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An eggplant Parmesan sandwich on garlic toasted ciabatta? Yes!
When you don’t eat meat, the hardest thing to give up is a good sandwich. To be fair, the vegetarian landscape has dramatically improved, but it’s nice to have options.
And crunchy pan-fried eggplant with a quick homemade sauce, melty cheese is definitely an option. With the addition of garlic toasted ciabatta? It’s almost a requirement.
I’ve made eggplant Parmesan in a lot of different ways over the last decade and a half. It’s not hard, but a lot can go wrong. And when it does, you end up with greasy, soggy, eggplant that makes you understand why someone might not be all that into it. But with the right steps, it can go so well that it’s like a different food. I’ve had it go both ways people. I know. If you want a good eggplant Parmesan sandwich, you got to put in the effort.
The first step — and most crucial — is salting the eggplant. Like most vegetables, eggplants have a lot of water in them. And when you cook them, that water seeps out. The result is soggy eggplant, no matter how you cook it. The easy solution to that is to dredge your eggplant with salt and let it sit for a couple — yes — hours. It might seem excessive, but you really want to get as much water out of the eggplant as you can.
The second part is how you cook it. You can bake it, which is the least messy option. It’s also the least tasty, imho. You can also deep fry it. Delicious (duh!) but messy, and of course, not the healthiest. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil.
A good middle ground is to pan-fry the eggplant in a little bit of oil. You get a crispy exterior, but without oil splatter everywhere, and you’re cutting way back on fat.
Everything else is pretty straightforward. The sauce comes together pretty quickly, and a loaf of ciabatta brushed with oil and garlic powder is toasted to perfection. Some fresh basil leaves are an added bonus, and if I had some arugula, I would add it for some extra greenery. Next time.
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich on Toasted Ciabatta
A toasty, melty, saucy eggplant parmesan sandwich is perfection on a plate.
On a clean surface, spread out a layer of paper towels. Sprinkle the paper towels with kosher salt and lay the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle more salt on the eggplant.
Lay another layer of paper towels over top and let sit for at least an hour, but two is better.
After an hour or two press as much water out of the eggplant as you can.
In a shallow bowl, combine, the breadcrumbs, cheese, and seasonings. Add a pinch of salt.
Add the beaten egg to another bowl.
Dip the eggplant in the egg, then the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat. Set the eggplant aside, while you make the sauce.
To make the sauce, add the tomatoes, oil, butter, and onion to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with tongs as you go. Remove the onion. For a smoother sauce, you can puree in a blender, or you can use as is.
To cook the eggplant, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan and add the eggplant, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until browned on both sides, and transfer to paper towels. Continue until all eggplant is done.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lay your ciabatta on a sheet pan and brush each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and toast for 5 minutes or so until bread is toasted. Remove the 4 tops.
Remove from oven and layer the basil leaves, eggplant, cheese, and sauce on the remaining bread slices.
Bake for another 5 minutes or so, until cheese is melted.
Top with remaining half, cut the sandwiches in half if desired and serve.