Thai Eggplant Sandwich

Thai Eggplant Sandwich

`Street food was invented in Asia, I'm certain of it,' writes Sheila Lukins in her ``All Around the World Cookbook.'' She continues: `It's virtually impossible to walk two blocks without coming across a small portable stall with a vendor tending a bubbling pan of hot oil, ladling out deep-fried squid, mysterious tantalizing meats, dumplings, or some other fragrant morsels. Office workers in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore often take their lunch on the run at one of these ubiquitous dispensers of hot and cold concoctions. Hot chestnuts, rice cakes, pancakes, skewered baby cuttlefish, smelly deep-fried bean curd, corn on the cob, sticky rice, fish balls, and dozens of other delectable edibles sizzle and simmer on street corners ready to feed the bustling populace.'

She introduces her Thai Eggplant Sandwich recipe with this explanation: `The sweetness in Thai cooking usually comes from brown sugar, but I couldn't resist using golden raisins instead in the roasted eggplant and basil base of this sandwich. Creamy chevre adds tang and broiled ripe tomatoes, a lightly caramelized flavor.'

1 large eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

9 tablespoons (about 9 ounces) mild chevre, such as Montrachet

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 thick slices peasant bread, lightly toasted

18 fresh large basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons slivered, for garnish

6 large slices ripe tomato

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the egglant spread, pierce the eggplant in several places with the tines of a fork. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Unwrap the eggplant, let cool slightly, and cut it in half. Scoop the cooked pulp onto a cutting board. Coarsely chop the eggplant and place it in a mixing bowl. Add the basil leaves, lemon zest, oil, and raisins; combine well. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the chevre with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler.

Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the eggplant spread evenly atop the slices of lightly toasted bread. Cover evenly with the whole basil leaves. Spread the chevre mixture over the basil and top each sandwich with a tomato slice. Brush the tomatoes with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source until the tomato just starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the slivered basil and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

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