Memorial Day. Summer. Let’s grill.
I always resist grilling, which is dumb because it’s so easy and, as someone recently pointed out to me, means no dirty dishes to clean (or at least a few pots and pans less). I liked the sound of that, so I forced myself to head to the porch to uncover the dusty thing and get the fire started. The first step is the hardest.
I was trying to think of something a bit different for grilling aside from a sort of patty burger (but I like those! Especially this one, this one, this one. And this one. All of them!) when I was flipping through this month’s food and wine and came across their version of a veggie burger. But, it’s not a weird “what is this magic?!” sort of patty veggie burger but rather…a burger/sandwich thing that has…wait for it…grilled veggies! I liked that idea so much that I ran with it and made it my own, throwing together some smoky parsley-basil hazelnut pesto using what I had around the house to slather on some toasty buns layered with grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon (optional) for good measure. In long, a grilled eggplant veggie burger with smoky hazelnut pesto.
What I ended up with was a double (triple?) decker extravaganza that would make any beef burger aficionado lighten up a bit. We’re going with lots of layers because I wanted this to have some heft and leave just enough room for some dessert, but not so much that you’ll be scrounging around the picnic table looking for more food.
Let’s make a sandwich!
So we go a layer of pesto,
and then tomato, lettuce and bacon…
more pesto and topped off with a soft bun, ever so slightly toasted.
Doing the no-carb thing? Make ‘em eggplant stacks.
Use good bread. Always.
Don’t grill the bacon. I hadn’t tried it but I read somewhere once that, while you think it’s a brilliant idea, it was a disaster. I played it safe, trusted the experts and just baked mine in the oven.
Don’t have or like hazelnuts? Any sort of nut is cool (though not sure about peanuts).
I seasoned the eggplant with Cajun king, my go-to seasoning, to give it some zip. Don’t have it or don’t like it? Salt, pepper and some good EVOO will do the trick.
My hazelnut pesto is smoky because I used some smoked olive oil in combination with regular olive oil to make it. You can likely get away with any fun flavored oil to use, so feel free to experiment! Don’t want to? Just use all regular olive oil.
Also on the pesto: I lightened mine up using a bit of stock rather than all oil. Want full deliciousness? Use all olive oil! But…good olive oil (sorry to sound like Ina, but not really that sorry because who hates Ina?).
- ½ cup toasted hazelnuts
- 2 TB chopped garlic
- 3 cups fresh parsley
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup smoked olive oil
- 1/3 cup regular olive oil
- 1/3 cup chicken or veggie stock
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- In the bowl of a food processor or high powered blender, add the nuts, herbs, garlic, cheese and spices. Pulse until the nuts start to get broken up. Then, while the processor/blender is running, slowly stream in the oils and stock, adding more/less depending on desired consistency. Puree until smooth and serve.
- Don't have smoked olive oil? Substitute it for regular.
- 1 recipe smoky hazelnut parsley pesto
- 1 eggplant, sliced into 8-1/2” rounds
- 2 vine-ripe tomatoes
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 4
- 8 leaves lettuce
- 4 slices bacon, cooked
- 4 burger buns or crusty rolls
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Preheat the grill to high heat (you can alternatively broil the eggplant).
- Brush the eggplant rounds with olive oil on both sides and season with desired seasoning. Grill over the high heat for about 8 minutes per side, until the eggplant is cooked through. The last two minutes on the grill, toast the buns, but keep an eye out so that they don’t burn!
- Assemble each “burger” as follows: bun-pesto-eggplant-mozzarella-eggplant-tomoto-lettuce-bacon-pesto-bun.
I’m heading up to Mom’s for the long weekend which should be nice now that I don’t have to dread 4 hours in the car with Crawley crying in fright for most of it. Forty minutes? He can handle that. I expect there will be porch time, long walks, reading, sleeping in and good food. What’s on your plate for the weekend?
Written after The Moth.