Grilled Vegetable & Fresh Ricotta Sandwiches

One of our absolute favorite dinner sandwiches is filled with garlicky grilled eggplant and feta cheese. After seeing this recipe, I kept thinking about making this version on freshly baked sourdough bread. I loved the idea of slathering the bread with fresh ricotta cheese too. Yum!

The recipe was adapted from SaraMoulton.com. I used my favorite recipe for fresh ricotta and served the sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread. I added garlic and grilled the vegetables instead of roasting them as well. We ate them with creamy cucumber-avocado salad on the side. It was an amazing vegetarian meal.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 6 to 8 Campari tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fresh ricotta cheese (see Note)
  • 8 slices of no-knead sourdough bread, crusty bread, or whole grain bread
  1. The evening before serving the meal, start the homemade sourdough bread process, if using. Bake the bread the day of the meal. (Alternatively, use another crusty bread or whole grain bread.)
  2. Place the vegetable slices in a single layer on a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press and spread the garlic over the top of the eggplant slices. Let rest a minimum of 30 minutes (the longer the better).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh ricotta cheese. I made it according to the recipe but simmered the mixture for approximately 5 minutes, until it was visibly curdling. I strained it for about 15 minutes and omitted the addition of lemon zest. (The longer it is strained, the thicker the consistency.) Set aside.
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil. Toss the zucchini slices with olive oil.
  5. Grill the vegetables separately until slightly charred and tender; grill the eggplant directly on the grates and grill the zucchini and tomato slices using a grill basket. (Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.)
  6. Divide the warm ricotta among 4 slices of bread and top with the hot vegetables and remaining 4 slices of bread. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: Making fresh ricotta can have varied results- sometimes it has large curds, sometimes it has small curds and occasionally it has no curds. If this should happen to you, don’t panic, just add another tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the curds will appear.

Roasted Vegetable Moussaka

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I was inspired to make a roasted vegetable moussaka after seeing a recipe on El Chino Latino Cocina. It sounded like such a wonderful vegetarian version and had Greek yogurt in the topping to lighten the dish. I had made a similar, but non-vegetarian, light version for mom in the past because she LOVES Greek food. 🙂 When my mom was visiting us recently, I planned to make her a special birthday dinner. I decided that birthdays deserve indulgence- and special, labor-intensive meals…. so I chose to make this “less light” vegetarian moussaka adapted from Tori Avey. 🙂

This dish was hearty and absolutely delicious. I loved the use of lentils instead of meat; I loved my choice of tiny black lentils too because they kept their shape. My mom really enjoyed it! We had carrot cake cupcakes (her favorite) for dessert as well. 🙂 Just when I thought that my mom couldn’t be more pleased, my kids outshined my efforts by buying my mom a birthday gift at our local historic General Store with their saved allowance money. So cute. Happy HAPPY Happy Birthday, Mama!! ❤

I’m bringing this dish to share with my blog friends at Fiesta Friday #42 this week at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 lbs. small eggplants
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • cooking oil spray
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup black lentils (about 1 1/2  to 2 cups cooked lentils)
  • 1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers or 1 large roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 3 cups diced ripe red tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 10 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose white flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, or more to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

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  1. Place lentils in a sauce pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lightly salt, and then lower heat to a simmer; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Place racks on the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees on convection roast. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Spread out the zucchini in a single layer across the baking sheets. Brush the exposed tops of the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper.
  3. Place one baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and the other on the lower half. Roast veggies for 10 minutes. Remove sheets from oven and place them back in the oven, switching racks. Roast for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until veggies are tender and starting to turn golden brown (check the bottoms of the veggies for browning).
  4. Repeat this process with two additional parchment-lined baking sheets of sliced potatoes; include the garlic cloves.
  5. While potatoes and zucchini are roasting, remove the stem ends from the eggplants. Peel strips from the eggplants so that they have thin stripes of peel remaining down the sides (they will be half-peeled). Cut the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices, crosswise.
  6. When potatoes and zucchini are done roasting, remove them from the oven and set aside. Take the 3 roasted garlic cloves and chop them, reserve.
  7. Line two additional baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking oil. Spread eggplant slices into a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheets in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, switching the baking sheets on upper and lower thirds halfway through cooking, until the slices are tender and lightly golden (check the bottom edges of slices for browning).
  8. While eggplant is roasting, place a sauté pan or sauce pan (I used a 4 quart sauce pan) on the stovetop. Warm up 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Sauté diced onion until softened and translucent. Add roasted bell pepper slices and chopped roasted garlic, saute for another 2 minutes. Add cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, fresh dill, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and 3/4 tsp salt to the pan; stir well. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture cook for about 5 more minutes until warmed through. If using fresh tomatoes, let the mixture cook for 10 minutes until tomatoes are soft.
  9. When eggplant is done roasting, remove it from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F (convection). Lightly grease your baking dish with cooking oil spray. Place a single layer of half of the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of your dish.
  10. On top of that, place a layer of half the potatoes and half the zucchini.
  11. Spread the lentil mixture evenly in a single layer across the surface.
  12. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of grated pecorino or parmesan and ½ cup crumbled feta across the top of the lentil mixture.
  13. Place the rest of the potatoes and zucchini in another layer on top of the cheese.
  14. Finish with a layer of the remaining roasted eggplant slices. Sprinkle top of the moussaka with 2 tbsp more of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese. (I refrigerated the pan at this point.)
  15. (Return the reserved pan to room temperature.) Place moussaka in the oven for 20 minutes to bake at 375 degrees F (convection).
  16. Meanwhile, while the moussaka is baking, make the béchamel sauce for the top of the moussaka. In a small pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk flour into the melted butter till dissolved and thick. Continue to whisk for a few minutes until the flour/butter mixture turns a light sandy brown color.
  17. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium.
  18. Whisk in 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Add ¾ tsp salt, nutmeg, and black pepper to taste. Whisk the beaten egg slowly into the sauce (drizzle the egg while whisking constantly).
  19. Remove the moussaka from the oven. Pour sauce evenly across the top of the moussaka. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese on top of the sauce.
  20. Put moussaka back in the oven. Cook for another 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the moussaka is cooked through.
  21. Serve hot. Don’t expect it all to hold together neatly when served; it will slice more cleanly and pieces will hold together better after it has cooled.

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