Top | Vegetarian Main Dishes
(recipe, Caroline Cummins)
Involtini are basically just wraps; the wrapper and the filling can be anything, although the dish is generally savory, not sweet. Eggplant involtini will taste familiar to anyone who's ever sampled eggplant parmigiana; the flavors (and the work involved, unfortunately) are similar.
This recipe, adapted from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites, emphasizes the southern-Mediterranean flavors of pistachios, feta, capers, and oregano. It makes an excellent vegetarian entrée for a party, but it's also good served as a sandwich, slathered between halves of hot crusty rolls or baguette. You can also thin leftovers with a bit of pasta water and turn the eggplant-tomato mix into a pasta sauce. Meat lovers can amp it up with bits of pan-fried sausage or meatballs.
Lawson includes her version of this recipe in her section on "Rainy Day Cooking," and indeed, this is a labor-intensive recipe best saved for a weekend day (or split up between two evenings of effort). As a time-saver, you can use jarred or canned seasoned tomato sauce instead of making the homemade sauce called for here. However, if you have mounds of fresh tomatoes from the garden, this is a great way to use them up.
- A few Tbsp. olive oil
- ⅔ large onion, minced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 5 cups (or one 28-ounce can and one 14.5-ounce can) peeled and crushed canned tomatoes, or about 3 pounds fresh chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp. sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Olive oil (at least 1 cup, plus more as needed)
- 5 large Italian eggplants, about 1 pound each, ends removed, sliced thinly in vertical strips about ⅓-inch thick
- ½ cup bulgur wheat
- 1 cup boiling water
- ⅓ large onion, minced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- 1 egg
- ½ cup minced pistachios
- 10 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Extra garnishes (optional)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley and/or basil leaves
- Make the sauce: Put the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the minced onion; cook, stirring occasionally, over low-to-medium heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and sugar; stir, cover, and bring to a low simmer. If using canned tomatoes, cook for about 20 minutes, checking to make sure the sauce isn't sticking or drying out. If using fresh tomatoes, simmer for an hour to 90 minutes, to cook down the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat. Use a stick blender to smooth out the sauce, if you like.
- Cook the eggplant: While the sauce is simmering, generously brush the eggplant slices with olive oil on both sides and cook on a hot griddle or in frying pans. (Grill marks are pretty, but you won't notice them in the final dish; the important thing is that the eggplant becomes soft and browned fairly quickly.) If you intend to finish the dish the following day, stash the cooked eggplant slices and tomato sauce (in separate containers) in the fridge till needed.
- Make the filling: Put the bulgur into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup, add the boiling water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, capers, and egg. Add half of the pistachios and about 7 ounces of the feta, reserving the rest for garnishes. Drain the bulgur and mix it in.
- Assemble the involtini: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour a little olive oil into one large or two smaller ovenproof baking dishes. Put a dollop of stuffing at one end of an eggplant strip and roll it up; place it in a baking dish. Repeat until all the eggplant and stuffing are gone. Pour the tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining pistachios and 3 ounces of crumbled feta over the top. Add the Parmesan and herbs, if you like. Serve immediately.