I’ve had a little bit of an urge for the aubergine lately, an itch that I had to scratch. As my cupboard was bare–I mean, we really cleared out the fridge and I was looking at a little bit of hummus, milk for the coffee and some leftover spaghetti sauce–we had to fully restock at the store which meant dinner could be any little thing our hearts desired.
But I had that leftover spaghetti sauce. And I haaaaaaaate when spaghetti sauce goes to waste, because that means I’m not eating enough spaghetti or things like it. I’m a fool for my own sauce; there, I’ve said it. Sauce was one of the first things my mother taught me how to make, and I used to have “sauce duty” certain days of the week. Wednesdays, if I remember correctly, and then whenever the need prevailed on other days. You know, as a chore. Come home from school, get dinner going, start cooking a giant vat of sauce because I come from a big family and that? Was how we rolled. And so, years of tinkering, and playing, and experimenting, and I have a sauce I am proud to call my own. It is vegetarian; long before I started living with a vegetarian, I realized I preferred vegetarian sauces, since meat sauces are delicious, but tend to be so heavy. It is rich and complex, a little sweet/sour/spicy, and there are times I wake up demanding we have spaghetti for dinner so I can make some sauce. I haven’t eaten the jarred stuff in years.
Do you see why I hate seeing it go to waste? Some might say this is an OCD sort of thing and to that I say, if you think I’m OCD then I would like to introduce you to my sock drawer. It’s like a crime scene in there. Anyway.
So, I have the aforementioned leftovers, and I have a boyfriend who makes killer eggplant. Not, you know, deadly or poisony eggplant or anything, just really effing good. What’s a girl to do?
Rollatini. That’s what. What’s not to love about rollatini? Killer, non-poisony eggplant wrapped around cheese and herbs, and baked in sauce? I’m not much of a praying woman, but this sounds like a little bit of Heaven to me.
I used this recipe as the basis from which I worked but of course, modified. Wonderful eggplant-makin’ boyfriend coats his eggplant in whole wheat flour and wheatgerm instead of white flour and bread crumbs, and it gets slightly sweet and a little bit nutty and super hearty. And we bake it instead of frying it, so it punches up the nutritional value even more than the whole wheat/wheat germ combo does, because eggplant is nature’s sponge and will absorb all the grease you want to fry it in.
That’s the main deviation from this recipe. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s the biggie.
Anyway, getting to it. First: slice your two, medium-sized eggplant. You want to slice them lengthwise and create long paddles in which to place your delicious cheese filling.
And then, flour-egg-wheatgerm (or bread crumbs, if you prefer) so they look like this:
And put them on a baking sheet you’ve coated in cooking spray. (Or, of course, you can fry them, a minute or two for each side of each eggplant). Put them in an oven you’ve already heated to 350, turn them once after about ten minutes and check them for doneness at twenty. They’re done when they’re bendy and pliant.
Meanwhile, make your filling. Again, I stuck pretty closely to the recipe, though I used fresh basil and parsley (since I had them, and highly recommend) and put in some pepper flakes. I also couldn’t resist a shot of fresh nutmeg on the spinach. But I think that’s all I did that deviates… 🙂 Really! I’m not being coy.
Wrong sort of coy. Moving on.
Filling. Here you go:
I have a picture of the filling with the defrosted spinach sitting on it but frankly, it looked like Swamp Thing had his way with my cheese…it’s pretty unappealing. It looks better when the spinach is all mixed in but that? Was not the picture I took.
And now, it becomes a matter of simple assembly. First, cheese up your eggplants, about two tablespoons per paddle.
Roll ’em up and put them into a 9×13 baking tray, that you’ve already given a light coating of olive oil.
And then, make things happen with sauce and more cheese for the top. Oh, one more thing! The recipe calls for two cups of cheese for the topping, but I didn’t use nearly that much; maybe half. And I also grated a little romano on it, because I love its salty bite. But. Do what you’d like, since it’s your food and that’s the fun of cooking.
Put them back in the oven you never turned off and bake for about twenty-five minutes. If they’re not brown, boost the heat and broil them for five, or however long it takes you to make them turn golden and delicious. When they’re out, give them a fresh shot of parsley at the end; you want them to look like this:
And if you can’t enjoy that…I don’t know what else to do. I’ve done my best.