Grilling the Garden~

Preparing Grilled Garden Vegetable Panini

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The end of summer means gardens and farmer’s markets are exploding with produce, but sometimes you get tired of only using them in a salad or as a side dish. Here is my recipe for Grilled Garden Vegetable Panini, which will keep your grill master enthusiastically busy, the garden harvested and your taste buds thrilled. These panini (the Italian word for “sandwiches”—a “sandwich” is a panino) are also wonderful to pack for a picnic. Simply assemble, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, toss in the cooler and GO!

Buon Appetito~


**Look for my upcoming “Italian Adventurer’s Journal” post series about my time in Vinci, Italy, living, eating and drinking DaVinci Wines, the Italian culture and cuisine. Buonissimi!

Grilled Garden Vegetable Panini

Juice of two lemons

Zest of two lemons

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 small eggplants (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), stem end removed, sliced lengthwise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips)

2 small zucchini (3/4 pound), stem end removed, sliced lengthwise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips)

2 small yellow squash (1/2 to 3/4 pound), stem end removed, sliced lengthwise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips)

1 red bell pepper, cored, quartered

2 bunches scallions, trimmed to 6-inch lengths

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

1 8 ounce ball smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced into 8 pieces (regular fresh mozzarella may be substituted)

8 whole leaves fresh basil

8 slices of artisan bread (such as a Tuscan Boule, Ciabatta, or peasant loaf)

In a glass 1-cup measuring cup, place the lemon juice and add 4 times the amount of extra virgin olive oil (approximately 1/2 cup). Add the garlic and whisk together to form a vinaigrette. Set aside.

In a large re-sealable plastic bag, place the vegetables, salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette into the bag over the vegetables, seal the bag and gently toss the veggies and the vinaigrette together until evenly coated. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the bag, reserving the marinade. Grill the vegetables on an outdoor grill or, inside, use a grill pan, until they are tender and browned. [If neither is available, you may roast the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and are nicely browned. Turn the vegetables once to brown evenly on both sides.]

Place the grilled vegetables on a platter, drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar.

To assemble the Panini: On a slice of bread, drizzle a little of the reserved marinade and then layer two slices of eggplant, 2 slices of zucchini, 2 slices of yellow squash, 1 slice of red pepper, 2 scallions, 2 slices of mozzarella, and 2 leaves of basil. Drizzle a little marinade on a second piece of bread and place on top of the mozzarella to form a sandwich. [Repeat to form 4 panini total.]

Toast the panini in a panini press or, in a hot grill pan over medium heat, grill the Panini, pressing down with a spatula, until they are pressed thin and toasted on both sides with grill marks. [If you don’t have a grill pan, you may use a cast iron skillet or whatever pan you would use to make toasted cheese sandwiches.]

Remove from the heat, cut in half and serve. Makes 4 panini.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.