Italian Grilled Cheese

This summer has been pretty hot. I don’t like temperatures that start with a ’9′, and three-digitis? #forgetaboutit

I’ve been trying to limit my oven use for dinner planning when it gets that hot. I’ve also been OBSESSED with using stuff up. Pantry items and freezer finds alike have been gracing my plates. I had some breaded eggplant hanging around (circa Eggplant Parm Pizza) and thought tucking those buggers into grilled cheese could be fun.
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Italian Inspired Grilled Cheese (for 2)

Ingredients:

4 slices of bread
3 tbs pesto (or marinara or tapanade or alfredo)
2-3 slices American cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
6 pieces of breaded eggplant (substitutions below)
olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Bake the eggplant in a flat layer for about 10-minutes or until heated through, flipping once (or pan fry or pop in a toaster oven)
Reduce heat to 250-degrees if both sandwiches don’t fit in the skillet at the same time.
Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat.
Spread pesto onto one slice of bread for each sandwich (or both pieces of both sandwich if you LOVE pesto).
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Layer American cheese, then eggplant, then mozzarella onto each sandwich.
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Drizzle olive oil into the pan and put sandwiches in.
Cook a few minutes, until the crispness of your preference, before gently flipping over.
Cook on the 2nd side a few minutes and serve immediately (or keep 1st sandwich warm in the oven until the 2nd sandwich is ready.

I loved this. Mr. J did too. I didn’t want the pesto to overtake all the flavors, but I could have upped it to both sides. I loved the marinara for dipping. The eggplant had a perfect crispness even surrounded by cheese.

Now, for the cheese. Don’t judge the American cheese in there. Other cheeses (more fancy, more authentic, more worldly cheeses) will not melt as perfectly as American cheese. I may have snuck a little sprinkle of Parmesan in there too. Maybe.
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The eggplant is an easy thing I grab at Trader Joe’s and keep in the freezer. It makes for a super easy & quick Eggplant Parmesan or sub, or pizza. No eggplant? No problem! Another veggie would be good too, or bread your own! I like the breaded eggplant for the crunch, so the sandwich doesn’t get too soggy, but maybe grilled zucchini/eggplant/summer squash is right for you! Chop up some artichokes or roasted red peppers or whatever you have!

This is kind of like lazy-man’s pizza or pizza-leftovers in a hurry. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

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