Grilled eggplant with black olive-tomato spread on focaccia


Makes 8 sandwiches (8 servings)

A great party sandwich to charm the most sophisticated palates, it looks impressive served on an attractive large, round platter. For a crowd, cut the focaccia into eight wedges or into thinner pieces for appetizer servings.

For the spread

One 4-ounce can chopped ripe black olives

¼ cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons cream cheese or chèvre cheese

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the sandwich filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Dash of freshly ground pepper

Dash of salt 1 eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut crosswise into about twelve ½-inch-thick slices

12 stemmed large salad spinach leaves

1 large tomato, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

For the bread

One 10-inch sun-dried tomato, onion, or rosemary focaccia, halved horizontally

To make the spread, process all of the ingredients in a food processor until nearly smooth.

To make the filling, prepare an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan for cooking. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Brush one side of the eggplant slices with the mixture. Arrange them, oiled sides down, on a grill rack about 4 to 5 inches from medium-hot coals or on a heated grill pan. Cook for about 4 minutes; brush the tops with the olive oil mixture, then turn. Cook about 4 more minutes, or until the slices are tender and lightly browned. Transfer the grilled eggplant to a plate and allow to cool.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread half of the black olive-tomato mixture on each cut side of the focaccia. Arrange the spinach leaves on the bottom half. Top with a layer of tomato slices and then eggplant slices. Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Close the sandwich and press gently. Use a serrated knife to slice the focaccia into 8 wedges just before serving.

Advance preparation

This spread will keep for up to 5 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. The assembled sandwich can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 hours before serving.