Can we just talk about September in Minnesota? It’s arguably the most beautiful month of the year here, with gorgeous temps and low humidity. Though changing leaves speak to us of fall, it’s still feels a lot like summer, and the farmers market tables are this cornucocupia of both seasons.
People begin to dress in layers, little pumpkins taking the place of their pupils for a few weeks. And that makes sense. I’ve been there. But this year, I’m clinging to summer with death-grip knuckles. Perhaps it’s because school started here, and the high schoolers are back to walking down our sidewalk, yelling expletives as though they want me to have to explain to my two-year-old what the F word means. Perhaps it’s the fact that today is not slated to be more than 68 degrees outside, with a dreary gray sky and rain to boot. But winter, you guys. It’s coming. And I’m kind of dreading it.
For this year there will be not one but two babies to bundle up. Four little baby thumbs to try to jam into poorly designed mittens. Four resistant little feet to wrestle boots onto. I mean, it currently takes us approximately eighty-five minutes to leave the house, and more often than not, both my children are barefoot.
So while my Instagram feeds blows up with the beginnings of pumpkin desserts, and the Interwebs begins to fill with autumn soups and stews, we will grill. We will grill all of the summer things because there are seven months of winter coming soon enough. So let’s just let it be summer for just a little bit longer.
Onto eggplants. They’re so freaking pretty that I always end up buying a few rounds at the farmers market, and this year, they’ve showed up in our Uproot Farm CSA box. And so we burger.
This recipe is a mashup of one from Simply in Season and this one from The Kitchn. They key to this recipe is to thinly slice everything. Thin rounds of eggplant and flattened pieces of red bell pepper are oiled, seasoned, and grilled. Once smoky and slighly charred, the eggplant slices are layered with cheese, of course, that grilled pepper, and thinly sliced tomato because again..it’s still summer. The layers act like a little lasagna burger…which I guess is a thing. On top of all of that we add some lettuce or kale for crunch, and then we top it with pesto.
I’m allergic to fresh basil, so this isn’t a basil pesto, though that would be fabulous! This is a pesto made of cilantro, parsley, and mint – a triple threat of freshness. Finally, this needs to be served on a grilled and garlicky bun. I think my only hangup with eggplant is texture, so a little crunch on the bun adds a lot of love to this sandwich.
There are technically twenty more days until the first day of fall. So don’t let that grill go dormant just yet!
Much of the produce provided by our partnership with Uproot Farm.
For the Pesto:
1 cup cilantro
1 cup parsley
1/2 cup mint
3 tablespoons nuts (pistachios, walnuts, pecans will all work here)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup onion, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
zest from whole lemon
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
dash red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
For the Burgers:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1 or 2 large eggplants, cut into thin 1/4-inch slices*
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded, halved
8 slices gouda or provolone cheese
1 large slicing tomato, cut into thin slices
1 small onion, thinly sliced into rounds
4 pieces lettuce or kale
4 hamburger buns
2 additional tablespoons olive oil
Make the Pesto:
Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. Pulse several times until well combined. Drizzle in olive oil while processor is on until thoroughly mixed. Salt & pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to serve. (Can be made ahead and kept in refrigerator though the color might dull a bit; allow to come to room temperature before serving so olive oil unsolidifies.)
Make the Burgers:
Heat grill to medium**. Mix together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic and a few grinds & pepper. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices and pepper halves with that mixture. Grill the eggplant slices for about 5 minutes total until slightly charred and tender, turning once, brushing with any remaining mixture. Remove from grill. Grill the pepper halves for about 8 minutes total until tender, charred, and fragrant. Remove from grill and set aside.
Keep the grill hot!
Create burgers by layering the following slices: eggplant, tomato, cheese, eggplant, onion, cheese, eggplant. Or do whatever combination you want; my only firm suggestion is to put a piece of cheese within each layer to act as glue. Once all stacks are assembled, brush the insides of your buns with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Grill eggplant stacks and buns (cut side down) for about 2 additional minutes until cheese is melty and bread is toasted.
To serve, place eggplant stacks on toasted bun, and top with roasted peppers, lettuce, and pesto.
*Any "leftover" grilled eggplant can be easily thrown into pastas or salads.
**You can also broil the eggplant and pepper slices, as well as the assembled stacks & buns.
P.S. A suggestion was made by Eric's brother David that bacon would be amazing on this, and we couldn't disagree though that kind of totally kills the health/vegetarian qualities to this sandwich. But a little crispy bacon on top of this sandwich would knock. it. out. of. the. park.