Ever heard of the four cheese sandwich? Typically this sandwich involves an abundance of cheese with little smidgen of veggies. A few weeks ago, we decided to turn that recipe upside down and make the four tomato caprese panini. Thanks to overshopping (yet again) at the annual Tomato Mania, our garden has quite a variety of this summer necessity. If only the variety was matched by abundance. Sigh! This year, we have been outdone by the garden pests who have made off with most of our yield. Poor Anders. In anticipation of this annual raiding, early in the season he stocked the pantry with peanut butter – the bait of choice for our Have a Heart trap. Months later, we are out of peanut butter and tomatoes. There are some very fat well fed squirrels and rabbits running around Poway right now and they owe it all to Anders. How they managed to get to the PB without springing the trap is beyond me. Ocassionally, (grudglying, we suspect), they left us a few, from which we were able to have a few tomato meals – like this sandwich.
You can use any combination of tomatoes you wish. We used: white oxheart, brandy boy, Mr. Stripey and XXX. It was delish, so much so that after eating his mammoth sandwich, Anders begged for another. After eating his second sandwich, he was nearly comatose on the sofa. Sweet reward for me… that and hearing him declare, “this is hands down the best panini I’ve ever tasted.”
Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s book “Jamie’s Italy” this is one of our favorite appetizers so far this year. It also looks beautiful. The crunchy toasted pane siciliano bread and the smoothness of the eggplant (or Aubergine as we call it in Denmark), goes very well together and fills your mouth with flavor and adventure. Eggplant seems to be largely a forgotten vegetable in the US, at least in SoCal (Southern California), and really it’s a wonderful ingredient in many dishes. People, wake up and smell the eggplant!
We love caprese salads so much we had Phil’s BBQ change their menu and serve it at our wedding (They did a great job too). So, it should come as no surprise that we had to try and turn the art of the caprese into a sandwich. A panini sandwich to be exact. It has all the classic ingredients: Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For the bread we went with our own homemade pesto-sourdough bread, but any regular sourdough will do just fine.
Living close to Mexico means there is a constant influx of great Mexican cuisine. Carne Asada is one of those things that are very popular in San Diego, and it is essentially a long slice of skirt of flank steak, usually marinated or rubbed, and then grilled. It is fantastic when done right. Wendie got us a couple of these steaks, and of course I had to go make a sandwich out of them. I opted to add some ‘green stuff’ from the local farmers market on the bread. We call it ‘green stuff’ because we don’t really know what it is, but the guy that sells it swears by it. It tastes a bit like spicy tabbouleh without the couscous. In any case, substitute with pesto and all shall be well. The greens on top are called “micro greens’ and are also from the farmers market. These taste very lemony, and I wish we had more precise name for them, but alas, ‘micro greens’ it is.
I fell in love with Swiss chard at first sight. I first spied this vegetable at the local farmers market while I lived in Illinois. And there is a specificity to my infatuation – they must be of the rainbow variety. Large shiny radiant green leaves pillared by a red stalk and multiple veins throughout. What’s not to love? Two years ago, I took my infatuation to the next level and started a garden flirtation with this nutrient-dense veggie. I dedicated a 4 by 1 ft section of our tomato garden to their cultivation. Unfortunately, I waited too long to harvest and by then they had an earthy flavor that was most disappointing. Still, I just loved the way they looked in the garden and so allowed them to grow to near Jurassic proportions. Last year, in my second attempt, our nutrient depleted soil resulted in a single plant which I was loathe to cut. Enter this year and Anders’ threat that if we are giving up much-prized tomato real estate for this vegetable, then we had better have something to taste for it. Thus warned, I embarked on a mission of soil amendment research and implementation that an agronomist would approve of.
Salad dressing, you say, how does that have anything to do with sandwiches? Well, one of our culinary experiments resulted in a delicious ham sandwich using this dressing as a spread. Anders loves tarragon. I mean, he really loves it. In our love of gardening, we’ve made many attempts at growing this delightful herb but to no avail. As I write this, there is a plant languishing on our patio in complete defiance of all the love, attention and desperate hope that has been directed at. But I digress. Lucky for us, we live close to a neighborhood grocery that sells fresh tarragon when in season, and when not, they sell huge bags of the dried stuff. And when life gives you tarragon, why not make a tarragon salad dressing?
So here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tbs honey (or to taste)
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, garlic and tarragon. Mix well and taste. Depending on how well aged your balsamic vinegar is, you might not need the honey. The one we use is on the lower side of the price point and so does need a little help to soften the flavor. Add honey, if needed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking continuously. That’s it. We’ve make this dressing quite a lot and find that as good as it is freshly made, it tastes even better the next day after the tarragon has a better chance to infuse the dressing with its flavor. It works great as a dressing, tossed with boiled/baked new spring potatoes, grilled veggies and so many more.