By Chef Michael Feker Special to Published Apr 05, 2009 at 7:41 PM

Greetings My Dear Foodies,

This recipe is a true classic with my gourmet twist. Furthermore, in one of my previous blog you were given the direction to roasted vegetables. It is so easy to create a healthy meal, full of fantastic flavors, from the convenience of your own kitchen!

Chef Feker's gourmet grilled cheese and roasted veggie panini

Serves 2 nice size panini (sandwiches that are grilled on a grooved griddle)

4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
8 slices of 1/4 inch thick eggplant grilled
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/8-in. slices Chef's tip: Each time you want to slice, rinse knife under hot running water.
2 plum roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8-in. thick slices
2 red peppers roasted and seeded or from the jar but padded dry once removed from the brine
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil Pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup of whole fresh basil leaves chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Chef's note: This pesto will be firmer then a regular pesto, as this is more of a spread application.

Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.

If you have a panini press, turn it on to medium and allow to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

First spread the pesto inside the bread slices. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the eggplant, and the roasted pepper and then the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet's surface or spray the exterior surface of the bread with an olive oil non-stick spray or brush with olive oil. If using a hot skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a "press." If using a panini press, place sandwiches on the press and close top.

Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and cheese has melted around the edges. Serve with Il Mito's famous tomato soup (recipe to come soon) and go back to your childhood.


Chef Michael Feker Special to
Chef Feker Born in Persia, Michael Feker realized that his calling was to be a chef and enrolled in the California Culinary Academy (CCA). While at CCA, Chef Feker was trained in classical French style by one of the best chefs in the country, Roberto Gerometta. Later, he was chosen by Gerometta to represent the Academy aboard the Royal Viking Cruise line for a four-month around-the-world assignment. It was this experience that gave Chef Feker the ability to master his artistry while simultaneously cooking for large groups of diners. After completing his studies at CCA, he worked at some of the best Italian restaurants in California including: Harry’s Bar and Grill in San Francisco, and Los Angeles establishments such as Chianti Cucina, Locanda Veneta and Sostanza where he was executive chef. Chef Feker was also selected to work temporarily as corporate chef at Nestle Corporation while Gerometta consulted for the company internationally. Chef Feker was named California’s Best New Chef of the Year in 1991 and Best Chef of the Year in 1993 by the California Food Writers Association (CFWA). Il Mito received a four star rating in 1994 and 1995 by the same organization. Il Mito was also named Best of L.A. by L.A. Magazine in 1992. In 1997, Chef Feker opened his first Il Mito in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. Then, in 2006 he opened a second location in Milwaukee’s growing suburb of Wauwatosa. Then, in early 2008, he opened The Chef Michael Feker School of Culinary Magic adjacent to Wauwatosa’s Il Mito.