These Italian sandwiches make a nice main dish for a summer lunch or supper. The eggplant can be grilled a day ahead, refrigerated and then brought to room temperature before using. The aïoli can be made ahead as well.
- 2 large eggplants
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 chewy rolls
- 12 green lead or red leaf lettuce leaves
- For the Aïoli:
- 3 to 5 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup grapeseed or other mild oil
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Trim the eggplants and cut them crosswise into slices about 3/8 inch thick. You should have 12 slices in all. Combine the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Add the eggplant slices and turn to coat. Let marinate 1 hour or up to 3 hours.
- Slit the rolls in half lengthwise and set aside.
- To make the aïoli, combine the grapeseed oil with 1/3 of the olive oil. In a small bowl, pound the garlic cloves and salt together with a pestle and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer or by hand with a whisk.
- Very, very slowly drizzle in about 1/2 teaspoon at a time of the oil mixture, gently whisking it into the egg yolks. Repeat this until a thick emulsion has formed. Once the emulsion has formed, continue whisking in the oil, about 1 teaspoon at a time until all the mixture is thick and most or all of the oil has been incorporated. If needed, whisk in a little more of the olive oil, if the emulsion will hold it. Gently stir in the garlic and salt mixture. Season a little with pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
- Prepare a charcoal or wood fire in a barbeque or preheat a gas grill. When the coals are ready, arrange the eggplant slices on the grill rack and grill until golden brown and a crust has formed, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and grill the other side until golden, another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove. In inclement weather, eggplant is equally delicious cooked on your stove top with a grill pan.
- To make the sandwiches, spread each roll half with some of the aïoli, top the bottom halves of the rolls with two slices each of grilled eggplant and two leaves of lettuce, then top with the other half of the roll.