Eggplants are one of those ingredients that I don't use very often. It's not that I don't like them but they can have a texture that isn't appetising to some *cough* Paalo *cough*.
I do have an interest in finding new ways to use eggplants and I was particularly drawn to this recipe for Eggplant Involtini - it comes from one of the latest acquisitions "Where the Heart is" by Karen Martini. Paalo described it as cannelloni with the eggplant in the role of pasta tubes. Eggplant slices are filled with ricotta and mozzarella, rolled and then baked in a tomato based sauce. Exceptionally simple but certainly will have even the most avowed eggplant nay-sayers asking for seconds.
2 large eggplants
75g plain flour
olive oil, for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons currants, soaked in red-wine vinegar for 5 minutes, then drained
40g grated parmesan
200g mozzarella, cut into 1cm thick sticks
extra virgin olive oil
500ml tomato passata
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
50g pine nuts
small piece of day-old bread or 3 tablespoons chunky fresh breadcrumbs
Peel the eggplants then cut lengthways into 1cm thick slices - that may seem too thick to roll but they will wilt and become pliable during the first cooking.
Lightly coat these eggplant slices in the flour then briefly beat two eggs with 1 tablespoon of water.
In a large fry pan, heat up some olive oil. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg and place in the fry pan. Over a medium heat, cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden - then drain on kitchen paper.
You'll need to do this in batches and only dip them into the egg when you are ready to cook them.
To make the filling:
Mix ricotta with 1 egg then season with salt and pepper. Add the drained currants and half the grated parmesan.
To make the Involtini:
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling onto the eggplant slice, then top with a stick of mozzarella before rolling tightly.
To make the topping:
Place the parsley, pine nuts and bread into a small bowl of a processor. Process until roughly chopped.
Assemble the dish:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/320°F.
Brush the base of a large ovenproof dish with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil before pouring in 250mls of tomato passata.
Place the eggplant rolls on the passata with the join side down so they don't unroll during cooking. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and the remaining passata. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, followed by the topping.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the topping is crunchy.
A recipe to be repeated - an excellent combination of flavours and the currants are a winning component of this dish. A fine companion to roasted meats or to serve as a starter.