Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Fresh Mozzarella, Tapenade, and Spinach Pesto

Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Fresh Mozzarella, Tapenade, and Spinach Pesto is melt-in-your-mouth roasted eggplant with a roasted pepper-kalamata olive tapenade, and homemade spinach pesto.  Add a slice of creamy, fresh mozzarella and balsamic drizzle for a veggie sandwich that hits all the marks.

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A sandwich is one of those things that rarely tastes as great at home as it does when you eat one out.  When you go out, the bread is always better, the meat is almost always better, and it’s loaded with fixin’s and/or condiments that you don’t always have at home.  I rarely make a sandwich that I’m excited to eat, except for this Caprese Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Drizzle…that sandwich is the exception. 🙂  The truth is, when I’m hungry, I’m hungry, and I don’t want to jump through hoops to eat my lunch.  That’s probably why I eat peanut butter and banana on a whole wheat English muffin almost every day?  Not there’s anything wrong with that, and I do like my peanut butter and banana.  PB&B is no comparison to this sandwich, however.

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When I order a sandwich out, it’s always the veggie sandwiches that call my name.  The ones with layers of flavor, like roasted veggies, hummus or pesto, balsamic glaze, and cheese…if there’s no hummus.  This sandwich was inspired by an appetizer that I made at cooking school during Week 21 during our improvisational exam prep.  I made an appetizer I called an eggplant napoleon, with roasted eggplant, the roasted bell pepper-kalamata olive tapenade that I used for this sandwich, and whipped goat cheese with balsamic.  I loved the flavors, and it was hard to eat with a fork.  The light bulb went on, and I thought it should be sandwich.  And that’s how this delicious sandwich was born. 🙂

flavor the moments

There are a few components to this sandwich, which is why it’s so good.  Layers upon layers of flavor, and they’re things you can cook up one day and have for several.  Pesto and tapenade are always great to have in the fridge, and roasted veggies are too.  Agree?

I roasted the bell peppers in the oven first, so that I could prepare the tapenade while the eggplant roasted.  I like cutting the sides off around the stem and laying them flat on a rimmed baking sheet for maximum exposure to the broiler.

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Once they’re nice and blackened, about 10 minutes, I place them in a bowl and cover it so they steam.

flavor the moments

Keep them covered until they cool, or they can even be refrigerated overnight until you’re ready to peel off the charred outer flesh and chop them up for your tapenade.  I prepared my tapenade rustic-style by chopping things up roughly, leaving things chunky.  Plus, I’d already dirtied the food processor with the spinach pesto and I was too lazy to wash it twice.  Lazy, I tell ya.

The eggplant requires a little more TLC during the roasting time, because it’s like a sponge.  It needs to be brushed with oil about every 10 minutes, because if it dries out, it won’t soften properly.  It’s a small price to pay, because when it’s done roasting in about 30 minutes, it’s melt-in-your-mouth soft like buttah, my friends. 😉

flavor the moments

I will warn you that I used one bunch of spinach for the pesto, which was about 7.3 ounces, and it was a pain to process in the food processor.  There wasn’t enough ingredients in the bowl, so everything just blew up to the sides and stuck there.  It was wipe down, process, wipe down, process…you get the picture.  My advice?  Try a blender, or double the batch and make more.  It will freeze nicely.

flavor the moments

I did add one more component to this sandwich, as if it needed anything else.  I almost can’t stop myself from adding balsamic glaze, and I did make my own from scratch.  I’ve used the prepared balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s and it’s great, so skip that step if you’re so inclined.

I used whole grain ciabatta for this sandwich, and it was fantastic, but use whatever you like.  I really believe the bread must be as special as the filling in the sandwich, and this filling here is just that.  Get yourself your favorite bread and whip this sandwich up.  You’ll actually have enough ingredients for multiple sandwiches, which is the very best part. 🙂

flavor the moments

Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Fresh Mozzarella, Tapenade, and Spinach Pesto
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Fresh Mozzarella, Tapenade, and Spinach Pesto is melt-in-your-mouth roasted eggplant with a roasted pepper-kalamata olive tapenade, and homemade spinach pesto. Add a slice of creamy, fresh mozzarella and balsamic drizzle for a veggie sandwich that hits all the marks.
Serves: Varies
Ingredients
For the eggplant:
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
For the Tapenade:
  • (1) medium red bell pepper, sides cut off around stem
  • (1) medium yellow bell pepper, sides cut off around stem
  • 6 jumbo kalamata olives, halved, and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Spinach Pesto:
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, about 7.3 ounces, washed, and long stems removed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Balsamic Glaze
  • Whole grain ciabatta rolls or your favorite bread
Instructions
Prepare the eggplant:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplant in ¼" slices and brush both sides with olive oil. Brush the eggplant with the remaining oil every 10 minutes, and turn the eggplant halfway though the cooking time, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the tapenade:
  1. Place the bell peppers flesh side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until the flesh is blackened all over, about 10 minutes. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with foil to steam. When cool enough to handle, remove the charred flesh and coarsely chop. Place in a medium bowl. Add the chopped olives, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Prepare the pesto:
  1. Place the spinach, garlic, lemon juice, and walnuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until well blended. This may be difficult in a food processor unless you double the recipe as it works much better when there are more ingredients in the bowl. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto is smooth. Add salt and pepper, to taste and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside and chill.
Assemble the sandwiches:
  1. Spread about 1 tablespoon of pesto on the top slice of bread. Place 2 slices of eggplant on the bottom slice, and top with a slice of mozzarella, the tapenade, then drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Place the slice of bread over the top and enjoy!
Notes
The pesto, tapenade, roasted peppers, eggplant, and can all be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator in separate air tight containers.

Doubling the batch of pesto is easier in the food processor, and the pesto will freeze nicely.

The balsamic glaze can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or purchase some at Trader Joe's!

Recipe by Flavor the Moments.