Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eggplant Rollatini

Now here is a dish that looks difficult but is relatively easy and kind of fun.  It is slices of eggplant rolled around a filler of ricotta (a light and moist cheese) and spinach.  Not big on spinach, this can change your mind.  You do have to do the first step early, maybe in the morning (see note #1) but that isn’t much to ask.


1.      Measure the ricotta into a fine strainer then put the strainer over a small bowl.  Put the strainer, bowl, and cheese into the refrigerator and leave it there for a few hours to get rid of the liquid.  You can do this in the morning before going to work or right when you get home unless you are planning on eating right away.  You don’t want to press down on the cheese because that will force the ricotta through the strainer but maybe if you put it in cheese cloth then compressed it you could get rid of the liquid.  I never tried the cheese cloth method so if you do, let me know how it comes out.

2.      Make sure you check the expiration date of the eggs because they don’t have to small to be bad.

3.      To help protect against bad eggs and having egg shells in things, crack each egg into a small bowl then empty the bowl into whatever you are working from.  If you  are using two or more eggs, do this each time.

4.      To save time the day you plan to eat these, cook the eggplants (steps 2 thru 9) earlier and put them in the refrigerator.

5.      Straining the spinach isn’t all that difficult.  Take it out of the packages, put the spinach into a strainer, put the  strainer into a bowl or sink, and forget it for a while.  You can do this in the morning and put the strainer and bowl into the refrigerator in the morning and it should be good at dinner time.  If it is still a little frozen just break the spinach up with your hands, leave it in the strainer, and put the whole think in the sink or on the counter until you need it.  Still overly wet?  Then squeeze it over the sink with your hands.  You don’t want it bone dry, just get rid of the bulk of the moisture.

Eggplant Rollatini


·         3 1/2 cups of ricotta chees
·         Olive oil, to coat pans
·         2 good sized eggplants
·         Course salt
·         5 eggs
·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper
·         About a cup or two of All-purpose flour
·         2 12 oz. packages of frozen spinach, thawed and strained
·         1 ½ tsp of minced garlic or 3 finely chopped cloves
·         3/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan or buy a combo of the two in a package
·         3 1/2 cups tomato sauce
·         2 to 3 cups of shredded mozzarella


1.      Prepare the ricotta as in Note 1.  You can then discard the excess liquid or use it for something else like the liquid in a ricotta bread,

2.      Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F,

3.      Spray a baking or cookie sheet with olive oil.  If you have them, spray 3 sheets and if you don’t, don’t worry because the cooking stage can be done in several stages,

4.      Wash the eggplants and cut off the ends. Put one of the cut sides down on your cutting board and slice downward, about ¼ inch strips.  You are not cutting little circles but instead you are cutting lengthwise.  This should result in about 15 pieces,

5.      Shake some course salt on each slice then put the slices on a cooling rack or at least a towel.  The salt will draw out some of the moisture.  They should be left alone for 15 minutes or so but if you don’t have the time just eliminate this step.

6.      Crack 4 eggs into a bowl, season with small amounts of salt and pepper, then beat them slightly just enough to crack the yolks and combine the eggs,

7.      Pour the flour on to a small dish but not a coffee cup dish, that would be too small.  You can use a dinner plate if you want,

8.      Dredge each eggplant slice through the flour, then dip it into the beaten eggs, drain any excess egg mixture back into the eggs, and lay the slice on baking sheet.  Do this with each slice until you have filled the baking sheet but not overcrowded it.  If you can’t or don’t want to cook everything at one time, don’t worry, you can do them in batches,

9.      Bake the eggplant slices until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the slices to some cool baking sheets or dishes and let them cool to about room temperature.  You see, doing these in batches doesn’t do much more than add 15 minutes per batch,

10.  Crack the last egg into a small dish, possibly the one you used for the four eggs earlier,

11.  Combine spinach, ricotta, remaining egg, garlic, and 1/2 cup of the grated Romano, Parmesan, or mixture in a bowl. Add some salt and pepper to your liking and mix everything completely.

12.  Spoon about 1 cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a small baking dish.

13.  Spoon 1 or 2 tablespoons of filling onto the wide end of each piece of eggplant dependent on the size of the slice.

14.  Roll up each slice lightly and put them into the baking dish with the ends, not edges, down.  If need be, use a toothpick to hold them together but remember to remove the toothpicks before serving,

15.  Pour the rest of the tomato sauce, then the shredded mozzarella, and remaining grated Parmesan on top of everything,

16.  Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until the tomato sauce is bubbling and the filling is hot,

17.  Let everything them rest for 15 minutes before serving to let the juices and all settle and merge.


Vegetable Ground Beef Soup Recipe

This is a real easy soup, almost a chowder, with some great tastes that doesn’t take very long to make.  Another thing I like about it is that I can use all those small bags of frozen vegetables from other meals that are sitting in the freezer, formerly fresh vegetables changing colors in the vegetable keeper, or a little of both.  Remember though, if you don’t know how old the frozen stuff is or the formerly fresh veggies are really dark and getting wet, then throw them away.  Nothing makes you skip desert like a trip to the emergency ward.

1.               Save yourself some dishwashing.  Using a 4 cup measurer pour the water into a large Dutch oven (the large pan you probably use for pasta) then use it to measure out the right amount of potatoes, then use it again for the vegetables.

2.               I peel the potatoes then slice them lengthwise then slice each piece lengthwise again, and then chop them into cubes.

3.               You can use about 8 cups of thawed frozen vegetables (maybe 2 cups each of corn, carrots, green beans, and okra or just mixed vegetables like I did) or chop up some fresh or semi-fresh vegetables.

4.               I didn’t have dried minced onions so I just cut part of a normal fresh onion and added it to the ground beef while cooking.  I also threw in about five button mushrooms with the cooking ground beef just to add some more flavor.

5.               If you want the soup a little thicker try a roux.  Cook up 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of oil or butter until a light brown and add it to the soup then stir.  You can try tomato paste but I think the added tomato flavor will dominate the soup and take away from everything else.

6.               I know there isn’t any salt or pepper in the ingredients but don’t worry.  Condensed soup normally has enough sodium to make anyone happy and if you want pepper either add it after tasting or to the individual serving bowl.

Vegetable Ground Beef Soup


·         6 cups water
·         4 cups cubed peeled potatoes (about 1 to 1 ½ inch cubes)
·         8 cups of vegetables (see notes 1 and 3 above)
·         1 pound ground beef
·         5 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
·         1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
·         3 tablespoons dried minced onion

1.      Pour the water and potatoes into a Dutch oven and bring to a boil,

2.      Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.  Test the firmness by sticking one or two with a fork.  Remember that the potatoes will cook for at least another 10 minutes so don’t let them get too tender,

3.      While the potatoes are cooking, after you have covered them, cook the ground meat until the pink is gone,

4.      Once the potatoes are cooked but firm add the meat, soup, vegetables, onion, and bouillon.    Don’t drain the potatoes please,

5.      Stir to blend all the flavors.  If you want it a little thicker start making the roux and add it,

6.      Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for another 8 to 10 minutes so that the soup is heated throughout.  Stir it occasionally to keep the flavors mixing.

7.      Take a little taste once in a while and you will know when it is done but don’t be overly critical.