When Craig and I were in Costa Rica we took a day to quad across to peninsula and explore. After bumping along kilometers of rolling, bumpy rainforest roads and walking out across the tide flats to a small island on a cemetery we stopped for lunch at a rather unassuming looking bakery. I ordered one of the few vegetarian options—a veggie pita. The English translation of the description was a bit lackluster (basically a long list of veg plus a pita) and my hopes weren’t that high, but then it arrived. And… oh my.
This pita was a thing of beauty. More a grilled panini than pita, really, as the pita side seams had long since given up trying to contain the filling. The filling was amazing. A medley of beautifully seasoned fresh veg, liberally laced with perfectly ripe avocado, warmed through from a nice, pressed grilling. I devoured the entire thing, enraptured by its deliciousness. It was utterly divine, and I knew I had to recreate it when I got home.
And so one day after my near-to-work veg stop re-opened for the season, I swung by on my bike for a backpack load of veg. I chose local as best I could to try and do justice to the wonder of fresh Costa Rica produce. Once I got home, the chopping began, and I got the sandwich grill heating up.
Once all the veg were respectively chopped, diced, sliced, and shredded, I seasoned the lot with some good olive oil, a shake of dried oregano, some sea salt, and hot smoked paprika. That big bowl of goodness was enough to make several amazing sandwiches.
So, for dinner that day, I moved a few handfuls of the mix to another bowl and stirred in half a diced avocado (since avocado doesn’t age all that well in a big bowl in the fridge) and some torn up just-picked Alberta spinach. That, plus a thick layer of hummus, was stuffed between two slices of my favourite homemade bread, and grilled until golden. And it was divine. Dive in, you’ll be glad you did.
Veggie Overload Panini
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 baby cucumbers or half a regular cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch dried oregano
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup or so fresh spinach, rinsed and torn
Half an avocado, diced
Hummus and/or chevre
Bread or pita, for sandwiching it up
Toss the bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, shallot, garlic, cabbage, carrots, and artichokes in a large bowl and season to taste with olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. You can store this part in a sealed container in the fridge for four or five days to enjoy as needed.
When you’re ready to have a sandwich, heat up your sandwich press or a cast iron skillet. Scoop out a generous half cup or so of the basic salad mix, and stir in the diced avocado and spinach.
Spread the bread with some hummus and/or chevre, and fill it with your tasty filling. Grill until golden, ~5–7 minutes. Devour!