Grilled Eggplant, Onion, and Red Pepper Stuffed Bread

This is my version of one of my favorite sandwiches from childhood – an eggplant sandwich. My grandma would fry eggplant without any breading and once she removed it from the oil, would sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese. The eggplant slices were creamy on the inside, with a wonderful caramelized exterior and then that wonderful burst of salty from the cheese. While great just as is, I thought they were sublime on white sandwich bread with a swipe of mayo. Ok, maybe you’re going “ewww” but I’m serious, folks, this was one good sandwich. Unfortunately, I was never able to replicate her frying process; my eggplant were either greasy or burnt.

228c1-cake009Not to be deterred, I decided to create a new sandwich, one that I knew my grandma would love. I upped the ante by grilling the eggplant with a sweet-tart vinaigrette marinade, adding grilled onions, red peppers, fresh mozzarella cheese, rolling everything into homemade yeast dough, and baked until the bread is golden brown with oozing mozzarella. No, it’s not the sandwich of my childhood, but it’s just as sublime….

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Grilled Eggplant, Onion, and Red Pepper Stuffed Bread
Dough**See below for convenience and GF versions
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
10-12 oz warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Marinade
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling
1 eggplant, about 1 lb, partially peeled
1 large onion, sliced into 1/2″ thick slices
3 fire-roasted red peppers (from a jar; not oil-packed)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4″ slices
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dough Process
For the dough, using the bowl of a stand-mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and 4 oz warm water; let stand until frothy.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, add the flour to the yeast mixture, and with the machine on low, add 4 oz water and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Continue to mix, adding the remaining water, if necessary, until the mixture pulls away from the bottom of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook, and knead for 6 minutes. Remove from bowl and shape into a ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and drape with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for an hour.
Deflate dough and place on a floured surface. Roll out dough into a 12×15 rectangle.

Grilling Process
While dough rises, prepare marinade and filling:
In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients and whisk until well-blended; set aside
Partially peel eggplant and slice into 1/4″ slices, either with a mandoline or by hand
Peel onion and slice into 1/2″ slices
Drain peppers and blot with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
Heat grill pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil
Once the pan is hot, glaze one side of 4 eggplant slices with the marinade and place eggplant slices, glazed-side down, onto grill pan
Glaze plain side with marinade, cook for 2 1/2 minutes, turn over, and cook for another 2 minutes
Remove eggplant from pan, and repeat process with remaining eggplant slices, onion slices and bell pepper until have been grilled.

Assembly
Evenly distribute 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese over 12 by 15 rectangle of dough
Layer grilled eggplant onto cheese, leaving an 1″ edge of dough on all 4-sides.
On top of eggplant, layer grilled onions, red pepper, and mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle on remaining Parmesan cheese.
Starting from the long side, roll dough toward you, as you would with cinnamon rolls.  Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until dark golden brown.  Let rest for at least 15 minutes hour before slicing.

**Convenience and/or Gluten-free Version
Substitute 1 Pillsbury Pizza crust, classic variety for the homemade dough; for gluten-free, use the Pillsbury GF pizza crust.  Press crust into 12×15 rectangle and proceed with recipe, omitting the rising and resting time.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes.

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Shared with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday parties.