Food & Drink

If you hate a dry sandwich, this vegetable-packed, delectably messy ciabatta is for you

Grilled eggplant, zucchini and poblano ciabattas with queso fresco. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post
Grilled eggplant, zucchini and poblano ciabattas with queso fresco. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post

Nothing disappoints me more than a dry sandwich. So intense are my feelings on this subject that I once threatened on social media to ship a case of mayo to a popular - and now-closed - D.C. sandwich chain before I would ever place another order.

Mayo isn’t the only way to get good moisture into a sandwich, naturally. There are your other standard condiments, and I’ve also had (and made!) great ones enlivened by romesco, vinegar and oil, salsa and more. You name the sauce and it can probably find a place on the right sandwich.

My dear friend Pati Jinich, beloved host of the public-television series “Pati’s Mexican Table,” thinks the same way I do on this subject, even for sandwiches without meat. For a few years now, I’ve occasionally made one from her most recent cookbook that has you bathe grilled vegetables in a tart cilantro vinaigrette before piling them between ciabatta rolls and topping with cheese.

They’re packed with personality - and plenty messy, but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

GRILLED EGGPLANT, ZUCCHINI AND POBLANO CIABATTAS WITH QUESO FRESCO

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 45 minutes

6 servings

These Mexican-style sandwiches are packed with personality, thanks to grill-kissed vegetables bathed in a tart cilantro vinaigrette.

1 pound poblano chile peppers (3 or 4)

1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 2 large), trimmed

1 1/2 pounds Italian eggplant (about 1 large), trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill or pan

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and upper stems, coarsely chopped (may substitute parsley or mint)

1/4 cup canola oil or safflower oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar (optional)

6 ciabatta, sourdough or other large crusty rolls

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled queso fresco, mild feta or farmer’s cheese (optional)

If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (about 375 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when they are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 to 5 seconds.

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Grill the poblanos until they are blistered and completely charred on the outside, 6 to 8 minutes, turning them frequently with tongs. Transfer them to a bowl and cover with a plate. Let them steam for at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours. Fill the bowl with water and use your fingers to remove the charred skin, then split open each pepper and discard the stem, cluster of seeds and veins. Pat the peppers dry and tear into strips. (If desired, you can char the poblanos under an oven broiler instead.)

Cut each zucchini and eggplant in half crosswise, then cut them lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush the zucchini and eggplant slices with the olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Grill the zucchini and eggplant slices on one side until lightly charred and fork-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. (If desired, you can cook the eggplant and zucchini until lightly charred on one side under the broiler instead.)

In a blender, combine the cilantro, canola or safflower oil, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar (if using) and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and puree until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Pour the vinaigrette into a large bowl. Add the eggplant and zucchini and the poblano strips and gently toss. Let the vegetables sit for at least 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes before assembling the sandwiches.

Split the rolls in half and toast them lightly. Place a generous amount of the dressed vegetables on the bottom halves and top each with 1/4 cup of cheese. Put the top halves of the rolls on top, press together, and serve. (If you’d like, you can split the rolls on the top, leave them hinged and stuff the vegetables inside, hot-dog-style.)

Nutrition | Calories: 370; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 940 mg; Carbohydrates: 50 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 12 g.

Source: Adapted from “Mexican Today” by Pati Jinich. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

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