Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by their book, Almost Meatless.
A few months back when Serious Eats was cooking our book, Almost Meatless, there was lots of chatter about favorite nonmeat ingredients that boast meaty textures and flavors enough to make actual meat an afterthought or just completely unnecessary. If you cook an almost-meatless menu or a seriously meatless menu for most meals, these ingredients come in particularly handy.
One of the most mentioned of these nonmeat favorites was eggplant. Eggplant Parmesan, moussaka, stir fries, casseroles--the suggestions went on and on, and plenty of people mentioned that even meat-loving friends and family fell for the meatiness of meatless eggplant dishes.
In Almost Meatless, we use ingredients we call "Power Players." Smoked foods, including cheeses, leave an especially meatlike mark, likely because of our association (consciously or not) with the smoky flavor of the most beloved of all meat, bacon.
This sandwich uses both marinated eggplant and smoked mozzarella with a little bit of thinly sliced chicken and roasted red peppers. It's easy enough for vegetarians at to omit the chicken on their sandwiches while everyone else assembles a meat lite version.
"Chicken cutlets" are thinly sliced and pounded pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast. You can either buy the cutlets or make your own from full chicken breasts (as described below).
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 medium) or chicken breast cutlets
- 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 red bell pepper
- 8 ounces smoked fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
- 1 baguette cut into 4 pieces or 4 sandwich (hoagie) rolls
If using full chicken breasts (instead or chicken cutlets), slice the meat into 1/2-inch thick strips and then pound each strip thin.
Make a marinade by whisking together the vinegar, oil, garlic, shallot, thyme, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Put the eggplant in a zip top bag or a glass dish. Pour half of the marinade over the eggplant. Put the chicken in a separate bag or dish and pour the other half of the marinade over it. Refrigerate the eggplant and chicken for about an hour.
Heat a grill to medium-high. Put the bell pepper on the hot grill and grill each side until blackened all over. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin from the pepper and slice into 1-inch strips.
Grill the marinated eggplant and chicken until the eggplant is tender and the meat is cooked through.
Arrange slices of smoked mozzarella on each piece of baguette. Top with pieces of hot chicken, eggplant and roasted peppers.