I worked part time in a deli/ caterer during my masters for almost a year. Those days were crazy busy with juggling classes, assignments, on-campus job and part-timing at the deli; but it was so much fun to bounce around the campus, care-free and jolly.
So now you ask, what has all this to do with the eggplant spread? Ok.. Ok.. I’m getting to it; Arlene, the lovely owner used to make this delicious eggplant spread quite often for sandwiches and wraps. This spread was savory-sweet-tangy and works wonderfully as a spread or a dip. Being a sucker for anything with eggplant, I kick myself for not asking Arlene for the recipe, but this is my guesstimated recipe that I came up with, I think its pretty close to the original.
Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan; add onions and sauté until they start turning translucent, about 7-8 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for another 1 minute.
Add chopped eggplant, red pepper, salt and red pepper flakes; cover and cook on medium flame until the eggplants are completely cooked, about 10-12 minutes.
Add tomato puree, honey & oregano at this stage; cover and cook again for 5 minutes.
Adjust the seasonings; uncover and cook to make the mixture thicker and to make all that extra water evaporate.
I used the spread to make a Panini. All you need is crusty bread, some sliced cheese (I used provolone cheese) and 2-3 tbsps of eggplant spread. Half the bread and remove the inside from one of the half (snack on the crumbs as you make the sandwich :-D). Spoon in the spread in the cavity that you created; put the cheese slices on the other half. Lightly spray a grill pan with cooking spray, put the sandwich and place a brick or a heavy cast-iron skillet on top. Cook till grill marks form, about 5 minutes; flip and repeat.