I don’t remember where this original recipe comes from, but I’ve updated it over the years and pretty much made it my own. This is one of those ideal dishes to serve when friends come over for an afternoon or evening of watching football – all you need to complete the meal is a green salad and a couple bottles of Chianti. It’s completely ooey gooey cheesy delicious.
Drizzling the eggplant and mozzarella halves with extra virgin olive oil is a wonderful flavor enhancer. I discovered a new olive oil source this past weekend at my local farmer’s market – Olio Mazzone and I purchased a couple of their flavor infused oils including the basil one used in this recipe.
Eggplant & Mozzarella Melt
2 large eggs
1 – 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (coarse dried Japanese breadcrumbs)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
I medium eggplant (1 – 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1 loaf (12 ounces) French or Italian bread, ends sliced off, cut in half horizontally
2 cups good quality pizza or marinara sauce
16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds (I buy the sliced and ready to serve by Bel Gioioso)
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (I use a basil infused oil by Olio Mazzone)
4-6 fresh basil leaves, rolled like a cigar, and thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet and coat it lightly with cooking spray.
- Beat the eggs in one shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place the panko breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Dip the eggplant rounds into the egg, and then lightly press into the panko breadcrumbs. Place on the prepared baking sheet. You should end up with 10 – 12 eggplant rounds. Bake for 17-18 minutes until nicely browned and tender. Do not turn the oven off.
- Prepare another sheet pan with foil. Slice the bread halves in half lengthwise so that you have two tops and two bottoms. Place crust down on the baking sheet and lightly press the soft bread down to form a well. Spoon the pizza or marinara sauce along each bread half. Reserve some sauce for the eggplant layer.
- Layer the eggplant rounds on each bread half and spoon the reserved sauce over the eggplant. Top with the mozzarella slices, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the basil over all. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Bake at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes. Turn the oven to broil, and broil just until the cheese has started to brown.
- Add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top, cut into portions, and serve.
*If you’re feeling particularly decadent, you may also add a bit of shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese.
© Kitchen Serendipity 2011