One of John's and my favorite easy, delicious, and vegetarian meals is a roasted veggie sandwich with pesto and goat cheese. We were inspired by a similar sandwich that we had at Pastoral in Chicago a few blocks from where I lived when we were dating. It doesn't look like they have that sandwich anymore, but they do have some great sounding sandwiches on there that you should try if you happen to be in the area.
You could easily avoid warming up your house by grilling everything instead of using your oven. These sandwiches make a great "Meatless Monday" option for those of you who do that, and these are great for a weeknight meal.
Start by preheating your oven to 475. Cut up portobello mushrooms, a red bell pepper, and a red onion. In a large bowl, whisk EVOO, balsamic vinegar, minced fresh rosemary or thyme, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Add the vegetables and mix to coat.
Line a baking sheet or two with foil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer. Pop in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, flipping everything over at about halfway through. Keep in mind the vegetables may look extra dark due to the balsamic vinegar.
In the mean time, take some big crusty bread. Our bread is borderline too skinny. Cut the bread to the length that you want, and remove part of the inside to make room for the filling.
Spread a thick layer of pesto on the top, and, if you're like me, spread about half that amount on the other half, too.
Spread a generous layer of goat cheese on the top layer. If goat cheese isn't your thing, I suppose you could try mozzarella, but you'll be missing out on a big element of flavor.
Layer the roasted vegetables on the bread and then close it up. You may need to use a toothpick to hold the two sides together if it's not cooperating for you.
Place your sandwiches on the unwashed (or washed if you like to do dishes) baking sheet, and place it back in the oven to melt the cheese for about 5 minutes using the residual heat from roasting the vegetables.
Cut your delicious sandwich in half, and eat it with a simple fresh salad. Or, if you're like my husband, you'll opt for chips.
Roasted Vegetable Goat Cheese Pesto Sandwich
Yields 2 dinner sized sandwiches
Time: 30 minutes
1/4 - 1/3 cup of fresh pesto (simple recipe below)
2T+ chevre goat cheese
2 portobello mushrooms
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
1 red onion
1/4 cup ordinary EVOO (see note in the pesto recipe below)
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T minced fresh rosemary or thyme
Preheat oven to 475. Line two baking sheets with foil.
Gently wash the mushrooms and cut out the stem. Cut all vegetables in large pieces (see image above). In a large bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Add the vegetables to the oil mixture and coat well. Place veggies in a single layer on the baking sheets, making sure each veggie touches the foil and is not on top of another vegetable. Place the vegetables in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes, flipping the vegetables over at the 7 minute mark. They are ready to take out when the onions are starting to char on the edges and the peppers get nice blisters on the skin.
While the vegetables are in the oven, cut your bread to the length that you want your sandwich. Slice in half and remove part of the inside to make room for the filling.
Spread 2-3T of pesto on one half of each sandwich. Then spread 1-2T of goat cheese on the other half of each sandwich.
Remove the vegetables from the oven, and layer the vegetables in tidy layers over the bread. Close the sandwich up. Place on the baking sheets and put back in the oven to let the residual heat warm up the cheese for 5 minutes.
Cut your sandwich in half, serve with a simple salad or chips, and enjoy!
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Family Cookbook
You can use any pesto that you'd like for the sandwiches. This particular recipe works really well since it makes such a thick pesto. For other applications, you could always add more EVOO to loosen it up.
For food that you cook, like roasted vegetables and pan frying, using store brand olive oil is perfectly acceptable; however, with uncooked food, like salad dressings and pesto, I strongly recommend using the best quality extra virgin olive oil that you have since you can really taste the oil. Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a great option. I've seen it at my local grocery stores, Target, and Whole Foods.
To toast your garlic, place the unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry skillet over medium heat. Turn the garlic every couple of minutes, and toast until the garlic starts to blister on the outside, about 7 minutes.