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These aubergine roll-ups are the perfect in-between seasons dinner

This dish captures the shorts-and-a-sweatshirt feel this time of year as we are clinging to summer while cozying up to fall. The summery essence comes from the peak-season aubergine and tomatoes which are the cornerstones of the recipe. The aubergine is sliced into planks, brushed with oil, seasoned with salt, and grilled (there is no need to heavily salt and drain the aubergine before grilling it. Just start with firm, heavy-for-their-size aubergine, which have minimal bitterness).

Then fresh, ripe tomatoes are chopped and simmered in with a little garlic until they transform into a chunky sauce. Both elements can be made ahead, so the rest of the dish comes together quickly and easily.

This is where you break out the baking dish, a sure sign of autumn. Spread some of the sauce on the bottom of it, then roll a dollop of spinach and goat’s cheese filling into each slice of aubergine, place the roll-ups in the dish seam-side down and top them with the rest of the sauce.

The filling is made by simply stirring together cooked, chopped spinach, goat cheese (could sub ricotta), parmesan cheese, parsley, a beaten egg, and salt and pepper (I use frozen, chopped spinach for convenience – it’s nutritionally comparable to fresh, cooked and its texture works well in this dish – but if you have a load of fresh spinach to use, you can steam that and chop it up instead). Either way, be sure to squeeze the cooked spinach as dry as possible; you can save the liquid for smoothies or stock.

Baked until bubbly, the dish emerges from the oven with a true comfort-food appeal, filling and warm, but fresh and vegetable-centric, with the sunny essence of summer.

Grilled aubergine roll-ups with spinach and goat cheese

Active time: 1 hour, 20 minute | Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

This dish of grilled aubergine, stuffed with spinach and cheese, and baked in a fresh tomato sauce has true comfort food appeal. It’s filling and warm, but it’s also light and healthfully vegetable-centric. If you prefer, use ricotta in place of goat cheese.

Storage notes: The aubergine can be grilled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Ingredients:

2 medium globe or Italian aubergine (680g each), stems trimmed and cut lengthwise into 0.5cm thick slices

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

½ tsp plus ⅛ tsp salt, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

900g fresh, ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided

One (280g) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

115g soft goat cheese

Handful fresh parsley, chopped, plus more for serving

30g grated parmesan cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Method:

Using the 12 longest slices of the aubergine, 3 tablespoons of the oil and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, brush each slice on both sides with oil, then sprinkle one side with salt (save any remaining aubergine for another use). Preheat a grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat and grill the aubergine, in batches if necessary, until tender and grill marks form, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or refrigerate in an airtight container until needed.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190C.

In a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until pale golden, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have broken down and have become thick and saucy, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, or refrigerate until needed.

In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, goat cheese, parsley, parmesan cheese, egg and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Working with 1 aubergine slice at a time, put about 1 tablespoon of the filling on the more tapered end of an aubergine slice and roll it up to enclose the filling. Place the roll-up, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining aubergine slices, then spoon the remaining sauce over the roll-ups. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the filling is heated through.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with additional parsley and serve hot.

Nutrition per serving (2 roll-ups), based on 6 | Calories: 260; total fat: 16g; saturated fat: 5g; cholesterol: 44mg; sodium: 445mg; carbohydrates: 22g; dietary fibre: 11g; sugar: 10g; protein: 12g.

© The Washington Post

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