Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

I have a confession to make. I don’t much care for those big globe eggplants. I have tried to like them, truly I have, but I think it’s a texture thing. They just taste squishy to me. If squishy is a taste. So this last week, Hank and I have been experimenting with globe eggplants, trying to see what we could come up with that we truly liked, given the challenges of this ingredient. We’ve had a couple in-the-trash-it-goes experiments, and a couple of hits as well.

This grilled eggplant burger or sandwich is one of those hits. I made it again for my parents today and even my dad liked it. He had two. And he doesn’t like eggplant! The only reason he came over for lunch when he heard what I was serving was that mom was coming and he didn’t want to be left at home alone.

Here’s the problem with globe eggplants. They suck up enormous amounts of oil if you try to fry them. Salting them down helps a little, but the eggplants still often end up a soggy mess. Grilling or broiling the eggplants fixes this, however, and the large diameter of a globe eggplant makes for perfect rounds for a burger.

So consider this a sort of Mediterranean veggie burger: Grilled eggplant, a little marinated red onion and tomatoes, fresh mozzarella – and of course some fresh basil on top.

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Grilled Eggplant Sandwich Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

This recipe calls for using a grill, but you could just as easily lay the eggplant slices on a broiling pan (pan rubbed first with some vegetable oil) and broil the slices a few minutes on each side.

Ingredients

  • 1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb), sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6 small burger buns

Method

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1 Line a large tray with paper towels. Lay out the rounds of eggplant on the tray in a single layer. Salt generously on both sides. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.

2 Cut the tomato into 1/4 inch thick slices. Cut the red onion into 1/8 inch slices. Pour the two vinegars and a teaspoon of olive oil into a flat container such as a casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir with a fork to combine. Lay the onions and tomatoes down in the container and turn to coat with the dressing.

3 Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. Make sure the grates are clean, and close the lid.

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4 Once the eggplant slices have been sitting for at least 15 minutes, pat them dry with more paper towels. Use a pastry brush to paint them on both sides with olive oil. Lay the slices on the grill and grill them for about 3-4 minutes per side with the lid closed, until nicely browned. Remove from grill. Lightly toast the burger buns on the grill, for about 30 seconds to a minute, just enough to get lightly toasted.

5 To build the sandwich, set out your burger buns. Put two or three rounds of eggplant slices on top of the bottom bun. Then add a tomato slice and some red onion. Add a couple slice of the fresh mozzarella and top it with some basil leaves.

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22 Comments

  1. Katie

    Hi Elise,
    Though I do love eggplant, I understand where you’re coming from. My favorite preparation is thinly sliced and grilled- either brushed with olive oil then a bit of salt and pepper or brushed with pesto. I’ve also come across an eggplant sandwich I like in Real Simple magazine a few months back. You bread and fry the eggplant like for eggplant parmesan, then use the eggplant itself as the ‘bun’, spread on goat cheese, add lettuce, tomato, and basil – voila! Also delicious (but maybe not desquished enough for the texture skeptic).

    Thanks, as always, for the great recipes!

    -Katie

  2. rebecca h.

    Delish!

    When I worked in a lunch place we made sandwiches like these and they were awesome. We grilled eggplant and zucchini, and roasted red onion and red pepper and made them up with hummus on Turkish bread.

  3. Michele

    I’m not a fan of eggplant either, but found out I love it if you just get the “squishy” factor out of the way. My favorite way is how I learned to cook it while taking students to a cooking school in Italy – cooked in a dry skillet until the water is gone then tossed in an olive oil and mint dressing. yum!

  4. Shaheen

    Totally agree with you about these being squishy. But instead of detesting it for what it is, you could try making something that celebrates its mushiness. In India, we use these giant eggplants to grill on a cast iron pan (whole) and then peel off the skin and mash it all up to be used in “baigan bharta” or simply mashed eggplant. Every household has it’s way of flavouring it – my grand mom uses spring onions and then smokes it by creating a well in the mashed eggplant and filling it with some ghee/oil and then dropping in a flaming hot piece of charcoal and covering it tell the fragrances permeates through the entire dish. Very delicious.

    I love the eggplant + basil combination. Must remember to try it out sometime.

  5. Annie

    I posted on FB but had to post here. Cut them in rounds, little egg wash and them in panko with garlic and herbs. Spray both sides with olive oil or whatever your fancy and put on an oven tray at a medium heat. Turn couple times til cooked and golden. Serve with tomato pasta type sauce and some nice sharp cheese and it’s low fat parmesana. It is awesomeness personified. Don’t over cook or under cook. I’ve been cooking eggplants for ages so I’ve got the knack. I think they are heavenly.
    Grilled are fabulous too and on a griddle pan with a brush of oil, they don’t need too much. So much is made of them sucking oil and they do if you add a lot to the pan. However without it, and careful cooking, eggplant is an awesome flavour (sorry, Australian/English spelling) treat. Having some tonight.

  6. Annie

    Parmigiana. Sorry. Blame the wine! :-D

  7. bureaucrat

    I LOVE eggplant. Growing up, my mum would dice up the eggplant and braise it with Chinese cooking wine, garlic and soy sauce. Served with chopped spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and/or sesame oil. YUM!

    I recently tried a recipe from my Iranian friend. Grill eggplant and tomatoes till they’re quite soft (to get the smokey flavour). Put the veggies into a pot over medium heat, mash it up and stir in minced garlic and grated ginger. Towards the end, stir in an egg. Serve with toasted bread. Delish!

  8. Kay

    I am looking forward to trying this!! I’ve never bought fresh mozzarella. Any suggestion to a brand or tips on what to look for in selecting one?

