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Mexican Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini and Poblano Sandwiches

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Pati Jinich cooks up an authentic Cinco de Mayo feast, complete with grilled eggplant, zucchini and poblano sandwiches
TODAY Show: Pati Jinich cooks up an authentic Cinco de Mayo feast, complete with shrimp, mango and avocado rolls, grilled eggplant, zucchini and poblano sandwiches, and coconut lime margaritas. -- May 5, 2016Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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Ingredients

  • pounds zucchini (about 2 large), trimmed and sliced lengthwise about ¼-inch thick
  • pounds eggplant (about 1 large), trimmed and sliced lengthwise about ¼-inch thick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the vegetables
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and upper stems, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 pound poblano chiles (3 or 4) roasted, peeled, seeded, and sliced into strips
  • 6 ciabatta, sourdough, or other crusty rolls
  • cups crumbled queso fresco, mild feta or farmer's cheese (6 ounces)
  • Chef notes

    These Mexican sandwiches or tortas (called Chapata de Verduras al Cilantro con Queso Fresco) are easy to make and great for a Cinco de Mayo gathering or any get together. Plus, they can be made ahead of time. 

    Preparation

    1.

    Brush the zucchini and eggplant slices with olive oil. Season with ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste, and pepper to taste.

    2.

    If grilling, prepare a medium fire in an outdoor grill, heat to medium, and brush the grates with olive oil. Or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush with oil. Grill the zucchini and eggplant slices for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until fully cooked, tender, and a bit charred on the outside. Allow to cool slightly.

    3.

    Alternatively, if roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with the racks in the lower and upper thirds. Brush two baking sheets with olive oil and place the eggplant slices on one and the zucchini on the other; do not crowd the pans (you may have to do this in batches). Roast, switching the pans from top to bottom and front to back half-way through, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are completely cooked, tender, and slightly charred or starting to brown. The eggplant may take 3 to 5 minutes longer than the zucchini, as you want it to be soft and thoroughly cooked. Allow the vegetables to cool for a few minutes.

    4.

    In a blender, combine the cilantro, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, canola, or safflower oil, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt and puree until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette into a large bowl. Add the eggplant and zucchini and the poblano strips and gently toss together. Let the vegetables sit for at least 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes before assembling the ciabattas.

    5.

    Split the rolls in half and toast them lightly. Place a generous amount of the dressed vegetables on the bottom halves and top each with ¼ cup of cheese. Put the top halves of the ciabatta rolls on top, press together, and serve.