Eggplant Rollups

One of our favorite dishes is eggplant Parmesan. Eggplant is really very versatile and is used in a number of cuisines. It takes on the flavors of whatever ingredients it’s been cooked with. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals and fiber. And it’s low in calories (until you bread it and fry it and cover it with sauce and cheese). For all the vegetable haters out there, eggplant is actually a fruit. According to Wikipedia, the eggplant is not only a fruit, it is a berry.

If you google eggplant recipes you will find an infinite number of ways to prepare it. It’s great grilled, baked, fried, or roasted. It can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, an entree, or you can use it in place of pasta in a lasagna. Raw, the flesh is spongy and soft, and when it’s cooked it is deliciously creamy and tender. Several years ago, before it closed, I regularly shopped at a gourmet shop called Blackberry Rose. The owner told me how to prepare eggplant rollups stuffed with angel hair pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce and then topped with a sweet chili sauce before baking. I need to try that again sometime soon. It was delicious! These rollups are stuffed with ground beef, ground pork, or sausage, and then baked much like eggplant Parmesan.

It is not necessary to peel eggplant. If you are going to be frying eggplant it is best to slice it, generously salt it, and place it in a colander to drain for 30 minutes or so. Then rinse the eggplant and gently pat it dry. This prevents the eggplant from absorbing too much of the oil as it’s fried.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 eggs

2 T of olive oil

1 pound of ground beef, ground pork, or sausage

1 small onion grated

1/2 sweet bell pepper finely diced

Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce of your choosing (homemade or prepared)

Mozzarella cheese

Making lengthwise cuts, use a mandolin to get nice thin slices of the eggplant.

Put your eggplant slices in a colander, salt them, and set them in the sink to drain. In the meantime, prepare your stuffing for the roll ups. If you are using links of sausage remove the casings and add the grated onion and minced sweet peppers. If you are using ground beef or ground pork. in addition to the onion and peppers, you will want to add some garlic powder, Italian seasonings, and salt and pepper.

Once the eggplant has drained, rinse it and pat it dry. Whisk the eggs. Brush a heavy skillet with a light coating of olive oil. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and cook them over medium high heat, two to thee minutes per side. Set the cooked slices aside and continue until all of the slices are browned. They should be soft and pliable, easy to roll.

Preheat the oven to 350. Once all of the eggplant slices are done begin making your rollups. Place a light coating of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Take approximately two tablespoons of the meat mixture and place it on the widest end of the eggplant slice and roll.

Place the rollups, seam side down, in the casserole dish.

Top the rollups with additional sauce, sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the cheese is golden.

Cooked to perfection. Serve with the pasta of your choosing and a side salad. Some crusty bread and Chianti would also be nice.

Enjoy!

NOTE: On one occasion I tried dipping the eggplant slices in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before frying. While this works great when you’re making eggplant Parmesan, it makes the eggplant difficult to roll up.

When using sweet or hot Italian sausage to fill these rollups no additional seasoning is necessary. If you’re using ground beef or ground pork you’ll want to kick up the flavor with more herbs and spices.

From one medium eggplant I got 13 slices and I used one pound of sausage to fill them.

Eggplant Parmesan Bowl

I’ve had fun fixing meals lately that are layered in a bowl.  Probably a bit of a fad thing but I’ve found several combinations that we like.  I usually use a variety of vegetables, a protein, and sometimes a sauce of some kind.  When I’m cooking for just the two of us, I serve our food restaurant style.  Saves on serving dishes and seems easier all around.  With the “bowl meals” sometimes the base is couscous, or quinoa, or rice.  In this recipe the base is polenta.  My friend Jane came across this recipe today and texted it to me.  She thought it was something I would like.   I happened to have all the ingredients.  At our house we love polenta.  We love eggplant.  And we love anything with tomatoes.  I make eggplant Parmesan fairly often and usually serve it with pasta.   This recipe changed things up a little from traditional eggplant Parmesan.  I modified the recipe as I prepared the dish tonight but felt it needed to be changed up just a bit more.  My ingredient list incorporates my changes.  I felt it needed more sauciness and more seasoning in the cheese/breadcrumb mixture.  But we loved it and had second helpings.

