Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recipe - Eggplant "Cannelloni"

So ... maybe you made a New Year's resolution to eat less meat (a great way to be healthier and sustainable-er). Maybe you have always been a vegetarian. Or maybe you're just looking to try something new.

Well, here is the recipe for you!

Cannelloni (the name means "large reeds", which is quite evocative) is a sheet of pasta rolled around something yummy - usually cheese. However, many pastas contain ingredient lists a mile long, so those of us who try to stick to Michael Pollan's "eat food" rule can find them troublesome. That's why this recipe is so great: instead of pasta, you use eggplant as the wrapper for your filling. I really enjoy the creamy consistency of eggplant; the key is to make sure it is completely cooked. Raw eggplant kind of tastes like a chewy mud pie.

I've adapted a few recipes to make this one, and you should feel free to adapt this one yourself. Once you get down the process of cooking the eggplant, you could fill it with many different things.

Eggplant Cannelloni

For the "cannelloni":

You'll need:
2 large eggplants
Olive oil, butter or cooking spray
A cookie tray or jelly roll pan

Pre-heat the broiler.

Chop off the ends of the eggplants, peel them, and cut each one, length-wise, into four (or more) slices of 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. (There's a picture below if you'd like to see what the slices look like)

Prep your pan by rubbing it with olive oil or butter, or spraying with non-stick spray.

Place the eggplant slices on the prepared pan and cook them under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until they are a lovely golden brown.

For the filling:

You'll need:
1 15 oz. package of ricotta, part-skim ricotta, or fat-free ricotta cheese
Your favorite veggies, diced (i.e., chopped really finely). I used one scallion, 1/4 of a red onion, a big handful of spinach, and a few stalks of parsley. (I think kalamata olives, sun-dried tomato, and basil would also be a winner - with goat cheese! Or, if you are fancy, some sort of middle-Eastern inspired something with yogurt and mint ... really, the possibilities are endless. I would not, however, try chocolate chips and raisins. That just wouldn't go with eggplant.)
Salt and pepper
Other spices that you like

Saute any onion-like veggies in a pan with oil until they are translucent -- this cuts their harsher flavors.

In a nice, big bowl, mix together the cheese, veggies, and herbs.

Shake out the salt and pepper into your palm. You want a dime-sized amount Got it? Good. Throw it into the bowl and stir. Add other spices. I would keep all measurements to about 1/4 of a teaspoon.

To fill the "cannelloni":

You'll need:
Your eggplant slices, all golden-y and toasty
Your filling, all mixed up
Tomato sauce (I used one 15 oz. can of O Organics Tomato Sauce, which I doctored with salt, pepper, and oregano)
1/3-1/2 cup parmesan (or other Italianate) cheese, shredded
A baking pan which has been prepared with olive oil, butter, or cooking spray

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour half of the tomato sauce into the baking pan and spread it around evenly.

Take your eggplant slice and put it on a plate or on the counter. Spoon the filling onto the wider end, like this:

Starting at the wide end, roll up the eggplant. The filling might squish out, but that's okay. Stuff it back in (should I have mentioned earlier that you should have clean hands for this?).

Place the roll into the baking pan, seam-side down.

Continue doing this until the filling and eggplant slices are all used up.

Spoon the remaining sauce over the top and spread it out. Then sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese topping is golden-brown.

Serve and voila! No one will know it's not pasta.

(Okay... so that's a total lie. It's obvious that it's not pasta -- but it's better than pasta.

It's eggplant!)

No comments: