Grilled Eggplant Panini with Rosemary-Garlic Aioli

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on August 28, 2009

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So that has GOT TO BE the fanciest recipe title I’ve come up with yet!

Because I used so much from the garden for this meal, I was able to be a little more creative and made up a delicious rosemary-garlic aioli sauce for these paninis! 

These were “UH-MAZING,” according to the Hubs! 

So if you’ve got an eggplant in the garden, or come across a great deal on eggplants…I highly recommend these paninis!!!!

Ingredients
1 eggplant (from the garden)
Dashes of salt
1 loaf pugliese bread, sliced ($2.50) I would have used ciabatta, but the loaf at my store had milk, so I opted for the dairy free option!
1 large ripe heirloom tomato (from the garden)
1 zucchini, thinly sliced ($.64) a little less than a lb…on sale this week $.77/lb!
1/4 cup mayo ($.20)
2 Tbsp lemon juice ($.05)
1 tsp olive oil ($.05)
2 garlic cloves, crushed ($.05)
Palm full of fresh rosemary (from the garden)
Salt/Pepper
4 slices of swiss cheese ($.75)
Handful basil leaves (from the garden)
2-3 tsp olive oil, for sauteing ($.10)
2-3 tsp olive oil, for brushing bread before grilling ($.10)
4 corn cobs ($.76) On an unadvertised sale for $.19 an ear!

Directions

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1. Slice eggplant into 1/4 or smaller slices.

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2. Lay them into a strainer and sprinkle both sides with a few dashes of salt.  Place the strainer in the sink and let sit for 30 minutes.  The salt will draw out the bitter juices and will give the eggplant a better flavor.

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3. Meanwhile, slice bread into 1/4 inch slices.  I thought these would be too thick after I cut them, but they really “smoosh” down!

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4. Slice tomato into semi-thin slices.

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5. Slice zucchini into semi-thin slices.

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6. Prepare Rosemary-Garlic Aioli sauce.  Whisk mayonaisse, lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped rosemary and salt and pepper, to taste.  (I had some leftover which the kids used to dip their extra bread pieces!)

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7. After 30 minutes, the eggplant will have produced beads and become softer.  Pat dry and place in skillet with 1-2 tsp olive oil.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, then flip and saute the other sides for 2-3 minutes.  Once they have browned a bit, they’ll be ready for the sandwiches.  In the same skillet, add 1-2 more tsp olive oil and saute the slices of zucchini for 3-4 minutes, then flip and saute the other sides for 2-3 minutes.

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8. On bread slices, add swiss cheese slice, basil leaves and the aioli sauce to the other bread.

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9. Add sliced tomato, sauteed zucchini and sauteed eggplant.

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10. Put sandwiches together.  (I had some 1 piece of extra bread and extra eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes, so I made an open faced panini with the following layers, from the bottom up: bread, aioli sauce, tomato, basil, zucchini, eggplant and piece of swiss cheese.)

eggplant-panini-brick

11. Add about 2-3 tsp olive oil to a plate and then press both of the sides of the panini into the olive oil before placing on the grill.  Place on the grill and carefully balance the brick on the top so that it won’t slide off.  Once the veggies and bread soften and come together, the panini will stick together.

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12. Watch the panini get smooshed and the cheese ooze and melt!  Be careful to use a hot pad when handling the brick!  Flip the panini and grill both sides.

13. Boil corn in large saucepan for 4-5 minutes, or place in micrwavable dish with 1/4 cup of water and cover with plastic.  Microwave for 2.5 minutes for each ear of corn!

14. Serve Grilled Eggplant Paninis with Rosemary-Garlic Aioli and Corn Cobs. 

Cost $5.20

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary W August 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Erin – Thanks so much for the recipe, it looks delish! I have eggplant and tomatoes in my garden so I’m making tomorrow night.

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Heather August 28, 2009 at 7:09 pm

looks really yummy and I don’t even like any of those ingredients. I am gonna try this recipe out and maybe it will convert me :o)

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The Prudent Homemaker August 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I love that you did htis on your regular grill and not on a fancy panini press!

I used to buy paninis in Lyon, France, and in Geneva, Switzerland. They were wonderful! My favorite in Lyon was a pesto chicken with emmenthal (Swiss cheese).

