This is pretty simple and a clever way to combine the same ingredients to make a full meal. It was yummy. I enjoyed it. It isn't my favorite of the eggplant sandwiches, but I really liked the fontina cheese. We used a rosemary-olive oil sourdough bread that worked beautifully with it. The salad was simple and tasty as well. It's a pretty good meal for people who are fans of the ingredients. I probably wouldn't make this again.
Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Fontina Panini with Spinach Salad
Bon Appetit, 8/09
This vegetarian sandwich has very little oil—but it's still plenty indulgent, thanks to two cheeses and the sweet grilled peppers. Make it in a panini press or pan, or on the barbecue.
Olive oil (for brushing)
1 14- to 16-ounce eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 large red bell peppers, cut lengthwise into 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips
8 1/2-inch-thick slices olive bread or country white bread
8 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
8 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 5-ounce package baby spinach
Brush panini press, panini pan, or grill rack with oil; heat press, pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush eggplant rounds and pepper strips with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill eggplant until tender, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Working in batches, grill bell peppers until tender, turning occasionally and flattening with back of spatula for even cooking, about 6 minutes. Place 8 eggplant rounds and 8 bell pepper strips on rimmed baking sheet. Place remaining eggplant and peppers on work surface and slice thinly; reserve for salad.
Place 4 bread slices on work surface. Divide half of Fontina cheese among bread slices; top each with 2 eggplant rounds, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon basil, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Top each with 2 bell pepper strips. Arrange remaining Fontina cheese atop peppers, then top with remaining bread slices, pressing to compact. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature.
Heat panini press, panini pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush press or pan with oil (if using barbecue, lightly brush bread slices with oil). Place sandwiches in press or pan or on grill; cover and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar in large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add spinach, thinly sliced eggplant, and thinly sliced peppers; toss to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.
Cut sandwiches in half. Serve with spinach salad.
Yield: 4 servings