There’s something about the Fourth of July that brings out the kid in all of us, whether we’re "oohing" and "aahing" over the fireworks or looking for any excuse to go to the pool or the beach. In honor of the 4th, we cooked up a scrumptious vegetarian meal that makes use of our favorite summer accessory - the grill. Many of the meal's components can be prepared in advance, and all of the recipes are simple with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Translation: More outdoor playtime for Mom and Dad! Read on to learn how to make grilled veggie and tofu paninis, grilled corn with herbed butter and a very berry trifle.
Sure, panini might seem like a fancy word for sandwich, but paninis are truly so much more. Crisped bread and fillings smooshed together make a tasty meal, and the ingredients can be mixed and matched for every family member’s eating preferences. For a family of four, we recommend grilling up 3 or 4 types of veggies (such as portabella mushrooms, peppers, and thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini) as well as some marinated tofu. Add on some caramelized onions and pesto, mayo, or cheese and it’ll be that much tastier. Of course, a panini press is recommended, but if you don’t have one, the sandwiches will be delicious as is. You can also try pressing the sandwiches in a cast iron skillet or other makeshift panini pressing styles.
What You Need for Paninis
Note: For approximately 4 people. You will likely have leftover grilled veggies, which are wonderful cut up and used in salads.
- 1 loaf of bread, sliced
- 2-4 portabella mushrooms, left whole and brushed with olive oil. You can slice these once the mushrooms are cooked or they can be used whole as a burger.
- 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise. If you have a mandolin, now would be a great time to use it. It would also be useful for the zucchinis. Set the blade to 1/8 inch thick.
- 1-2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1-2 red peppers, left whole
- Olive oil for brushing onto vegetables
For the Tofu
- 1 lb tofu, sliced into about 8 pieces widthwise and marinated. (Marinade recipe follows.)
- Pesto, cheese, harissa, mayonnaise, or any other condiment to add to sandwich (optional). We modified this kale pesto slightly, and it was delicious (Caution: it does have a “bite” to it!).
Marinade for tofu:
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried basil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Prepare the Veggies and Tofu
Mix all the ingredients into a shallow baking dish. Place tofu pieces in marinade and let sit for at least an hour, turning the pieces over after ½ hour.
Then, heat up the grill to medium-high heat. Brush olive oil on the mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant. In batches, add the mushrooms (gill side down), eggplant and zucchini pieces, and tofu. To keep the vegetable and tofu pieces from falling apart, try not to move them around too much. Cook the mushrooms and tofu about 8-10 minutes on the first side, then 5 minutes on the other side. Cook the eggplant and zucchini about 5-7 minutes. If the zucchini and eggplant are cut thinly enough, they will not even need to be flipped. If they do need to be flipped, brush the other side with olive oil as well, flip, and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes. Add the red pepper to the grill and, using tongs, rotate every few minutes until the skin is black and blistered. Take the pepper from the grill when done and place in brown paper bag. When it has cooled, scrape the skin off and cut up as desired. Remove other vegetables from grill and let cool until they can be easily handled with your hands.
To assemble sandwiches, put whatever condiment you choose on one or both sides of the bread. Pile ingredients on one slice of bread, add second piece of bread and place in panini press. Let cook for 3-5 minutes. Take out and enjoy your gooey, delicious panini.
Grilled Corn with Herbed Butter
Ahh, corn on the grill, the quintessential summer treat. Kick up the flavor profile by making your own flavored butter. Simply melt 1/8 cup butter in a pan on medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, such as dill or cilantro. Let the flavors infuse for a few minutes then remove from heat and place in a small heat-proof container. Put the container in the fridge to reset. Grill corn on the grill heated to medium-high heat, turning often, about 10-12 minutes. Add butter to your fresh-off-the-grill corn cobs and enjoy!
Very Berry Trifle
This delicious dessert is a crowd-pleaser visually and tastewise! It combines a creamy and cooling filling with fresh, seasonal berries and cake layers of your choosing. You can make your own cake or purchase a basic one from the store (angel’s food cake would work well here). Once the cake part is done, the rest comes together in a snap.
- 1 cake
- 2-3 cups fresh berries: Use a combination of organic blueberries or blackberries and raspberries or sliced strawberries for patriotic coloring.
- Creamy filling:
- 1 lb soft tofu
- ½-3/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
- ¼ cup sour cream
Prepare the Trifle
Start by preparing the cake. If you’re making your cake: divide batter into two well-floured cake pans instead of one. Bake at recommended temperature, reducing the time by several minutes as the cakes are thinner. Let cool. If you bought your cake: Carefully cut the cake in half horizontally so that you have two layers of cake.
Next, make the creamy filling. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend for a minute, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed. Taste for sweetness. At this point, you can assemble the trifles as is or place the filling in the refrigerator to firm up for a few hours.
To assemble the trifle, you can choose to make one large trifle in a deep glass dish or to make personal portions in wine glasses or mason jars. This recipe will make about 6-8 individual portions. Cut the cakes so that they will sit inside the container that you have chosen. For example, if using Mason jars, you can put a Mason jar face down into the cake and cut around it, as if you are making biscuits. Alternatively, you can cut the cakes into small chunks.
Place one layer of cake into the glass or dish. Add several spoonfuls of the creamy filling. Top that with a handful of berries. We like to alternate the layers with different colored berries, but you can mix them up too. Add another layer of cake, another layer of filling and then top with berries. Refrigerate for up to a day or serve as is. Enjoy!