Friday, August 10, 2012

Eggplant Rollatini/Lasagna

Does eggplant leave a bad taste in your mouth? Do you shy away from preparing it because you feel it's slightly bitter? Well, I am here to give you the good news. This lovely veggie is now bred to be milder so you should give it a second chance!

And, it turns out, eggplant is one of the best sources of the antioxidant nasunin, which helps protect the fatty acids essential to healthy brain function.  It's only 20 calories per cup with 3 grams of fiber, vitamins A, B, C, Folate, and minerals like potassium and magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.  Talk about a well rounded vegetable!

Are you sold now? Well, you better be, because if you are a CSA member, chances are you have more than you know what to do with.  And you can't just give it away! Try something new today.

I love lasagna, and I love eggplant parm.  However, both can be sort of heavy on the waistline.  I created my version of an eggplant rollatini and/or lasagna. This is a great low carb recipe too for those who are counting carbs or doing a Paleo type diet. And it's gluten free! You use the same exact ingredients for both recipes  but how you lay it out in the end is up to you. You'll see if you keep on scrolling. This recipe makes two 9X13 pans of filling, gooey, saucy eggplant.

Eggplant Rollatini (or Eggplant Lasagna)

2 medium to large sized eggplants (I don't peel mine but you can if you don't like the skin)
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese (feel free to try fat free, part skim, whatever floats your boat)
8 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed of excess water
1 egg
onion powder
small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
dried oregano
garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese (plus more for sprinkling later on)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for sprinkling later on
5-6 baby Bella or button mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth then chopped small
1/4 cup chopped onion
olive oil
4 cups or more of your favorite marinara sauce/gravy. Click here for a recipe which uses canned tomatoes or click here for one using garden tomatoes.

1. Slice the eggplant the long way into 1/8"  slices using a long serrated knife.

When you get close to the end, lay it down and slice horizontally

Layer it between paper towels and then top it off with another dish and then my Mom's trick, a heavy kettle. This helps to squeeze out some of the moisture. Let this sit for about 20 minutes. (Yes, that is a Krispy Kreme box in background)
 2. Spray hot grill pan liberally with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices from the grill pan and allow to cool. (If you don't have a grill pan, you can bake in the oven at 350 degrees, turning once). If using grill pan, be sure to spray the pan in between batches.  Set the cooked eggplant aside on a dish to cool.

3. While cooking the eggplant, heat a small fry pan with a few tsp of olive oil. Saute the chopped onion until soft and then add mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1 clove of crushed garlic. Cook 1 minute more and remove from heat. Let cool.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, pour in the ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 egg, the mozzarella, grated parm, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, a few shakes of onion powder, 1 tsp oregano. Stir to combine well. Add the onion/mushroom mixture after it's cooled off and combine well.

5. Next, you decide if you want roll ups or lasagna, or both (which is what I did).
 If rolling up, take a heaping tsp of ricotta mixture and place it about an inch onto the slice. Then roll it up and place it with seam side down in a sauced 9X13 inch pan.

Spoon your sauce over all of the roll ups. Then sprinkle more shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. You can remove the foil  halfway through.

If you are doing this like a lasagna, just lay the cooked eggplant slices over the sauced pan. Then spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the slices, more sauce and cheese, then more eggplant, more ricotta, cheese sauce, then end with eggplant slices. Cover with sauce and more cheese.  Same temp and time as above.

Here are the lovely twins! You decide which version you like better. I sprinkled mine with my neighbor's fresh basil. Pretty nice, huh?

1. Make your sauce/gravy ahead of time, even a few days ahead is fine.
2. Clean up as you go
3. Make the ricotta mixture a day ahead and keep it covered in the fridge until ready to use.
4. Feel free to mix it up with different veggies in your ricotta mixture. You can try sauteing grated carrots, shredded zucchini (squeezed well), shallots, or chopped pancetta (which I realize is not a veggie but it's nice to fantasize!)
5. Enjoy the leftovers! This tastes even better the next day.

For more easy eggplant recipes, click here for Rachael Ray's great ideas.

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