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Tuesday
Oct232012

Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Panini

So when I first agreed to buy the restaurant with my family I saw this as my opportunity to learn and grow on my own. I envisioned my days toiling over the flames, creating new and interesting items: Challenging the traditional methods and creating my own interesting style and creations. I figured that every day would be a new culinary challenge. Never once did I think my challenges would come at home. Normally when I ask my girlfriend what she wants for dinner I get a “Whatever you decide baby.” Since I told her I want to challenge myself at home with new foods I never expected her to catch on and actually challenge me. The first question she posed this time was, “Can you make Panini’s?” That was quickly followed with a “Oh, Eggplant and roasted red pepper Panini!” Many of you must be thinking, eggplant Lane? Not challenging at all. I would agree with you, but I HATE eggplant. To me it is a squash wishing it was a zucchini, but falling very short. So my challenge was using it as a main ingredient and having it appeal to those that dislike it. All in all, I have won the challenge.

Ingredients Serves 2:

½ lb Eggplant, peeled, cut into 2 inch long strips

½ 7oz Jar Roasted Red Peppers, cut into ¼ inch thick strips

1 Pinch Basil

Dash Crushed Thyme

Dash Dried Oregano

Dash Onion Powder

Dash Garlic Powder

2 Focaccia Loafs (or any flat bread of your choice, try to stray away from sourdough)

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ lb Fresh Mozzarella

2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

 

Now the trick to this recipe is to look like you know what you’re doing. I do it every day. The simplest part of the recipe is cooking the vegetables. This was the only part that required me to think of how to diminish the bitterness of the eggplant. When you roast the eggplant in the oven alone it tends to retain that bitter flavor many people enjoy. Since I wanted to retain the meaty texture and diminish the bitterness, I decided to sauté it with the red peppers. Place 2 Tbsp of olive oil, the eggplant, roasted red peppers, and all spices in a skillet on medium heat. Sauté the vegetable until the eggplant begins to appear more moist and darker in color. When broken in half the eggplant should be softer on the outside and slightly crisp on the inside.

While the vegetables are cooking heat up your Panini pan and weight with the remaining olive oil over medium heat. If you do not have a Panini pan, just heat up either a flat skillet or grill pan and use another pan as the weight. In the meantime, slice your bread and mozzarella. Once the vegetables are done and the Panini pan is nice and hot, place two pieces of bread inside the pan. Top with 3 slices of mozzarella and evenly divide the vegetable mixture between the slices. I drizzled the inside and outside with the balsamic glaze to toast in the flavor. I used a tangerine infused balsamic glaze I found on one of my trips down south with really brought all the flavors together. If you have a regular glaze do not fret. Place the remaining mozzarella on top and cover with the other 2 slices of bread.

Place your weight on top and cook over medium for about 3 minutes, flip and continue for another 3 minutes. Be careful during this time as the glaze does have sugar and will burn quicker if you are not keeping an eye on it. Once both sides are done cut each sandwich on an angle and put on a plate with the remaining balsamic glaze. Buon appetito!

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