Open-Faced Awesome

We decided to try out a new “recipe” (if sandwiches actually have “recipes”) for tonight’s meal, based on the fact that I bought an enormous eggplant and we wanted to try something a little different. I based the soaking ingredients on Swell Vegan’s recipe for eggplant jerky, minus some of the spices and the marinating time because we were too hungry for that nonsense.

1 large eggplant
balsamic vinegar
sugar
olive oil
salt (I recommend Lowry’s, but that’s just me)
roasted red pepper
1 head of garlic
fresh basil
mozzarella
a tasty bread
sweet onion

First, roast that garlic like nobody’s business. This can take quite a while, so for ideal time management I recommend starting that way ahead of time. Slice off the top so each individual clove is exposed, drizzle on some olive oil (really give it all it’ll take) and wrap that bad boy in foil. Stick it in an oven at a high temp and let it sit for a good 45 minutes to an hour, until it feels pretty squishy when you poke it. (If you’re impatient, you can take it out whenever–but the more fully roasted, the more mellow the flavor, and the more easily you can spread it.)

Next, cut your eggplant into medallions, about half an inch thick. If you’re using a mammoth ‘plant like we were, you’ll want to cut those in half too. Soak them in olive oil, balsamic, and sugar. The oil and vinegar should be roughly equal parts, or a little more oil than vinegar. Don’t go overboard on the sugar, though–we’re talking a teaspoon or under. Ideally you’d mix this all up in a blender to emusify things, but we just whisked vigorously and called it good. (Again, hungry and impatient.) You really just need enough of the mixture to coat the slices, but the more saturated they can get the better.

Now slice up your onion (we chopped, which was dumb; in the future we’ll go for very thin rings) and toss it in a frying pan with some sugar and olive oil. The goal is caramelization, but again, that can take a while to really accomplish; we usually settle for more or less translucent and starting to burn a little.

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After your ‘plant has had some time to sit a bit in the juices, pop them in the frying pan. (Sig Fig thought we could combine the onion and ‘plant, but I didn’t want the onion to burn so I took them out and set them aside.) You’ll want to fry them up slowly on low heat so that the slices can cook through. This is where it’s important that the medallions/half moons be well-saturated; the slices that are too dry will be harder to cook, and won’t end up quite as tasty.

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Now, on future incarnations we’re thinking of lightly toasting the bread first so that it can stand up better to having soggy things melted on top of it. Our mistake this time around was slicing too thinly on a loaf with lots of air pockets. It’s probably best to go with a thicker chunk in general, but if you can find a loaf that’s pretty solid throughout that’d be even better. Spread the now-soft garlic on each slice. Add a layer of onions, then a layer of chopped roasted red pepper. Onto this add one or two eggplant slices, depending on the size of your bread.

At this point I must emphasize how crucial it is that you salt the eggplant. The combination of sugar and balsamic makes for a very sweet slice, but the rest of the ingredients beg you to salt these bad boys.

Add a thin slice of mozzerella and pop under the broiler. Watch them carefully–you’ll want to pull them out when the bread gets brown or the mozarrella starts to bubble. Add chopped fresh basil. (You could probably do whole leaves if you were so inclined. We were silly and added this before broiling, which meant there was considerable wilting, but luckily we had extra to supplement.)

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I can see other ingredients being tasty with this (other grilled veggies, maybe kalamata olives, possibly salami or prosciutto for carnivores), but you have to be careful to make sure all the layers are relatively thin. Like all open-face sandwiches, it’s important to make sure you can bite in easily.

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