Just a little something I whipped up the other night for dinner for Hubby and I. And, there was enough for our lunches the next day! This dish is akin to stuffed Manicotti, but with grilled or roasted eggplant slices instead of manicotti noodles. Grilled eggplant slices (one normal sized globe eggplant cut lengthwise into 8 slices) is rolled up and stuffed with a mildly seasoned mix of mashed tofu, scallions, a little roasted pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and Braggs/tamari, topped with a lovely marinara and garnished with grated Asiago cheese. Light, delicious, and perfect for dinner, brunch, grazing, or small plates.
Start off by slicing your eggplant, patting each slice dry, and spreading a little oil all over each side with your hands (eggplant absorbs oil like crazy, so for each slice just put about a half teaspoon in your palm, rub your palms together and spread it around). Then pop them on the hot grill for about 5-6 minutes on each side.
I put some fresh corn on the grill too, as well as a bell pepper. While the eggplant was grilling I got to work on the filling. I used regular firm tofu. You could use firm/extra firm silken tofu if you want a creamier texture. For richest and most “authentic” flavor, use ricotta cheese.
You will want to add some flavor to the filling, but not too much. A mild rich tasting filling will provide excellent contrast to your marinara sauce. I sauteed a half bunch of chopped green onions and a few cloves of minced garlic in butter. That pepper roasting on the grill would be diced and find its true home mixed with the tofu. To this I added 2-3 finely chopped basil leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of nutmeg, and a little Braggs Aminos. Also quite tasty to add is a handful or two of fresh spinach (frozen in a pinch). For the spinach you must blanch it in boiling water for a minute, then drain well and squeeze out extra water with your hands. Chop that up nice and fine and add to the mix. Spinach gives truly great flavor and I highly recommend. In case you have not noticed, the stuffing pictured below does not have spinach added.
I made a fairly instant version of marinara, because this was a sort of spontaneous meal and unfortunately the jar of organic sauce that I swore was in the pantry, to my surprise, wasn’t. So I pureed a 12 oz. can of organic diced tomatoes with basil leaves, garlic, fresh oregano, and olive oil in the blender and then heated the mixture in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. This was not exactly a luscious sauce that had simmered for an hour or two, but it worked in a pinch. I would recommend you make your own fabulous sauce or use a small jar of your favorite off-the-shelf marinara sauce. You’ve got to have the sauce ready before you start putting the eggplant roll-ups together.
When the eggplant slices were done (you want nice grill marks, the outside of each slice a little bit crispy, and the insides almost perfectly tender) place 2-3 tablespoons of filling on each one and roll up like an enchilada. Spread a quarter cup or so of your marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, and then as each slice of eggplant is stuffed and rolled, place it seam-side-down in the pan.
I used a small casserole dish and it was the perfect size. These look good enough to eat already, yes?? But they still need the sauce.
Now what you do is entirely up to you. I added sauce over this and some grated Asiago, and baked it some more, to ensure my eggplant was nice and soft and to let the flavors get to know each other better. You could, instead, serve one or two rolls per person on a plate, add a ladle of steaming hot sauce over the top, and garnish with a little shaved Asiago/Parmesan cheese. For a much richer version, and especially if you have stuffed your eggplant with ricotta instead of tofu, add a sprinkling of grated mozzarella cheese before you bake it.
We, however, are keeping our dairy consumption on the low side (a little cheese, whole milk yogurt, butter/ghee) so I kept it light. Before sauce:
After sauce:Add cheese as desired and bake it.
Stuffed Grilled Eggplant Marinara
Yield: 4 servings
For hors d’oeuvre/appetizers, you may like to use Japanese eggplants instead of a large globe eggplant. This way you may have many small, almost bite-size eggplant rolls.
1 medium/large globe eggplant or 2-3 Japanese eggplants (about 1 lb)
1 small bell pepper
14 oz. (1 package) firm tofu, drained and mashed or 1 pint ricotta cheese
4-5 green onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 basil leaves, sliced in thin shred
2 teaspoons lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
2 ounces (2 big handfuls) fresh spinach
1 pint marinara sauce
Grated Parmesan/Romano/Asiago and/or Mozzarella cheese (optional)
Wash eggplant and bell pepper and pat dry. Slice eggplant into 8 lengthwise slices (about 1/4″ to 1/3″ thick). Cut bell pepper in half and remove seeds. Coat all sides of eggplant and bell pepper with small amount of olive oil (using hands). Grill eggplant and bell pepper on hot grill, about 5-7 minutes on each side (second side is quicker), until grill marks show. If eggplant is well marked but not tender, move up to the warming rack in the grill (off direct flame) and close cover for a few more minutes.
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan or soup pot. While it is heating, melt butter in a fry pan over medium heat and saute the green onions and garlic a few minutes until tender. Combine the onion-garlic mixture with all other filling ingredients except spinach, and set aside.
When water boils, add spinach and push it all down so it wilts in the water. Remove after about 1 minute (all spinach should be wilted and be a bright green). Rinse with cold water, drain, and then squeeze out all the extra water with your hands. Chop spinach into small dice and combine with tofu/ricotta mixture. Take a small taste and adjust seasoning with a little more Braggs or salt if necessary, to taste.
Turn on oven and preheat to 400. Prepare you baking dish by spraying a 1-1/2 or 2-quart casserole dish with olive oil, and then spreading a thin layer of marinara sauce across the bottom.
Roll Up the Eggplant: Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling on the widest half of each eggplant slice and roll up like an enchilada. Place each roll seam-side-down in the baking dish, into even rows (as pictured) above. They should be close together. Then cover with sauce (don’t completely drench in sauce, let some of the eggplant still be showing). Add cheese as desired. Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes, until sauce and cheese are bubbly and cheese is getting lightly browned.