Eggplant is a versatile, healthy vegetable that combines so well with so many seasonings. It’s a shame that it so often ends up breaded, fried and loaded with cheese.

But the summer grilling season is the perfect time to take advantage of cooking with eggplant without adding gobs of unhealthy saturated fats.

This grilled eggplant sandwich with olive and sun-dried tomato tapenade makes an excellent vegetarian meal, yet it is substantial and “meaty” enough to satisfy even the most voracious carnivores. Plus, it is bursting with flavor and rich in nutrients and healthy fats.

Grilling slices of eggplant gives them a wonderful, smoky flavor as well as a slightly chewy texture that makes them an ideal substitute for meat in the sandwich.

A tapenade, made by blending savory olives and capers with tangy sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, is spread on slices of crusty bread to provide vibrant Mediterranean flavor.

The tapenade, which can be made several days ahead, also is a wonderful spread for crackers and crostini, or it can be used as a dip for vegetables.

Many markets sell bulk olives, sun-dried tomatoes and sometimes even capers, which can be more economical, as it allows you to buy only what you need for the recipe.

Rinsing olives and capers before using them removes much of the salty brine and gives them a cleaner flavor.

This recipe calls for using olive oil cooking spray to coat the bread before grilling. Cooking sprays, which offer a great way to control oil use, are an invaluable tool for the healthy cook and now are available containing a variety of oils, including canola, olive, grapeseed and sunflower.

Many kitchen gadget retailers also sell refillable oil misters for about $15 dollars. They work well and allow you to use your own selection of oils, which will save you money.

Of course, if you like, you can brush on a small amount of oil instead.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Olive Tapenade

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4


4 ounces pitted kalamata olives, rinsed 4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped (not oil packed) 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 8 slices crusty whole-grain bread 1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound) ends trimmed, thinly sliced crosswise 2 large fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped. Olive oil cooking spray

Directions: To make the tapenade, in a food processor or blender, combine the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Process to a chunky puree.Preheat a gas grill to medium or prepare a charcoal grill. Spread the tapenade evenly over one side of each slice of bread. Set aside. Place the eggplant slices on the grill and cook until golden brown and tender, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. Divide the eggplant slices between four slices of bread, arranging the eggplant over the tapenade. Top the eggplant with tomato slices, then sprinkle with chopped basil. Lightly spray each side of the sandwiches with cooking spray. Grill the sandwiches until the filling is hot and the bread is browned and crisp, turning them carefully with a spatula, 2 to 4 minutes per side.


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