Eggplant Sandwiches with Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 medium eggplants, cut into 12 inch-thick slices
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into six slices
1/2 loosely packed basil leaves
1-1/2 cups panko or other dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
vegetable oil for frying
3 cups savory baby greens (such as arugula, frisee, red mustard, flowering kale, spinach)
Optional: garnish with rosemary
Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2/3 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast until lightly browned and tender - about 20 minutes.

Arrange the mozzarella slices on 6 of the eggplant slices. On a cutting board, coarsely chop the basil and sprinkle over the cheese. Top with a second eggplant slice to form a sandwich. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and walnuts. Dredge the sandwiches in flour, patting off the excess. Dip them in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. The sandwiches may be prepared up to this point and kept loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to eight hours.

Add vegetable oil to a sauté pan to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat oil to 250 degrees. In batches, sauté the sandwiches in a single layer, turning once to brown both sides. This will take only a few minutes per side. As soon as they are done, remove and place on paper towels to drain. Keep warm. These sandwiches may be cooked up to four hours in advance and reheated in the oven at serving time.

Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, seasoning to taste. Allow to stand at least 1 hour before using. Store any unused vinaigrette covered and refrigerated up to 10 days. To serve, toss the greens with a little of the vinaigrette and serve the hot eggplant sandwiches on a bed of the lightly dressed greens. Scatter with rosemary leaves, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings



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