· ½ small red onion, thinly sliced· Big pinch of sugar· Kosher salt· 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, divided· 1 small eggplant (about 8 oz.), sliced ¼" thick· 1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing· Freshly ground black pepper· ½ cup walnuts· ½ cup basil leaves· ¾ cup fresh whole-milk ricotta· ¼ tsp. honey· 1 garlic clove· 4 slices country-style bread, toasted· Green leaf, red leaf, or romaine lettuce leaves (for serving)
Step 1Preheat oven to 350°. Combine red onion, sugar, a big pinch of salt, 2 Tbsp. vinegar, and 2 Tbsp. hot water in a small bowl. Let sit, tossing occasionally, until you’re ready to assemble sandwiches.Step 2Brush eggplant rounds generously with oil on one side. Heat a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high. Working in batches if needed, cook eggplant in skillet, oil side down, in a single layer, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Brush each round with oil, turn over, and cook until other side is browned and eggplant is tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish or wide shallow bowl.Step 3Whisk 1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. oil and remaining 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar in another small bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper. Pour over eggplant, toss gently to coat, and set aside.Step 4Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing halfway through, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then pile on a cutting board along with basil. Add a pinch of salt and finely chop. Transfer to a clean small bowl and add ricotta and honey. Finely grate in garlic and mix well; season with salt and pepper.Step 5Spread ricotta mixture over toast. Top with lettuce leaves, pickled onion, and reserved eggplant.