Saturday, August 18, 2012

Food Network Monthly Cookalong: Deconstructed Eggplant Parm Sandwich

I'll admit that I thought I didn't like eggplant. I would see it on the menu places and quickly dismiss it for something else. I would walk by it in the grocery store and wonder what people did with it. During testing for Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day I decided to try it. That's the great thing I've discovered since becoming vegan is that trying new things is exciting to me now. I have found lots of foods I love and never would have given a shot to before (I'm talking to you lentils, tempeh, tofu, fennel...and many more!). There was actually two eggplant sandwiches in the book that I fell in love with during testing, the Marinated Eggplant Sandwiches and the Asian Eggplant Sandwich. They both blew my preconceived notion of what eggplant was all about right out the water. The Marinated Eggplant Sandwich has a homemade Cajun seasoning blend sprinkled on slices of baked eggplant and some perfectly chewy baked tofu to go with it. Put it on a bun with some mayo and lettuce and I'm telling you it will make an eggplant lover out of anyone. The Asian Eggplant Sandwich is bold and full of flavour from ginger, garlic, pb and sesame oil all topped off with a napa cabbage slaw. Both are super simple to put together but taste super complex.

Marinated Eggplant Sandwich
Asian Eggplant Sandwich

Thanks to Celine and Tami, I am now no longer afraid of the big purple eggplants in the grocery store and happily pick some up when the craving hits. Just last weekend we were out at the Carp Garlic Festival when I spotted a vendor with lots of small purple and white eggplants and I had to have some. I decided this time round I would attempt (actually reattempt because I have made this sandwich before) the Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan Sandiwich by none other than the Sandwich King himself. I had attempted this one before and made the tomato part exactly as he wrote it and wasn't a fan and never blogged about it. This time around I went with a much simpler and straightforward sauce for the sandwich since I also had the most incredible local tomatoes and basil from the farmer's market. These tomatoes didn't need any help from balsamic vinegar and sugar, they were amazing all on their own. I simply roasted them with some onions and garlic and then gave it a quick blend in the blender and it was perfection! To bread the eggplant I used The Vegg since I love it for this purpose. It really does work to help hold on the breading. I added some nutritional yeast and Italian seasoning to the panko bread crumbs for extra flavour in place of the parmesan. Stacked it all on a toasted bun spread with some garlic miso butter and some fresh basil chiffonaded on top and it was so delicious! This sandwich doesn't need cheese, the bright flavour of the tomatoes and the crunch from the eggplant were the highlight here. If you wanted to you totally could add some Daiya mozzarella shreds to the bun and put it under the broiler but I really think it was super without it.

(Don't forget to visit this post and enter a comment to enter my giveaway for a copy of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! and if you participate in this month's cookalong, send me a link by email at the end of the month to get a bonus entry!)

My Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich

Look at all that tomato goodness dripping out of there!
 Deconstructed Eggplant Parm Sandwich Vegan Style

8 medium to large tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, chopped into small one inch pieces
2 heads of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

Breaded Eggplant
8 small eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Vegg powder
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plain soymilk (I use PC Organic Original)
Oil for frying (I used Grapeseed)

Sandwich Build
4 buns (we went with sesame seed topped burger buns), toasted
1/4 cup vegan margarine 
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tbsp yellow miso
1 tsp garlic powder
Handful fresh basil, chiffonaded

To make the sauce: Preheat the oven to 400F. Get a large rimmed sheet pan and toss all the tomatoes and onions onto it. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and toss it around with your hands to coat all the pieces. Cut the tops off the two heads of garlic and place them on a sheet of foil wrap, drizzle these with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper as well. Wrap the garlic in the foil in a small pouch and place on the sheet pan in the corner. Once the oven has preheated, place the sheet in and roast for 60 minutes, checking it after 30 minutes. You want the tomatoes and onions to start to brown and get some caramelized flavour. If this happens for you before 60 minutes, take it out by all means. Once you have taken them out, transfer all the tomato and onion to your blender and the garlic from one head of the garlic and blend but just pulse it and leave it coarse and a bit chunky. Set aside and keep warm but not boiling or hot.

To make the eggplant: After you have sliced the eggplant you can sprinkle with salt and let sit. I don't find it necessary with the smaller eggplants but you will have to if you are using larger ones to reduce the bitterness. If you do salt them make sure you blot them with paper towel after so they are dry when you proceed. Combine the panko, nooch, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt & pepper in a shallow dish. Prepare the Vegg by combining it and the water in the blender and blending it on high speed until it is well mixed and looks almost creamy and thick. Pour it into another shallow dish (I use pyrex pie plates for the record) and then mix in the soymilk with a fork until combined. Place the flour in yet another shallow dish and you are ready to start breading. Place the eggplant in the flour and toss to coat, gently shaking to remove the excess. Next place it in the Vegg mixture and flip it to coat it as well. Last, place it in the panko crumbs and gently press the crumbs onto the eggplant. Place the breaded pieces on a clean sheet pan and repeat with all the pieces you have cut. Once you have finished breading them all, take a cast iron frying pan and pour the oil of your choice in for frying. I used about 1/4" of oil in the bottom of the pan, you basically want it to reach half way up the side so the edges brown as well as the bottoms. Heat the oil over med-high heat and test with a few panko crumbs when you think it's hot enough, if they sizzle, it's ready. Place the eggplant in making sure not to crowd it and cook until brown on both sides which should only take a few minutes. Place on paper towel to drain off some of the cooking oil while you cook the rest. While you cook the last few pieces place the buns in the toaster and make the garlic miso butter by combining the margarine, roasted garlic, yellow miso and garlic powder in a small bowl. Once the buns are toasted, butter them with the garlic butter then top with two or three slices of the eggplant and top with a few spoonfuls of the sauce. Top that with some of the chiffonaded basil and enjoy!


  1. Oh man, that looks sooo good! And I want to hear about the garlic festival!

  2. I agree with you, one of the best and important parts of being vegan is trying new things. The eggplant sandwich from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day is one of my favourites! Even eggplant haters must love this. Your deconstructed eggplant parmesan sandwich looks very delicious, too. I love eggplant parmesan.

  3. I’ve got to admit that I haven’t tried eggplant since a gross experience I had while I was vegetarian. Maybe I need to give it another shot. All of those sandwiches look incredible…even with the eggplant in them :)