Even though eggplant makes its seasonal appearance in the summer, there’s something inherently hearty about its nature that compels me to cook with it in winter. The kinds of dishes where it plays the starring role—-think eggplant parmesan, moussaka, even stewy ratatouille—-are really suited for cold weather times.
So are these roulades. Filled with creamy spinach-flecked ricotta and baked with a lush slather of red sauce, they make a fancy-pants casserole that you’d be pleased to serve on a chilly wet night.
At first blush, you’d think they might be testy to make, but they really are not. The trick is to slice the ‘plant long and thin. (even easier, if you have a mandoline at your disposal, which I do not!)
After the slices are gently roasted and cooled, they become quite flexible, rather cooperative. In the time it would take to boil some tubes of manicotti, your eggplant slices would be roasted and ready to roll.
The slices are also very forgiving. Uniformity doesn’t count, thank goodness for that. So, don’t fret about odd oblong pieces, or breaks in the slice. It doesn’t matter! Just place a nice spoonful of ricotta at one end and roll it up.
Once in place, I like to spoon the red sauce over and across the roulade centers, leaving the ends exposed, for contrast. Keep your remaining sauce warm–on stand by on the stove, for an extra embellishment when you serve. Or, add it to a side dish of pasta. I cooked up some pipette, and tossed it with a little red sauce and cream.
This is one of my departures from eating seasonally, I know. It’s not always easy to be a good locavore…especially in January! Nevertheless, the roulades really satisfy this time of year, and provide a good meatless alternative anytime.
1 large Eggplant
1 lb. part-skim Ricotta (these days it comes in a 15 oz. container-which works just fine)
Â½ cup grated Parmesan
Â¼ t.Granulated Garlic
Â¼ t. Salt
Â¼ t. Black Pepper
a handful (about 2 oz.) fresh Spinach leaves
Â½ cup shredded Mozzarella
1 cup your favorite Marinara Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry eggplant and slice lengthwise into Â¼â€ thick slabsâ€”from one large eggplant, you may get 12 long slices.
Brush each slice on both sides with olive oil and lay onto a baking sheet pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place in the oven to roast for about 5 minutes. Slices will look somewhat translucent. Remove and allow to cool. They will be very flexible.
In a food processor fitted with a swivel blade, place ricotta, parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper, and egg. Process until smooth. Toss in spinach leaves and pulse until the spinach is coarsely chopped throughout the mixture, however not pureed. Scrape into a bowl and fold in shredded mozzarella.
Place a generous spoonful at the end of each cooled eggplant slice and roll up. Place into casserole dish. After all slices have been rolled and set in place, spoon your marinara sauce over the center of each roulade. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Makes 12 roulades, serving 4-6.