Friday, November 20, 2009

Nigella's Eggplant Involtini

This week's theme for I Heart Cooking is potluck, which means of course, that we get to make anything we want! I picked up Nigella Lawson's Feast about two weeks ago and have read it through at least twice since. One thing I love about her books is how beautiful and funny they are, even if it's unintentional. I can almost hear Nigella talking  in her lilting little accent as I read, which makes it seem so natural and amusing when she describes the dishes and preparations. One of the recipes that immediately jumped out at me was her Involtini, made with eggplant and what looked like a fantastic creamy filling. I decided to make it this week, since I had most of the ingredients together already. Nigella says, "You get a decent wodge of involtini out of this." A wodge? So I only bought one eggplant (the recipe calls for two or three) but I only needed to feed 2 people, not 6. It still made enough invotini for dinner and lunch the next day. The only other changes I made were in the filling. Nigella calls for fresh mozzarella, which I imagine would have made the filling a little more wet. I used smoked mozzarella (thanks to Giada for turning me onto that!) for the filling and plain shredded mozzarella for the top since I had some and didn't feel like shredding any fresh cheese by hand. So what, I'm lazy!

Involtini with Eggplant

1 large eggplant (approximately 1 lb.), sliced lengthways in slices at most 1/4 inch thick
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozarella
For the filling:
1/2 c. crumbled feta
1/2 c. smoked mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan
1/2 c. pine nuts
1/3 c. raisins, soaked in hot water for ten minutes and drained
4 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbls. bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp. fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten

First things first. You need to slice up that eggplant. The one I bought was easily the largest eggplant I've ever seen, and it was a serious bitch. Maybe if I had a giant mandolin slicer it would have been fun, but no (add that to my wishlist!). I f'd up the slices completely. Maybe 3 or 4 of them were even and the rest were a wonky mess. Ah well. Once you have your eggplant sliced, you need to brush the slices with olive oil and cook for about 4 minutes per side, until they are softened. I used my pretty little grill pan, not realizing it was only big enough for one slice at a time until it was already hot and oiled (now that just sounds wrong!). Had I realized this earlier, I would have just cooked the eggplant on the outside grill and had it over with in ten minutes! Set them aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while you make the filling. This part is easy! Just dump everything in a bowl and toss it together. Looks yummy just as is, no? Now take a slice of eggplant, plop a dollop of filling onto one end (maybe a large tablespoon, I didn't really measure, and neither does Nigella), and roll. Place the rolled eggplant, seam at the bottom, into a 9x9 inch baking dish. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Once all of the involtini are snugly resting in the pan, pour tomato sauce over the top. Now don't go using any fancy pants pasta sauce here. You want plain and simple canned tomato sauce with nothing added to compete with the flavors in the filling! Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Allow the dish to rest 10 minutes before serving.

I've got to tell you, we frickin' loved this. The combination of the smoky cheese and the brightness of the lemon zest, wow. E couldn't figure out what he was eating because with every bite he'd taste something new. "Wait, are there raisins in this? And lemon? Nuts?" While this wasn't the quickest dish to make, I will absolutely make it again. I actually prepared the dish the day before and baked it just before dinner. You could certainly cook the eggplant and make the filling a few days ahead, too. In fact, I have extra filling sitting in my fridge right now! I'm thinking I'll roll it in a bit of parma ham and make a grilled cheese sandwich, yum!

p.s. I did participate in last week's theme (Man Food) but decided not to post it until I've really perfected the recipe. I had E choose a recipe from Feast and of course, he picked the T-Bone Steak with Potato Wedges and Onion Rings, which I immediately refused to make. No deep fried food in this house thank you!  Instead I thought to marry the two sides into one dish. I made baked sweet potatoes with a crusty coating made from a little bit of  French's Fried Onions and a Rib Eye. It was delicious, but the potatoes weren't quite right, so I'll post them once I work out the kinks!


Kim said...

A "wodge" is the perfect example of why I love Nigella. It's almost like she speaks my language or something ;D The involtini look so wonderful. I'm excited to see your post on the "man food".

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I agree, I love the way she speaks and writes.
What a great dish, eggplant is one of my favourites.
Love the use of the smoked mozza. I have only found it in the city but I hope they start carrying it around here soon.
Great dish!

Debinhawaii said...

A wonderful dish--it sounds like just the perfect combination of flavors. Great job!

Debbie said...

I,too, love the way she speaks... and cooks!

Pierce said...

Oh wow - I am huge fan of eggplant. My guys, not so much, but I'll bet they would eat this dish.

Looks great.

ARLENE said...

Some unconventional ingredients for an eggplant involtini, but I'm sure it was delicious!

girlichef said...

Me Nigella's wordisms...and cooking :) I don't use eggplant very often because nobody else in the house likes it very much...but I should make this just for me. Looks so good!