For this installation of my Sandwich of the Month series, I wanted to keep it light and corpse-free (i.e. vegetarian). Eggplant and mushrooms are the heartiest of all vegetables, and since last month’s edition featured baby portabellas, it was time to showcase our good friend the eggplant.
If you’ve ever cooked this lovely purple vegetable, you know how quickly and greedily it absorbs oil, which I decided to forgo by grilling it instead. Next, I thought of pickled onions for crunch, dill for earthiness, and the mild but easy-melting mozzarella for the necessary cheesiness.
Don’t fret – you do not need a panini maker to make these sandwiches. Here is a nifty trick that I learned from Rachael Ray: Make panini on a regular grill pan instead, weighing the panini down with a heavy skillet or soup pot (making sure the bottom is clean, of course), which presses down on the sandwich as it cooks, just like a panini maker does. Ta-da!
(Yield: 4 servings)
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 oz white vinegar + 4 oz water
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 lb eggplant (1 large or 2 small)
About 5 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 tbsp freshly chopped dill
4 whole wheat flatbreads
Procedure: In a bowl, combine onion, vinegar and water with sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and let stand for 30 min. In the meantime, slice eggplants lengthwise, 1/3″-thick. Place a grill pan over a medium flame and lightly brush with olive oil. Once hot, place eggplant slices on grill and cook about 3 min per side, flipping once – or until grill marks appear and the eggplant becomes pliable. Remove from grill and turn heat down to medium-low.
Drain the onions and discard marinade. To assemble panini, place two flatbreads on a flat surface. Distribute eggplant slices (season eggplant with salt at this point, if desired) and pickled onions between the two flatbreads, and top with cheese and dill. Cover with remaining flatbreads and carefully place sandwiches on grill pan. (Or, if you’re a proud owner of a panini maker, use that instead.) Place a heavy skillet or pot on each panini and cook for 5 min. Then, carefully flip using a spatula, replace heavy objects, and cook for another 5 min – or until cheese has melted. Cut each panini into quarters and serve.
Do you have any fun ideas for vegetarian sandwiches?