Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Sandwich

Well that recipe title is a mouthful, but not as delicious as the mouthfuls of hot cheese sandwiched between some incredible toppings.


To the person who decided to marinate cheese- THANK YOU. I first came across the concept on The Kitchn and stopped in my tracks to try it. The only cheese I had in the fridge at the time was halloumi, and you can see for yourself how much I’ve enjoyed using halloumi. I marinated it in a tandoor paste to make these killer skewers a couple of months ago- seriously so good!


Whilst in Europe, I fell in love with sandwiches. I know, so terribly common of me. There was one particular sandwich that sealed the deal and it was this caprese sandwich. Made by an Australian man in Interlaken, Switzerland, I had this sandwich alongside a blood orange cocktail; incredibly incongruous but in that moment, I didn’t feel lonely. At that point, I had been without family for 3 weeks and I was feeling that ache in my chest commonly known as homesickness.


There’s a reason why a large portion of Zimbabweans choose to migrate to Australia. Their culture is very similar to ours, our weather patterns are almost identical and our accents are indistinguishable to the average European/American. Seriously, I have been asked way too many times if I’m from Australia or New Zealand. For this one plucky restaurant owner, his friendliness and sage in helping me choose a meal I’ll never forget uplifted my spirits after a long day of hiking.


Upon my return to Zimbabwe, I spent my time in the kitchen trying to recreate the magical sandwich. To some extent, my circumstances created some of the magic around the sandwich; I had been travelling alone for a week and I hadn’t had anything to eat that day since descending the mountain. The prospect of a new friend and a killer cocktail made me enjoy the meal so much more. Cheers to familiar faces in strange places!

Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Grilled Sandwich

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 250 g mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup spinach pesto, homemade or storebought
  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced in half horizontally then cut into sections.
  • Optional for serving: balsamic reduction, just boil 1 cup of balsamic vinegar until thick and reduced by half.

Method

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic cloves, honey, lemon zest, black pepper and chilli flakes in a large airtight glass jar. Seal tightly and shake the jar to combine everything. Normally I would microwave the jar for 30 seconds to infuse the olive oil with the spices but this isn’t necessary.
  2. Throw the mozzarella and tomatoes into the olive oil mixture, seal the jar and shake to soak the tomatoes and cheese in the oil. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour but for best results, leave overnight. Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction if using.
  3. Heat your grill/broiler. Spread both halves of the ciabatta bread with the spinach pesto. Layer one half of the sandwiches with the tomatoes followed by the marinated cheese. Add both halves of the sandwiches to a baking tray, with the empty half pesto-side up.
  4. Grill the sandwich until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. If desired, you can leave it until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Serve hot whilst the cheese is still gooey with the balsamic reduction!
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Bành Mí Style Vegan Meatball Subs

For the longest time, I’ve been experimenting to formulate a vegetarian meatball recipe that isn’t either mushy, tasteless or falls apart before my fork even touches it. After 2 weeks of failed recipes, I finally managed to get it right. So what did I do with this achievement? I whipped up a quick sweet and sour sauce, bathed the meatballs in the rich flavours and stuffed them in a sandwich. How’s that for a celebration?

I’m not even going to say much today because I want this sandwich to speak for itself. I spoke about the tendency of plant based diets to be deficient in umami flavours when I made these vegan burgers, and I hit the jackpot in that savoury goodness category with these meatballs. The tartness of the pickled carrots helps to compliment the flavours and the jalapeno pepper gives the sandwich that extra boost. And the fact that there’s no meat in them is anything but a disadvantage. What are you waiting for, get in the kitchen and make these!

The pickled red cabbage here isn’t in any of the photos nor is it in the final recipe listing because I had mixed reviews about adding it into the sandwich. It makes them look pretty but the tartness and bitterness overloads all the other flavour when used in excess rather than in small doses with just the carrots.
Bành Mí Style Vegan Meatball Subs 

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 250g white button mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1×14 oz can chickpeas or 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa (¼ cup dry quinoa boiled in ½ cup water for 15 mins)
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • a thumb of ginger, grated
  • ¾ cup plain flour

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped (optional)

For the pickled veggies:

  • 2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 200 ml white vinegar
  • 300ml water
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • ½ a white onion, sliced thinly

For the subs:

  • about 4 tbsp vegannaise or mayonnaise if not vegan
  • 1 tsp of your favourite chilli sauce/Sriracha
  • ½ a cucumber, sliced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 1 fresh baguette

Method

  1. Start by pickling the carrots and onion. In a measuring jug, dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar before making the solution up to the 500ml mark with the water. Dump the carrots and onion in a 500ml glass jar and pour the pickling liquid over the veggies until the jar is full. Refrigerate for at least an hour before use. Will keep up to a month in the fridge.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes. Throw in the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and cooked through. Pour in the soy sauce and add the chopped garlic and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the mushroom onion mixture, chickpeas, quinoa, parsley and ginger to a food processor and pulse until a thick meal forms, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and use a rubber spatula to incorporate into the meatball mix. Grab a tablespoon of the mixture and shape into a ball. Repeat until you’ve used up all the mixture. I get between 15 and 18 meatballs every time I make this. It’s also easier to shape the meatballs with your hands if you wet them with a bit of cold water first. Refrigerate the meatballs for at least 20 minutes before cooking but you could leave them overnight if desired
  4. Whilst the meatballs are chilling, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and whisk well to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil before reducing the heat and allowing it to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Cook the meatballs by either frying them in a hot frying pan on all sides until crispy (which will take you about 7 minutes per batch) or baking them in an oven preheated to 180°C for 30 minutes. Once cooked, toss the meatballs with the sauce to coat.
  6. Assemble the subs! Start by cutting the baguette into the desired number of servings (I cut mine into 4 pieces to serve 4 people) and slicing in half. Mix together the vegannaise and the Sriracha in a ramekin and spread over the inside of the baguette. Layer with the sliced cucumber followed by the meatballs (I managed to fit 3 or 4 into mine) and finally top with the pickled carrots and onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Serve and enjoy!