An easy mozzarella and eggplant panini gets it's extra delicious flavor from smokey cheese and sun-dried tomato spread. What a great way to eat vegetarian for dinner!
• • •
Some Italian flare for a weeknight dinner is always good. I'm preparing for the Winter Games by celebrating delicious internationally inspired meals–and this one touts the flavors of Italy. Smoked, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and a Mediterranean staple, eggplant.
This post may include affiliate links. For more information please see my disclosure agreement.
Eggplant and mozzarella go together so well. I decided to use a grill press for these sandwiches, so my eggplant isn't getting the smokiness it would if I cooked it on an outdoor grill or really charred the skin, like I do for baba ganoush (a smokey eggplant dip). For that depth of flavor I used smoked mozzarella. It's still got that fresh, soft taste like other fresh mozzarellas but with a unique smokey balance.
I use a panini press, or grill press to make these right on the countertop. It's my favorite way to make grilled, toasty sandwiches. Plus I can grill my eggplant on it before making the sandwich. Two for one!
Using a smoked cheese gives this Mozzarella And Eggplant Panini a fantastic flavor. What a great vegetarian dinner!
I love this press, and there are other great ones out there. The thing is, you don't actually need one! You can sauté the eggplant right in a skillet on the stove, or broil it in the oven, and then use tools in your kitchen to make your own panini press! Check out the method here:
I'm a sucker for good sandwich spreads, so I knew I wanted something more than just a drizzle of vinegar for the compliment. Sun-dried tomatoes were just the thing. And I love that you can buy sun-dried tomato spread already prepared.
If you want, you can make your own like my friend over at A Farm Girl Dabbles. Or use some of my sun-dried tomato pesto if you've got it on hand. It's simply a great way to bring acidic, tomatoey flavor to this mozzarella and eggplant panini.
Is eggplant a fruit or a vegetable?
Eggplant is also called aubergine. And it is in fact a fruit! It's a species of nightshade fruit and is related to the tomato and potato! It's cooked like a vegetable though, and is really great sliced thinly and grilled, just like in these mozzarella and eggplant panini.
Feel free to swap the smoked mozzarella for regular fresh mozzarella. I know sometimes folks don't love smoked cheeses. But I wouldn't want you to miss out on this delicious sandwich! Enjoy!
- 1 eggplant about 1 lb, sliced ¼-inch thick
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 loaf or 4 ciabatta rolls
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomato spread
- 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, smoked sliced
Heat a grill pan on the stove or a grill press. Brush eggplant slices with 1 tbsp olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill until marked and just soft, 4 to 6 min (turning once if using a grill pan).
Cut bread into 4 pieces; slice pieces or rolls in half lengthwise. Cover one side of each sandwich with tomato spread. Divide grilled eggplant between sandwiches, add cheese and top with other slices of bread.
Brush sandwiches with olive oil and rill until cheese is melting and bread is just crisp, 4 to 5 min.
Smoked cheese adds a delicious depth to this vegetarian meal.
Be sure to check out these other great international recipes from some of my fellow food bloggers who are also participating in the Food Blogger Winter Games event, posting delicious recipes that are internationally inspired! Share a recipe on Instagram you made from another culture using the hashtag #foodbloggerwintergames while you are at it!
Recipe by Tara Bench and Vanessa Seder. Photographs by Rita Maas. Originally published LHJ Mar 2009.