This caponata inspired Roasted Vegetable Grilled Cheese is one of my favorite hot plant-based sandwiches I’ve ever had. Caponata is a Sicilian dish that dates back to at least the early 1700’s. It is infused with a variety of flavors from French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic cuisines. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and a few of the 37 variations of caponata, head over to Philosokitchen.
I’m not going to claim the caponata in this recipe is a traditional version by any means, but it uses many of the main flavors – eggplant, tomato, capers, olives, and raisins. All these flavors come together to create a sweet and sour vegetable mixture that’s perfect on a grilled sandwich.
It begins with roasting the eggplant simply with olive oil and salt. While the eggplant is roasting, cook down the onion, bell pepper, and celery and then combine it with the remaining ingredients. It simmers together for a bit before the now roasted eggplant is added in. Now here is the important part. You can certainly eat this caponata mixture immediately, but that is not recommended. It is recommended you let it rest overnight before eating. While developing this recipe, we ate it immediately and then ate it again the next day. It was good the first day but when we ate it the next day, the flavors were out of this world. I highly recommend making this a day ahead if you have time.
Once your caponata mixture is complete and has rested for a bit, it’s time to use it to make the most delicious roasted vegetable grilled cheese sandwich. If you do not eat dairy or animal products, substitute non-dairy butter and cheese. Butter up your bread, pile high with your caponata mixture, cheese, and a lightly dressed arugula and toast it up in a pan. Get ready to devour the best plant-based sandwich!
Roasted Vegetable Grilled CheeseCourse: MainDifficulty: Easy
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
1 (15 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup pitted green olives, chopped
¼ golden raisins
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sourdough, 8 slices
Butter (plant-based or dairy based), softened
Cheese (plant-based or dairy based), 4 slices
4 oz. arugula
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine golden raisins and red wine vinegar and allow to soak while continuing on with the recipe process.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet (preferably one with a taller edge edge). Add onion, bell pepper, celery, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, for 8-10 minutes until soft.
- Add crushed tomatoes, capers, olives, soaked raisins and the red wine vinegar they were soaked in, maple syrup, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine.
- Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Gently stir in roasted eggplant and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature or preferably, in the fridge overnight.
- When ready to eat, heat a non-stick skillet or cast iron over low-medium heat.
- Spread thin layer of butter on the outside of bread slices.
- Make a sandwich by spreading a layer of your veggie mixture then topping with cheese and a small handful of arugula on the non-buttered side of the bread. Top with the other piece of bread, butter side out.
- Place the buttered sandwich in the skillet and toast until the outside of the bread is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side of the sandwich. If your bread is getting brown before your cheese is able to melt, turn down your heat. The key to a perfectly melty and golden brown grilled cheese sandwich is taking it slow – be patient.
- Once both sides are golden brown, remove from heat, cut in half, and enjoy!