Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

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I love vegetables. I can forgo meat – and usually do – in favor of veggies any day. Oh I eat meat and I like it, don’t get me wrong. I prepare meat dishes for my family all the time… but that’s just another a perk they don’t realize they’re getting out of me. Not that I’m completely under appreciated…or, maybe I am in just this one case. Because if it were only my doing as the decider in the household at dinnertime, there’d be plenty more ‘vegetable only’ dishes. Or veggies and cheese. How can you seriously go wrong with veggies and cheese? It’s a perfect pairing in my world. So sometimes, when everyone is away and it’s just me in the house alone, I start to fantasize about things like… lunch?  (Sigh.) That’s just me. Then I know the cravings are kicking in and I have no other choice but to satisfy them. Veggies and cheese. All I wanted was a ciabatta roll with hot veggies and melted cheese. I remembered this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and thought I’d treat myself. Truth be told, you don’t necessarily need a recipe for this and I encourage you to follow it loosely. You can add any vegetables or use any cheese that suits your tastebuds. Personally, I sometimes use goat cheese in place of the mozzarella, but for the purposes of demonstrating Giada’s recipe, I followed it exactly. I had a most delicious lunch!

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I pulled some ciabatta rolls out of the freezer that we had gotten at Costco. (I love Costco!) They’re great to have in emergency cravings like this.

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This is fresh mozzarella I buy that is made by a local Wisconsin cheese maker. We are not only fortunate to be able to get fresh, local produce year-round from all our surrounding farms, but Wisconsin is the dairy state, remember? This cheese is wonderful.

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Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time:20 min  Inactive Prep Time:–Cook Time:35 min

6 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Salt

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1(14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons raisins

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon drained capers

1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces

2 garlic cloves, peeled

6 slices (1/3-inch-thick) drained fresh water-packed mozzarella

Directions

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down on a grill pan over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella to bread bottom, spoon the caponata on top, cover with the other bread half, and serve.

To take for a picnic: Wrap the sandwiches separately in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill until ready to serve, or keep at room temperature up to 1 hour.

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