I made this sandwich a while ago actually, maybe in late July. I have been wanting to blog about it ever since but around that time I was up to my ears in food I wanted to talk about so alas, it got pushed to the back of the pile. It's not because it wasn't delicious, it was. It was just one of those oversight things.
I made this one afternoon at lunch for my friend Danielle and me. We ate it under my pergola with some mint iced tea. Twas a fine day.
Theres a couple of things you should know about this sandwich. 1) It's kind-of a lot of prep for a sandwich. You have to make the pesto (which you could do in advance) then grill the zucchini, then finally assemble the sandwich. 2) It's not that big a deal and it's totally worth it. My grill wasn't working that day so I just cooked my zucchini in a little olive oil in a skillet until it was soft and done. Either way works, but grilling would impart a better flavor. The bread is crucial to this sandwich. It will make the difference of it being good or fantastic. Make sure you choose a crusty hearty bread. I used a hearty 9 grain from my local farmers market. The original recipe actually calls for an english muffin, which would be fine, but in my opinion a hearty bread, ciabatta or focaccia might be better. I used a magic bullet to make my pesto and it was wonderful to not have a big mess. If you don't have one, you should consider buying it.
Grilled Gruyere and Zucchini Sandwiches with Smokey Pesto
adapted from Food & Wine magazine, June 2009
4 generous servings
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2-3 zucchini, cut into rounds, or if small, lengthwise slices
8 slices of hearty bread of 4 english muffins, split
4 ounces Gruyere or Appenzeller cheese, cut into thin slices (I used a little more)
In a mini food processor (or magic bullet) combine the basil, garlic and paprika and process until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually pour in the 3 tablespoons of olive oil until blended. (If you are using the magic bullet, just add the oil in and blend to combine.) Season the pesto with plenty of salt, to taste.
Light a grill. brush the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill over high heat until nicely charred and just tender, about 2 minutes per side. Cut each zucchini to fit the sandwich, if necessary.
If using english muffins: grill cut side down over low heat, until just soft, about 30 seconds. turn and grill until the muffins start to brown, about minute. Spread the cut sides of the muffins with the pesto. Layer some cheese, zucchini pieces and more cheese on top. Close the sandwiches and brush the tops and bottoms with olive oil. grill the sandwiches over low heat, turning, until they're crisp on the outside and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes total. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve right away. If you don;t want to grill these, see another method down below.
If using another type of bread: You can use the grilling method above, but I feel it's much simpler to assemble the sandwiches with the pesto, cheese and zucchini, making sure cheese is both on the top and bottom of the sandwich, not brushing them with oil (I prefer a dry sandwich), and pressing them in a panini press until melty. If you don't own a panini press, you could also cook them a' la grilled cheese style, in a skillet.
If I were you I wouldn't leave the smoked paprika out in the pesto. It's what carries the flavors in the sandwich and makes it so appealing with it's smokiness. Even if you just buy it to make these sandwiches, the $4.00 purchase is worth it.
Anything herby or vegetabley is usually great with Sauvignon Blanc, so if you are serving this sandwich for dinner (with maybe a little tomato soup? or a great salad?) drink that.