Sometimes the promise of leftovers is almost more exciting than the meal itself! And who says leftovers can’t be planned?
Whenever I’m heating my grill for dinner, I always toss on and roast a few red and yellow bell peppers, even if I don’t plan to use them for that meal. Grilled peppers can add so much to so many other dishes. And they are almost effortless to make. Wrap them around fresh mozzarella for an easy appetizer, layer them in a sandwich, or chop them up and toss with pesto and pasta for a simple summer side.
I also almost always cook a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts to have at the ready for salads, sandwiches or meals on the go.
I call all of these items “grilled-overs,” and my favorite thing to do with them is assemble a grilled vegetable sandwich. It’s just the thing to make the most of whatever I grilled too much of the night before. Particularly at the end of summer, I love to go to the farmers’ market and buy all kinds of vegetables, grill them and save them to make sandwiches.
Sometimes I layer the veggies with shaved Parmesan and silky prosciutto, as in this recipe. Other times, I spread the bread with olive tapenade and a gracious layer of fresh goat cheese. Regardless, grilled vegetables make a crave-worthy, healthy sandwich. They also pack really easily — a bit of weekend sunshine in a weekday lunch.
There are a few things that you need to know when grilling vegetables. Make sure all of the vegetables are lightly coated with oil before grilling. That will promote those beautiful grill marks, keep the veggies juicy and prevent sticking! You also need to cut the vegetables so that they are long enough to be placed perpendicular against the grates, usually at least 3 inches long. You won’t need a vegetable basket if you slice them correctly.
Always place food horizontally on the cooking grates — or the opposite direction of the cooking grates, never parallel. When you place the food in the same direction as the grates, you run the risk of having it slip through the grates. Even more important, you won’t get good grill marks on whatever you are grilling. The best marks are short and go across the food.
Grill over medium, direct heat and turn the vegetables once halfway through the cooking time; each vegetable will vary in the amount of time it needs. Really dense vegetables such as potatoes will need to be finished with indirect heat or the outside will burn by the time the inside is tender.
When you remove the grilled vegetables, place them in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack so they can cool completely before they are stored in the refrigerator. Make the sandwiches or serve the vegetables room temperature with a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a pinch of crunchy salt.
GRILLED VEGGIE SANDWICH WITH ROASTED GARLIC MAYONNAISE
Because the vegetables are good hot or cold, they can be grilled ahead and refrigerated. Assemble the sandwiches just before serving.
Start to finish: 11⁄2 hours (30 minutes active)
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup olive oil, plus more for the rolls
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 large portobella mushrooms, stems removed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 6 long strips
6 kaiser or onion rolls (or 12 thick slices of sourdough bread)
Head of roasted garlic (see recipe on next page)
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only
1⁄2 pound chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
1⁄2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto (optional)
Prepare and heat a gas or charcoal grill for high-heat, direct grilling.
Place the red and yellow bell peppers on the grill grate and cook, turning frequently, until the skin is charred all over, about 5 minutes per side. Use tongs to remove the peppers from the grill and place them in a large bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the skins should slip easily off the peppers. Slice them open, remove the seeds, then cut into large strips.
In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, olive oil, rosemary and a bit each of salt and pepper. Add the pepper strips, turning to coat, and set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This also can be done up to 3 days ahead.
When ready to grill, return the grill to high heat.
Set the mushrooms and zucchini in a large bowl. Pour the marinade off the peppers and onto the zucchini and mushrooms, tossing them lightly to coat well.
Grill the mushrooms, gill side up, for 8 to 10 minutes, then flip and grill for another minute, or until completely tender. Grill the zucchini slices for 3 minutes per side.
Split the rolls in half. Brush the cut sides lightly with oil. Place cut side down on grill for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the garlic and mayonnaise until smooth. When the rolls are toasted, assemble the sandwiches by spreading both sides with garlic mayonnaise, then layering a mushroom, zucchini, peppers, basil leaves, cheese and proscuitto. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving (without the optional prosciutto): 610 calories; 290 calories from fat (48 percent of total calories); 32 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 53 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 26 g protein; 1220 mg sodium.
This is one of those pantry items that make almost any recipe better. Substitute roasted garlic for raw cloves when you want a mellower, smoky flavor. And if you are roasting one head, you might as well go ahead and make a few extra; they keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. Wrap each head in its own sheet of foil for easy grilling and storage.
Start to finish: 40 minutes (mostly inactive)
Makes 1 head
1 head garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
Heat a grill to medium, with one side prepped for indirect heat (for charcoal grills, bank the coals to one side; for gas grills, turn off one burner).
Remove the outer layer of papery skin from the garlic. Slice off the top 1⁄2 inch from the pointed top of the garlic head. Set the garlic, cut side up, on a large square of foil. Drizzle it with the olive oil, then wrap the foil up and over the garlic to form a loose packet.
Set the garlic over the cooler side of the grill and cook for 40 minutes, or until the cloves are golden brown and soft. Remove from the grill and let cool. To remove the cloves, simply squeeze the entire head (or each clove) and the cloves should pop out of their skins.
Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, and Hill Country Chicken in New York.