Chef’s Corner: Rolling out a vegetarian dish
In Italy this dish is known as “Involtini Di Melanzane.”
Involtini means little bundles and it is a variation of another popular entree called “braciola.” The type of ingredients used will vary from region to region, though the basic recipe remains the same. It contains slices of eggplant that are cut and then breaded. A mixture of ricotta and another cheese is spread over the slices. The eggplant slices are then rolled up and baked in an oven.
I recommend salting the eggplant before cooking, then rinse it off because it helps get rid of any bitterness. Also another reason to salt the eggplant is to help with the amount of oil it soaks up during cooking. The eggplant can absorb a great deal of oil because eggplant is full of tiny air pockets, like a sponge. When you slice eggplant and salt it before cooking, the salt draws out the moisture and helps collapse the air pockets, so it takes on a lot less oil. It is truly worth doing it.
In this recipe, I choose to grill the slices of the eggplant.
Rollatinide Melanze Gratinati
3 medium-sized eggplant
salt and pepper
1 can vegetable spray
2 lb. ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
8 tablespoons grated parmesan
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
20 basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 quarts fresh tomato sauce
Preheat the grill pan and the oven to 375 degrees F. Place a rack over a large baking sheet. Cut the two ends off the eggplant and slice lengthwise, into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange eggplant slices on the grill rack. Sprinkle with salt to help remove excess moisture and any bitterness from the eggplant. Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Rinse off the salt from the eggplant and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray hot grill pan with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about four minutes per side. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, mix the beaten egg, ricotta, mozzarella, three tablespoon of parmesan, toasted pine nut, basil and combine gently. Place a tablespoon of cheese mixture on one end of the eggplant and roll up tightly. Place the eggplant rollatini into a greased 13×9 inch baking dish. Continue with the remaining eggplant.
Evenly distribute the tomato sauce on top off the eggplant rolattini. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining five tablespoons parmesan and bake for 15 minutes. When cooked, drizzle the top with olive oil and serve. This makes a delicious vegetarian entre. Enjoy!
Recipe is courtesy of Chef Aziz of Traditions on the Beach, 3111 West Gulf Drive in the historic Island Inn. For more information or to make a reservation call 239.472.4559 or visit www.TraditionsOnTheBeach.com.