Grilled Eggplant, Red Pepper and Arugula Sandwich with Basil-Mint Pesto

1 large (1-1/4 pound) eggplant, stem end removed
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium red bell peppers
4 thick 3-inch square pieces of focaccia, split in half
basil-mint pesto (recipe follows)
1 cup young arugula leaves, tough stems removed
1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
Basil-Mint Pesto
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
3/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Basil-Mint Pesto
In a blender or food processor, combine the mint, basil, pine nuts, and roasted garlic. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil to make a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sandwiches:
Slice eggplant into eight 1/4 inch thick rounds, brush with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stem and seed peppers and lightly brush with oil. Over hot coals or under a broiler grill the eggplant and peppers on both sides until the eggplant is browned and cooked through and the peppers softened and lightly charred. With the point of a knife, lightly scrape peppers to remove any loose charred skin. Split peppers in half lengthwise.

Spread focaccia liberally with pesto. Top bottom slice of focaccia with grilled eggplant slices, arugula, cucumbers, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, drops of balsamic vinegar and the red pepper halves. Top with focaccia slice and insert a long wooden pick containing pitted olives and pickled garlic cloves, if desired.

Yield: 4 sandwiches



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