All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018
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This is a really easy, 5-minute pasta sauce. It is fairly spicy so cut back on the crushed red pepper if you are sensitive to heat. Canned tomatoes are not desirable – even BAD – (read why you should avoid canned tomatoes & seven other foods HERE) – but they are sometimes the only affordable (and super convenient) option. .
Fresh herbs will also improve this sauce measurably but – in a pinch – they are absolutely not REQUIRED to make this sauce tasty.
Five (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce
Garlic to taste
1 tsp each of crushed red pepper, oregano, pepper & sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh thyme (optional)
Fresh basil – chopped (optional)
Heat the olive oil. I sautéed maybe 10 tiny garlic cloves whole. If giant chunks of garlic offend you or yours, you might want to crush them a bit with the side of a knife or press them through a garlic press or chop them fine. Just do not burn the garlic and burning is easier – the smaller you chop the cloves. With whole cloves – I sautéed a minute before adding the spices. If you chopped the garlic – add it and the spices at once.After about a minute of both the garlic and all other spices sautéing – add the tomato sauce. Be careful as it will sputter and splatter you when it hits the hot oil.
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 spinach. The eggplant is very subtle & melts in your mouth. This could be customized a zillion ways. 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
Should feed 4
2 medium eggplant – tops removed & sliced 1/4 inch thick (thick makes assembly harder)
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
Handful vegan Parmesan
1/2 cup vegan ricotta
1/4 cup parsley – chopped
4 oz vegan mozzarella
More vegan mozzarella to melt on top – to taste
Parchment paper (if possible but not imperative)
Garnish: more cheese and/or parsley and/or basil
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.
Put the spinach, parsley, & your Parmesan & ricotta & mozzarella cheese in a large bowl & blend. Add some S&P.
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 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/or basil and copious red wine. See? You like eggplant!