    Fresh mozzarella comes packed in water in a hard container. Other than that, no advice. I’ve noticed that most stores, if they carry it, don’t carry more than one brand. ~Elise

  9. Terry Oliver

    Eggplant is one of those funny veggies- I can’t stand the skin- it’s a texture I have trouble with. I love babaganoush-YUM!!! I make eggplant parmesan quite often, but here’s the thing- I never salt the slices. I dip them in egg and bread crumbs (gluten-free for my celiac hubby) and bake them in the oven at *350 for 25 minutes, flipping once.Preparing the rest as usual, with layers of sauce and cheese… Eliminates alot of calories.

  10. SallyBR

    I will confess to one thing – like Terry, the skin is what kills it for me

    so, whenever I grill eggplant, I peel it afterwards and discard the skin. I know, it’s ridiculous, but it makes all the difference in the world. I find the skin bitter and unpleasant, but love the flavor of the eggplant itself.

    unless it is in a puree – babaganush type, the skin MUST come out

  11. Marie M.C.

    I grew up eating a dish my Russian mother called “Eggplant Caviar”. I loved it and wish I’d watched her more closely. I’ve tried to duplicate it — no luck. It had roasted then peeled and chopped up eggplant, onions, green peppers, carrots and maybe tomatoes? A splash of vinegar?

    My other favorite eggplant dish is to peel the eggplant, slice thickly, then coat with beaten egg. Next I generously sprinkle with lemon pepper. Then coat with a mix of Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs. Fry in more oil than you thought possible. (Eggplants are little sponges and soak up lots of oil. Salting as shown above helps reduce the amount of oil you need.) Drain on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. So good as a side dish with lamb chops — or just by themselves. Even my Irish ex-husband (who’d never seen an eggplant before we got married) ate it, happily.

  12. Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet

    Eggplant can be amazing and yes it can also be a bit squishy and maybe even a little gross. I love to broil (or grill) it after lightly brushing it with olive oil infused with garlic. I also find that slicing it thin helps. This is how I cook my eggplant for eggplant parm, no breading. I love food like this eggplant sandwich although I usually get carried away adding other grilled veggies.

  13. Anne

    My favorite way to make a grilled eggplant sandwich is to make pesto mayo, spread it on toasted bread and quickly top it with the grilled eggplant and grilled onion. A nice crusty sourdough is the best. For the pesto mayo I mix equal portions of mayo and pesto and add extra parmesan.

  14. Michi

    The sandwich looks great! I don’t grill but have the next best thing: a panini maker. I thinnly slice the eggplant (and/or red peppers and zuccini), toss with olive oil and chopped garlic, then grill in panini maker for 3 minutes in batches. Use grilled vegetables to make panini sandwiches (as long as it’s hot) with a nice smoked cheese (fontina, for example) and maybe a dash of pesto spread on the bread.

    I have also carmelized eggplants with onions in the oven – again, slice thinly, then toss with olive oil, garlic if desired, and salt, put in glass dish and bake at 400 for an hour. Great on sandwiches or salads.

  15. Giorgia

    Here a simple recipe that will make you love the eggplant. Slice the eggplant and put a little bit of salt on each slice. Let rest for at least one hour. Rinse the slices and dry them with some kitchen paper. Scramble a few eggs on a plate, soak the slices briefly in and roll in rice flour. Then fry and remove the excess oil with kitchen paper. Rice flour make them much better and lighter than ordinary flour. enjoy!

  16. Alex Butrym

    In cooking eggplant I have good results by microwaving for 20-30 seconds on high first. They’re then just right for eggplant lasagna, parmegiana, and rollentini, where some partial cooking is needed before all ingredients are assembled. Might not be what’s wanted for the sandwich, which sounds great. I’d add only a portobella, also grilled.

  17. Beth Shields

    This sandwich is good way to use up the extra eggplant from your garden. I use a george forman grill for my version. I like to lightly bread the eggplant slices with flour, egg and some italian breadcrumbs.
    Spray the grill with olive oil spray and cook until crisp. I also add a couple tablespoons of romano cheese to the breading. It cooks in a few minute, is very low in fat with great taste. Also good with large zuchinni or summer squash.

  18. Carrie

    Hi, I often eat eggplant in China. If you want to make the eggplant suck up less oil,you can put the rounds of eggplant in salted water for 20-30 minutes,it will taste better.

  19. Heather

    I used to make sandwiches like this in college, only without the onion and basil, and I melted the cheese. Plus I panfried it with some spray oil instead of grilling.

    Or I’d top it with zucchini and mushroom.

  20. claudia

    I used to make eggplant parmesan back in the ’60’s & ’70’s; however, after using salt to decrease the moisture in the slices, I dipped each slice in a delicious batter (not crumbs–whole egg, flour etc) and this protected each slice from absorbing the oil in which I sauteed them before assembling them in the casserole. I also peeled off all of the skin–I notice that some recipes recommend leaving it on the edges, I don’t know why, it doesn’t add to the taste in a good way and the eggplant slice holds together well without it if you saute it in the batter. The batter then is a firm covering which crumbs are not. It was the recipe in The NY Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne) from the late ’60’s and it was delicious. I think the recipe for the batter was in a different section of the cookbook and I also used the tomato sauce recipe from this cookbook although it was in another section.

  21. jln

    Wow! I tried this and it was just as the author said. My family thought that I had lost my mind when I said what was for dinner.

    I have some real meat boys – but they loved it! I am not a big vinegar fan, but these were yummy!

    I also fixed it for the relatives an they loved it!

    Yeah – a good recipe :)

  22. Diana

    I love eggplants in all their forms!
    A nice way of eating them is frying the slices in a non-sticky pan with no oil (a couple of minutes on each side) and then sprinkle them with some olive oil, parsley and if you like it some finely chopped garlic…and you have a very simple Italian side dish.
    This one is a good idea….I will try it.

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