My husband Garret treats his birthday like most people treat New Year’s Eve. Every year, after the big day, he sets resolutions, and gives up “bad for you” foods. Sometimes he cuts out soda; sometimes it’s potato chips (his favorite); sometimes cheese, sometimes desserts…you get the idea. Of course, every year the resolution begins the week before his birthday: a time where he gorges himself on “last meals” packed with everything he’s giving up. However, usually after a few weeks, he goes back to eating whatever he wants which suits me just fine because, really, besides the week leading up to his birthday, he really is a healthy eater.
This year, though, the birthday resolution has been to go low-carb. And, I have to admit, besides weekends, he has been sticking to it this time. So, lately I’ve been creatively trying to create some of our favorite meals without the carbs. I brainstormed this idea for these eggplant sandwiches while wandering the Kroger produce aisles wondering what to buy. I had never cooked eggplant before, but after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver I had become intrigued by them. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver provides an account of a year of her life in which she relied solely on sustenance she could raise on her own. It was a book club selection and I have to admit, I didn’t really like it. I think my snootiness regarding the book stemmed from growing up on a farm where we always ate our own produce and meats, so I was annoyed by the thick descriptions of how to raise the different crops. It was too much for me; however, I know members of my book club appreciated the new knowledge, and I think we all liked the descriptions of the meals.
Anyway, this meal was developed from my random “I-don’t-know-what-to-make-I guess- this looks-good” grocery store purchases, combined with extra ingredients I had at home. Even if it seems like a hodge-podge, the flavors blended well, and it was delicious.
How to make Mushroom, Ham and Cheese Eggplant Sandwiches with Tomato Sauce
(Serves 4-6) (Time to prepare: 20-30 minutes)
1 large eggplant, cut into round, ½ inch slices
½ of a large red bell pepper, sliced into strips
6 to 8 oz of sliced mushrooms
8-10 square slices of Muenster cheese
½ lb of ham or prosciutto (sliced thin) (*Just as delicious without the ham as a vegetarian sandwich)
1 small yellow onion or ½ large yellow onion, sliced
2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
3 oz Greek Yogurt (as a substitute for egg)
Tomato Sauce (approx 4-5 oz)
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Pour olive oil into a large frying pan, and heat it on low.
- Dip the eggplant slices in the yogurt. Coat both sides lightly, and then dip into a bowl of Panko bread crumbs. Don’t worry if it isn’t coated perfectly. (if you prefer use an egg instead of the yogurt).
- Place the eggplant slices in the pan. Cook on medium to high heat, flipping as necessary. The eggplant should soften, and the bread crumbs should brown.
- While the eggplant is cooking, start a second pan. Drizzle olive oil in the pan and heat on medium-to-high temperature.
- Add sliced peppers, mushrooms, and onions to the second pan. Cook until tender. (The peppers and onions will soften).
*After all the vegetables are cooked thoroughly it is time to create the sandwiches*
- Add a slice of Muenster Cheese to the eggplant slices.
- Divide the mushroom, pepper, onion mixture and place equal portions on half of the eggplant slices (these will become the bottom of the sandwich.) Remove the extra eggplant slices (these will become the top). You should have an even number.
- Drizzle tomato sauce over the veggies.
- Add 1-2 slices of ham (or prosciutto) on top of the sandwich haves.
- Drizzle more tomato sauce over the top.
- Place the eggplant slices you removed in step 8 on top of each to form sandwiches.
- You might let them heat a few more minutes to ensure the ham is warmed.
14. Remove the sandwiches and arrange on a platter. You might add extra tomato sauce to the top if you’d like.