Sunday, May 17, 2009

Grilled eggplant and heirloom tomato panini with chevre and kalamata tapenade

Yay! Summery weekend weather started on Friday, and the lovely log of French goat cheese that's been languishing in my fridge got its day in the sun. The first good heirloom tomatoes starting showing up in stores, and I was powerless. An eggplant and a loaf of fresh sea salt-rosemary focaccia would complete the train of thought, and this would be dinner.

I marinated the sliced eggplant (salted and left in a sieve in the sink to drain the bitter juices, then squeezed of the last drops of leachate) in a basil-balsamic vinaigrette: olive and walnut oils and balsamic vinegar; Dijon mustard and a drib of mesquite honey; then a good, fat chiff of basil, some flaky Maldon and cracked pepper. I let it soak up every atom of flavor while Scott readied the grill and I worked on the ultimate condiment.

I'm kind of picky about my chèvres - so many of the affordable ones from Trader Joe's are just like a crumbly cream cheese and lack the depth of tang and grass and goat that distinguishes a good French cheese. Ile de France makes a really nice one that meets my exacting standards. I mashed it with some finely chopped basil, summer savory and a quickie kalamata tapenade (chopped olives with shallots, S&P and a little lemon zest and chile flake) to spread on the toasted focaccia.

We grilled the eggplant (gas flame with some hickory chips in a foil pouch - so much faster and less wasteful for the grilling needs of just two people) until roasty-soft with crispy edges, and then toasted the focaccia over the flame. I soaked the sliced tomatoes in the warm vinaigrette drippings from the eggplant, then assembled the sandwiches.

Just perfect with a lemony mixed spring green salad and sparkling grapefruit juice.

30 comments:

matt wright said...

YUM - heirlooms are no where to be seen up here right now. boo hoo.

Looks fantastic as usual. So glad to have your writing back.

joe fusion said...

Wow, looks awesome. What a great way to serve that tomato.

kyouell said...

I have a very hard time doing anything with heirloom tomatoes other than putting them directly into my gob w/a little salt. This looks vunderbar.

peter said...

I'm about to plant heirlooms, but they're a ways off yet around here. Did you grill the sandwich after assembly? I totally woulda.

Peter M said...

Heather, that's a F-ing Ace sangwich ya got there...glad the prego-sickies are behind you.

Peter G said...

Great sandwich Heather! I wish we got heirlooms here! Love the treatment of that eggplant too.

The Cooking Photographer said...

This looks like my kinda sandwich!! The grill, the veggies, good cheese. Oh yeah...

Foodycat said...

Excellent sandwich! Yum!

tons of land said...

that rosemary focaccia looks phenomenal, with the little salt crystals.

Manggy said...

Ugh. Suddenly my dinner seems like crap now. Me want (your) food! I love how TJ goat cheese is not goaty enough for you. Take *that!*

Corrinne said...

This looks fabulous! What a great recipe. I work with Chavrie goat cheese and this will Definitely be a hit amongst these goat cheese lovers. Thanks for a great post!

Heather said...

Matt - The ones we're getting are from Mexico, but they actually taste like something besides water.

Joe - I hope you ate something besides fruit for dinner. :P

Kyouell - When the toms really start coming on in the summer, that's how I eat them too. Still sun-warm.

Jube - I couldn't scarcely wait another second to eat it. Patience is not my strong suit these days.

El Greco - ME TOO. Jesus Christ, it was really getting old.

Petah - Next year (in our winter time) I should send you some seeds so you can grow some.

Laura - It didn't even need meat, fancy that.

Alicia - There's just something about a well-crafted sandwich that is transcendent, isn't there?

B - Our local in-store bakery does some nice work.

Marky - You should make the ultimate sandwich from Filipino ingredients sometime. And blog it so we know it existed.

Corrinne - Ooh, I like Chavrie too! It's so spreadable.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Now, THIS is my kind of sandwich! I love all the ingredients SO MUCH!!!

duodishes.com said...

Your grilled eggplant alone looks better than anything we've seen. What a flavor packed sammie.

Pam said...

I don't much care for eggplant, but surrounded by olives and cheese, I think I could eat this!!

cookiecrumb said...

Somebody's hungry!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This looks amazing, Heather. Just totally my kind of thing.

Cynthia said...

Un-grilled those eggplants already look good enough to eat.

toni said...

First of all, this is my kind of sammich - everything about it is just perfect. (Including your take on the various chevres).

Hickory chips in foil? Please - tell me more. You leave the foil open, I assume..Never did that before, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense. (One of the many reasons I love reading your blog!)

Heather said...

Jenn - Eggplant is a thing I just get cravings for once in awhile.

Chrystal - Oh, c'mon. I'm sure you've seen better. :P

Pam - When it's all roasty and smoky and sweet, it's really good.

Cookie - Sho'nuff! All the time now.

Jen - Mine too. :)

Cynthia - I bet it'd fry nice, too. ;)

Toni - I just fold it up like a little present, and jab a few holes in the pack so the smoke can seep out. Works like a charm!

Pam said...

What a fantastic sandwich. I am wishing I had some eggplant right now.

LC said...

Heather, you should know better than to mention sunny weather. The PNW gods don't take kindly to such commentary. Look at it now! Anyway, eggplant is meant to be in bed with panini. Add a few more tasty bits and you've got a veritable sandwich orgy.

Lo said...

Truly a masterpiece, Heather. And I'm not kidding. You've got me craving a panino more than usual.

Can't wait for the heirlooms to crop up around here. *drool*

J.Danger said...

are you kidding me?! How good does THIS look?! Oh man, I need this, like now.

Jude said...

A fat chiff of basil sounds oddly perverse.

we are never full said...

i can't agree w/ you more about the goat cheeses in the market. i never thought about it but, you're right, most of them suck balls. crumbly cream cheese is totally it. as for this sammie, it is perfect in my book. not a huge amount of filling but big on flavor. totally european - love it.

Kevin said...

That is one tasty looking sandwich!

Bellini Valli said...

I would be powerless against the heirloom tomatoes and the goat cheese:D

glamah16 said...

Now this is the type of vegatarian sandwhich I LOVE!

tobias cooks! said...

great panini. Love foods with mediteranean touch!