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
- 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
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly spray the pan with a mist of olive oil.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.