Introduction: How to Make a Tasty Vegan Vegetable Panini

Do you like sandwiches?  Of course you do.  Who doesn't?

Well, next time you want a tasty hot sandwich with no meat or dairy products included, you can follow these easy steps to sandwich happiness.

Step 1: Gather Equipment and Ingredients

Here are the things you will need:

  pan to sautee the veggies in, preferably something somewhat deep with rounded sides
  pan to grill the sandwich on
  aluminum foil
  cast iron skillet (or something else that is heavy and has a flat bottom)
  wooden spoon
  spatula (not pictured)
  brush (not pictured)
  grater (not pictured)

  olive oil
  balsamic vinegar
  vegan mozzarella (We used Follow Your Heart, but there are plenty of options here.)
  red onion
  sweet bell pepper (we used an orange today, but yellow or red would also be fine)
  portobello mushrooms

Step 2: Wash Your Hands!

Get your grubby mitts cleaned off before handling food!

I don't have a picture for this, but you should know the drill.

Step 3: Mushrooms

Wash the mushrooms first.  If you bought whole portobellos or caps, be extra sure you clean the gills really well or you might end up with a lot of grit in your sandwich.  I have found that the pre-sliced portobellos (either large or small) offered by my local grocery store are usually better cleaned.

Once you have the mushrooms cleaned, get them in your sautee pan along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You just want enough to coat them (about 2-3 tablespoons of each for a batch this size).  Turn on the heat to medium high and let them cook, stirring occasionally while you prep the other veggies.  If you start to run out of liquid in the pan before the mushrooms are done, add small amounts of balsamic to the pan and keep cooking.

In order to test for done-ness in the mushrooms, press down on one with the spoon.  If it breaks easily and is still light colored in the center, it's not done yet.  Otherwise, they're good to take off the heat.

Step 4: Slice the Onion.

Peel the onion, cut it in half and then thinly slice one of the halves.  The other half can go in the refrigerator for another day, or you can slice it too, if you like a lot of onion.

Set onion aside.

Step 5: Slice the Zucchini.

Wash the zucchini then cut off the ends and toss them out.  Cut it in half and then split the halves lengthwise.  Then cut each quarter into slices.

Set the zucchini aside.

Step 6: Slice the Bell Pepper.

Wash the pepper and cut off the sides, taking care not to include much of the white membrane or any of the seeds.  Once you have the sides cut off (Don't forget to get the bottom of the pepper.  You should be able to do this in 5 pieces or less.) slice them and set them aside.

Step 7: Slice the Tomato and Grate the "cheese."

Wash the tomato and cut out the tough part where the stem was connected.  Cut it into medium-thin slices and set aside on a new plate.

Remove the vegan mozzarella from its packaging, grate it and set it on the same plate with the tomato.

Step 8: Slice the Bread.

Pick a bread that's tasty on its own.  If it doesn't taste good by itself, it's not going to be very good on a sandwich.  Since the bread we used today (a delicious roasted garlic loaf from the natural food mart down the road) was shaped a little bit weird, slicing it the normal way would have yielded slices that were too small to make a proper sandwich.  To get around this, I cut it in half, set the halves up on their end and sliced them lengthwise.  This step is easier if you get a loaf of bread with a more standard shape and is obviously not necessary if you're using pre-sliced bread.

You could also use a hoagie roll, Cuban loaf or other similarly shaped bread, but it's kind of a pain to work with.  Regular sandwich slices are easiest and get the best results when toasted.

Step 9: Cook the Other Veggies.

By now, the mushrooms should be done.  Set them aside and put the onions in the pan with enough olive oil and vinegar to coat.  Cook them, stirring occasionally over medium-high heat until they're soft.  Set them aside and repeat for the bell pepper and zucchini.

Step 10: Build the Sandwich.

Lay two slices of bread down on your grill pan.  Brush olive oil on one side of one slice, then flip it over so that the oil side is touching the pan.  Spread some pesto on the side of that slice that now faces up and start stacking on your veggies, tomatoes and cheese.  The cheese should be either the first or last thing that you stack, so it will be on the outside and have a chance to melt.  Spread some pesto on the other slice of bread and put it on top of the sandwich, pesto side down.  Brush some olive oil on top of the sandwich and you're on to the next step. (Unless you're making two, like I did.  Then you'll have to repeat all this.)

Step 11: Press and Grill.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the sandwich(es).  Then put your cast iron skillet (or other heavy, flat-bottomed object) on top of that and press down on the sandwich(es).  Turn the heat up on the pan to medium-high (I usually go just a little bit higher than the setting I used on the veggies.) and let it grill for about 5-7 minutes.  Remove the skillet and foil, flip the sandwich (Use the non-pictured spatula mentioned in the Equipment and Ingredients section.  You do not want to touch it with your bare hands right now.) then replace the foil and skillet and let it grill for another 4-5 minutes, then remove it from the heat.

If you have an actual panini press, you don't have to fool around with the grill pan, skillet, foil or turning the sandwich, but I find that this method produces perfectly acceptable results without cluttering up my kitchen with uni-tasking equipment. (Thanks to Alton Brown for the tip here.)

Step 12: Cut and Enjoy.

Give the sandwich a minute or two to cool down before cutting it, as it will be VERY hot right now.  Then cut it along the diagonal (This makes it easier to handle.) and eat up.

I hope you've enjoyed this instructable.  Please feel free to sound off in the comments with any suggestions or success stories.