Wednesday, November 15, 2017

For the Love of Eggplant

I love eggplant!

You don't hear that very often--never, actually.

Eggplant is one of those questionable food items that people love or hate. It's in the same category as chicken livers and lima beans. Many people just don't like the texture--that creamy, feel-good taste rolling around on the tongue. I love that texture!

For me, the easiest way to prepare and enjoy eggplant is to cut off the ends, peel the tough skin, slice lengthwise and put under the broiler. I brush each slice with olive oil and sprinkle on a teeny bit of salt. Golden-brown on one side, flip the slices and return to the broiler for golden-brown goodness on the other side. Transfer to a platter and dust with grated Parmesan. That's it! I find that the eggplant tastes sweet when cooked this way. That sweetness goes perfectly with the salty topping of cheese.

In the Mediterranean, eggplant rules! You have Ratatouille in France. There's Moussaka in Greece. There's Eggplant Rollatini in Italy. That's my recipe for today. For a printable recipe, click here.

Despina's Eggplant Rollatini


The Eggplant Preparation:
3 large eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise into ¼ “slices
salt and olive oil
Place on a large baking sheet and drizzle or brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place under a hot broiler. Once the top side has browned, flip to the other side and set under the broiler again to brown that side also.
To Fill Rollatini:
2 c fresh full milk ricotta
1 ½ c shredded Italian cheese blend (usually called six-cheese Italian)
1 c grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic finely chopped
½ t ground oregano
½ t ground basil
1 egg, whisked
few grinds black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.
 To Sprinkle Over the Rollatini:
½ c shredded Italian cheese blend
2 T grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 t finely chopped Italian parsley or fresh basil
Combine everything.
To Assemble:

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of cheese filling onto the thickest part of each eggplant slice. Roll eggplant over the filling and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the top of the Rollatini with most of the cheese-herb mixture, saving a little to finish on the serving dish or individual plates. Bake for 10-15 minutes. We’re looking for the cheese to melt and brown lightly and for the filling to heat and set. Remove pan from the oven and allow to sit for no more than five minutes.
The Sauce:
8 medium tomatoes, cored and skin removed*
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ t salt
1 t sugar

Cut skinned and cored tomatoes into small dice. Heat oil in pan and gently stir in the diced tomatoes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Taste for salt and add a pinch or two more if needed.
To view a video of the sauce cooking, click here.
*To remove the skin from a fresh tomato, cut an x at the bottom and place into a pot of boiling water. After about one minute, remove whole tomato and allow to cool enough to handle. The skin will come right off. This is also the time to cut out the hard core.

To Serve:

You can serve on a large platter with a bed of the sauce, serving everyone at the table, or you can serve directly onto the dinner plates with a little of the sauce beside the Rollatini.