A long time ago, my mother made grilled vegetable sandwiches and packed them for lunch when a group of friends and I went on a trip. They were rich vegetarian sandwiches, and time-consuming to make. There were eggplant and peppers and zucchini to roast, and pestos and tapenade to grind or buy. Fortunately, the sandwiches got better with time, so all the work was worth it, my friends and I thought as we unwrapped the sandwiches en route. Instead of growing soggy, the flavors melded and developed.
The original recipe came from Gourmet, I think, but that trip with friends was in 1997, and the print recipe is likely long gone. Still, I never got the taste of those vegetable sandwiches out of my mind.
Then these pressed sandwiches started showing up everywhere on Pinterest, and I thought about how well my mom’s vegetable sandwiches would adapt to that form–small, pressed sandwich squares made from focaccia. I knew they’d get better with time, so why not make them on a Sunday, cut them into portions, and have lunch all week? (If you’re more social than I’ve been, I expect you’ll make these for a picnic, rather than just for your lonesome.)
From memory, I picked fontina cheese for its creamy-sharp combination. To spread on one half of the bread, I bought black olive paste, for its pungency. For the second side of the bread, I picked sundried tomato pesto, because I can never quite get enough of the stuff. And, to simplify, I roasted planks of roasted zucchini instead of grilling innumerable assorted vegetables.
A bonus of the make-ahead-ible-ness of these sandwiches is that they slice beautifully, unlike some slippery sandwiches I’ve made in the past.
More sandwiches, for all your picnic needs:
Tofu Caesar Wraps with Broccoli from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with White Bean Spread and Chive Pesto from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Chicken Satay Banh Mi from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Turkey Club from YumSugar
Avocado and Spiced Goat Cheese Sandwich from Small Kitchen College
Double Layer Summer Vegetable Sandwich from Veggie Belly
Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fontina
Makes 5 skinny but rich sandwiches
One approximately 6-x-8-inch piece of fresh focaccia
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4-5 planks
2 tablespoons black olive tapenade
1/4 cup Sundried Tomato Pesto (recipe follows)
about 1/4 pound fontina, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, using your hands or brush to distribute the oil all around. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping once. When done, the zucchini should be speckled with golden brown and sizzling. Let cool slightly.
Slice the focaccia in half lengthwise. Place the two pieces in the oven for about 5 minutes, just to let them get slightly crusty.
Spread the cut-side of the bottom half thinly with the olive paste. Spread the cut-side of the top thickly with the sundried tomato pesto. Layer the zucchini on the bottom half of the bread–you’ll have one, slightly overlapping layer. Place the slices of fontina evenly on top. Put on the top layer of the focaccia.
Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in plastic wrap. Place on a baking sheet or flat plate, then put another baking sheet on top. Weight with a can of tomatoes or a heavy cookbook. Leave for about 1 hour on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.
Cut into 5 sandwiches the long way – each one will be about 1 1/2 inches wide and 6 inches long. Halve them if you like. Serve at room temperature.
Sundried Tomato Pesto
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, with any oil that clings to them
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
juice of 1/2 a lemon
about 1/3 cup olive oil
In a small food processor, pulse the garlic and salt until garlic is finely chopped. Add the tomatoes and walnuts and pulse again. This should resemble a paste. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and continue to blend until the pesto is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.