The original idea for this sandwich was inspired by a similar sandwich I had at a vegetarian restaurant back home several years ago. I recently checked out their website, and I couldn't find the sandwich on there anymore so am thinking they probably no longer even serve it. I can't remember all of the aspects of the sandwich I had then, but I remember it being pretty amazing! It might sound strange to some of you guys, but I am actually more fond of fruits and vegetables than pretty much anything else. (The only thing that's better than fruits and vegetables is bacon, but that's in a class all by itself!! :-)) As a child, I was a VERY picky eater and didn't even eat barbecued ribs or any of that stuff until after I was an adult. In fact, I distinctly remember going to KFC with my mother and brothers and sisters and all of them getting the drumsticks while I would not eat anything but the breast meat. I'm still a selective eater, but my tastes have definitely evolved since growing up - I'll most likely try anything at least once!
Anyways, I had entered this recipe in a sandwich contest, but it wasn't chosen so am sharing it with you! You'll have to forgive the picture quality for this picture, as I was house-sitting at the time it was taken and didn't have my little studio set up then... But you can still see the yumminess!
Because I have been trying to eat healthier, I also wanted to say that the eggplant for this sandwich could very easily be oven-fried rather than pan-fried, if you're looking for a healthier option. Simply spray both sides of the breaded eggplant lightly with canola oil and place it on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven or under a preheated broiler, turning once, until the breading is crispy and the eggplant cooked through. Then, assemble the sandwiches as you would normally! If you are interested in making it any healthier, you could also use egg substitute for the whole eggs, or even substitute some, or all, of the whole eggs with 2 egg whites per whole egg.
3 beaten eggs
1 c. flour
¾ c. Italian bread crumbs
¼ c. panko bread crumbs
¼ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsley, crushed
½ tsp. dried basil, crushed
¼ tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 medium eggplant, sliced on the bias to ¾” - 1" thick
2 ciabatta rolls
1 clove garlic, peeled
Oil, for frying
Freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
8 leaves fresh basil
2 Tbsp. basil pesto
½ c. Tomato Basil pasta sauce
Roasted red peppers
¼ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Place the eggs, flour, and bread crumbs each in 3 small bowls. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the eggs and whisk to combine. Season the bread crumbs with the parsley, basil, and oregano and stir with a fork or your hands to thoroughly combine. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in flour, dip back in egg and then in bread crumbs. Transfer the eggplant pieces to a rack or to paper towels to let them dry slightly before frying.
Preheat the broiler. Slice the ciabatta rolls in half horizontally, brush the insides with a little bit of olive oil, and toast under the broiler just until they’re golden brown. Remove the rolls from under the heat and immediately rub with the peeled garlic. Set aside.
In a deep, heavy skillet or deep fryer heat ½-inch of vegetable oil to 375°. Fry the eggplant pieces, in batches if necessary, for approximately 2 - 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.
To make the sandwiches, arrange the bottom pieces of the rolls on a work surface and spread 1 tablespoon of pesto evenly over the cut surface. Sprinkle with the freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. Lay two basil leaves over the top of the Parmesan and pesto, followed by ⅛ cup of the pasta sauce. Arrange one of the fried eggplant slices on top of the sauce, one per sandwich, and then top with the remaining basil leaves and strips of the roasted bell peppers. Spread the remaining sauce between the sandwiches, topping them with the cheeses. Place the prepared sandwiches under the broiler just until the cheese melts, and then remove from the oven and top with the top half of the roll. Makes 2 sandwiches