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
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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.

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    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
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    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.

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    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

    Quinoa salads have been a staple lately. I make a big batch of quinoa, roast up some veggies (it's been extra hot here, so I quite literally carry our toaster oven into the garage and roast them in there so that the house doesn't take all that extra heat), allow everything to cool, and then toss it all with fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, feta, toasted pine nuts, and a lemon vinaigrette.

    The combo is light but satisfying, summery and fresh. And just look at that rainbow of colors:  

    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

    Another perk when it comes to quinoa salads is that you can very easily adapt them. Recently I added chickpeas in place of feta (a good vegan option, if you're into that), made a red wine, garlic and herb vinaigrette lemon, and served it all over butterhead lettuce instead of baby greens. Voila! A totally different experience, but the same exact method. 

    The point is, you can swap whatever the heck is in season into this recipe. This particular recipe uses peak-of-summer crops. Some other combos to tantalize your tastebuds with:

    • Cherry tomatoes, bite-sized fresh mozzarella pieces, and basil with balsamic vinaigrette

    • Fresh tomato, cucumber, parsley, kalamata olives and chickpeas for a greek version

    • Bell peppers, broccoli florets, cilantro, bean sprouts, and a sesame soy dressing

    • Sugar snap peas, roasted asparagus, radishes, and sprouts for a cheery spring edition

    • Roasted butternut squash cubes, goat cheese, black beans, and walnuts for a late summer or fall version

    But for now, onward to this summery rainbow of a recipe! 

    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

    Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

    Published June 19, 2018 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 60 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 medium summer squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta crumbles
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2-3 cups baby greens (such as baby kale or spinach) 

  • For the dressing:
  • Zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Dice eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Slice summer squash into half moons, and slice red onion into medium-large wedges. Spread all of them out on a sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil, tossing them in the oil to coat. Roast veggies for 30-40 minutes, until onions are brown on the edges and eggplant is very soft the whole way through, and starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
    2. In a large salad bowl, combine: cooled quinoa and cooled roasted veggies, sliced grape tomatoes, minced parsley, feta, pine nuts, and baby greens.
    3. In a small jar, combine ingredients for dressing. Close jar and shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss until everything is combined. Serve.

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