One eggplant, approximately ¾ - 1 pound
Coarse Salt (to sprinkle over eggplant)
¾ cup Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 cup Breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
2 Tablespoons Romano Cheese
2 large Eggs
2 cups of Tomato Sauce
6 - 8 large Basil leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
4 - 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup, packed, shredded fresh Mozzarella Cheese
¼ cup, packed, grated Parmesan Cheese
4 Rolls, soft egg style, approximately 4 inches across
Panino di Melanzane Fritte
Peel the eggplant and cut off the ends.
Slice the eggplant cross-wise into thin slices, approximately ¼ inch, but no thicker than ½ inch. Lay each slice on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt and let sit for about 45 minutes. The salt will help to pull the pale brown bitter juice out of the eggplant.
Toast the pine nuts on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for 5 - 7 minutes. Watch them carefully so they do not burn. When cool enough to handle, chop finely and set aside.
Place the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a pie plate or shallow bowl and combine well.
Place the breadcrumbs, pine nuts and Romano cheese in a second pie plate or shallow bowl and combine well.
In a third bowl, whisk the eggs well.
When the eggplant has sat for 45 minutes, pat dry with paper towels well, to absorb all the liquid sitting on top of the slices.
Place tomato sauce and basil in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then a low simmer, while you are preparing the eggplant.
Take one slice of eggplant and dip completely in the egg, letting any excess drip off. Place in the flour mixture. Coat both sides. Gently shake off excess. Dip again in the egg, letting excess drip off (quickly). Place in the breadcrumb mixture. Pat crumbs firmly onto both sides. Place on a plate or tray. Repeat with remaining slices.
In a wide saute pan, heat 4 Tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add some eggplant slices. Do not crowd the pan. Fry each side until dark golden brown, about 2 - 3 minutes per side. Remove to a baking sheet lined with foil. Add 2 more Tablespoons of Oil if necessary. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
Distribute the cheeses on top of the eggplant slices evenly.
Broil for about two minutes, until cheese is melted. Watch carefully, so the eggplant does not burn. Remove from the oven.
Slice the rolls open. Toast lightly. Rub the toasted face of the roll with a clove of garlic (gently, as the roll is fairly delicate).
Spread one or two teaspoons of the warm sauce on each open face side of the roll. Place ¼ of the eggplant slices on the open face bottom of the roll, layering as necessary to fit. Top with two teaspoons of sauce and top half of the roll. Serve immediately.
Any leftover sauce can be served warm at the table for extra dipping.
Chef's Tip: You can do this recipe also by spreading the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, then placing the slices on top of the sauce, topping the eggplant with cheese and baking for about 7 - 10 minutes, until the cheese melted and the sauce was hot.
This way, the eggplant will come out much softer and with more of the tomato sauce flavor. Either way is delicious.