Years ago, a friend who once lived in Italy described a sandwich she had prepared for a picnic. Adapted to foods we can buy locally, it works well for late-summer suppers after a sweltering day in the gardens. It’s a lifesaver for days when I just don’t know what time dinner will happen until it happens.
The sandwich is put together the day before or early in the morning and rests under weights in the refrigerator until serving time, becoming even more flavorful and delicious.
Ingredients are suggested, but feel free to change up a little to suit your tastes and preferences. If you don’t like eggplant or it’s not available, use more zucchini. You might decide the tapas peppers would be better served on the side.
You can decide to add cold, sliced chicken or turkey, and so on. Just include lots of grilled summer veggies and a Mediterranean-type pesto dressing (and never mayo).
I baked my own ciabatta in the toaster oven with my refrigerated dough (find the recipe for toaster oven breads here). The bread is about 8 by 10 inches.
Italian-Style Sandwich Recipe
• 1 loaf ciabatta-style bread
• ½ cup pesto (find recipe here)
• several cloves roasted garlic
• extra virgin olive oil
• 4 roma or plum tomatoes, sliced about ½ inch thick
• 2 small (about 3 inches diameter) eggplant, sliced into 1/2‑inch thick rounds
• 3 small zucchini, sliced ½-inch thick
• 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced into wide strips
• 2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced into wide strips
• 1 large green bell pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced into wide strips
• Optional: a few roasted or sautéed tapas peppers such as ‘Padron’ or ‘Shishito’
• 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella or Fontina cheese, sliced
• Optional: sliced meat such as Serano ham, proscuitto, or even a mild salami
• Freshly ground black pepper
For the bread, I used this recipe:
• 20 ounces bread flour
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp instant yeast
• ¼ cup finely grated romano cheese
• 1 branch of rosemary, leaves snipped
• 13 ½-ounces water
To make the bread, see my post on toaster oven bread recipes here. I formed the ciabatta type loaf with ¾ of this dough. My toaster oven holds a 12-inch pizza pan, so the loaf did fit nicely.
For the vegetables. The day before or early in the morning, slice up the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Brush them all on both sides with a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet side by side and roast quickly until just nicely tender. Let the vegetables cool on a plate.
For the sandwich. Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and tear out some of the excess center. Save this for bread crumbs to top a casserole.
Spread the roasted garlic over the bottom half of the bread. Spread the pesto evenly over the top half of the bread. Layer the bottom half with all the vegetables, meat if you choose, and cheese. Grind black pepper over to taste. Close the sandwich and press down firmly.
Wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place on a tray in the refrigerator. Put a second tray on top of the sandwich, then weigh it down with a brick (or a cast iron skillet weighed down with a few cans) on top of the sandwich to flatten for several hours or overnight.
To serve, unwrap the sandwich and slice into wedges or slices. At the end of a 100-degree Texas day, an ice-cold bottle of dry rosé wine is excellent with this meal.
Note: If you’re curious about this toaster oven I like so much, see Hamilton Beach 31330 Toaster Oven.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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