Eggplant Involtini With Caciocavallo, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

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For the outside:
2 large, rather long eggplants
extra virgin olive oil, southern italian if possible
sea salt, preferably sicilian
black pepper
For the filling:
extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, cleaned, the white part cut into small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup lightly toasted homemade bread crumbs
1/2 cup currants, soaked in about 1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup Sicilian salt-packed capers, soaked in several changes of water for 30 minutes and rinsed
sea salt, if needed
black pepper
a tablespoon high-quality white-wine vinegar
1 cup grated Caciocavallo cheese
a few large sprigs of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
about 10 fresh bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the stems and bottoms off the eggplants so they sit upright. Slice into long, approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices, discarding the outside slices that are mostly black skin.

Lightly coat two large sheet pans with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices out on the pans in one layer. Brush the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until just tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

While the eggplant is baking, make the filling:

Heat about 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and let them soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté just until it gives off aroma, about a minute. Add the bread crumbs, currants, pine nuts, and capers. Season with black pepper and sauté until the bread crumbs are crisp and everything is well blended (hold off on the salt until you add all the ingredients; the capers, and cheese may provide enough). Remove the skillet from the heat, and add the vinegar, about 3/4 cup of the Caciocavallo, and the parsley, and mix them in.

Choose a baking dish that will hold the eggplant rolls snugly, and coat it lightly with olive oil.

When the eggplant slices are done baking let them cool a bit (they are a little delicate when really hot and can break apart). Spread a thin coating of filling all over each slice except right at the edges, and roll up the slices into little involtini cylinders (you can secure them with toothpicks if you like, but I find you don't really need to if you snuggle them seam-side down in the dish). Place them in the baking dish with a bay leaf between each roll (or between every two rolls, depending on how many leaves you have). Sprinkle with the remaining Caciocavallo and bake, uncovered, until hot and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 as a main course, or makes about 12 rolls that can be served as part of a large antipasto buffet

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