Eggplant Cannelloni

Eggplant Cannelloni

The last few months have been go, go, go, which has meant fewer posts to the blog, less time to photograph recipes, 😭 and learning to cut myself a break every once in a while.

Somehow, yesterday was April and today it's September. September thirteenth. Back in April my mantra was, "You can't do literally everything," but somewhere between then and now, my mantra became nothing but a string of words, as I continued to ignore their meaning. So, today, I'm trying out this new mantra: Cut yourself a break. It means going easy on yourself when you've been trying your hardest. It means giving yourself a pass when you need it most.

Eggplant Cannelloni

In the midst of my mantra-creating and mantra-forgetting, our stockpile of eggplants has been growing: Not a day goes by that I don't have at least three of them sitting in our fruit bowl, staring me back. This year I planted six varieties, next year I'll plant two: Fengyuan and Black Beauty. 

  • Edirne - these were the first to fruit, but they're my least favorite to eat. other than their pretty green and purple stripes, they are just a little bitter and not as tasty.
  • Antigua - these are my favorite to look at but they are quite small, better for slicing in half and roasting with some harissa or something of the sort.
  • Fengyuan - my most copious producer, I freakin' love these eggplants. They are long (17 inches!), skinny and usually make a "J" shape. They are absolutely delicious when stir fried with some garlic and Thai basil.
  • Ping Tung - I also like these for stir fries, but for whatever reason I prefer the Fengyuan... no need to grow both, they are so similar! 
  • Black Beauty and Florida - speaking of similar, I can barely tell these two plants apart. I think I like the black beauty ones the most (we have gotten some massive eggplants from those plants). In any case, they are the best variety for recipes like this cannelloni, where you want wide strips, or this roasted eggplant salad. They're also the variety you usually find at the grocery store. 

Ok, don't quote me on the only growing two varieties thing. But those are my favorite so far this season. Have you ever grow eggplants? What were your favorite varieties? 

Basket of Eggplants from the Garden
Eggplant Cannelloni

Normally I'd suggest serving this with a glass of red, but I happened to also be making a batch of this Fig & Pear White Wine Sangria, so of course I had to have a glass of that instead. 

P.S., if you like this recipe, you'll LOVE this Zucchini Ricotta Manicotti. 😋

Eggplant Cannelloni

Published September 13, 2018 by
   Print This Recipe

Serves: 6-8   |    Active Time: 40 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized eggplants
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 pound beef
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Directions:

    1. Light grill set flame to medium. Slice eggplant into strips the long way. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, and them place on grill, cooking for about 5 minutes before flipping. Eggplant slices should have char marks on the outside and be softened through. Remove from heat, turn off grill, and set eggplant aside.
    2. Heat coconut oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat until it glistens. Add diced onion and minced garlic and sauté until onions are transparent.
    3. Add beef to skillet. Brown beef, using a wooden spatula to create crumbles as it cooks. When beef is browned, add 1/2 cup marinara sauce to the pan and stir. Turn off heat.
    4. Allow beef mixture and eggplant to cool just enough so they can be handled before proceeding to next step. (Warm is fine, just avoid burning yourself!)
    5. Prepare baking dish: spread remaining 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x9 or 7x12 baking dish.
    6. Work with one eggplant strip at a time. Lay it out in front of you, with the short end towards you, and place about 2 tablespoons of beef mixture in the center of the strip. Roll the strip around the beef, rolling in the opposite direction of your body. Place rolled eggplant in the baking dish, with the “seam” down. Repeat this step until all eggplant strips are used.
    7. Sprinkle top of cannelloni with mozzarella and then parmesan, and place in oven. Set broiler to high and broil for 5-10 minutes, until cheese and sauce are bubbling. Serve hot.

    Layered Summer Ratatouille

    Summery Ratatouille

    Continuing with the theme of recipes that use up all of your summer produce: Ratatouille! 

    Admittedly my garden has been very slow to produce this year probably due to the hailstorm in mid-June, but I’m guessing most of you don’t have that problem, so you’ll be able to make use of this recipe soon!

    Is there a more beautiful way to display summer produce than a ratatouille? An array of color, layers of vegetables. And it's really quite simple to make, easier than pie! Easier than it looks — that’s for sure. 

