Sunday, 17 February 2013

Out of Thin Air!

Involtini di Melanzane & Mollica di Pane alle Erbe su Sugo di Pomodoro
Eggplant Rolls with Herb-Bread-Crumb Filling & Tomato Sauce

Fretting and fussing over dinner again? Worried about how to combine incredible ingredients and make a statement at the dinner table? Or going to take it easy and follow me- and produce something that will knock everybody's socks off, using just a simple eggplant, some bread crumbs and a little tomato sauce and no effort at all?!?! Yeah, I thought so- because you're just like me! Down-to-earth, simple and sensible food beats pretentious, fussy food hands-down, any time!

I came up with the idea for this dish, when I realized that if I were to make a simple eggplant parmesan say, or another eggplant dish with a tomato sauce, that I would want to have some bread to go with it. Well- ta-da! I had no bread in the house today! But I DID have bread crumbs. Hmmm. Those little devils are always wonderful when they are crunchy and delicious- and would be a great contrast to the soft eggplant and the tangy tomato sauce. So that was it- I had a plan! And this is how I put it into action...

I started off by cutting the eggplant into quarters length-ways and then into relatively thin slices... it is just easier to handle in smaller pieces. I then popped the slices, on top of a steam rack, into a small saucepan to steam for 5 minutes... which gave me time to get the bread crumbs toasted. I flavored them with finely chopped mint and parsley, a little grated salted ricotta, olive oil, finely chopped garlic and just a hint of nutmeg... and stirred them on a moderate heat until they were golden brown.

After 5 minutes, I removed the eggplant from the steamer and let it cool. And whilst that was happening I prepared a very simple tomato sauce. Yes, this dish really was this simple... the thing is- the flavor is what it is all about in cooking- and that was phenomenal! 

I used "passata" to make the sauce with- which is basically pureed and cooked tomatoes that have been reduced down a little- you can get this in bottles, cans or cartons and it is a great base for any sauce. To make this makeshift sauce, I quickly fried a little finely chopped onion, garlic and basil in some olive oil, and once the onion was translucent, added passata, salt and pepper and let it simmer away for around 10 minutes. 

And in the meantime, I was able to sprinkle the slices of eggplant generously in bread crumbs and roll them up, which is a bit of a messy affair, but hey! How easy do you want this to be?!? No, it is not difficult at all and they are so small that they are soon rolled up and ready to tie into neat little parcels of crunchiness. I used chives to tie them up... edible string! Yay! And that was all of the prep work that needed to be done- excellent!

I spooned the tomato sauce into a baking dish and then set out the rolls, sprinkled them very lightly with grated salted ricotta and drizzled them with olive oil, and then popped them into a pre-heated oven at 300°F for around 30 minutes. The great thing about it is that after that time, the sauce has reduced right down and become very rich and fruity, the eggplant is very tender, but the bread crumbs on the inside of the rolls is slightly softened but has taken up all of the great flavors and of course that on top still has its great crunch! So in a nutshell- even though there is hardly anything in it- this dish has got it all! And I just know that you are going to love it as much as I did!

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