Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Panini with pesto, avocado and grilled eggplant, squash and zucchini

Life is coming for me like a speeding bullet. On Thursday, I will be 29. On Friday, dare I say it, I may be a doctor. Of philosophy. Apparently this terminology comes from the Greek word for lover of wisdom. I do love wisdom. Speaking of which, I still have a huge stack of papers to skim through before the big day. I should be doing that instead of this but I don't want you to forget about me so I thought I should let you know how I am doing. 

I am doing fine considering. Periodically I suffer waves of panic but I just try to ride them out. Clench fists. Close eyes. Hold breath. Breathe. Stretch. Jump up and down. Get bear hug. Run. Make food. Take pictures. Eat. Read read read. Lie in bed. Toss. Turn. Run one million scenarios for Friday through mind. Eat. Read. Eat. Read. Read read read. Freak out. Relax. Freak out. Relax. 

Not so much time for cooking right now. Today I had one of my old comforting favorites, a grilled panini with pesto, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled veggies. Ideally, in my mind, when I told you about my beloved paninis I would have found the perfect homemade focaccia bread recipe and would have made my own pesto. Who has time for that? I bought a wonderful herbed ciabatta and a delicious vegan pesto from Whole Foods. The toughest part of this recipe: grilling. If you can do that you can make yourself one heck of a panini.

Ironically I hate sandwiches. The ones on soft white bread with butter and lettuce and deli meat that stick into your teeth and to the top of your mouth. My aversion originates from my tiny childhood. I was babysat by this evil old woman who made me bologna and ketchup sandwiches and I could not leave the table until I ate every last bite. To this day the thought of a tomato touching a soft piece of bread makes me shudder.

In elementary school I would throw away the sandwiches my mom made for me in the garbage at school. Or I would forget to throw them away and they would come home with me and my mom would find them and not be too pleased. So she bought me a thermos and I got to have hot soup or zoodles for lunch. But I would often break those thermoses. You know kids. So my mom was not pleased about that either. But sometimes she would put little notes or cards in my lunch so I knew she still loved me. I still dislike sandwiches. Love paninis though. And my mom. 

Panini with pesto, avocado and grilled eggplant, squash and zucchini 
Autumn seasonal: Winter squash, eggplant and zucchini 
Makes 1 panini 

The best way to make a panini is to use a grill. I have a George Foreman grill which I use on a regular basis. It has a top and a bottom so grilling paninis and also vegetables is very fast and easy. The vegetables essentially steam themselves when grilled between the two hot plates so they soften nicely. I find that when you cook vegetables under the broiler they dry out and don't have the best texture. If you dont have a grill I suggest using a well seasoned iron skillet and covering it with a metal pan while the vegetables cook. Your panini can also be "grilled" in the skillet. The tricky part will be flipping the thing over. So good luck with that :) 

1 ciabatta square or 2 slices of a nice whole grain or sourdough bread
1 tbsp of pesto or basil leaves
2 -3 slices ripe tomato
2 x 1/4" slices eggplant (optional - if you don't love eggplant, leave it out)
3 long 1/4" slices zucchini
2 x 1/2" slices acorn squash
2 whole sun-dried tomatoes finely chopped
~1/4 of a large avocado sliced thinly
Bocconcini or mozzarella slices
Thin slices or grated parmesan
Mayonnaise (optional)

1 - Place the slices of zucchini, eggplant and squash on the grill or in a well seasoned iron skillet on medium heat. Season lightly with salt and cover and allow to grill about 10 minutes, flipping once. Lightly brushing the vegetables with olive oil is an option if you don't mind the extra calories.
2 - While the vegetables are grilling slice the remaining vegetables (if you have not already). 
3 - Slice the ciabatta in half and spread both sides with pesto and also with mayo if you like mayo.
4 - When the veggies are nicely browned and soft, remove from grill and assemble your sandwich. I start with the avocado on the bottom and make sure the tomato is in the middle somewhere. The cheese goes on the top half contacting the warm veggies to help it melt. The winter squash should be soft, so you can flatten the slices a little bit before putting them on.
5 - Grill your panini until nicely toasted, about 3 minutes (per side if you are using a pan).


  1. Nice use of avocado. It would be super if you linked this post in to Food on Friday Series which is all about avocado.

  2. Thanks for linking this in. Cheers

  3. You are welcome. Thanks for inviting me :)