    So what is ratatouille? There are two different versions: one where all the vegetables are stewed together, and this one, where delicate rounds of tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant are arranged over an herby tomato sauce. That’s it! From there you can customize: add protein to the sauce, top with fresh cheese or herbs, you name it.

    Summery Ratatouille
    Summery Ratatouille

    I served this version over Ina Garten's Parmesan polenta and OMG... I don’t think I’ve ever had such delicious polenta. I wouldn’t call it healthy or anything of that nature. But it is soooo good! And goes perfectly well with this ratatouille, rounding out the meal.

    Can you believe it’s August already? Where has the time gone?! 

    Summery Ratatouille

    Layered Summer Ratatouille

    Published August 2, 2018 by
       Print This Recipe

    Serves: 4   |    Active Time: 70 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 skinny eggplant
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, or 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For serving: minced fresh basil, shredded parmesan.
  • Optional: if you would like to add protein to this recipe, 1 cup of cooked hot Italian sausage crumbles.

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
    2. In the bottom of a 9x9inch baking dish, spread the tomato paste in an even layer. Sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, and basil. If you are using the sausage, spread crumbles over tomato paste layer at this time.
    3. Slice the zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, and bell pepper into thin rounds. Arrange the rounds in overlapping rows over the tomato paste layer. Brush with oil, and then season with salt & pepper.
    4. Bake for 50 minutes, until veggies are softened through an golden on the edges. Top with minced fresh bail and shredded parmesan. Serve hot.

    No-Noodle Lasagna

    No-Noodle Lasagna

    The first lasagna recipe I published on this blog called for twenty ingredients. TWENTY! That is not a typo. (I'm embarrassed to even link to that recipe, oh how much I've learned since 2015!)

    Lasagna is one of those things that just has a lot of components, but I was on a mission with this one: Simplify. Because some weeks, even just having twenty ingredients on your shopping list is stressful. Right??

    This version has less than half that number of ingredients. That said, it still needs to bake for 50 minutes, so if you are trying to serve this on a weeknight, doing all the prep ahead of time will help you out.

    No-Noodle Lasagna
    No-Noodle Lasagna

    This one is about the essentials:

    • A good marinara sauce. I used store bought, but you can also use this 20-minute recipe. I'm all for homemade but some times you have to cut yourself a break! 
    • Ricotta cheese. Any excuse to use ricotta cheese is welcome, if you ask me. But it's also the creamy layer in lasagna, and arguably the best part. 
    • Mozzarella! You might be thinking, two different kinds of cheese? Yes! (And a third, if you keep reading). Mozzarella adds the gooey, stringy cheese texture to the top of the casserole. And that third cheese? Parmesan, which I mostly added for good measure, and also it's flavor.
    • Meat. In this case, Italian Sausage. I love the flavor of hot Italian sausage, but you could easily use ground beef if you prefer. Many chefs choose to mix the two, in fact, but again simple was the name of the game here.
    • Noodles -- but in this case, actually eggplant sliced thin and used in place of noodles. Eggplant goes so well with lasagna flavors. Bring on the veggies!

    What is not essential to lasagna is the spinach layer, but I added it in because if I'm going to be cooking a lasagna, I may as well cover all of my bases instead of also making a side salad. 

    No-Noodle Lasagna
    No-Noodle Lasagna

    No-Noodle Lasagna

    Published July 12, 2018 by
       Print This Recipe

    Serves: 8   |    Active Time: 90 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce (choose one that has basil or garlic, or make your own )
  • 1-2 eggplants (1 large or 2 medium)
  • 16 ounces ricotta
  • 16 ounces hot Italian sausage, ground
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Optional: minced parsley for garnish

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450°F, and slice eggplants in thin, long strips — about 1/4-inch thick. Spread slices out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and brush with olive oil. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, until eggplant begins to soften.
    2. Meanwhile, brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Once cooked, set aside.
    3. Place thawed spinach in a strainer, and squeeze out as much extra water as possible.
    4. Make the lasagna: spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9x16-inch baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant strips as “noodles” in a single layer. Spread ricotta cheese over eggplant, and then top with sausage crumbles. Next, spread the spinach in a layer. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over top, and then layer the remaining eggplant in a second layer. Top with another 1/2 cup of sauce, and then top with shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan.
    5. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F, and bake lasagna covered for 25 minutes, and then uncovered for 25 minutes.
    6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then top with minced parsley. Slice and serve. Top with parmesan if desired.