Until now, I’ve thought that bad days were basically a really solid excuse to wine and whine after work, perhaps while eating copious amounts of mac and cheese, which is totally okay if it’s homemade, because somehow the craft (not Kraft, thanks very much) of the meal cancels out the calories.
I’m thinking now that I’ve been misguided, and that all those gooey, amazing photos are not necessarily what guides my evening stomach, much less, the emotional part of me that needs some handling after a long day.
Friends, the magical fix-it food is the sandwich.
Perhaps not any sandwich, because surely the five-minute prep of a summer tomato sandwich is not enough to counteract the woes of the workday. This sandwich is going to have to be a labor of love. But worth it, I promise. In fact, each step is a little more comforting than the last, and by the time the whole lot is pressed and ready to eat, well, you’re basically healed already.
So, to start, sweat the eggplant. Do this by salting the half-inch slices liberally, and then topping with a plate, which is topped with a watermelon (or whatever large weight you have around—I’m sure a few cans of beans or other flotsam will be just fine). Give it as much time as you have, but preferably at least half an hour, or however long it takes you to peruse the Internet, wondering which new riding boots you might buy this fall. You can also use this time to prep the other ingredients.
Which are: half a cucumber, one green pepper (seeds and ribs removed), two tomatoes, four or five kalamata olives, not quite a quarter cup of onions, goat cheese, three large cloves of garlic, basil, and sauce.
So, while the eggplants are sweating, chop and then saute the garlic, onions, green pepper and cucumber. I left the garlic in really big slices, which was not a mistake. Slice the tomatoes, olives, and basil, but leave them raw.
The sauce I used was about two tablespoons of greek yogurt, around a teaspoon of lemon juice, at least a tablespoon of capers, and salt and pepper. Just whisk these ingredients together and let them sit until you’re ready. Refrigerate if you must.
Saute the eggplant. Just heat some olive oil and then plop the eggplant down, peppering it as needed. Put the lid on it and let it cook until it’s soft. At the very end, splash in some balsamic vinegar, just for good measure.
(Look at the color change on the eggplant on the left—you can tell before it gets brown that it’s cooking through, because it moves from that bright purple color to first a more mellow lavender, and then brown.)
Once the other vegetables are cooked, it’s time for assembly. I made two large-ish sandwiches with the ingredients above, though I basically eyeballed the whole thing. It’s a sandwich. Just make it how you like.
Cut four slices of country bread and rub each slice of bread with a cut clove of garlic. Then lightly brush each side of each piece with olive oil. Toast until golden brown.
To assemble, put the greek yogurt and caper sauce on one side of the bread and then top it with a full layer of basil. For the other side, layer the sauteed eggplant, the peppers mixture, fresh tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, and goat cheese. Put the lid on—the one that only has caper sauce and basil on it.
(I ended up skipping the lettuce pictured here. Because, really, are you kidding me?)
Stack the two sandwiches on a plate. Put another plate on top of them, and then put the dutch oven, or a small child, or your cat, or another heavy object on the big plate. Press the sandwiches until you can’t possibly wait any longer, which, depending on the amount of chips and salsa you have, or wine you’ve already consumed before dinner, could be as short as ten minutes or as long as one hour. Up to you, but I’d say at least twenty minutes, unless there’s good Malbec, and then let’s say, forty minutes.
Just some notes—this sandwich could be easily veganized by subbing out some sort of vegenaise, vegan sour cream, or vegan yogurt for the greek yogurt, and obviously, you could just lay off the cheese. I had some spicy pepperoncini that I was planning on adding in here, but I left those in the fridge at work, so, next time.
When everything has been assembled and pressed to your desire, eat your hearty sandwich on the porch, drink your wine, and then later, why don’t you just relax, huh? Sit with your girlfriends and maybe soak your feet a bit. Talk about intimate things and enjoy the safe space. Eat the other half of your sandwich after the others have gone to bed. Breathe deeply, and have a good night.
(You should know that I got the inspiration from this recipe, and would have followed it to a T except for the excess of eggplants in my daily life, thanks to the CSA (CSA ingredients included basil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) (/promo). The bread came from Justine’s workplace, the cucumbers were farmer’s market leftovers, and everything else was just regular staples from around the homestead.)