The recipe called for canned cherry tomatoes.  I have personally never seen canned cherry tomatoes but they did give a pro tip for substituting fresh cherry tomatoes.  The recipe called for 1 pint of fresh cherry tomatoes, 2 T tomato paste and 2 T of water simmered together until the tomatoes begin to wilt.  I recommend doubling the amount of tomatoes to 2 pints and doubling the water to 1/4 cup.  Two tablespoons of tomato paste is plenty.  I almost always buy small heirloom tomatoes and those worked just fine.

Ingredients:

2 (13.5 oz) cans of cherry tomatoes OR the fresh tomatoe substitute above

2 T fresh basil leaves

1 tsp fresh oregano leaves

1 T each of dried basil and oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

3 T kosher salt, divided

fresh ground pepper

1-2 eggplants cut into 1 inch rounds

4 T olive oil, divided

1 cup panko

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Unless you find canned cherry tomatoes prepare your fresh tomatoes over medium heat in a heavy skillet.  Simmer until the tomatoes start to wilt or burst.

Once your tomatoes are ready stir in the fresh herbs and the garlic powder and transfer them to a casserole dish.

Cut your eggplant into 1 inch thick rounds and nestle them in among the tomatoes.

Generously brush the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the eggplant rounds are tender.  While the casserole is in the oven toss the panko, cheeses, salt, and dried herbs together with  2 T of olive oil in a medium bowl.

Also, while the eggplant rounds are cooking, prepare your polenta and keep it warm for serving.  Once the eggplant is tender, remove it from the oven and top each round with the cheese breadcrumb mixture.  Return the casserole to the oven and bake until the topping is a golden brown.

“Bowl” up and serve!  A spoonful of polenta, an eggplant round, and a spoonful of sauce.  Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.  If you follow the recipe with my modifications you will have more sauce in your bowl than shown below.

Enjoy this take on eggplant Parmesan.

NOTE:  While tonight is the first time I’ve made this, I think you could cook down whole or diced tomatoes, vs the cherry tomatoes, and get pretty much the same flavor profile.  A little chiffonade of fresh basil would look great on this dish.  I should have thought of that before I took my photos and we devoured our bowls.

Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti Squash with Marinara – Keto Friendly

Keto Friendly.   The Keto Diet is a very low carb, high fat diet reminiscent of the Atkins diet.  It’s a diet that was first used primarily to treat difficult to control epilepsy in children.  There are also documented benefits for heart health, diabetes, and brain functioning.  It is intuitively obvious that significantly reducing the amount of processed foods, sugar, and carbs we eat will have health benefits.  In an effort to eat healthier and reduce sugar and carbs I’m experimenting with Keto conscious recipes.  Often keto will only require minor modifications to dishes I cook all the time.  This “modification” was very tasty and very satisfying.

Ingredients for Marinara:

1 pint diced tomatoes

1 pint tomato sauce

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic sliced

salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until tender; about 3-4 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and allow to simmer until thickened.  Use an immersion blender if you prefer no pieces of tomato in the sauce.  Add salt to taste.

While your sauce is simmering, prepare your spaghetti squash.  Preheat your oven to 375.  I came across this hack for preparing spaghetti squash a few years ago in one of my food magazines.  It is easier to remove the seeds, cooks more evenly and makes longer strands of spaghetti.  Use a mister to coat a foil lined baking dish with olive oil.  Cut the squash into 1to 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Use a paring knife to go around the inside edges and remove the seeds.  Put the squash in the baking dish, spritz the top with olive oil, and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Once the squash is done allow it to cool so it’s easy to handle.  Push the squash out using your hands and separate the spaghetti stands.

Your spaghetti is done.  Now it’s time to prepare your eggplant.

