This sandwich came about not through creativity, but rather because of the combination of my utter laziness and a dearth of food in my fridge. The following allowed me to pull this one off:
· I made two loaves of rustic French bread the other night; one was plain and the other was loaded with rosemary and nicoise and kalamata olives.
· With the exception of last weekend, the weather in
has been downright summery, so my plants are still giving me food. So I have tons of peppers and a few eggplants. Baltimore
· I always have good cheese in my fridge. Always.I love panini, so I decided that’s how I would put these ingredients together. I realize that the name implies that the sandwich contains Italian-ish ingredients, which is why I’m calling this one a pressed sandwich, as it has a French inflection. There’s something about this sandwich that makes it a lovely little early autumn supper – it’s slightly earthy and rich, but not so much that it would be out of place on a late summer menu. Pour yourself a nice glass of Cotes du Rhone to go along with it and accept the fact that autumn is upon us, even if it is currently 70 degrees outside.
Eggplant, Olive, and Gruyere Pressed Sandwiches
(makes 4 sandwiches)
1 small eggplant, cut into 8 ½” thick rounds
1 small round loaf of rosemary-olive artisan bread, cut into 8 ½” thick slices (get something along the lines of a French Boule or Italian Pugliese. You can use plain bread, too, but you will have to add a few things to the sandwich.*)
8 kalamata olives or 16 nicoise olives, pitted and roughly chopped (you can leave these out if you’re using tapenade)
4 ounces gruyere cheese, cut into 8 slices
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 4 tablespoons olive tapenade
*1 teaspoon finely crushed dried rosemary
If you have a Panini press or a grill pan, heat it up. (I must admit that I use a mini George Foreman grill as both a grill and a panini press, and it works great as the latter; the only drawbacks are that you can only make one sandwich at a time and, if you want a very pressed sandwich, you have to strategically weight it down with a contraption of books and pans, but hey, it works well for a variety of purposes, and it’s only $20 on amazon.com)
Salt the eggplant slices and let them sit in a colander for at least 15 minutes. Rinse off the eggplant and pat them very dry with paper towels. Rub the slices with oil and grill them either in a grill pan or press, or pan-fry them in a few tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet set over medium heat.
Rub one side of each slice of bread with oil. (If you’re using plain bread, spread the dry side with olive tapenade and sprinkle it with a little bit of crushed rosemary.) Evenly distribute the chopped olives among the dry side of 4 of the slices of bread.
Top the olives/tapenade with a slice of cheese, 2 eggplant rounds, another slice of cheese, a sprinkle of black pepper, and another slice of bread, oiled side up. Cook the sandwich in a press until the cheese is oozing out of the sandwich and the bread is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Alternately, you can cook the sandwich on a grill pan or in a heavy skillet; put a large, heavy pan on top of the sandwich to press it.
Let the sandwich rest for a minute, then cut it in half and serve.