Camping Meatlessly: Smoky Grilled Eggplant Pesto Hot Sandwich (With suggestions to make vegan)

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I took the kiddos up to my brother-in-law’s camp for an overnight getaway in the wilderness. We had a beautiful time! Nice, quiet time out in the maples and out of the way of well … the country life we already live, hehe.

The assembled sandwich waiting to be warmed through.

The assembled sandwich waiting to be warmed through.

Our family is pretty known for its cooking. I do have to say, that we do know how to cook and eat well!

For my meatless getaway outdoor cooking meal, I wanted to try something a little different this time. I usually do the marinated big portabella mushroom cap over the fire, but honestly, I was starting to get a little tired of that.

What I did put together was inspired by a delicious sandwich that my lovely friend Amy put together for me one day when I was out visiting her and her family. She marinates and grills some veggies, and puts them in a big loaf of italian bread with cheese and pesto, but warmed up in a foil packet over the grill so the cheese gets all melty …. mmmmm! Love it!

So, I made my own little version of this sandwich, but using pretzel rolls instead of a big loaf of Italian bread, grilled marinated eggplant, tomato, fresh basil, smoked mozzarella, and pesto. It was delicious, if I do say so myself, and quite a hit.

It was just a nice change from the same old repertoire, and I’m really excited to share it here with you!

From the pictures you’ll see that I made this dish on an open fire, but you could easily adapt this recipe for a gas or charcoal grill too.

Smoky Grilled Eggplant Pesto Hot Sandwich (With suggestions to make vegan)
Serves 4
Prep time: About 20 minutes
Assembling and cooking time: About 30 to 40, depending on heat of your grill/fire

Peeled and sliced eggplants

Peeled and sliced eggplants “sweating it out” bahaha.

Ingredients:

1 small to medium eggplant, peeled and sliced to about 1-inch thick discs (You’ll have some left overs, but that’s OK!)
1 package of split pretzel rolls (Stores in my area sell them in bags of 4 each)
1 bottle of your favorite marinade (I used Wishbone House Italian Dressing)
1 8oz package of fresh, smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced to about 1/2-inch thick discs (to make it vegan, use your favorite non-dairy cheese here. If you can find a smoked version, it really adds a nice dimension)
1 small container of basil pesto
Fresh basil leaves
1 medium tomato, sliced
1 tsp salt

1) Peel and slice eggplants into 1-inch thick discs. Sprinkle both sides of all the slices with salt. Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until you see the eggplant start to “sweat out” liquid.

2) Using paper towels or clean tea towels, press down gently on the eggplant slices to get the excess liquid off of them. This helps get rid of some of that harsher, bitter flavor that can be found in eggplants.

3) Place eggplants in a non-reactive bowl or in resealable bags. Cover in marinade. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Mine sat overnight.

4) Once your grill or fire is ready to cook over (If you are cooking over an open fire, remember it’s

Toasting the pretzel rolls.

Toasting the pretzel rolls.

best to wait until the fire has died down a bit and you have a good bed of embers going. Big flames = burned food. No good), remove the eggplant slices from the marinade. Place them directly on the grill and let cook for about 5-6 minutes per side. I would check them after about 4 minutes just to be on the safe side of things. Once the eggplants take on a slightly more translucent look and are caramelized (i.e. have a little golden color to them or show grill marks), turn. Cook again for about 5 to 6 minutes, checking periodically to make sure they’re not burning. The tricky part with open fires is that there can be “hot spots” where food can cook too quickly and burn easily. If you find you’ve put some of the eggplants in a hot spot, just move those slices around to where you think the heat might be a little less intense so they have a little more time to cook through.

5) While the eggplant slices are cooking, split the pretzel rolls in half and slather both sides with pesto. I used about 1 Tbsp per side, but you can use more or less according to your taste. Place the rolls cut-side down over the heat and let them toast up, about 2-3 minutes each. Again, check them regularly to make sure they don’t burn. Once they’ve started to caramelize around the edges, you can take them off.

6) Now, to assemble! On each pretzel roll, layer the sliced smoked mozzarella cheese, grilled eggplant, sliced tomato (1-2 slices) and fresh basil leaves (1-2 per sandwich is good). Pop the top of the roll over the assembled sandwich, and tightly wrap each sandwich in a square of aluminium foil. Pop the foil packets back over the fire, making sure to avoid the “hot spots.” You don’t want the rolls to burn on the outside while waiting for the cheese to melt! Leave the packets on for about 6-8 minutes, then flip them over and let sit again for another 6 to 8 minutes. Check the rolls by opening one packet a little bit, and checking to see if the cheese has melted. Once it has melted a little and is stretchy, you can take the sandwiches off the fire. Be sure to serve them hot!

Like I said, these were a hit. Even the non-vegetarians enjoyed the flavor and texture of this meal, so I know you will too!

Happy cooking, and enjoy the rest of your summer 🙂

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