I’m on vacation! And while I am, I’m finally tackling coming up with some interesting sandwich recipes from scratch. Today’s experiment involves eggplant, homemade tapenade, aged balsamic, slow-roasted tomatoes and some good bread.

Tapenade

  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 cup of green/kalamata olives (I used pimento stuffed for green, and pitted for kalamata)
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin, good olive oil
  • 2 small sweet peppers or half a roasted red pepper

Eggplant

  • 1 eggplant (i bread/bake all of it, and then you can use the rest for tasty eggplant parmesan the next day)
  • at least 2-3 cups panko breadcrumbs (you’ll need a lot if you use the whole eggplant)
  • ener-g egg substitute (or something similar)
  • a few cups of flour
  • a few tbsp of olive oil

Other:

  • 4-6 slow roasted tomato pieces for each sandwich
  • Aged balsamic (or regular balsamic vinegar)
  • Good bread (my favorite is roasted garlic loaf – foccacia is also good)

The steps:

Eggplant:

  1. Cut the ends off of the eggplant, then slice long-wise (makes it easier for flipping in the oven) strips, approximately 1/3rd inch. Try to keep the thickness even so they cook evenly
  2. Place on wire rack (or in a collander) and sprinkly generously with kosher/sea salt on both sides
  3. Allow to drain for ~30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. This is to remove the bitterness and extra moisture from the eggplant.
  4. After the ~30 minutes, use a wet paper towel to wipe the salt off of the eggplant
  5. Set the oven to 425
  6. In three bowls or plates, set up one for flour, one for breadcrumbs, and one for the egg substitute (use the directions on the box for mixing up the egg substitute – it’ll look like a slurry, as egg substitute is basically just starch). You’ll bread the eggplant assembly-line style
  7. Dredge each piece of eggplant in flour, then egg substitute, then the panko breadcrumbs. You’ll need to pat the breadcrumbs in on both sides.
  8. You need to now get olive oil on the eggplant or on a big cookie sheet to put into the oven. While most recipes will tell you to put the oil on the pan, I find what’s easier (and makes it so the eggplant cooks more evenly, as baking isn’t as consistent as frying for the ideal browned look) is to put a bit of oil on each piece of eggplant (I use a mustard container bottle filled with olive oil for easy squirting). Only put it on one side, place that side on the pan, and put in the oven. In about 15 minutes (or once the pan-side is lightly browned), squirt oil onto the other side and flip. I don’t cover the entire side, just a circular spiral.

While the eggplant is cooking, make the tapenade:

  1. Combine olives, 1 tbsp of capers, 1-2 tbsp of extra virgin, good olive oil (or more if you like), and if you can find them, 2 small sweet peppers. Half of a roasted red pepper would work great too. Place everything in a food processor and blend until finely chopped, as you’d expect from a tapenade.
  2. Add salt or extra oil to taste. Additional add-ins could be a little red wine vinegar, a dash of dijon, etc.

Slow roasting tomatoes is a bit of a pain so I purchased some from the olive bar at QFC. Sundried tomatoes are an ok substitute – but bear in mind the flavor will be way more tomato-y and less sweet.

If you have super aged balsamic (I still have some 25 year stuff that I brought back from Bologna, Italy) then GREAT! Otherwise, take the best quality stuff you have and boil some down till it’s 1/3rd the volume and is thick. That should sweeten it up.

Once the eggplant is done, just assemble the sandwiches. A roasted garlic loaf of bread from the local La Brea bakery is INCREDIBLE for this sandwich, but whatever you use, thinly slice it and toast it a little first. Spread on a tbsp or 2 of the olive tapenade on one piece of bread, add a piece of the eggplant, 4-6 roasted tomatoes, and drizzle the balsamic over the top before the other piece of bread.

Vegetarian enhancement: if you’re down with cheese, I seriously suggest putting slices of aged provolone (specifically aged – it’s a little more firm, has a sharper flavor, and doesn’t taste like nothing like the normal kind) over the eggplant and put it under the broiler till it melts. It adds a special kick that binds everything together.

Sorry for the absolutely horrendous image, but I promise it tastes INSANELY good!