All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015
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Eggplant is an odd thing. Some of my favorite dishes are made of eggplant – most markedly my nearly guiltless Indian Baingan Bharta & one of the most popular recipes of this blog’s history, my Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant – both seen just below.
But if it is cut into slices or cubes that are too large & then under-cooked – it can have an icky texture & an icky flavor. Lots of people categorically reject it because the first time they tried it – it was yucky. But it is so versatile & can take on so many flavors so well. I love it & I feel certain I could convert more than a few haters – if I served them the right dish.
THIS dish might just be that dish – assuming they do not also hate mushrooms and/or spinach. The eggplant is very subtle & melts in your mouth. This could be customized a zillion ways. Use feta or goat cheese or smoked mozzarella, lose the mushrooms, use a vodka sauce. There are no rules. Just make a little mash of some flavors you like & roll’em up & bake them – and voila! Yes – there are a few steps but none are difficult & the result is delightful. A tad hard to photograph but really delicious.
Oh! I got this new little garlic press at Bed Bath & Beyond for (I think) under ten dollars & I am kind of in love with it. There are to ways to go with this – sliced or minced (there is a second blade tucked into the base) & all you do is press the garlic through & it creates a little drawer of crushed garlic for you. Se easy & easy to clean & no garlic fingers!
Easy Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach and Mushrooms
Should feed 4
2 medium eggplant – tops removed & sliced 1/4 inch thick (thick makes assembly harder)
8 oz mushrooms – sliced
1 lb fresh spinach (or 8 oz frozen or other spinach – thawed)
3-4 cups (28 0z or so) – marinara (your favorite brand or homemade or the one I post below) or my 5-minute spicy arrabiata
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or Pecorino)
1/2 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1/4 cup parsley – chopped
4 garlic cloves – chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella
Parchment paper (if possible but not imperative)
Garnish: more cheese and/or parsley
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the tops off the eggplant & try to cut them evenly 1/4 inch thick. I used a mandolin. Lay the slices on paper towels & sprinkle with salt. Flip & salt the other side (lightly – so they won’t be overpowered by salt). Salting the eggplant helps release excess moisture & can temper any bitterness. Let them sit for about ten minutes.
Steam the fresh spinach by simply boiling a tiny bit of water to a very large stock pot & adding the spinach. Cover the pan. It should wilt in less than a minute (this works to thaw frozen spinach, too, though it might take longer). Strain into a colander & run cold water on it. Squeeze out as much water as you can & chop the spinach.
In that same pan. wipe out any water & add a TBS olive oil. Heat over high & add the mushroom. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Saute until softened – maybe 5 minutes.
Put the mushrooms, spinach, garlic, parsley, egg & your Parmesan & cottage cheese in a large bowl & blend. Add some S&P. I used the wooden spoon to break the mushrooms down a bit more.
Pat the eggplant slices dry & sprinkle with ground pepper. Place them on a cooking sheet covered in parchment paper (or foil treated with cooking spray – because you do not want these guys sticking). Bake about ten minutes.
Layer some sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan. Spread about 2 TBS of the filling on each of the eggplant slices. If you have extra – spread it around. Carefully roll those guys up & place them in the pan, seam side down.
Layer some more sauce on top & then sprinkle with grated mozzarella. Cover tightly with foil & bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven & uncover & let rest a good 5-10 minutes before cutting in. Serve with more cheese and/or parsley and copious red wine. See? You like eggplant!
Quick Basil Marinara
1 (26-28 oz) container of crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 tsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves – chopped
2 bay leave
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup chopped basil
1-3 tsp crushed red pepper – optional
S&P to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat & saute the garlic for one minute. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the basil) & simmer on med-low for about 15 minutes. Season to taste. Stir in the basil. Remove from heat.