Grilled Vegetables & Focaccia

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I wanted to share this picture I took yesterday. We planted sunflowers in the front garden, and they are starting to open up! There have been a lot of bees around lately (a great, great thing) and I happened to catch this guy feasting on the sunflower pollen.

Sunflower & Bee

Last Thursday, I realized I still had Japanese eggplants, a red pepper, and asparagus in the refrigerator leftover from the farmer’s market. Since I was leaving town for the weekend, I needed to use them up. And as always, there were plenty of yellow squash ready to be picked- plus our first zucchinis!

Vegetables ready to grill

One of my favorite books, Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, has a recipe for a grilled vegetable panini. It was my starting point as an idea, but ultimately what we ended up with was quite different. First I decided to make focaccia because we didn’t have any “proper” bread around (meaning, something not sandwich bread) and the recipe in Simply in Season looked doable. I ended up letting it rise while I was at yoga, so when I got back it was ready to go. I snipped some rosemary to mix into the dough, and studded the top with thin slices of yellow tomato. Next I prepped all of the vegetables for the grill, and doused them in olive oil/salt/pepper.

Basil leaves

While the focaccia was baking, I decided to make a true basil pesto, using a recipe from Simply in Season (can you tell how much I use this cookbook yet?). The basil and parsley plants in the garden have really been getting bushy, so I had plenty to work with! I had also made ricotta cheese earlier in the week (easier than you would think), so I mixed some of the pesto up with it for a simple spread. Here’s a picture of the ricotta draining:

Ricotta draining

I had envisioned piling the grilled vegetables on a piece of focaccia spread with the pesto ricotta. But we took a much less fussy approach by eating the pile of grilled vegetables while tearing off chunks of bread dipped in ricotta. All in all – my favorite kind of dinner!

Grilled vegetables

Grilled Vegetables

Assortment of seasonal vegetables – I used eggplant, bell pepper, asparagus, summer squash. I sliced the eggplant, pepper, and squash in half vertically. The asparagus I left whole (minus snapping off the tough ends)

Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper – make sure all surfaces of vegetables are covered

Grill over medium heat until tender but not mushy – about 3-5 minutes on each side.

Pesto-Ricotta Spread

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)

3-6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt to taste

2 sprigs fresh parsley

Finely chop together in a food processor or handheld blender.

1/3 cup olive oil

Add gradually while processing to make a thick paste.

1-2 cups ricotta cheese

Mix pesto into ricotta cheese, one tablespoon at a time, until flavored to your taste. You will probably have pesto leftover – great on sandwiches, pasta, etc.

Serve with focaccia, or other really delicious bread, and the grilled vegetables.

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