Yesterday was challenging day in the realm of recipe preparation and food blogging. I had every intention of going through with the eggplant and goat cheese recipe I found over at Cooktoria. The problem was, when I looked inside the package of fresh basil I purchased the day before, I found some nice looking green leaves mixed in with leaves that were turning a, sort of, brown. I asked myself if anyone would like to see photos of brown basil on a website such as this. The answer was no. So I skipped that recipe.
Later on this week, I had planned on putting together this really awesome looking cheesy pesto bread that I discovered on Carlsbad Cravings. This recipe is one I’ve had bookmarked for a while. The issue with this recipe is that it includes pesto, which, as you may well know, has tons of garlic in it. Since I had a special Jiu-Jitsu class last night, I didn’t want to go anywhere near garlic. I think if I had, the guys would throw me threw a window. So that was out. I was left with nothing to prepare, although I did have enough ingredients for both dishes.
As Laura and I sat and discussed my problems, she mentioned that it might be a good idea to venture forward with something that has eggplant in it. At the time, I had two medium sized eggplants sitting in the refrigerator. Right at that moment, I thought of my friend Pete, who’s got a really great deli down in Florida. What would he do in a situation like this? He’d make an awesome eggplant parm sandwich. That’s what he’d do. Since I already had everything I would need, that’s what I ended up going with.
To create this recipe, I combined two that I have already prepared and posted. Those recipes are the tomato sauce and the eggplant parmesan. The primary differences are that I didn’t include any garlic in the sauce (because of the Jiu-Jitsu thing), a smaller portion of baked eggplant and the fact that I included some really great French bread. Everything else is quite similar to what can be already found on this blog.
For the sauce:
1 Large Can (28 Ounces) of Crushed Tomatoes
1/4 Cup of Grated Onion (I used sweet)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Teaspoon + Pinch Table Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/4 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil and/or Parsley
Ground Black Pepper
For the eggplant:
1 Medium Eggplant
1 Teaspoon Kosher or Sea Salt
2 Cups Breadcrumbs
3 Ounces Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
3 Large Eggs
6 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (Pure Olive Oil)
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
4 Ounces Good Quality Mozzarella Cheese
For the bread:
1 Loaf French Bread
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The idea behind this recipe is to put together some really great tasting tomato sauce with some flavorful and well textured eggplant and combine the two on some soft and chewy toasted French bread. When you bite into this sandwich, you should immediately enjoy the satisfaction of something that took a good amount of effort to prepare. Also, since we’ll be covering the entire sandwich with chopped parsley and basil, those two ingredients should be the highlight of it all. This recipe makes a legit sandwich that has a nice finish because of the herbs involved and the lack of garlic. It’s something you can eat for lunch and then go about your day. Perfect.
Slice & Salt Eggplant
Since the eggplant takes a while to sweat, this is the very first task you should complete when preparing any type of eggplant parmesan. Cut the 1 medium eggplant into slices about 1/3 inch thick. Place them into a large bowl and add the 1 teaspoon of sea salt to them. With your hands, mix the slices together well so the salt coats the pieces as well as possible. After that, transfer the pieces into a large colander and set the colander on top of a bowl for approximately 45 minutes. During this time, the slices of eggplant should sweat and release their moisture.
After 45 minutes, go ahead and wipe the excess salt from each piece (this is why we used larger grained sea salt). After that, press each piece between some paper towels to squeeze out even more moisture. When finished, set the eggplant aside for later use.
Since you’ll need the onion very soon, it’s best to prep it now. Go ahead and grate the 1/4 cup of onion and set it aside in a small bowl.
Melt Butter in Saucepan
The next step is to melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add Onion, Oregano & Salt
After the butter is melted, you can add the 1/4 cup of grated onion, the 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano and the 1/2 teaspoon of regular table salt.
When all the above ingredients are in the saucepan, cook for about 5 minutes, while stirring, to lightly caramelize the onions. They should turn light brown.
