Baked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Panini

Nothing says summer like a freshly pressed, piping hot Panini. 

As you take a bite of the toasted, flat bread, the melted cheese, and the grilled vegetables, you have to ask yourself, “Why would anyone ever choose to eat a sandwich any other way.”

When we were growing up, Panini night was a weekly occurrence in the summer. Panini making was a team effort –Mom would bread and fry the eggplant, Julia and I would take turns picking basil from the garden and assembling the sandwiches, while Dad scoured the house for the heaviest objects he could find. Up he came from the depths of storage, juggling old college textbooks, an encyclopedia set, cast iron teakettles, and an old blacksmith’s anvil. Nothing was safe in our quest for the perfectly flattened Panini.

Of course, neither Julia nor I have access to a blacksmithy here in Washington, D.C., so we had to make do with a frying pan and a grill pan. Our sandwiches weren’t as perfectly pressed as those we had come to love in New York, but they were beautifully grilled and delicious all the same.

We updated our old standbys, swapping egg-and-milk-heavy breading for light, summery grilling. Our eggplant and zucchini slices came out of the oven crispy and full of flavor, without feeling heavy. We replaced mozzarella with goat cheese, giving the sandwich a stronger flavor without sacrificing any of that creamy texture. We spread the goat cheese over a thick layer of minced garlic onto freshly baked whole grain bread. 

After we grilled and pressed the sandwiches, we opened them back up and put a dollop of chunky, homemade tomato sauce right between the cheese and the eggplant. Perfection.


Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 8-oz can tomato paste
1 16-oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp paprika

1 eggplant, sliced in rounds
½ zucchini, sliced lengthwise
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
Dried Basil

1 whole grain baguette
4 oz goat cheese
4 tbsp minced garlic


Heat the oven to 350F (175C). Cover two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly coat with olive oil.

Slice baguette in four pieces widthwise and slice each piece lengthwise. Place in oven until slightly crispy, about 8 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste begins to caramelize. Add canned tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer.

Arrange eggplant and zucchini on baking sheet and coat generously in olive oil. Top slices with garlic, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Bake until both sides are crispy, about 8 minutes on each side.

Remove baguette slices from oven. Spread 1 tbsp of minced garlic on each sandwich, followed by 1 oz of goat cheese. Put baked vegetable slices on the sandwich and place the sandwich on a heated grill pan. Use a second frying pan to push down on the sandwich, evenly distributing the weight. Grill on both sides.

Open the grilled sandwich and add tomato sauce.

Serve immediately.

I believe.  – (July 1, 2012 at 8:01 PM)  

LOVE the sounds of this!!! Just discovered you have this blog Sondra - so great! - I'm part of the group of people who love food too! I'm excited to read more.

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