I recently returned from a mini road trip exploring the beautiful west coast –> Colorado –> Arizona –> Nevada. The adventure was refreshing, filled with mountainous hikes, breathtaking views, wildflowers, and good times with good company. There’s not much more you can ask for from a trip, right?
The journey was also filled with lots of peanut butter & banana sandwiches, whether from the backseat of the car, the peak of a mountain, or on a flat rock sitting at the base while soaking in that crisp, high altitude air. I consumed my weight in bananas and peanut butter, and while I was sad to leave vacation behind, I welcomed with open arms the garden full of tomatoes that welcomed me back home. (Ironically, just two days after landing I found myself eating another PB&B while picnicking at a music festival…I will now be swearing them off for awhile. Tomato sammies from here on out, please.)
With those garden reds, I’ve been whipping up all the summer classics, like tomato and basil salads, fresh salsas, garden omelettes, and caprese sandwiches like the one above. Can you believe that photo was snapped with none other than an iPhone? Just goes to show, tomatoes are so beautiful on their own that they don’t need any fancy equipment or styling to shine. Or to make your stomach rumble. Fresh ingredients make for easy summer culinary dreams, so fortunately the recipe to craft this sandwich is equally as simple as the photo portraying it.
I’ll leave it at that with the recipe to follow, along with a few film and digital snapshots from the trip. Cheers!
Eggplant Caprese Sandwich
- 1 med.-lg. eggplant, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, quartered
- 2 lg. ripe tomatoes, sliced
- Fresh basil, handful
- Fresh oregano, handful (optional, but recommended)
- 5 oz. fresh mozzarella
- Fresh Parmesan, to grate on top
- 6 slices of crusty whole grain bread, toasted
- Olive oil
- Salt, to season
- Chili oil, to drizzle (Sample recipe)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Layer eggplant slices on top, and toss with olive oil to lightly coat. Scatter garlic pieces across the eggplant, pressing them into the flesh. Sprinkle salt around the pan to season.
- Bake 12 minutes, then flip. When you return the eggplant to the oven, line another baking sheet, and place tomatoes on top. Put in the oven with the eggplant, and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until eggplant are tender. Remove both sheets from the oven.
- Drizzle toasted bread with chili oil. While still hot, layer eggplant and tomato on top of 3 of the slices, and add mozzarella to melt. Scatter fresh basil and oregano, and freshly grated parmesan. Place remaining 3 pieces of bread on top to complete the sandwich. Enjoy.
The best thing to do when you get into a cooking rut is to buy a bunch of veggies at the store—whatever looks fresh—slice them up with garlic and onions, and get it all talking with some extra virgin olive oil in a pan. This simple process alone is enough to make your whole kitchen smell like something revolutionary is cooking on the stove. Add a few grinds of salt and pepper, and you’d be surprised at how easy a plate of veggies could go down.
Once you get started, it’s easy to get going. For me, this mindset applies to nearly everything in my life. From running to writing to cooking, after the first few tricky minutes, the rest of the cruise typically turns into a smooth and pleasant sail. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come home from work and forced myself to opt for a run over a nap. Or the number of occasions I’ve made veggie-chopping rather than toaster-plopping a mandatory evening activity. I’m always happy with these decisions. And the enjoyment usually comes no more than 5 minutes into the process.
When sauteing, once the veggies start releasing their aromatic allure, the creative juices may begin to flow. Perhaps you keep it simple, or maybe you add soy sausage, oregano and mozzarella like I did here. All of the ingredients that followed made this pasta spark, but it was the veggies that got the dish rolling. With the summer garden season still thriving, there’s really no better time to look towards the soil-rooted ingredients for a little culinary inspiration.
Click here for recipe…
One of the best, yet easiest combinations of the warm-weathered days is the classic caprese. Nothing but tomato, basil, quality mozzarella, and maybe a splash of balsamic, although even that’s not a mandatory component. Come summertime, and I’m settling down to a tomato sandwich at every lunch hour. It’s the one time of year where I’m satisfied with a dietary routine. Usually my mind’s racing to the next creation I can cook up for dinner and use as the next day’s leftovers. But not during tomato season. Screw leftovers. The heck with innovation. All I want is a tomato sammie. At the dawn of the summer season, you won’t even find mozzarella in the picture. Rather, it’s just me, my vine-ripened heirlooms, a dab of mayo, and a little S & P, sandwiched between two slices of chewy, whole grain bread.
But as the tomato season nears its end, my mind begins to wander yet again. While I’m still enjoying the classic tomato sandwich, I’ve begun to dabble a little in the cheese department, and pretty soon I find myself straying all together away from the two slices of bread that turn my tomato into a sandwich. I have yet to grow tired of my favorite caprese combination, and I’m sure there won’t be enough garden-filled tomato days left for that to happen. But I am ready for a little revamping, which led me to this pasta.
A simple pasta for bread swap, and a whole new caprese creation is born into existence. Not that innovative, but it still satisfies my desire for a bit of a switch up. Really, how could you ever tire of fresh basil and tomatoes?