Eggplant, Kale, Tomato, & Bacon Panini
When I was young, I was really into paninis, and clearly, I still am. I really can’t put my finger on as to why I liked them so much but I always had my mom grill my sandwiches so they would be all flat with grill marks and melty cheese on the inside. Not quite sure the fascination with that, but I swear it made the sandwich taste 10 times better and I was more apt to eating the entire thing that just a plain, cold, regular sandwich. I would always beg to go to Panera (when it was the cool thing to do back then) so I could get a panini. I know, I was such a strange child.
You must agree with me when I say that I’m 100% convinced that calories don’t count on the weekends. Aren’t I somewhat right?
For the past few weekends, I have been eating like a monster. I indulge myself in any and everything on the weekends but during the week, I’m very careful about what I eat. I think I like to think that if I eat well during the week, then erasing all that good eating on the weekends will balance it all out and I won’t gain any weight. It’s wishful thinking but as long as I can put off exercising as much as I can, it works for me ;)
I’m also 100% convinced that no one knows how to say my new last name. Which kind of sucks because I dealt with that my whole life and was excited to have a new last name but now it’s all just whatever. It really does bug me though when people call me Julia or Judy or July. Julia – I get the similarities there but Judy or July really irk me. Maybe it’s because my childhood pediatrician still insists that my name is Judy or the fact that every time I receive a Christmas gift from one of my parents’ friends, it’s always written as “July” and not “Julie.” I can only laugh about it now though since it’s been so many years that this has happened.
Anyway, here’s a recipe for my undying love for paninis. A hot, pressed, & grilled sandwich always wins in my book.
- 4 slices of fresh, crusty sourdough bread
- ½ large tomato, sliced
- 6 slices of bacon
- 2 handfuls of kale
- 4 large slices of eggplant, sliced about ⅛” thick
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ cup of Kerrygold Killaree cheddar cheese, shredded (or any type of cheese you prefer)
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set an ovenproof wire baking rack on top of the foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Arrange bacon on prepared rack, leaving plenty of space between slices. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes, until bacon is browned and crisp. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting them into sections to fit on the slices of bread.
- In the meantime, take your slices of eggplant and you can either grill them on the grill or cook them using a grill pan (I used this Le Creuset one on my stove). If using a grill pan, heat grill pan on medium high heat and add 1-2 tbsp. olive oil to the pan and cook the both sides of the eggplant until soft and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside. In the same grill pan, sauté the kale with a bit of salt and pepper. Don’t cook them until they’re really wilted, you only need to cook them about a minute total. You just want a nice gentle sear on them from the grill pan and some parts of the kale will be crunchy, but mostly tender.
- Once the bacon has finished cooking, you can start to assemble the panini. On one slice of bread, butter one side of it (the side that it’ll be facing down on the grill pan) then place ¼ cup of cheese on top then layer with the bacon, tomato slices, eggplant, and kale. Place the other half of the sandwich bread on top and butter the top of it. Then gently place onto the same grill pan, butter side down. Using a heavy bottomed pan, place that on top of the sandwich so you’re gently flattening it (yes, that pan will get oily because it’ll be touching a buttered side). You’ll want to cook both sides on medium heat in the grill pan for about 5 minutes each, or until nice grill marks appear and the bread is golden brown. You can also achieve this on a panini press.
- Repeat for the second sandwich. Slice in half and serve warm with a side of potato chips.