Ingredients:

1 medium/large eggplant

2 eggs

2 T heavy cream

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup almond flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 tsp salt

3-4 T olive oil for frying

1 cup Mozzarella cheese

Slice your eggplant.  Peel or not.  Your choice.  If I buy organic eggplant I do not peel them.  Grate your Parmesan cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and heavy cream.

Combine almond flour, spices and salt.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Dip the eggplant rounds in the egg/cream mixture, then the cheese, then the seasoned flour.  It’s not the usual order of things but it works in this recipe.  Add the eggplant to the skillet and cook until browned on one side, flip to brown the other side, and remove to a platter.

Wipe out the skillet or use another casserole dish.  Return the rounds to the skillet and top with sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Put the spaghetti squash in the oven for the last 5 minutes to warm.

Plate the squash and eggplant and ladle sauce on the squash and also on the eggplant if you choose.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  This dish definitely was lighter than my usual eggplant with pasta but very satisfying.  We both had seconds.  If you’d like you can prepare the squash the day before as well as the sauce.  The eggplant is best served immediately.

For the sauce I used home canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  You can use bottled marinara but you want to look for organic sauce with low sugar content and other additives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eggplant for Breakfast

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I rarely watch Rachael Ray but on a cold, stay at home, afternoon last week we were watching. And Rachael made her husband an eggplant breakfast. Eggplant, wilted kale and spinach, pancetta, and poached eggs topped with a bechamel sauce. This is my own interpretation of Rachael’s eggplant breakfast which was our breakfast Monday and our dinner tonight. It’s our new favorite.

Ingredients:  (Breakfast for two)

Eggplant slices

1/4 cup of flour

2 eggs beaten

1 cup panko crumbs

1 cup asiago grated cheese (divided)

4 T olive oil

oven roasted tomatoes (see my October 27, 2014 post)

Bacon fried crisp

4 eggs

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Slice your egg plant rounds about 1 inch thick. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Dip rounds in flour, then egg, then in panko crumbs mixed with 1/4 cup grated asiago cheese.

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Fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towel and keep warm in the oven until assembly.

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Fry your bacon until it’s crispy, unless you like it more flexible. Once it’s cooked to your liking put it on a plate lined with pepper towel and keep it warm in the oven until assembly.

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Cook the eggs to your liking. Poached, over easy. Whatever you prefer.

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Now you’re ready for assembling. First the eggplant, then the tomatoes, then the bacon, then the egg, and finally a generous sprinkle of the asiago cheese.

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And there you have it. Simple. Delicious. Even a tad bit elegant.

I have always liked eggs Benedict but ask for my hollansaise on the side. Some of you may prefer this dish with the bechamel. You’re welcome to make whatever modifications suit your taste.   To me the key is building on the eggplant.

Serve this with some toasted sourdough, a dish of fresh fruit and maybe a mimosa.

 

Spiral Veggie Pie

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A few weeks ago a friend posted a recipe for a veggie spiral that looked beautiful and challenging. I love making meatless dishes and decided to try a modified version of the recipe. In the making of this dish I decided I need a new mandolin. Mine didn’t seem to cut the veggies as thin as they should have been and I had to use a wide peeler for the sweet potatoes and carrots.

Preheat oven to 375.

Ingredients:

2-3 yellow squash

2-3 zucchini

2 small eggplants

2 carrots

2 sweet potatoes

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

2 T Dijon mustard

fresh sage leaves

salt and pepper

olive oil

single pie crust

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Prepare your pie crust.

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Using a mandolin (or wide peeler) thin slice the vegetables. Do not peel the vegetables; the skins add color to the dish.

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Using a hand mixer beat cream cheese, sour cream, and Dijon mustard until smooth.

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Spread cream cheese mixture in the pie shell. Sprinkle with chiffonaded sage leaves.

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Begin rolling the veggies, skin side up, in a spiral alternating the colors. Continue until you reach the ends of the dish.

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Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

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Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

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Cool for 5 minutes, slice and enjoy.

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Great served with a salad and bread. It’s a beautiful dish in its own right that’s fun to prepare. A perfect vegetarian dish or a side for a meat dish.