Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

About six months ago I visited Garden Grille Cafe in Pawtucket, RI and had their Eggplant Rollatini.  I've been dreaming about it ever since.  It was so incredibly satisfying-grilled eggplant rolled around a wonderfully creamy filling, flooded with tangy tomato sauce and topped with basil.  Perfection.  You can see the fork and knife going in for a first bite before I snapped my photo above.  For good reason!

So I've been thinking about this rollatini since May and last week decided that it was time to attempt to make it.  Most of what I make is soy-free, but this recipe isn't.  It is totally gluten free and vegan, though.  It has a whole bunch of steps, but they're all relatively simple and if you enjoy being in the kitchen (which I suspect you must if you're reading!) the time will fly by.  I suggest putting on She & Him Volume Two and get cooking!  If you don't have the time to make the vodka sauce, use your favorite sauce from a jar.

Tofu Ricotta Filling
 1 package of extra firm tofu
 1/4 tsp garlic salt
 1/4 tsp onion powder
 1/2 cup fresh basil 
 Pinch of salt
 Pepper, to taste
 1/3 cup vegan mozzarella - I love Daiya Cheese

The actual steps involved here are quite simple.  Just drain the tofu, add the seasonings and break it all up with a fork.  I tore my basil, but you could certainly julienne the basil-the beauty of cooking vs. baking is there are far fewer rules to follow.  Make sure everything is well incorporated-you want to have a nice even blend of basil, onion, garlic, cheese, etc in every bite you take. 

Amanda's Tomato Vodka Sauce 
 2 cans diced tomatoes - I use the no salt added tomatoes-I like to control the amount of salt I use
 Small package of mushrooms of your choice - I like sliced baby bellas best
 1 cup unflavored, gluten free vodka - I used Svedka - many online resources assured me it was gf
 1 yellow onion diced
 1 clove of garlic - or more if you love garlic
 2 tbs tomato paste 
 1/4 cup of coconut milk 
 1 tbs earth balance of your choice - I keep the soy-free one in the house

This sauce takes a bit of time, but it's worth it.  Start by melting the earth balance over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add the diced onion and garlic.  I sprinkle a pinch of salt over them at this point.  Let the onions and garlic cook down just a bit and add the mushrooms.  Stir the onions and mushrooms.  Let the mushrooms brown just a bit.  Add the cup of vodka - it'll pick up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and make a wonderful sizzling sound.  Add the cans of diced tomatoes, the tomato paste and the coconut milk.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Bring the sauce down to a simmer, cover and let it be.  Stir periodically.  It's done when it gets thick - it isn't a terribly thick sauce, though.  It is a bit chunky from the tomatoes, but you could always blend it if you want a smoother sauce.  It generally takes me about 45 minutes to get it to a consistency I like.

Grilled Eggplant
 2 Medium Eggplants sliced length-wise
 Olive Oil

I think that many people have tricks for preparing eggplant.  I don't.  I used a mandoline to slice mine-I had it on the largest setting so my eggplant wouldn't fall apart on the grill.  I set my panini press to medium heat and grilled the eggplants on each side for about three minutes.  Until there were grill marks.  While the first side grilled, I put a bit of olive oil on the other side.  It's a relatively quick process, but because you'll have so much to grill, it can take a bit of time.

Assembly   -  350 degrees for 30-40 minutes
 Vodka Sauce 
 Grilled Eggplant
 Tofu Ricotta 
 3/4 cup vegan mozzarella

 Get your favorite pyrex and set up your filling station.  I like to have the sauce off to the side, the eggplant to my left, an empty plate right in front of me, the tofu ricotta in the center and the baking dish on the right. 

Take a slice of grilled eggplant and spoon approximately 1 tbs of filling towards the center.  Roll from the skinny side in - place in dish seam-side down.  Don't roll it too tightly-you want the filling to stay in the eggplant.

Repeat the process until your dish is filled.  Cover the eggplant with your vodka sauce, sprinkle with the vegan cheese and place on the center rack of the oven.  Check on it after 30 minutes - your goal here is to get the cheese melty and the insides gooey.  I usually leave it in the oven for a little over a half hour.

Next step - wait as long as necessary to not burn your tongue and dig in!  Enjoy!

My rollatini isn't as beautiful to look at, but I promise it's delightful.  If you ever make it to Garden Grille in Pawtucket, make sure you walk down two doors and pop into Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar - you won't be disappointed!

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