RECIPE. Feb 26, 2010

Eggplant Mozzarella Panini

We recently traveled to Mexico to visit my mother and her husband in their new home in Cabo San Lucas. I will post much more about that trip in my next post for Tortilla Soup. What I want to talk about this time, however, is the return home. The way your sheets feel when you climb into your own bed. The way your dog smells when he lays next to you on the couch. The way you know exactly what is in your fridge and where you can go to buy what you need. There is a bittersweet experience in returning to the Pacific Northwest from a very sunny climate. The minute you walk outside the airport you are usually greeted by rain on your face and a chill that burrows bone deep.

The vibrant color is green and you can smell the wet cement. I miss the heat, the warmth and the freedom to wear shorts and tank tops. I am always grateful, however, to return to that which I know best.The deep familiarity of home was never very strong for me growing up. Home was a place I usually wanted to be as far from as possible. This in now way speaks of my mothers parenting ability, she was a great parent. I just never really felt “at home” at home. Then I met my husband, and we moved in together. Every place we have lived has felt like home. I feel the sense of safety, serenity, calm and relaxation of “coming home”. I finally understand what people are talking about. So when we walked into our front door last Tuesday, after an adventure of a life time, we were so grateful for the familiar.

It wasn’t until Thursday night that I had the opportunity to cook in our kitchen again, and this is the final step in coming home. Knowing where my utensils are, the food I have bought and feeling the rituals of my own cooking immediately settles me right into my routine. I am sure you are also familiar with the empty fridge syndrome when returning home from a trip. While I managed to obtain a few essentials early in the day, I hadn’t thought our dinner plan through. So I improvised and came up with something pretty incredible. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly scramble egg and add salt and pepper in small bowl. Dip eggplant halves in flour, egg mixture and then bread crumbs until coated thoroughly. Lay coated halves on cookie sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes. Flip over and put in oven for another 5-8 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut panini loaf down the middle and then half so you have a top and bottom for your panini. Place one slice mozzarella cheese and one artichoke heart on bottom half of panini slice. Place 1/4 cup pasta sauce on top half of panini slice. Place 2-4 toasted eggplant halves on bottom half of panini slice and bring top and bottom of panini slices together to form sandwich.

Place sandwich inside panini grill and grill for 5-7 min or until outsides are crisp. If you do not own a panini grill then you can grill in sauce pan as though you would grill a cheese sandwich.

Vegan options: You can use egg replacer instead of egg. Instead of mozzarella you can use soy cheese or other cheese replacement.