Grilled Eggplant and Mozzarella Hero with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto
For tomato sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the garlic, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the sea salt and the crushed red pepper. Process or blend until smooth.Advertisement
Transfer tomato mixture to a saucepan. Bring to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped basil and the Parmesan. Remove from heat; set aside.
For eggplant: Brush the eggplant slices with the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and the black pepper.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Arrange eggplant on a well-oiled grill rack, cover the grill and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until eggplant is just tender, turning once. Remove from grill. If desired, grill the rolls, cut sides down, for 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted. (Eggplant can also be roasted on a sheet pan in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking.)
To assemble sandwiches: Spread 1 tablespoon Basil Pesto on the roll bottoms. Top with some mizuna, eggplant, a bit of tomato sauce, the mozzarella and more mizuna. Spread additional tomato sauce on roll tops before topping sandwiches. Cut in half to serve.
Fill a small bowl halfway with ice water; set aside. Plunge 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves into a saucepan of simmering water. Using tongs, immediately transfer basil to ice bath, then to towels; pat dry. (This step helps basil retain its bright color.) In a food processor, combine the basil, 1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping sides as needed. With motor running, slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Process until smooth. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Process briefly. (You can add up to 1/4 cup more olive oil to reach desired consistency.) Chill, covered, up to 3 days, or freeze up to 6 months.
Mizuna is a mild, slightly peppery Asian green with serrated edges. Cara Mangini likes its frilly look and spicy flavor, but arugula is a great substitute.