Saturday was one of those perfect summer days in Chicago. Low 80s, grass-scented breeze, endless sunshine. As I was having coffee on the deck at 9 a.m., I decided on the perfect dinner to go with this day. Grilled Italian sausage topped with caprese salad on hoagie rolls. Summer on a bun, I thought. Unable to contain my excitement–which was fueled in part by about four cups of coffee–I snuck into the bedroom.
“I know what we’re having for dinner,” I whispered to a sleeping Sean. “Mmmmm,” he moaned halfheartedly.
Feeling guilty for interrupting valuable weekend snoozing time, I slowly backed out of the room while murmuring, “Italian sausage sandwiches with mozzarella and basil.” Hopefully the sandwich got into his dream somehow.
This sandwich, which is loosely based on a recipe from Bobby Flay, combines a lot of the flavors I associate with warm summer months–spicy grilled sausage on a bun, fresh basil and tomatoes. Make sure you get a sturdy bun or roll for these sandwiches; a flimsy hot dog bun simply won’t hold the filling. And don’t forget: the relish makes for a lovely salad all by itself, which is exactly how I used the leftovers.
Grilled sausage sandwiches with caprese relish
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons capers
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 hot or sweet Italian sausages
Canola oil, as needed
2 small French or hoagie buns, inside hollowed out on one half
Handful of arugula
Method: Make the relish. Toss the tomatoes, basil, parsley, shallot, capers and mozzarella in a medium bowl. Add the vinegar and oil, tossing well to coat everything in the dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat.
Heat the grill to 450F. Take the sausages out of the fridge about 20 minutes before grilling and rub with a little canola oil so they don’t stick. Put them over direct heat on the grill, and cook for about 4 minutes before turning them. Cook another 3 or 4 minutes, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. Once they’re firm to the touch and no longer red inside, they’re ready. (An instant-read thermometer should reach 150F when inserted into the middle of the pork sausage.) Remove and allow them to cool for at least 5 minutes.
When the sausages are almost done, sprinkle the buns with olive oil and toss them on the grill for a couple minutes to toast.
In a small bowl, toss the arugula with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, a little salt and pepper.
To serve, pile a bit of arugula on the bun, then place the sausage and top with a few heaping tablespoons of the caprese relish. Serves 2.