Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

Thanks for such nice comments on my wedding posts (part one and two). I was especially pleased to hear an outpouring of comments on my closing thoughts about Blue Hill, and other farms like it: a mixed bag of emotions, to be sure, but I’m glad that the loss of animal life still reverberates with so many of you, regardless of the practices that precede it.

I’m here tonight with a recent “dinner with omnis,” which is how I sometimes jestingly refer to evenings when I entertain for non veg*n diners at the Hobbit House. My guest last week was my lovely cousin Kathleen, who happens to be a lifelong D.C. resident. Kathleen and I are only a year apart, and we were very close growing up (especially since I’m siblingless). Now, years and years after my wishing with all my might that I could live closer to my hip and savvy older cousin, I finally do. It’s great to have her nearby.

Cooking for fellow vegans, or fellow food bloggers, tends to be easy: we all eat a lot of the same stuff (kale, yams, beans, quinoa) and we’re all used to filling up on the same kinds of food. When I cook for omnis, I try hard to create meals that are healthy and nutrient dense, but which confer a sense of satisfaction and fullness. I can easily feel sated with a big, nutrient dense salad, but that’s not the norm for many eaters (heck, it’s not the norm for many vegans I know), and I try to build my entertaining meals around beans, grains, and tofu or tempeh, always being sure to feature at least one raw dish or salad, too.

This meal offered balance and heft along with optimum nutrition. The star of the meal were my eggplant rollatini—one of my first vegan dinners as a home cook, and a classic in my home. They’re fancy-sounding, but trust me, they’re also ridiculously easy. And if you whip up some tofu ricotta in advance, they’re also remarkably quick to make. I paired them with a simple green salad with roast baby beets and sugar snap peas (steamed) and a quinoa/whole grain cous cous mix (ideas stolen from Bryanna!) that came together in a pinch in my rice cooker. Ultimately, a meal with multiple components took me no time at all.

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If your mouth is watering, I’ll spare you the wait. Here’s the eggplant rollatini recipe: so decadent and delicious that you’d never guess it was also healthy-as-can-be.

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Vegan Eggplant Rollatini (vegan, gluten free)

Serves 4

2 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 package (16 oz or so) extra firm tofu, pressed for 10 min or more to release extra water
1/2 10 oz. package frozen spinach, drained thoroughly (I press mine through a sieve)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2-1 tsp minced garlic (or garlic powder to taste)
Black pepper to taste

For my “in a hurry” tomato sauce:

1 tbsp fruity olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 28 oz can of fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes (I really like Muir Glen Organic)
2 tbsp organic tomato paste
1 tsp agave nectar
Handful of coarsely chopped fresh basil

1) Place eggplant slices onto baking sheets and sprinkle well with sea salt or kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes; this decreases bitterness and removes excess moisture. Pat the slices dry, and spray them or brush them lightly with coconut or olive oil.

2) Make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic till fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, paste, agave, and heat thoroughly. Toss in basil at the end, and remove from heat.

3) Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Roast eggplant till browning (about 20-30 min) flipping slices halfway through.

4) While eggplant cooks, transfer tofu to a bowl and crumble it with hands. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, and spinach. Mix it well with hands, crumbling through fingers till it resembles a bowl of crumbly ricotta cheese.

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5) When eggplant is finished, transfer slices to a cutting board (wait for them to cool, of course) and add about 3 tbsp of the ricotta mixture to the end of one side. Roll up from that side, and place seam down in a baking dish of choice till you’ve finished all slices.

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6) Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Smother the eggplant rolls with tomato sauce, and bake, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until hot. Serve with sides of choice.

My salad, as mentioned above, was made of baby romaine, roast baby beets, steamed snap peas, and my smoky avocado dressing:

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The quinoa cous cous mix was simply grains, water, salt, pepper, raisins, and a touch of almond milk at the end:

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But it was the burst of Italian flavor in the rollatini that served as the star of the meal. My cousin exclaimed that she’d never have guessed it wasn’t cheese!

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Indeed, these are a great dish to pull the ole, “bet you never would have guessed it was vegan!” trick on people with. They’re a dead ringer for the “real” thing.

Hope you give these guys a try soon—for family, for friends, or just for you.

xo

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