There is something incredibly satisfying about breadless sandwiches, and I think it has to do with breaking rules.
I mean, to most people, bread is one of the defining characteristics of a sandwich. When you think of a sandwich, you most likely envision two slices of bread, or if you went to alternative schools all of your life and consider yourself a unique thinker, possibly a roll or a bun. Maybe you sidestep the bread characteristic, but if you do, you’re probably thinking of an oreo or some other construction where something in the middle is sandwiched between two symmetrical edible surfaces. This sandwich, however, breaks both fundamental sandwich rules – it’s both open-faced and breadless. And yet it has the look, feel, and taste of a classic sandwich.
You start with some gorgeous graffiti eggplant – from your local farmer’s market, if possible. This takes the place of your bread component. Halve it longwise, brush it lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and roast that baby until the outside is crisp and the inside is soft and creamy. Next, assemble your sandwich. Slather on some mustard, some thinly sliced gruyere or sharp cheddar, and then top everything with the juiciest, freshest, tomato slices you can find, which is pretty darn easy in late August. Voilá! You’re a rule-breaker. And you’re about to be rewarded by the perfect summer sandwich – the kind that you want to stand over the sink to eat because your fingers will be covered with tomato juice and melted cheese drippings and you’re generous enough to let the sink catch any extra juices that might escape your mouth if you aren’t careful but you will be because… mmmm! You just can’t let a drop of this go to waste. (For any grammarians out there, that run-on was 100% intentional: you’ll get carried away when you eat this, too.)
And this classic sandwich is just the beginning. If you don’t do cheese, try using roasted, marinated tofu or tempeh. Switch up the mustard for pesto, or keep the mustard and drizzle some pesto over the top. Experiment with add-ons – the possibilities are endless: add some red onion slices for crunch, a tower of arugula, caramelized onions, sautéed greens, even a fried egg (gooey yolk of course) if you REALLY want to share the love with the kitchen sink. And if you don’t feel like getting fancy, don’t. I kept it simple and still enjoyed an out-of-this world sandwich experience.
A couple notes about the recipe:
-Graffiti eggplants vary quite a bit in size. Choose whatever size you prefer for your sandwich – I like to have a nice, wide, canvas on which to build my sandwiches so I use eggplants that are about 1 pound each.
-When eating these babies, you may have to channel your carnivorous side just a bit and use your teeth to tear through the skin. I really enjoyed this part of the experience, because everything else is pretty soft and I found that the skin provided a nice textural component – something for my teeth to really grab on to. However, if the skin bothers you, you could always remove it before assembling your sandwich. It probably won’t hold together quite as well so you may need to resort to a knife and fork if you go this route.
-Depending on how melted you like your cheese (if you’re using cheese), you can either let the heat of the eggplant melt it outside of the oven, or return the eggplants to the oven after assembling your sandwich to get your cheese super melted. It’s good both ways, but I preferred to let the heat of the eggplant melt the cheese, as the richness of the partially melted cheese was a perfect compliment to the mild, creamy eggplant and the pungent raw tomato. You could also try the compromise version and use the oven to melt your cheese but leave your tomato raw.
-This recipe is low FODMAP provided you select low FODMAP condiments and fixings.
Open Faced (Breadless) Eggplant Sandwiches
- Graffiti eggplants (equal to the number of sandwiches you wish to make)
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Your favorite mustard (or pesto, harissa, mayo…)
- Your favorite cheese, thinly sliced (I recommend sharp cheddar or gruyere)
- vegan option: roasted marinated tofu or tempeh
- Tomato slices
- Caramelized onions
- Sautéed greens
- Raw red onion rings (adds a nice crunch factor!)
- A fried egg
- Any number of delicious aiolis (garlic, pesto, sundried tomato…)
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Halve the eggplants the long way and place them cut side up on the sheet tray. Brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the flesh of the eggplant is very soft and creamy (for eggplants in the range of 1 pound, this should take about 30 minutes.) The surface of the eggplant will be firm and crisp to the touch, so check if the eggplant is done by sticking a fork inside and making sure the inner flesh of the eggplant flakes easily and has a creamy texture.
Remove the pan from the oven, spread each eggplant half with mustard, and top with the cheese (or tofu/tempeh) and tomato slices. The cheese – if using – will melt slightly from the heat of the eggplant. Enjoy it as is (my personal preference) or return to the oven for 2-3 more minutes until the cheese is super melted and the tomato slices are warm. Remove from the oven and top with desired add-ons (optional). Serve with chips, salad, homemade French fries, or whatever your heart desires.