Oh Boston, occasionally I love you. Less so in the summer. Much much less so. We almost set another weather record this past week (you may remember we broke this crazy record this past winter), but luckily I think we just barely avoided it. Still with every day in the 90’s with high humidity, no one in our house wants to cook. Or move at all really. Or breathe.
I’ve always been the odd duck that doesn’t really love summer – I’m much more of a fall girl. Summer is too hot, too many bugs, too much humidity. Plus, as an adult you don’t really get summer because you’re still working. And even though patios are my favorite thing, it’s been too awful outside to use them. Life’s not fair, is it? It’s been so gross here, that I’m actually already planning a vacation for this exact week of next year. (Seriously, let’s discuss: Spain?? The Netherlands? Croatia or Ireland? It’s probably a good thing I have nearly a year to plan…)
But in the spirit of barely cooking/moving/breathing, this started as a simple sandwich. Honest! Clearly my imagination got away from me and this is not where we ended…
Here’s the truth – I don’t do simple. I tend to overcomplicate. I can turn a relaxing 3 day weekend into a marathon sprint of activities, restaurants, and tours. My standard grilled cheese will generally have not one, not two, but THREE (3! Can you believe it?) types of cheese. Plus bacon. And caramelized onions. Oh, and probably some fig jam. Just ’cause.
I dearly love eggplant and za’atar, so this combines two of my favorite things. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend, which consists of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and occasionally other spices. When I lived in Jordan, my breakfast each day consisted of pita bread, olive oil, and za’atar. Occasionally, some labne made it’s way onto the plate, but over the course of a few months I got intimately familiar with za’atar. Your best bet at laying your hands on some would be from a specialty grocery store or online. It’s become a bit more mainstream over the past few years so occasionally, we can find it at a regular supermarket, but it’s never quite a safe bet. Heck, most of the time we can’t find ciabatta rolls at the closest grocery store! (Stop & Shop, I hope you’re reading this and take note ?).
- 6-8 pieces of bacon
- 1 medium-large eggplant
- 2 tbs olive oil
- ¼ cup za'atar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 Ciabatta rolls or 1 loaf ciabatta sliced into equal sections
- 8 oz mozzarella log, thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- ¼ cup basil leaves
- Begin heating grill pan to medium heat.
- Cook bacon until crispy. Set aside,
- While the bacon is cooking, slice your eggplant into ½” rounds or slices. Brush with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and za’atar.
- Grill eggplant until tender, flipping occasionally.
- Assemble! From bottom up: ciabatta, mozzarella, eggplant, tomato, bacon, basil, mozzarella, ciabatta. Yes, mozzarella on both sides. Live life on the wild side.
- Return to pan/grill and press sandwich. Cook until cheese has melted, flipping once halfway through.