Several years ago, a bakery named Porto's opened in Southern California. They quickly gained popularity with word about their delicious potato balls and guava pastries spreading like wildfire. Despite the long lines, I had to go try it myself. I agree that their bakery selection is top-notch for their low prices; however, their sandwiches do not compare. On my last visit, I decided to give the roasted vegetable sandwich with hummus a try. I was thoroughly disappointed once again. The vegetables were bland, there was barely any hummus and the bread was not even toasted! Unsatisfied, I came home and decided to make a proper vegetarian sandwich. Here is my version of a grilled vegetable sandwich with tomato jam, kale pesto, and goat cheese (a big improvement, if I do say so myself!).
Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with Tomato Jam
- 1 ½ cups tomatoes chopped
- ¼ cup water
- 1 ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- juice and zest of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ cup packed kale leaves torn, stems removed
- ½ cup basil
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 garlic minced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 medium eggplant sliced into rounds
- 2 medium zucchini sliced into ¼ inch thick long slices
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 red bell pepper roasted and sliced
- 4 ounces goat cheese softened at room temperature
- 8 slices crusty bread toasted (ciabatta, sourdough, baguette)
- Combine all the ingredients for tomato jam (tomatoes - red chili flakes) in a medium sauce pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low and let simmer. Reduce until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine kale, basil, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic in a food processor or blender. Slowly add olive oil while the machine is running, blending ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat grill pan over high heat. Toss eggplant and zucchini in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lay on the grill and cook until grill marks appear about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side another 3-4 minutes.
- Spread tomato jam on one side of the top bread and kale pesto on the bottom slice. Top the pesto side with grilled zucchini, eggplant, and roasted bell peppers. Spread the goat cheese and top with the remaining bread. Serve immediately.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Almost every grilled or roasted vegetable sandwich has some combination of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, portobello mushrooms, and cheese. I took the same ingredients but put my own twist, creating a completely different sandwich. I wanted to make everything as flavorful as possible since all of the ingredients are vegetables.
The first step is preparing the tomato jam. I love, love, love tomato jam. More like a relish than a jam, it is savory, tart, sweet all at the same time. I've used this sauce not only for sandwiches but also for seared duck, salmon, steaks, you name it. Make a large batch and use it for various toppings, you won't regret it.
The second sauce component is the kale pesto. You can use basil pesto, cilantro pesto, arugula pesto, but my preference is the kale variety for extra nutrition. Prepare as you would any other pesto, substituting the greens for kale. Using kale in the pesto is yet another way to maximize flavor in the greens.
While the jam is cooking, grill the zucchini and eggplant. Roast the peppers, peel the skin, and slice. You can also purchase jarred roasted peppers. If in season, try roasted pimento peppers in this grilled vegetable sandwich. They are mild and sweet to the taste, similar to red bell pepper.
I've tried this grilled vegetable sandwich with many different types of bread and have enjoyed each one. Since there are two sauces, I prefer to use a sturdier bread that can withstand the weight. Ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough, and french bread are all wonderful choices.
Assemble the sandwiches by first spreading the kale pesto, then stacking the vegetables, topping with goat cheese, and finishing with tomato jam. You can serve the sandwich as is use a panini press to make the outside of the bread nice and crispy. If you're using whole wheat or white sliced bread, I highly recommend brushing butter on the outside of the bread and finishing the sandwich in a pan just like grilled cheese.
Okay, I will admit, there are a lot of components in this grilled vegetable sandwich. One may think there is one too many, but all the sauces and flavors come together so well to produce a cohesive sandwich. Take just one bite, I dare you. You won't be trying any other vegetarian sandwiches after this one!
For more sandwich inspiration check out bacon tomato sandwich with apple date jam!
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