Sunday, August 8, 2010

White Eggplant Rollatini

Today I spent the afternoon at my friend Jamie's house, where we finally (after talking about and planning it for months) cooked together. It seems the two of us often talk about food and cooking, giving advice on what to make for dinner, or sharing our success stories (and failures) in the kitchen. We've tried to bake together before, when her daughter Lilly was younger, strapped into a baby carrier* Jamie was wearing. Baking while toting around a baby: apparently not so easy. We ended up switching from baking to arts and crafts projects on that occasion, which was only slightly easier, at least it didn't involve knives or a hot oven.

* I think it is worth noting here that in trying to find a more clear and succinct way to describe the across the chest style baby backpack I was informed by a visiting friend of one of my roommates that the name for a Native American baby carrier is a papoose. A google search informed me that "papoose" is also a name for this guy. Yeah. I was entertained.

Today, we had a mission. Make something that would use the white eggplant in her fridge, and some of the herbs growing so prolifically in her herb garden, that didn't require a trip to the grocery store for additional ingredients. After chatting for quite awhile about different eggplant recipes, and pouring through a number of cookbooks, we decided to make Eggplant Rollatini.

White eggplant is often smaller, and considered to be more tender and creamier than its purple counterparts. The way we prepared this, to be honest I couldn't tell the difference, but I can tell you: the final outcome was GOOD. And that is what mattered. This can absolutely be made with traditional purple eggplant, but the use of white eggplant made for a nice visual change from the usual and expected, which I have to admit I enjoyed. The fresh spinach we added is also not traditional in this dish, but we both thought it was a lovely addition, and the pop of green color was great.

We first dipped the sliced eggplant in a wash of egg and a splash of milk, then into herbed panko breading.

We pan-fried the breaded slices, and meanwhile prepared the filling, made up of Ricotta, Parmesan, finely minced garlic, and basil. Jamie has a lovely herb garden we picked the basil from right before it went into the dish.
Can't you just smell it? I love fresh basil. Basil says summer, and it says Italy. And fresh basil growing on a sunny porch, yearning to be picked, is just about one of the best things to inspire an afternoon of Italian cooking.

We also used the excess eggplant we had by chopping it into a tiny dice, cooking it in a bit of oil, and adding it (along with yet some more basil from the garden) to a jar of basic tomato sauce.

Next came the fun part.  We lined each slice of eggplant with a few leaves of spinach, added about a tablespoon of filling, and rolled, securing them each with a toothpick.

A sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, and the dish went into the oven for a bit, allowing us a bit of playtime (a happy relief for our cooking helper, who had been very good the entire time, sitting in her high chair and snacking on tomatoes and cheese while we worked).
Who could say no to that face? Come on, really?

The recipe:

Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach
for the eggplant:
3 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into quarter inch or slightly thicker slices
1 egg and a splash of milk to dip
1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Italian dried herbs such as oregano, parsley and basil, plus salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking

For the filling:
1 3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped or chiffonaded fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove minced garlic

For the sauce:
1 jar of basic tomato sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped of chiffonaded fresh basil
1 cup (or however much is left) diced eggplant
1 clove minced garlic

Additional ingredients:
1/4 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
additional sprigs of fresh basil to garnish
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach

1.Dip the eggplant slices in egg and then coat with herbed bread crumbs.
2. Pan fry in light oil until breading is brown and crispy. set aside.
3. Heat the sauce and additional ingredients over low heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine, and the diced eggplant to soften.
4. Combine the filling ingredients
5. Assemble the eggplant rolls, lining each fried eggplant slice with spinach, a tablespoon of ricotta filling, and then rolling, secure with a tooth pick.
6. Place the eggplant rolls in an oven safe dish over a thin layer of the tomato sauce from step 3.
7. sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top of the dish, bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
8. Try to remember to save some for dinner, even if you are tempted to eat it all during your initial "taste test" for that food blog you write. Take lots of pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Looks awesome! One of the reasons to prefer the Japanese eggplants, white or purple, is that their smaller size is supposed to mean they are less bitter. The larger eggplants seem to need to be salted and drained, to get the bitterness out.

    These look gorgeous! I'd love to have tried it!