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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Eggplant Rollatini

More baking soon, I promise. In the meantime, this is an eggplant rollatini that was particularly successful. One night I was watching Lifestyle Food and two shows featuring American-Italian chefs came on one after the other- one was Lidia Bastianich, the other Giada de Laurentiis - and both of them were featuring Italian-American dishes (e.g. spaghetti with meatballs). One dish that they both made caught my eye; an eggplant rollatini. But it wasn't until I went to visit my nonna soon after, and she served up a baked eggplant parmiagiana that I felt compelled to try it myself.

A quick search on Google actually brought up the recipe from Giada's show, which added to my feeling that I was 'supposed' to make this dish! It's extremely easy, and fairly quick to make. Also, and this will attract a few people, it's quite low fat! The only oil used it some cooking spray when grilling the eggplant slices, and the cheese used is low-fat ricotta and a little parmesan and mozarella. This dish is also a good alternative for those wanting to avoid carbohyrdrates or flour; it's comforting and cheesy/tomatoey like lasagna, but with eggplant instead of pasta sheets. I liked it very much.

The eggplant slices are just grilled and then wrapped around a spoonful of filling. Somehow I ended up with far more filling than I needed, so I just poured the excess around the rolled up slices. I think a reason for this is that I used ricotta in a tub, which can be pretty watery. Since then I've discovered fresh ricotta cut from the wheel and IT TASTES SPECTACULAR! Seriously, I never though something 'bland' like ricotta could have such a beautiful taste; it's milky and refreshing and almost sweet. And at $5 a kilo, it's cheaper than buying the tubs from the supermarket. Give it a try next time you're at a deli or market. I also used a bottle of tomato passata, rather than going to the effort of making my own tomato sauce, which I thought worked well, but home-made tomato sauce will always be better. Oh yes, and I didn't have pinenuts, so I used walnuts, which I dry toasted. Very tasty.

As you can see below, I topped my version with some brown breadcumbs I had malingering in the fridge, and a few nice black olives, and my dish was big enough that I took this to work for lunch several days straight (although I did get a bit sick of it...). Incidentally, that brown goo you see on top of the rocket leaves is not engine grease but a rather delicious salad dressing of mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. Verrry nice!
Read on for the recipe:

Eggplant Rollatini

From 'Everyday Italian', Giada de Laurentiis
(I halved this recipe to create the amount in the photo above, which would be generous for 3-4 people)

3 medium-sized eggplants (about 1.8 kilos total)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Can vegetable spray
900g ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (115g) shredded mozzarella
8 tablespoons (115 g) grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons (45g)toasted pine nuts
20 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 cups fresh tomato sauce (I used a bottle of passata)

Preheat the grill pan and preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
Place a rack over a large baking sheet. Cut the 2 ends off the eggplant. Cut the eggplants lengthwise, into 1/2-inch thick slices.
Spray hot grill pan liberally with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices from the grill pan and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until lightly scrambled. Mix the ricotta in with the egg. Add mozzarella, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts and gently combine. Fold in basil just to combine. Do not overmix.
Place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on 1 end of the eggplant and roll up tightly. Place the eggplant rollatini into a greased (with olive oil) 33 by 22-cm baking dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining eggplant.
Evenly distribute the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 5 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes. When cooked, drizzle the top with extra-virgin olive oil.


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