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Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sandwiches

3 large Japanese eggplants (about 12 ounces), each cut lengthwise into thirds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus 8 large fresh basil leaves
4 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices country-style bread
1 large tomato, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 slices (about 4 ounces) Fontina cheese
Fresh basil sprigs

Prepare grill (medium-high heat).

Sprinkle eggplant slices generously with salt. Let stand 5 minutes.
Pat dry.

Combine oil, garlic, and chopped basil in small bowl. Season with
salt and pepper. Brush eggplant slices, bread, and tomato slices
with garlic oil.

Grill eggplant until very tender and slighty charred, turning
frequently, about 7 minutes per side.

Arrange bread and tomatoes on grill during last 3 minutes of
eggplant-grilling time and cook until bread is golden and tomatoes
begin to soften, about 1 minute per side.

Transfer 2 bread slices to plate. Top each remaining bread slice
with eggplant, cheese, tomato slices, and whole basil leaves,
dividing evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Cover grill until
cheese just melts, about 1 minute.

Transfer sandwiches to plate. Top with second bread slices.
Garnish with basil sprigs and serve.


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