I was flipping through a Bon Appetit the other day and saw Mario Batali’s recipe for Chicken Parmesan. All that melted cheese and sauce and fresh herbs. Mmmmm. I like Chicken Parm just fine, but I’m really more of an eggplant girl. I do have an Eggplant Parm recipe I adore, but I wanted to mix it up a little. Since I was craving a sandwich, I thought of topping thick, crusty bread with roasted eggplant slices, cheese, and fresh herbs, but I really wanted that gooey combination of fresh mozzarella, sharp Parmesan, and marinara sauce. Why not throw them all on a slice of bread, and eat it open-faced, I thought?
I had big plans for how to prepare the eggplant. I was going to coat the slices in egg, dredge them in flour, and bread crumbs, and bake them (which I how I make my Eggplant Parmesan), but Monday night rolled around, and I’d worked a long day and dealt with too many annoying issues, and I just didn’t want the complication or goopy fingers. So, I took the easy way out and baked the eggplant slices sans bread crumb mixture. I’m glad I did. I think it would have been too much with the sandwich concept. Maybe when I’m looking for an exceptionally hearty meal, I’ll try it that way. Until then, I’ll stick with this recipe, which is mighty tasty and low-key.
1 large eggplant
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
a loaf of thick, crusty bread
fresh ground black pepper (optional)
Slice the eggplant into ½” thick slices. Working in layers, place the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle each layer with salt. Place a heavy bowl on top of the slices and let the eggplant sweat for 30 minutes. The salt helps break down the cell walls and remove the bitter flavor.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Coat a large baking sheet with a light layer of oil. Place your eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Using a paper towel, pat the slices dry. This will also help remove excess salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the slices reach the texture you like. I like mine melty, but if you prefer yours firmer, take them out early. Flip the slices halfway through baking.
While the eggplant is baking, heat your marinara sauce. You can, of course, make your own, but I tend to use Trader Joe’s Organic Marinara for nights when I’m too tired to bother.
Slice your bread and lightly toast it.
Slice your fresh mozzarella.
Grate your Parmesan cheese.
Mince a handful of fresh basil.
To assemble the sandwiches, place however many slices of bread you desire on an OVEN-PROOF plate. Top with eggplant, a heap of grated Parmesan cheese, plenty of sauce, and a slice of mozzarella. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted to your satisfaction. Remove from oven, let cool briefly, top with fresh basil and fresh ground black pepper (optional).
Serve. Warn your dinner companions of a hot plate!