We had a cook-off at my friends house where there were four contestants and three judges. We did this before with chicken wings, about a year ago. We came up with this idea at a summer cook out when we were trying to come up with a theme for a new cook-off and a friend of a friend is a vegan. We thought that was a good challenge, and Mara (the vegan) would be one of the judges. Everyone had good and interesting ideas... John made a vegetable chili, Alan made a tofu jambalaya, Tony made a gazpacho and I made a grilled vegetable panini with a side of mock mac and cheese. I don't have their recipes but here is mine...
Grilled Vegetable Panini
I started by making an eggplant spread for the sandwich. I roasted 3/4 inch dice of skinless eggplant and 1-2 whole garlic cloves in the paper tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper in a 400 oven until tender, about 30-35 minutes. I put the cooked eggplant into a food processor with a garlic clove or two with the paper removed, more salt and pepper to taste, a good amount of lemon juice; enough to taste it in the final sandwich and olive oil. Process until smooth and make sure it tastes good. I pressed the eggplant spread through a fine mesh sieve because there seemed to be a lot of seeds. I got the charcoal grill going and cut slices of vadalia onion, zucchini and cut the core out of a couple red peppers. Olive oil, salt and pepper on all the vegetables and grill, moving around the vegetables so they get charred but not too charred and softened but not too soft. I roasted some San Marzano canned tomatoes for the mock mac and cheese (recipe follows) and had that ready to put in the sandwich too.
To assemble I cut a French Baguette open like a book and hollowed out the inside of the bread to make room for the filling. Spread on the eggplant spread on both sides and layer in the onion, zucchini, red pepper and roasted tomatoes. Close the sandwich and wrap in plastic, weigh it down with a sheet pan and a heavy book in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Just before serving cut into serving sizes and press in a panini press with just a light spray of Pam. Press until the exterior is nice and crispy.
Mock Mac and Cheese
Get a nice firm pasta made with durum wheat semolina and cook in in boiling salted water until al dente (I used regular elbows and it's too soft in my opinion). I used one from Whole Foods, it's the whole foods brand and it's shape is called "casarecce". Set aside. To make the sauce, cut San Marzano canned tomatoes in half and let most of the juice drain out. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and 2-3 whole garlic cloves with the paper still on. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes to intensify the flavors and to roast the garlic cloves. In a blender add 1 container of silken tofu, about one to one and a half 28 oz cans of roasted tomatoes, 1 or 2 of the roasted garlic cloves with the paper removed, 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder, 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Buzz it up and taste for seasoning. I heated it up by heating the sauce in a saucepan just until it starts to steam and add the cooked pasta. Being careful you don't add too much pasta, you want to get plenty of the sauce with each bite of the pasta, heat through but don't over heat. I also made a crunchy top by using the insides of the french baguette (from recipe above). I cut up the centers of the bread as fine as I could with a knife. Heat up a good amount of olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup to 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs). Once the oil is hot and starts to shimmer add the fresh bread crumbs and it will start to brown, toss the pan now and then and when it's all golden brown drain it on paper towels and add salt and pepper. When you serve the mock mac and cheese top with the bread crumbs.