I've had this recipe for Eggplant Panini printed out and ready to make since Lishie submitted it for a recipe swap on my life board, but I didn't want to make it until I could pick fresh basil from my backyard. I finally got my herb garden going a few weeks ago and immediately put this on the menu for the first week after my big work conference.
I made a few modifications, replacing the roasted red peppers with tomato sauce, ditching the balsamic simply because I forgot to include it, and using flour and egg to coat the eggplant instead of breadcrumbs (which is how we make our eggplant rollatini). I'd really like to try it with the roasted red pepper and balsamic next time. SP gave this sandwich his highest honor - he said it tasted like something he'd get at a restaurant. High praise indeed!
Modified from DeLish!
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
6-8 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 cup marinara sauce
4 Italian sub rolls
Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1" wide from the eggplants, leaving about 1/2 the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" slices and place them in a colander. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt, tossing to expose all slices, and let drain 1 hour. Rinse eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and put the flour in another bowl. Heat the oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat. Dip the eggplant slice first in the egg then coat the slices with flour. Add to the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan, and cook until they are golden, about 2-3 minutes each side. Allow to cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
To assemble the sandwiches - cut each roll in half. Spread marinara sauce on each slice of bread. Layer the eggplant, mozzarella slices, and basil leaves. Close the assembled sandwiches and cook either on a panini press or on a grill pan with a weight on the sandwich (another pan or heavy plate) until the mozzarella is melted. Serve hot.