I love watching the food network because it provides a way to wander the globe in search of interesting customs and traditions, yet how many times do we overlook those which are right here in our own back yard? How does one fulfill the craving and transition from the cheesesteak capital of the world to a vegetarian sandwich? First things first, it’s about education. Just because you are on a journey toward eating healthier doesn’t mean you need to give up the coveted American sandwich. One of the most common misconceptions of mainstream America is that people think vegetarians prefer to eat “fake” meat. It’s important to recognize that these “fake meats” are made from highly processed ingredients and it is definitely not the most ideal way to transition to a healthier lifestyle. A better option is to skip over those frozen and processed versions of vegetarian meatloaf and burgers and look instead toward choices that celebrate the delectable plant. People often ask me if I would ever eat a cheesesteak again, and the answer is that if I did that, my stomach would probably hurt for days. Instead, I opt for this version of a sandwich. Use an amoroso roll if you desire the feel of a cheesesteak, or if you’re a stickler for healthier choices, choose a whole grain panini instead.
The healthiest way to prepare the eggplant is to slice it and bake it in the oven; however if you are seeking what I call a “healthier dose of junk food,” then go ahead and bread the eggplant. I prefer to use sunflower oil for sautéing because it has a higher burning temperature. Pair it with lettuce and tomato for a California version, or pair it with roasted red pepper, spinach and mozzarella for an Italian version. Another good vegetarian sandwich option is eggplant with broccoli rabe and mozzarella. Tip: If you don’t feel like making this sandwich at home, you can usually find it in the prepared food section at Russos Market.
*eggs, breadcrumbs, and sunflower oil if preparing the breaded version
amoroso rolls or panini bread
lettuce, fresh spinach, or arugula
roasted red peppers (optional)
fresh, buffalo mozzarella cheese
salt, pepper, spritz of olive oil
If breading, whisk 2 eggs in a bowl and then drape thin slices of eggplant in the egg batter and then in the breadcrumbs. Saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side or until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Layer the sandwiches as desired.