These may be served as a filled sandwich or open-faced. They make a great side dish, first course, or luncheon entree. Use any favorite pasta sauce to top them or the Burro Rosso recipe. To make this more substantial, slip slices of prosciutto on any unused area of the grill pan when you add the eggplant where they'll crisp and can be used as a sprightly topping for each sandwich. (They may be cooked after the first 12 minutes of baking.) Or, for anchovy lovers, a couple of anchovies per sandwich can be crisscrossed over the top of each sandwich just before serving.
Olive oil or olive oil flavored non-stick spray
3 cups dried breadcrumbs: fine or the course Japanese panko
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning mix
2 tsp. crumbled dried oregano
Several grinds of the peppermill
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs beaten with 1/4 cup water
1 large and long or 2 small eggplants, trimmed, peeled and cut crosswise into approximately 16 (1/3") slices
16 or 8 (1/3") slices fresh mozzarella or Italian Fontina cheese depending on how the dish is served
2 tsp. salt 1 recipe Burro Rosso or 2 cups (or more to taste) prepared or homemade tomato-based or other pasta sauce (optional)
1 small bunch fresh basil for garnish
8 thin slices or red, ripe tomatoes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°.
Brush or spray the large (16") grill pan with a light coating of olive oil. Place it in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until heated.
Mix the bread crumbs with the seasoning, oregano, salt and pepper and place place in a shallow dish. Place the flour in another shallow dish and the egg mixture in a shallow bowl.
Dip the slices of eggplant first in the flour, then in the egg, allowing the excess to drip off, and finally in the bread crumbs to coat both sides of the slices. Place them on the heated grill pan and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the slices with a spatula and cook on the second side an additional 12 minutes.
Now you have a choice: if you are serving just the crisp eggplant rounds with a sauce as a side dish, top each with a slice of cheese and continue cooking the slices until tender and the cheese is melted - about 10 additional minutes. Then arrange two slices on a plate and drizzle with a bit of the sauce, passing additional sauce at the table. Sprinkle some torn basil leaves on top as a garnish.
To make sandwiches place a tomato slice (if desired) then a cheese slice on 8 of the rounds. Then top that with an unadorned round to make a sandwich. Bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with torn basil leaves. Serve these as is or with the tomato sauce. Serves 8.