis/italian squash,  thinly sliced lengthwise
1-2 firm tomatoes, sliced
2-3 tbsp  olive oil (use about 1.5 tbsp to grill the onions and 1.5 tbsp to grill the zuccini)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

The following ingredients list is to make 80 sandwhiches, assuming one sandwhich will be about 3 inches length wise and 2-3 inches width wise. I estimated about 2 sandwhiches per person. However, if you are planning to multiple items like pastas/salads which may be filling along with the sandwhiches, you can estimate about 1.5 sandwhich per adult.

10-12 bread loaves (estimate the number of loaves based on how long and wide the loaf is)
4-5 cups of pesto sauce
plenty of pepper jack cheese, I bought a cheese block and sliced about 1/2 (about 4 cups worth)
1/4 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar
10 large onions, sliced
20 zuccinis, sliced length wise
12 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil (use 1/8 cup to grill the onions and 1/8 cup to grill the zuccinis)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Add half of the olive oil over the red onion slices and then grill these on a hot grill, till the onion is cooked, slightly browned. At this stage it gets a sweet tinge. Add remaining olive oil to the zuccini and then grill the zuccini. Let the water from the zuccini evaporate. Slice the bread horizontally into two large pieces. If you want, you can toast the bread in the oven for a few minutes. 

Now, we are ready to assemble the sandwhich. Spread pesto on one the top slice of the bread. Add a layer of cheese on the other bread slice and keep it in a warm oven for a minute till it melts slightly. Drizzle the strawberry balsamic vinegar over the cheese. Next add a layer of tomato slices. Season this layer with a little salt and pepper. Next add a layer of grilled onions, then season that with a little salt and peper. The next layer is the grilled zuccini which also needs to be lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Then, add back the top layer of the bread with the pesto. Cut the sandwhich into 6-8 pieces based on how large you want the sandwhich to be. Based on the length and width of the bread, I was able to make 8 sandwhiches.

Use the same method when you want to scale up this recipe. Cook the onions and zuccini, slice the cheese and tomatoes. You can make pesto a few days earlier, it stays fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks and also freezes really well.  Once you have prepared all the ingredients, you can then create an assembly line and assemble all the sandwhiches. Then cut them into appropriate number of pieces.

If you do not have a grill, you can use a hot pan to cook the onions and zuccini. Zuccinis release water as they start cooking, so it will take a bit longer to cook/grill them than the onions. If you are making the sandwhiches a few hours in advance, then make sure to de-seed the tomatoes, so that the sandwhiches do not get soggy from the tomato juice. Also, add a layer of pesto on both side of the sandwhich, so that it stays moist. Also, do not toast the bread if you want it to stay moist.


  1. Hi Priya,

    I tried tihs out for breakfast today. Came out pretty well. I added grilled red pepper also.

    Thank you for the recipe.

  2. Hi Usha,

    I am glad you liked the recipe! Thanks for the feedback!