Eggplant Involtini

I think eggplants have got to be the prettiest vegetable around.  Sometimes I buy them at the store just because they are pretty and have no clue what I’m going to do with them.  One day after making just such an impulsive purchase, I decided to try my hand at this Cooks Illustrated recipe for Eggplant Involtini.  The dish is just a beautiful as the vegetable itself and it tastes good too.  Plus it’s vegetarian if you get excited about that kind of thing (I sometimes do, but my husband not so much).

EGGPLANT INVOLTINI

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants (1 1/2 pounds each), peeled
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and peper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces (I just use a slice of wheat bread because that’s what we have at our house).
  • 8 oz (1 C) whole or part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or I’ve used parmesan or fontina)
  • 1/4 C plus 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick planks (you should have 12 planks-I got 14 today).  Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat.
  2. Adjust 1 oven rack to lower-middle position and second rack 8 inches from broiler element.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with vegetable oil spray.  Brush 1 side of eggplant slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Flip eggplant slices and brush other side with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until tender and lightly browned, 30-35 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Using thin spatula, flip each slice over.  Heat broiler.
  4. While eggplant cooks, heat 1 Tbsp oil in 12-inch broiler safe skillet over medium low heat until just shimmering.  Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice.  Then, I usually break up the tomatoes with a flatten wooden spatula to coarsely chop.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Cover and set aside.
  5. Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10-15 pulses.  Combine bread crumbs, ricotta, 1/2 C Pecorino, 1/4 C basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp salt in medium bowl.
  6. With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
  7. Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp basil and serve.
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