This Dish holds a special place in my heart, I recently thought it up, while staying in San Rafeal, CA. with my Brother Bill, and his wonderful wife, Sharon, and they’re beautiful daughter Chelsea. Sharon had called me prior to my trip, asking what I thought about having my sister Nancy, and her daughter, my niece, Lynne over for dinner, I had not seen either of them since the passing of my mother, Louise, 12 years before, and at first I was very hesitant, but after taking some time to reflect I found that I no longer had any resentment in my heart, towards anybody, let alone my own family, no matter how estranged they had become over the years. Years go by so fast, that in the blink of an eye, they can be lost forever. I felt the spirit of my Mother pulsing through my Russian Jewish veins, telling me that the life I have now, is one I’m so proud to share, with my friends, and family alike, and, that she, my Mom, would be so proud of me to have come so far. So I called Sharon back a couple of hours later and said I’d love to, and she sweetly replied, hearing just a touch of anxiety in my voice, “We’ll do this together.”Well that was all I needed to hear, when Sharon is on your side, they’re aint no doubt, she’s got your back, it took me a long time to realize that, and when I did, I found I was so blessed, with a very special friend. So as they say, it was on……like donkey kong, and I still don’t know what the hell that means, but I love the way it sounds!
So we needed to come up with a truly VEGAN meal, down to the rennet free cheese and no eggs, etc. Searching my memory banks, I remembered Nancy loved Eggplant, so I tossed around a few ideas in my head and this is what I came up with.
But first a trip to Whole Foods to gather the ingredients, and lucky me, I was working in Sharon’s Kitchen, which is like my “Dream Kitchen”, it’s so clean and well organized, it cooks with you, not against you. The day had arrived and it was show time….at the last minute I had some extra help as Nadja, who is married to my nephew Tyler showed up and helped me put everything together, kept me calm, and was such a menchala, needless to say it was a delightful evening, and went off with out a hitch! A great time was had by all!
For a appetizer we did Hummus w/ some olives, peppers, and artichokes, w/ assorted crackers
For the side Dish I did:
Simple Garlic Sauteed Spinach, heat 2 cloves sliced garlic in Olive Oil when just starting to turn golden Add 2 lbs Baby Spinach Toss to coat, sprinkle with a little Sea Salt and Pepper, and set aside.
Have ready 3 cookie sheets, non-stick if possible, otherwise oil well. Preheat oven to 350º
The Main Event:
3 lg Eggplants, sliced length wise with the skin on, you want to slice at the thickest part to give you nice big flat pieces, for stuffing and rolling, look for Eggplant that is heavy for it’s size, these are going to hold together better, and have more flavor.
Place the eggplant flats on the cookie sheets and brush with Bertolli Olive Oil , sprinkle with kosher salt and Black Pepper, bake for 25 to 30 minutes until they start to become pliable, remove to a plate piling around and on top of each other loosely, brush with a little more oil if necessary to prevent sticking, let cool.
While the eggplant is cooling.
16 oz Ricotta Cheese (rennet free for vegans) empty in to a colander lined with paper towels to get rid of extra water
16 oz Rennet Free Mozzarella 1/2 for filling, set aside 1/2 for topping
Wedge of Rennet free Parmasan Cheese 1/2 for mix set aside 1/2 for shaving over finished dish or in a bowl to pass at the table
8 oz package chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and wrung out in a clean kitchen towel to remove all water
1/4 cup egg replacer(Vegan)
4 cloves Fresh Garlic Pressed or microplaned
A few Grates of Fresh Nutmeg
* Note Cheese is very salty, so taste this before adding any salt, but some white pepper in this is great!
1 Bunch Fresh Sweet Basil 1/2 for mix, set aside 1/2 to sprinkle on top when it comes out of the oven the final time
Mix all ingredients well in a lg bowl, Have ready a lg, well Oiled Deep Baking Pan, and oven preheated to 350º
One at a time, lay 1 piece of eggplant on a flat surface and put about 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of Spin/cheese mixture, making sure you can roll it up with a overlap, place overlap side down in pan and continue until all are rolled in pan, if there is space left over fill with crumpled foil so they stay close together. Cover rolls with Marinara Sauce cover pan with foil and place in oven for 20 minutes, remove, sprinkle with remaining Mozzareela cheese and put back in oven for 15 more minutes or until bubbly and cheese has started to turn golden brown, Remove, sprinkle w/ remaining basil and tent loosely, let rest for about 10 minutes.Serve, sprinkle or pass remaining Parmesan Cheese at table, and as always,
© Jennifer Green Alger 2009