Eggplant causes me stress.
I just can’t resist it’s smooth and shiny purpleness. It’s gorgeousness. It is so regal and purple and how does one really walk by such a pretty thing. Not buying one feels like a crime. A darn shame.
But the real crime? I will bring one of these purple beauties home and then it sits on my counter for a few days, and then a few more days. And then it starts to pucker and wrinkle… then I get worried about the eggplant… so now what?
So predictably I decide I’m going to use it in lasagna or something. But who has time for lasagna during the week? Not this girl…. and then I feel bad because I’ve got an eggplant on my counter and I’m running out of time to do something with it…. which makes me feel stressed every-time-I-move-it-out-of-the-way to make a piece of toast.
So then this sandwich. I was driving home from work a few days ago and I passed by the pizza shop where we would grab take-out every Friday in high school. So, so long ago. On the nights my brother and I would have to fend for ourselves – we’d grab some fries (of course) and a pizza burger. Well, mostly my brother would get the pizza burger. I usually just got the fries. But still, the point is, there were memories of pizza burgers… and from that came this idea for the eggplant I had sitting on my counter next to the toaster. (Because we all keep our eggplant by the toaster.)
Maybe I should apologize first for calling these burgers. Please don’t use a burger bun. Something crusty is necessary. I could have called these panini but that would just ruin the idea of them for me. No. A panini is something fancy from a special restaurant with a wine list or at least a decent beer menu. I didn’t intend for fancy here. We ate these right off the cutting board and dipped in the extra sauce as we went. Slightly messy. With a pickle on the side.
Eggplant is notorious for soaking up all the oil when it is fried. Instead I’m adapting a technique from Deborah Madison’s ”Vegetarian Food for Everyone” where she broils eggplant slices for her baked eggplant parmesan. The broiler gives the eggplant a smokey and rich flavour and helps it soften once it is layered with cheese and sauce and baked. So here, I’ve used the broiler to help cook the eggplant, but didn’t want to give up the crispy breading completely.
Give the eggplant the lightest spray of olive oil then stick it under the broiler for a few minutes, flip and broil again. Actually the eggplant will be fine under the broiler for an incredibly long time… so don’t fret over it too much. You can leave it for a good 5-8 minutes each side. It will brown a bit and maybe even look a little bit dry, but that’s okay. For this dish, take the broiled eggplant and stack all the slices on top of each other on a piece of plastic wrap, wrap them up and then let them sit on the counter for a 10-15 minutes. They will finish cooking and the heat will soften the slices. Since I had to run to the arena and pick my son up at hockey practice the timing was particularly convenient for me. I don’t like leaving you with idle time while prepping dinner, I’m sorry. But you have to let the eggplant steam.
For crispy. I used a simple dredge of soy milk and bread crumbs and toasted the slices in a hot lightly oiled skillet. Just enough fry to get a crispy crust on the eggplant.
Yields 4 servings
Crispy baked eggplant on a crusty bun topped with pizza sauce and melted cheese.
30 minPrep Time
10 minCook Time
40 minTotal Time
- 1 large eggplant sliced in thick slices - about 8 pieces
- Cooking spray
- 4 crusty buns
- 1 cup shredded cheese, I used Italian blend
- 1 cup prepared pizza sauce
- 1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs for coating the eggplant
- 1 cup milk, soy milk or other non-dairy milk, for coating the eggplant
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for frying the eggplant
- Slice eggplant into eight thick slices or rounds, sprinkle with salt and set in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. This step is only necessary if the eggplant seems a bit tough. You can skip it with little issue if you are short on time.
- Preheat broiler.
- Place eggplant on a baking tray, in a single layer and spray lightly with oil. Place under the broiler for several minutes, watch closely, broil until slightly softened and browned. Flip over, spray this side with oil and broil the same as they first. It may appear a bit dry at this point, but don't worry.
- Stack eggplant slices on top of one another and wrap the stack in plastic wrap. Allow to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes at this point. The eggplant will continue to soften.
- Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat with a small amount of oil. Prepare 2 pie dishes for dredging - one with 1 cup milk the other with 1.5 cups bread crumbs.
- Dip each eggplant slice in the milk and then in the breadcrumbs. Dust off any excess breadcrumbs, and place each slice in the skillet. You may have to do this in several batches depending on the size of your pan.
- Lightly fry each slice of eggplant, on both sides, until golden brown and crispy.
- Slice each bun in half lengthways and sprinkle about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Place under the broiler just to melt the cheese. Lay 2 slices of crispy eggplant on each bun with a slather of pizza sauce. Serve. Makes 4 sandwiches.