28 October 2016

Recipe review: Food & Wine's grilled eggplant involtini

I buy eggplant because they look fantastic at the store, and then I have to do something kind of special with them to convince people to eat them (ahem). So, this Food and Wine recipe from their August issue sounded great, because 1) we are grilling every weekend the weather allows it until the snow starts to fly and 2) it sounds delicious. It WAS delicious, but be forewarned, it's a bit labor intensive, especially if you weren't already going to grill and just happened to have room to throw some sliced eggplant on there at the end. But if you're trying to do something special, and if you already like eggplant Parmesan, you should keep this  in mind.

My slight alterations are built into the recipe below.

Grilled Eggplant Involtini

Serves 4

6 pounds tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice
2 medium Italian eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (about 36 slices)
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, core the tomatoes and mark an X on the bottom of each one. Add half of the tomatoes to the saucepan at a time and blanch until they begin to soften and the skins are wrinkled, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot tomatoes to a work surface and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop. Working in 2 batches, puree the tomatoes in a food processor; you should have about 9 1/2 cups of puree.

In the saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree and the red wine bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the tomato sauce is thickened and reduced to 5 1/2 cups, 5 minutes. Discard the basil and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer the eggplant to a work surface and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the rice with 1 cups of the tomato sauce. Fold in the 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, chopped basil and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Season the filling with salt and pepper.

Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of each of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Dollop about 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near one end of each eggplant slice and roll into a tight cylinder; arrange in the prepared baking dish, seam side down. Spoon 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the involtini and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozarella and a little more Parmesan. Bake the involtini until the filling is hot and the sauce is just ­bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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