I have a great, flavorful, vegetarian meal for you today. One that will have you firing up the grill! Or at least pulling out the grill pan since it getting rather nippy up here as we move into November. Chilly or warm, I’m still happy to make tasty food with big, Mediterranean flavors like this grilled eggplant sandwich with halloumi and tapenade mayonnaise.
Recently I was looking in my fridge at some of my tapenade mayonnaise and a couple of eggplants I had picked up at the store, while trying to think of what to make for dinner that evening. Since tapenade mayo makes a GREAT sandwich spread, I played with the idea of making grilled eggplant sandwiches. It seemed like it would be easy to make and I’m always on the lookout for tasty, vegetarian main courses.
A little more thinking and trip to the market later, and I had some nice, thick bread, a package of halloumi cheese, and a bunch of basil on hand. I turned on the grill and everything started off swimmingly. I brushed the eggplant with olive oil and grilled it; then brushed the bread and got that started. All good so far!
Until I tried to grill the halloumi.
It melted! And stuck to the grill! This is far from the first time I’ve grilled halloumi, but it was a different brand I used before. I barely got this brand off of the grill before it completely dripped through the grates. What a mess. 🙁 At least I did get it off the grill so we could try the flavors together to see if it was winner and I should make it again. (Full disclosure: It was a winner. 🙂 )
So, I went to store and got another brand of halloumi and grilled it up.
And it melted. Yeah. While halloumi may tout itself as the ‘grilling cheese,’ I’m a bit wary now of trusting that. If you have a brand you know and trust and have grilled before, go for it. For everyone else, Grill Pans are awesome! Honestly, they give the halloumi a really great crust and you can get it all gooey before you take it off, which is perfect for the eggplant sandwich.
Also, a grill pan is just a good pan to have on hand in general. They are great for paninis or for indoor, winter grilling or for grilling dishes like yogurt marinated kebabs which are quite the mess on the grill but clean up easy in the pan.
In fact, I love using a grill pan for the whole sandwich. You can easily fit everything for a single eggplant sandwich into a mid-sized grill pan and have a yummy lunch in a flash. Or do it in a few stages for a family dinner. If I were to do it in stages, I’d probably cook up the eggplant first. It takes the longest and I can putter about slicing the cheese and washing the basil and setting out the bread. Then I’d set out the cheese on one side of the grill pan while I grill up slices of bread on the other.
Once the cheese is done, assemble the sandwiches, open up a nice bottle of wine, and eat!
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Wine Pairing: I find this dish goes very nicely with a fruity red, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz; or with a full bodied Chardonnay.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 inch large eggplant cut into about 12 1/2 slices, or 2 small
- 4 slices thick of crusty artisanal bread
- 8 oz halloumi cheese cut into 8 slices
- 1 leaves bunch fresh basil
- 2 tbsp pine nuts optional
- 1 recipe Tapenade Mayonnaise
Preheat the grill or heat a grill pan on medium.
Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill, covered, on medium heat until tender and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a serving platter. Then brush the bread with olive oil and lay it on the grill. Grill on both sides until you have nice grill marks on the bread, 1-2 minutes per side. Lastly, grill the halloumi until it's browned and a bit soft in the middle, 30-45 seconds per side.
Lay a slice of bread on a cutting board. Spread with tapenade mayonnaise. Layer on basil, eggplant, and halloumi. Add some more tapenade mayo on top if you wish. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Cut the sandwich in half and transfer to a plate. Repeat for the remaining sandwiches.
- Some brands of halloumi are softer and more difficult to grill than others. You can test if the cheese is easily grillable by putting one slice on to see how it does.
- However, a grill pan is a great way to get the halloumi really brown and soft for the sandwiches. If you are looking for a nice, brown crust on the cheese, skip the grill entirely and use the pan instead.
- For the grill pan the times are about the same as for the grill, though you may need to cook the ingredients in batches depending on the size of your pan.
- Tapenade Mayonnaise