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May 22, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

veggie panini nirvana …

veggie panini nirvana
I thought we might dedicate today to discussing the chard stem pickles from last Thursday. I was inspired to pickle my chard stems after Martha Rose Shulman featured a spread on pickling spring veggies in the New York Times. The chard stems have been pickling in the fridge for a few days now, and I’ve been eagerly waiting to taste them and create something yummy in their honor.

Besides in a jar, where do we most often see pickles?

On a sandwich, of course, so that is where I began my journey. A quick inventory of my kitchen yielded two interesting veggie options: marinated eggplant and a jar of roasted red peppers. I found the eggplant slices marinating in lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. I confess they had been in the fridge for a few days, as we’ve been busy and I had forgotten they were there, just waiting to lend their garlicky, lemony goodness to a meal. Onto the grill went the eggplant as I popped open the jar of red peppers, slicing them thinly.

eggplant marinated in garlic, lemon, chile flakes, & olive oil

I also found the rest of the Swiss chard leaves in the crisper drawer, so as I waited for the eggplant to soften and char, I wilted the chard in a hot pan with some olive oil and salt. I like it a little browned (look closely at the left side) because it adds another dimension of flavor.

Next up is the bread. I used a panini roll but I’d like to share a trick if you have a thick roll like this one: cut in half, but try to leave a slender base and a larger “cap.” Pull some of the excess fluffy insides out of the cap; in their absence, you’ll be able to add more of the delicious fillings. Spread with goat cheese that is soft because you’ve allowed it to come to room temperature.

panini bread with fluff removed

Now that all of my ingredients were prepped, it was time to assemble the sandwich. I layered on grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers, then nestled the chard into the cap of the sandwich. Next I arranged the pickled chard stems onto the eggplant. I used the bite-sized pieces that I had cut on the bias because I thought they would be easier to chew when I bit into the sandwich. The longer pieces of pickled chard became a crunchy, tangy side for my sandwich.

At this point, I felt like the sandwich was in pretty good shape and chock full of delicious, flavorful ingredients: garlicky grilled eggplant, sweet roasted red peppers, earthy wilted chard leaves, tangy pickled chard stems, and of course, creamy goat cheese.

This would have been a good sandwich.

But wait: wouldn’t it be better if we grilled it?

Yep.

So that is what I did: I flipped the cast iron grill over to reveal the smooth side. When it was hot, I laid the sandwich on the griddle and used this cast iron press to smash it down. It‘s true, I own this fancy-looking cast iron press that I used on my panini. This is one of those pieces of equipment that you do not need; instead, you can “press” your sandwich down with your hand, a metal spatula, or the plate you’re planning to eat from. But I’m sort of in love with cast iron, and how it’s heavy and makes me think of fried chicken and bacon. Yes, I do see the irony here with a recipe devoted to a delicious meatless panini. I liked the heavy, dark cast iron, and so I bought it. I think it looks pretty when I use it, even though it takes up some prime real estate in my cupboard.

pressed veggie panini

The verdict: this is one delicious grilled sandwich. I love the pickled chard stems. They added a tangy crunch to my sandwich, and were also a nice crunchy side to eat alongside it as well.

veggie panini nirvana

2 Comments

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  1. Roxanne Graham / May 24 2013 1:20 pm

    This looks yummy!

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  1. chard stem pickles: a delicious remix | the yellow bungalow

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