Grilled Summer Eggplant Panini with Tomatoes and Basil

Although I'm looking forward to fall and all of the autumn fruits and veggies, I'm trying to enjoy the end-of-summer produce as much as possible. Because I know come December that I'll be whining about how much I want a tomato and how I didn't eat enough of them when I really had the chance, blah blah blah. So when I was at my favorite store last week, I grabbed whatever was on the "local" table - eggplant, basil, and tomatoes. I picked up some fresh whole milk mozzarella ovoline and a loaf of my favorite seeded sourdough and voila! My end-of-summer panini. This is a great light dinner that's best eaten on the back patio or porch, barefoot, with a glass of white wine. At least that's how we enjoyed it - it'd be good pretty much any way you ate it. I used very little oil, so you can really taste the smokiness of the eggplant and the sweetness of the tomatoes and basil. At the last second I made some lemon garlic aioli and spread that on the bread before grilling the panini - heavenly. I made these on my grill pan on the stove, but you can certainly use your outdoor grill - even more summery!

 

Grilled Summer Eggplant Panini with Tomatoes, Basil, and Lemon Garlic Aioli

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 large slices sourdough bread (ciabatta or Italian bread would be great, too)
  • 1/2 of a large eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced
  • 10 large basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 4 oz fresh whole milk mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • olive oil spray (I used my Misto)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly spray the pan with a mist of olive oil.
  2. Lightly mist one side of the eggplant slices with olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay the eggplant on the grill pan oiled-side-down, and grill for about 2-3 minutes. Mist the top of the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before flipping over the eggplant to cook on the other side for another 3 minutes, until eggplant is soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. While the eggplant is grilling, make the aioli. Combine the mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Assemble the sandwiches - spread half the aioli on 2 slices of the bread. Top with the eggplant, sliced mozzarella, basil, and tomato. Spread the rest of the aioli on the remaining 2 pieces of bread and top each sandwich (aioli side down) with the bread. 
  4. Turn the grill pan down to medium-low. Lightly mist the pan with olive oil, and then gently lay down the sandwiches on the pan. Use the bottom of a heavy cast-iron skillet to press down on top of the sandwiches - I usually press down hard on the skillet and then put a few heavy cans in the skillet to press the sandwiches down. Grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until the bread is toasted and golden with grill marks and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Look at all that melty cheese...mmmmmm. 

Find similar recipes at Feastie:

Jessica's Easy Baked Eggplant Parmesan from Feastie
Caprese Grilled Cheese from Gen Y Foodie
Grilled Eggplant Burgers With Spicy Garlic Spread from Grab a Plate
Quinoa and Bread and Tomato Salad from The Hungry Goddess
Cheesy Sausage and Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Low Carb and Gluten Free) from All Day I Dream About Food

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