Friday, September 2, 2011
Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches with Olive-Walnut Relish
We regularly eat vegetarian meals. But, my friends, you don't hear about them too often because we tend to repeat those we love. Risotto, eggplant involtini, pasta with garlic or vegetables, grilled cheese... I had three little eggplants from our CSA (community supported agriculture) basket. My first inclination was to make eggplant involtini. I mean how in the world can you go wrong with eggplant, anchovies, cheese and marinara sauce? You can't in my book. But, then I found this recipe in Fine Cooking. I had to try it. The trick was finding an evening I'd be home! That finally happened and this sandwich was paired with a pear/blue cheese salad.
The salad was seckel pears poached in Seyval Blanc then thinly sliced over a bed of spinach. The pears were topped with a crumble of Maytag Blue Cheese and some chopped macadamia nuts. The salad was dressed with pear vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, sugar and tarragon. Connie said it was one of the best salads I'd ever made.
What did we think? I'm not sure words can adequately describe how much we loved this sandwich. It's every bit as good as eggplant involtini. The flavors and textures are perfect together. I made a couple of small changes to the recipe as written in the magazine. First, instead of baby greens, I used arugula. Second, I melted the mozzarella on the eggplant. I'd do exactly the same thing again. The arugula added a peppery note that baby greens wouldn't have. And, the melted mozzarella was better in both flavor and texture than a blob of fresh would have been. Granted, the original recipe called for burrata and I used a ball of fresh but I'm assuming that most of us can't find burrata. The sandwich tastes like summer. And, during the grey, cold days of January, I'll pull the recipe out and make it again and taste just a bit of summer!
Eggplant Sandwiches with Olive-Walnut Relish
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T minced fresh mint plus small leaves for garnishing
2 T minced shallot
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 c pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 T toasted walnuts, finely chopped
2 small egglants, cut lengthwise into 1/2" wide pieces
4 - 1/2" thick slices sourdough bread
salt and pepper
1 oz baby arugula
1 8 oz package fresh mozzarella
Slice the eggplant lengthwise and lay it in a colander. Salt it well and leave it to drain. While the eggplant is draining, make the vinaigrette and olive walnut relish. To make the vinaigrette, chop the mint leaves very finely.
Reserve a few whole leaves for garnish. Chop the shallot very finely.
Mix the balsamic, olive oil, shallot and mint.
Then, to make the olive walnut relish, start by toasting the walnuts.
When they are toasted and cooled a bit, chop them finely. Finely chop the kalamata olives.
Mix the olives, walnuts and a couple of teaspoons of the vinaigrette. You don't want the relish to be runny, just moist.
Start your grill. You'll want it at medium heat. Slice the bread. Wash the greens if necessary. Slice the mozzarella about 1/4" thick. Rinse and dry the eggplant. Put the eggplant and the bread on a cookie sheet. Rub both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Drizzle one side of the bread with olive oil. Put the mozzarella on the cookie sheet. Now, you're ready to head to the grill. Lay the eggplant slices on direct heat. Close the lid to the grill and allow the eggplant to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Lift the lid and turn the eggplant. Put the bread slices on the grill on indirect heat, oil side down. Close the lid. Allow the bread to grill for about a minute, then turn it. When you turn the bread, lay a slice of mozzarella on each eggplant slice.
Close the lid again. After another minute, lift the lid and take everything off the grill. Now, it's time to assemble the sandwiches. Put a piece of bread on each plate, oiled side up.
Top it with a handful of arugula.
Drizzle that with a couple of teaspoons of vinaigrette. Top the greens with a slice of eggplant.
Then, top that with a tablespoon of olive walnut relish.
Serve hot. Adapted from Fine Cooking