Add Crushed Tomatoes & Sugar
When the onions are lightly browned, go ahead and add the 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Since I only had one can of diced tomatoes on hand, I pulsed them a few times in the food processor before I added them to the saucepan.
When the tomatoes are in, add the 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and stir.
Bring Sauce to Boil & Simmer
At this point, increase the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins boiling, reduce the heat back to medium and let simmer, while stirring, for about 10 minutes. The goal here is to thicken the sauce a bit.
Add Parsley/Basil & Olive Oil
After the sauce has thickened and some of the liquid has steamed off, add the 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley and basil mixture to the sauce and stir.
Hint: When chopping the parsley for this recipe, include the stems. They are very flavorful. Just be sure to finely chop them. You can discard the basil stems, as they don’t taste nearly as good and can be bitter.
When finished, season the sauce to taste with the additional salt and ground black pepper.
At this point, it’s safe to say that you should preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare Breadcrumb Mixture
At this point, you should add the two cups of breadcrumbs to a pie plate. Grate 3 ounces of parmesan cheese and mix the cheese with the breadcrumbs.
In another pie plate, add 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Mix in about 1/2 teaspoon black ground pepper.
In a bowl next to the breadcrumbs and the flour, mix the 3 eggs together.
Prepare Breaded Eggplant Slices
Take the slices of eggplant that you set aside earlier and, one by one, cover each with flour, dunk in the egg mixture and then cover with breadcrumbs. Do this for all of them and set aside on a plate as you go.
Arrange Eggplant & Add to Oven
When all the eggplant slices are breaded, go ahead and coat each baking sheet (if more then one is necessary) with 3 tablespoons of pure olive oil. If you only need one sheet, that’s fine. Just be sure each one has 3 tablespoons on it if you need multiple trays.
After that, arrange your eggplant on the baking sheets.
When finished, place baking sheets into warm oven.
Baking the Eggplant
The idea here is to bake the eggplant slices as evenly as possible and to come out golden brown and crispy. To do this, keep the trays in the oven for 10 minutes. After that, take the trays out of the oven, turn them around and swap racks. Cook for another 10 minutes. When that’s complete, remove the trays completely and flip each piece of eggplant over. Place them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Be careful though – you’ll need to keep your eye on things during this final 10 minutes. You don’t want the eggplant to burn. Basically, when the breadcrumbs look golden brown, remove the trays from the oven. Important – keep the oven on the same temperature (don’t turn it off).
Toast & Oil Bread
At this point, you should cut your loaf of French bread in half lengthwise and then in half again, like a sandwich. Since the oven is still on, place each piece inside of it and toast until golden brown.
When that’s finished, go ahead and drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on the inside of each piece.
Assemble Inside of Sandwich
Instead of layering the ingredients of the sandwich on the bread, starting at the bottom, I decided to put everything together inside of a small casserole dish. This way, when finished, I could bake the pieces together in the oven for a few minutes without running the risk of over-toasting the bread.
First, I put down two layers of the tomato sauce I made earlier – one for each sandwich.
Next, I put down a layer of breaded eggplant on top of the sauce.
After that, I put down a few dabs of sauce – one on each piece of eggplant.
I followed this up with some grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Once the first combined layer was finished, I repeated the above steps for another combined layer.
Bake the Eggplant Parmesan
I put the casserole into the oven for about 10 minutes. I waited until the mozzarella cheese was fully melted. Once it was, I removed the casserole from the oven.
Make the Sandwich
With a spatula, I carefully picked up one side of the contents of the casserole and placed it on one of the bottom pieces of bread. Then, I did the same for the other piece.
After that, I took the half cup of chopped herbs and liberally sprinkled them on top of each sandwich.
Finally, I cut the sandwich in half. This gives 4 pieces, which is plenty for 4 people.
The Final Product
I absolutely love this sandwich. Next time I make eggplant parmesan, I’m going to pick up a loaf of French bread to make some sandwiches. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a good lunch.
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