Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ecstatic for eggplant? a recipe for grilled, marinated eggplant sandwiches

summer fest starts off this year with eggplant...and i could not be happier.  when i was a kid, my mom used to make eggplant parmigiana...remember the 70's version? thick slices of eggplant dipped in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried?  then layered in a casserole dish with tons of cheese and red sauce?  i thought it was the greatest thing ever.  it wasn't until years later that i ate grilled eggplant and realized the eggplant parmigiana dish did not actually allow you to taste the eggplant.  breadcrumbs, cheese and red sauce yes...eggplant no. you know what?...eggplant is delicious...and a lighter touch is best.    now i grill,  roast, or marinate my eggplant and my "eggplant parmigiana" recipe consists of thinly sliced eggplant baked until tender and then layered in a casserole dish with fresh tomatoes, a little bit of fresh sauce, fresh basil, a sprinkling of cheese and topped with homemade breadcrumbs.  lighter, fresher, delicious...

eggplant belongs to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also include tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. eggplant peel contains an anthocyanin phytonutrient called nasunin. nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.  eggplants are a rich source of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. eggplant also contains many vital nutrients and are low in calories as illustrated in the following chart:

(all nutrient facts and chart courtesy whfoods.com)
so eggplant is delicious and healthy...what could be better?

one of my favorite summer sandwiches includes grilled marinated eggplant.  i use a technique i learned from my twitter friend judy witts francini a.k.a davina cucina...salting the sliced eggplant to remove the bitterness and avoid soaking up a ton of oil.  then you simply grill and marinate in a mixture of e.v.oo, garlic, red pepper flakes and black pepper.  when you are ready to make the sandwiches, you will use that delicious, flavorful oil to brush on the bread prior to gilling.  imagine golden brown toasted bread, garlicky spicy eggplant, melted cheese and fresh basil.... amazingly good and easy to make.  you will serve this dish all summer!

grilled eggplant slices marinating in the e.v.o.o. mixture

grilled marinated eggplant sandwiches
(note, gilling times are approx. depending on how hot your coals are...experiment the first time keeping careful watch to see how long it takes you)

1 globe eggplant
sea salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
fresh cracked pepper
sourdough or french boule or loaf
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
fresh basil
(optional, fresh heirloom tomatoes in season)

cut eggplant into slices approx 1 inch thick.  place in a large colander and sprinkle generously with sea salt.  let sit for 1-2 hours. 
prepare grill.  i prefer wood charcoal for this recipe, but a gas grill works well also. ( alternatively, you can make this using a grill pan indoors.)

use a towel to blot off all the liquid which accumulates on the eggplant (it is very bitter).  brush slices with olive oil to prevent burning and grill approx 4 minutes per side.  remove from grill and layer in a baking pan.  cover eggplant with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, crushed red pepper (i use 2 teaspoons, but go with one if you want it less spicy), garlic and cracked black pepper.  allow to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour...but longer if possible...up to 4 hours.

cut bread into slices approx 1 inch thick.  create sandwiches by layering a couple slices of eggplant and 1 slice mozzarella cheese between two slices of bread.  brush some of the olive oil from the eggplant dish onto the outside of both sides of each sandwich.  grill 3-4 minutes per side, just until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt.  remove from grill, carefully remove the top piece of bread (sandwiches will be hot) and add some fresh basil and a slice of tomato if using.  replace the bread slice and serve immediately.
here is my tip regarding using the grill for the eggplant sandwiches.  i make this the same day i grill chicken or a large piece of meat.  i grill the eggplant first and start the marinating process. then, i grill the chicken or meat...when finished, the coals are ready for the sandwiches.  we either have a big feast, or i serve the sandwiches immediately and have barbecued chicken or steak or ribs prepared for a few days worth of meals. 
now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your eggplant tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit foodnetwork.com and do the same same.

the cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the participating blogs. yes, copy and paste them everywhere! that way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.  have fun!

participating blogs:

Food2: Around the Eggplant in Eight Ways
FN Dish: Grilled Eggplant Recipes
What’s Gaby Cooking: Eggplant Chips with a Cilantro Cashew Dipping Sauce
Taste with the Eyes: Indian Eggplant, Lemon Confit, Garlic, Thai Basil
Sassy Radish: Eggplant Caviar
The Little Kitchen: Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna
Big Apple Nosh: Baba Ganoush


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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miss garden face said...

i love eggplant in almost anything! but the best way to enjoy eggplant is on your face!! that's right on your face. mash it up skin and all with a little olive oil and put it on your face mask style and leave it on for 15 min. wash off and you will not believe how great your skin looks.

foodielicios said...

can't wait to try your recipe it sounds awesome! i oven bake eggplant with panko then serve it with a fresh tomato slice then finish with a drizzle of great olive oil and some shaved parm. it is a faster lighter version of eggplant parm and very good. love your blog!!!!!

Lori Lynn said...

Ha! We both used the word "ecstasy" in the title of our eggplant post!
Your sandwiches sound perfect. Excellent information in your post.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi foodielicios...panko is a great idea. thank you for the recipe...

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks miss garden face. i love the idea of using fresh ingredients for masks...never thought of eggplant though. will have to give it a try!

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi lori...great minds think alike!
your eggplant tagine looks beautiful and sounds delicious. cannot wait to visit your blog often. and, happy to know you through summer fest...

Gaby said...

love this sandwich! especially with that delicious fresh mozzarella!

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks gaby! yes, good cheese makes most things better! :)

Farmgirl Susan said...

Your sandwiches look divine! I knew I should have planted some eggplant in my kitchen garden this year. ;)