I’ve always been a lover of eggplant, but J., he’s another story. When we first met he proclaimed a dislike for this vegetable and then I introduced him to my eggplant parmigiano. “How can this be eggplant, it tastes too good” he would say. I would smile and serve him up a second portion.
Years later and I’m still looking for ways to win him over to eggplant. These rolls are a nice addition to a summer meal. Make them ahead of time and serve them at room temperature as a side to a meat or fish course. We savored them as part of a supper featuring the season’s finest vegetables-roasted peppers with burrata cheese, globe zucchini stuffed with ground veal, pasta with a topping of roasted San Marzano tomatoes and white beans with shrimp and rosemary. And of course our starter had to feature tomatoes-more on that later.
Eggplant Rolls Stuffed With Feta
1-pound firm eggplant
olive oil for brushing eggplant
3 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, washed well, spun dry, and chopped fine
3 red bell peppers, roasted, or two 7-ounce jars, drained, and patted dry
1 bunch arugula or small bunch spinach, coarse stems discarded and leaves washed well and spun dry
Cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange 6 center slices on an oiled baking sheet in one layer, reserving remaining eggplant for another use. Brush eggplant with oil and season with salt.
Broil eggplant about 3 inches from heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn eggplant with a metal spatula and broil until golden, about 4 minutes more. Transfer eggplant to a platter large enough to hold slices in one layer and cool. (Eggplant may be prepared up to this point 3 hours ahead and kept, covered loosely, at room temperature.)
In a small bowl with a fork mash together feta, ricotta, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Cut peppers lengthwise into pieces about same width as eggplant slices.
Assemble rolls: Top eggplant slices with pepper pieces, arranging them in one layer. Put 1 tablespoon cheese mixture near narrow end of each slice and into it gently press 2 arugula leaves so that they stick out on both sides. Beginning with cheese end, roll up each slice to enclose cheese mixture and leaves. (Rolls may be made 2 hours ahead and kept, covered loosely, at room temperature.)
***You can also cook the eggplant on the grill, which I did this time.
Serve rolls drizzled with salsa verde.
1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed), washed well and spun dry
1 small garlic clove
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
In a blender blend salsa ingredients until smooth. (Salsa may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salsa to room temperature before serving.) This sauce is also perfect drizzled over grilled fish.