This time of year, a lot of fellow food bloggers have me shamefully coveting their outdoor grills. From the old-fashioned round kettle-style charcoal barbecues of yore to handy little Hibachis to the swanky flattop Weber grills of today and everything in between, I covet them all. It’s the one major appliance I don’t have. But a truly fabulously frugal person is a resourceful person.
I realized that, thanks to a lovely gift from Santa, I DO have something like a close, indoor cousin to the grill – a panini press (quite a nice one, too, a Breville). This was the perfect solution, really – I loved how it cut the time in half by grilling both sides at once! I strongly recommend using a mandoline or V slicer in order to make sure the thickness is uniform, so the top will be in contact with all the pieces at once (with the exception of the pepper – I just chopped them and threw them on with the onions; no need to even turn them).
My panini press is smaller than many grills, yes, but the time saved by doubling the exposure to the heat more than makes up for it. The few batches I had to do (about 4, I think) were over in no time at all. I think this would work on a Foreman-type doodad as well, though the grooves aren’t as deep or thick, so you might not get grill marks quite as clearly.
As summer sides go, I can honestly say this is one of the best ever.
PANINI-GRILLED RATATOUILLE SALAD
1 medium firm eggplant, peeled, halved and cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 zucchini, halved and cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 yellow squash, halved and cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small bunch basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
Heat your panini or Foreman grill to high – give it a spritz of cooking spray if you like. Toss the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onion and peppers with two tablespoons of the olive oil , salt and pepper.
In batches, grill the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onion and peppers. Depending on the relative oomph of your grill, the time will vary. Mine seriously only took about 2-3 minutes per batch.Â Remove with tongs and add to a large mixing bowl. I personally liked keeping the tomatoes raw, thoughÂ you could try skewering them and putting them on the press too; if not, halve them and toss them into the bowl.
During one of your batches, throw the peeled garlic cloves on there and let them cook until quite soft and browned but not burnt. Remove and let cook slightly, them press through a garlic press and toss into a small bowl. When all is done, whisk the remaining oil together with vinegar in the same bowl as the garlic, add the basil and then pour over vegetables. Toss together, adding more salt and pepper if desired.
I liked this served warm, but I think it would be equally good chilled; if not serving immediately, I’d recommend keeping the dressing separate until just before serving.
Ratatouilles ’round the web:
Dad’s Ratatouille from Simply Recipes
Roasted Ratatouille from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Recipes (and Movie Review) from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Ratatouille Tart from smitten kitchen
Ratatouille Soup from Delicious Days
— posted by Anne