My name is Katie and I met Le Man and his beautiful Wife quite seperately at the prestigious Hope College (I met Man through Younglife and Wife through our education classes). My husband and I got married just a few months after the Lemans and we were so blessed to have them at our wedding as well as being at theirs (it was gorgeous)! They are a truly awesome couple and I've had so much fun reading this blog and wondering what it would be like to have that much skill in the kitchen (and what it would be like to have that sweet camera they have)!
I tell you all this just so you will know I had always, always wanted to try eggplant. I mean look at it--it is so strange and fun looking! It never made it onto my family's grocery list, but now that I'm a certified adult with a husband and a house and even a big-girl job, I slapped "eggplant" onto my own list pretty immediately. But then I realized something--I had no idea what to do with it or how to cook it. I made a few attempts at eggplant Parmesan, but it just didn't cut it. My husband, James, is always pretty eager to help me find recipes to try, so he found this one! It was perfect--James would get to grill even with the absence of meat, eggplant would be the star of the show, and we could use some of the basil leaves from a plant I've been struggling to keep alive since we bought it.
As I told Wife, this is the perfect summer sandwich. The vinegars, basil, eggplant and fresh mozzarella work so well together! They just scream "SUMMER!" I did make a few changes to the recipe. Instead of buns, I used focaccia bread and cut it into slices. The shape doesn't work quite as well with the round eggplant, but I think the taste and texture works much better (I just cut the eggplant into half circles to make it fit). Also, there was apparently a huge sale on red onions at Meijer the day I went because they were absolutely out of them! So I simply used a vidalia onion and it worked fine. I did drizzle some of the left over vinegar mixture over the sandwich contents as well. It gave the sandwich a much sharper taste, so only do that if you love the taste of balsamic!
And let me warn you--do NOT skip the step of salting the eggplant slices and letting them sit on the paper towel. It sucks the moisture out of the eggplant and keeps it from being soggy, which is apparently the attribute of eggplant that causes people to make faces when they hear it is on the menu.
I hope you enjoy this fabulous little sandwich as much as we did! It is now on our "summer staple" list for sure!Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches
Adapted from Simply Recipes
1 large globe eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large Roma tomato, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 medium red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
10-12 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 loaf ciabatta bread
Line a large tray with paper towels and set the eggplant on top in a single layer. Salt both sides and set aside.
Pour the two vinegars and a teaspoon of the olive oil into a flat dish. Sprinkle with salt and combine together with a fork or spatula. Place the onions and tomatoes onto the dish and turn to coat with the dressing.
Get your grill ready for high direct heat.
Once the eggplant slices have been sitting for at least 15 minutes, pat them dry with more paper towels and brush each slice with olive oil. Lay the slices on the grill and grill for about 3-4 minutes per side with the lid closed, until nicely browned. Remove from grill. Lightly toast the bread on the grill for about one minute.
To build your sandwich, set out grilled bread. Put two or three rounds of eggplant on top of the bread. Then add a tomato slice and some red onion. Add a couple slices of the fresh mozzarella and top with basil leaves. Drizzle the leftover vinegar mixture over the sandwich to finish!
(Photo credit goes to Katie and James Ralston)