Weekday Vegetarian: A Little Advance Planning to Make an Eggplant Torta
Photo: Kelly Rossiter
I arrived home from my cottage last week to find a rather large number of eggplant ready for harvest in my little garden. I was quite happy with the harvest we had throughout August, and I thought we were more or less done with them. I was a bit surprised to find 5 or 6 ready to eat with another 4 or 5 at a smaller stage and a number of flowers. I imagine that the frost will hit before those flowers come to fruition, but maybe I'll be lucky and get some more eggplant in October. But for now, I'm thinking about all the ways I can enjoy what I have.
Some time ago I promised an eggplant recipe using refried beans and I'm finally getting around to giving it to you. This recipe comes from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero which is a cookbook of Latin foods. Markets are full of tomatoes, peppers and corn right now, which makes autumn seem like the perfect time of year to be exploring this cuisine.
I really enjoyed this sandwich, but it takes a bit of time. Nothing in it is difficult to do, but unless you already had refried beans ready in your refrigerator, it doesn't really lend itself to a quick dinner. There's a bit of time in marinating the eggplant and prepping the rest of the ingredients, but it all comes together pretty quickly in the end. There is a bonus about not having to make an additional salad, because all of the vegetables are in the sandwich already. Although I followed the recipe pretty closely, you could feel free to experiment with any vegetables you have on hand. The cookbook suggests that you could replace the eggplant with summer squash, which would also be delicious. If your eggplant is small and young, you can forget about salting and draining it. The recipe calls for roasting in the oven, but I grilled my on the barbeque and it worked perfectly. I think this would also be wonderful on a tortilla.
Eggplant Torta Sandwich
1 lb eggplant, preferably small, young eggplant
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, seeds removed
1 cup refried beans
2 ripe red tomatoes, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch clices
1/2 lb shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
4 pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced very thinly
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
4 crusty French or rustic-style sandwich rolls
1. Prepare the eggplant first. Slice it lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick, place in a colander above a sink and lightly salt with kosher salt, if desired. Let the eggplant soften and drain for 30 minutes. While the eggplant drains, prepare the marinade by whisking together the lime juice, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, oregano and cumin. Add the drained eggplant, coat the slices with marinade and let stand for 10 minutes, turning the slices occasionally.
Heat the oven to 375F. When ready to roast the eggplant, lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread with a layer of eggplant, trying not to overlap the slices too much. Brush each side generously with the marinade and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, slipping each slice and roasting for another 10 minutes until the eggplant is tender. remove from the oven and wrap in foil to keep the eggplant warm.
2. To make the chipotle mayonnaise, pulse the vegan mayonnaise and chipotle peppers in a food processor until smooth. Warm the refried beans either in the microwave or on a stovetop, adding a little water if necessary to creat a spreadable consistency. Have ready the tomatoes, avocado, lettuce and red onion rings.
3.. Slice each sandwich roll in half horizontally, and, if desired, remove some of the bread inside to allow more room for the filling. Toast or grill each roll half until hot. Assemble sandwich by spreading the inside of a roll with chipotle mayonnaise, then topping that with the refried beans. Stack on the bottom half a generous layer each of eggplant, tomato, avocado, shredded lettuce, jalapeno and some onions. Top with the upper half of the roll. Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately.