There’s a famous bakery, named Porto’s, that opened several years ago in Southern California that is known for low priced pastries, savory goods and cakes. As soon as they opened, they quickly gained popularity; word about their delicious potato balls and guava pastries spread like wildfire. Despite the long lines, I had to go try it myself. I agree that their bakery selection is top notch for the prices; however, upon trying their sandwiches on multiple occasions, I have to say, the quality and taste does not match the rest of their goods. On my last visit, I decided to give the roasted vegetable sandwich with hummus a try. I was thoroughly disappointed once again. The vegetables were bland, there was barely any hummus and the bread was not even toasted! My stomach unsatisfied, I came home and decided to make a proper vegetarian sandwich. Here is my version of a grilled vegetable sandwich with tomato jam, kale pesto and goat cheese (a much improvement, if I do say so myself!).
- 1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 cup packed kale leaves, torn, stems removed
- 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into rounds
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick long slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
- 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- 8 slices whole wheat bread
- 2 tbsp butter
- Combine all the ingredients for tomato jam (tomatoes - red chili flakes) in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low and let simmer. Reduce until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine kale, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic in a food processor or blender. Slowly add olive oil while the machine is running, blending ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat grill pan over high heat. Toss eggplant and zucchini in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lay on grill and cook until grill marks appear, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side another 3-4 minutes.
- Spread butter on one side of all the bread. Spread tomato jam on the other side of 4 of the bread slices and kale pesto on the remaining 4. Top the pesto side with grilled zucchini and eggplant and roasted bell peppers. Sprinkle goat cheese and finish with the tomato jam bread.
- Heat non stick pan over medium heat. Place the assembled sandwiches on the pan, buttered side on the pan. Gently press down. When bread is golden brown, about 3 minutes, flip and cook on the other side. Heat until cheese has melted. Remove and repeat with remaining sandwiches. Serve while hot.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Almost every grilled or roasted vegetable sandwich has some combination of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, portobello mushrooms and cheese. I took the same ingredients but put my own twist on the produce, creating a completely different sandwich. Since all of the ingredients are vegetables, I wanted to make everything as flavorful as possible.
First step is preparing the tomato jam. I love, love, love tomato jam. More like a relish than a jam, it is savory, tart, sweet all at the same time. I’ve used this sauce not only for sandwiches, but also for seared duck, salmon, steaks, you name it. Make a large batch and it use it for various toppings, you won’t regret it.
The second sauce component is the kale pesto. You can use basil pesto, cilantro pesto, arugula pesto, but my preference is the kale variety for extra nutrition. Prepare as you would any other pesto, substituting the greens for kale. Using kale in the pesto is yet another way to maximize flavor in the greens.
While the jam is cooking, grill the zucchini and eggplant. Roast the peppers, peel the skin and slice. You can also purchase jarred roasted peppers. If in season, try roasted pimento peppers in this grilled vegetable sandwich. They are mild and sweet to the taste, similar to a red bell pepper.
Spread the kale pesto, stack the vegetables, top with goat cheese and finish with tomato jam. To make the goat cheese nice and gooey, spread butter on the outside of the bread and heat on a pan as you would grilled cheese. Alternatively, use a panini press!
Okay, I will admit, there are a lot of components in this grilled vegetable sandwich. One may think there is one too many, but all the sauces and flavors come together so well to produce a cohesive sandwich. Take just one bite, I dare you. You won’t be trying any other vegetarian sandwiches after this one!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.