You’ve talked about buying zucchini before. Are you going to plant some zucchini in your garden next year? That would help cut the cost as well.

Another thing that would help is making that bread yourself. I make bread like that for a lot less than $2.50 a loaf. I make a French Bread and a Rosemary Olive Oil bread that would both work well as panini bread.

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Suz August 28, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Silly but necessary question — I’m allergic to eggplant — any substitution suggestions?

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Rachael August 29, 2009 at 1:49 am

Oh yum! These look delish! I can’t wait to try these. Thanks so much! :)

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Melissa August 29, 2009 at 8:48 am

Oh, yum. That looks wonderful! I’d probably use provolone instead of Swiss cheese (on second thought, I’d probably use whichever was on sale!), but it looks great either way.

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Mary W August 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Suz – In place of eggplant I’d suggest using a couple of different kinds of squash and heirloom tomatoes or adding roasted red bell pepper. You could also add thin slices of leftover chicken although that would really change the nature of the dish. Erin may have more ideas.

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Mary W August 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I made tonight (with my own adaptations) and it turned out great. I used mozzarella rather than Swiss and a pesto/yogurt dressing rather than aioli because I made pesto to freeze today. I used a cast iron skillet as the weigh rather than a brick.

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Erin August 30, 2009 at 12:40 pm

So glad you liked it! And I like the castiron idea, too!

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Suz August 30, 2009 at 9:19 am

Thanks to Mary for the suggestions on eggplant substitution. This is now on our menu for this evening! And I should mention that our zucchini is FREE (thanks to generous neighbors) so that’s bringing down the price of dinner even more.

Love your blog, thanks so much!

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Christina Baita August 30, 2009 at 6:59 pm

This looks and sounds amazing! Thanks for the info on the eggplant. Not sure if I ever knew that or not about the salt. Also, I finally got a tomato off of my own plant and WOW! I didn’t realize it was suppose to taste like that. Yum! It had flavor. Real flavor. I can only dream of having a garden like yours one day.

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Heather August 31, 2009 at 2:01 pm

These were good and I am not really a big fan of any of the veggies it called for. I used provolone cheese instead of swiss but the rest of the recipe I followed to a T. I did use a cast iron grill pan and my trick to pressing sandwiches is that i take my tea kettle and fill it full with water and put a sheet of foil or a paper plate on the bottom and press down on the sandwiches and leave it be for a few minutes and then flip and do the same thing for the other side, works perfectly everytime.

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Jan September 1, 2009 at 11:05 am

There were delicious when I made them last night. The eggplant took a lot longer to saute than I thought they would, but other than that it was delicious.

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Erin September 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

Did you salt the eggplant? That usually speeds up the suate time.

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Shannon September 2, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Do you know if you can freeze eggplant and if so how? I have a couple left from my CSA share that I won’t be able to use before they go bad. Oh, and if you do freeze it how well does it thaw?

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Erin September 2, 2009 at 5:35 pm

If you freeze it, I would dice it up, as it will thaw “mush.” You could toss it into a pasta sauce or casserole…sneak it into lasagna and it wouldn’t matter! All is not lost :)

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Amanda September 9, 2009 at 7:53 am

I take the eggplant slice it about 1/4″ slices, dredge it in an egg and olive oil mixture and then into some seasoned bread crumbs with a palmful of fresh grated parm cheese. Place them on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer.Once they are frozen put them in a freezer bag. When you are ready to eat it just pull them out and fry them in a little olive oil or canola oil. You can use this for eggplant parm or on a sammie. My family calls them “eggplant chips” and the kids love to dip them in ranch.

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Nicole @ Being Frugal Is Fabulous September 9, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Made these tonight and they were delish! The kids even liked even though they don’t really like zucchini or eggplant. I made my own artisan bread, which helped lower the cost even more. I used this recipe for the bread, it is the best: http://karaskitchencreations.blogspot.com/search?q=artisan+bread

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Kristin August 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

I made these last night for dinner along with the Artisan Bread in the comment above and the entire thing was to die for. The Rosemary-Garlic sauce just with the bread alone was UNBELIVEABLE. The bread, Panini and sauce recipe’s have made it into my “keeper” recipe binder. Thank you!

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom August 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm

@Kristin,

Yeah! So glad you enjoyed it Kristin!!! I LOVE that aioli sauce…great for bread, or dipping veggies!

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