OTHER GREAT EGGPLANT DISHES: Decontructed Eggplant Parm; Eggplant-Zucchini Lasagna with Fontina; Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with White Bean Spread
One of the things I miss most about pre-gluten-free life is the beauty of the workweek pantry pasta. Sure, I have my brown rice noodles on hand most nights. But it just doesn’t feel like the same go-to anymore. When slathered in vodka sauce, they might seem like the real thing. But gluten-free spaghetti never strikes me as the appropriate base for a simple Italian classic like aglio e olio or carbonara.
Ever since my diet change, I’ve been looking for dishes to replace pasta in my repertoire—recipes that fit the quarter-life holy trinity (cheap – quick – easy)—but still satisfy my red sauce cravings. Alexandra’s Kitchen had the answer last month, with this Eggplant Involtini adapted from the Tartine cookbook, which I can’t open without imagining the taste of their croissants, and therefore weeping.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this dish. It’s eggplant parm without the breading, substantial enough that you don’t even need a side of pasta to eat it with (though it doesn’t hurt). One large eggplant goes the distance, so your money doesn’t have to be spent much beyond the purchase of great-quality ricotta (or make some from scratch). If you have more time, try baking the eggplant slices instead of frying them, and you’ll save yourself the hassle of hot oil. Finally, though the whole thing doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to make, it can be assembled and baked completely in advance, making it the perfect weeknight potluck dish as well.
If you’re still stuck in the post-Thanksgiving “I never want to cook again” or “I never want to eat again” lull, try whipping up this quick Italian antidote. I promise it will ease you back into the kitchen. If not, you can eat the leftovers for dinner the next night.
From my kitchen, albeit small to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Eggplant Involtini (Gluten-Free)
Makes 2-4 servings
Loosely adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen. The leftovers the next day taste delicious hot or cold, which makes this dish a good potluck option.
2 small Italian eggplants (or 1 large), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
16 ounces ricotta
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon salt
16 ounces tomato sauce
¼ cup milk or heavy cream
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the eggplant slices in a colander and lightly salt them. Let sit for 20 minutes until some moisture has been released. Pat the slices dry with paper towels.
Meanwhile, place a large (15-inch) cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame. Pour in enough oil to reach at least ¼ inch up the sides. Heat the oil until it sizzles when you place the first eggplant slice in. Fry the eggplant in batches (about 4 or 5 slices at a time), flipping once, until lightly browned on each side and slightly flimsy to the touch. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more oil as necessary to keep a thin layer at all times. Allow the eggplant to cool enough so you can handle it. Drain any remaining oil from the pan.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, thyme, and salt. On a clean work surface, spoon a scant tablespoon of the ricotta mixture onto the end of an eggplant slice. Roll it up lengthwise until sealed. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Pour the tomato sauce into the skillet so it comes up about a 1/2 inch on the sides; if using a smaller skillet, you may not need the full amount. Arrange the eggplant in the pan–they can be snug. Spoon the milk or cream over the eggplant rolls.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce has reduced enough to form a film around the sides of the pan, and the eggplant is golden brown. Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve alongside crusty bread or pasta.