Thursday, May 13, 2010

Involtini di Melanzane

So it isn't made from seitan and it certainly isn't a summery dish, but my goodness, involtini di melanzane (or eggplant rollatini for us English speakers) has to be one of the best dishes ever created. When I lived in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, I was lucky enough to live around the corner for a bustling, family-style Italian restaurant. I don't even remember the name, but I still long for their involtini which was, hands down, the best I've ever had.

I had an eggplant, a bunch of basil growing in the aerogarden, and a little time on my hands, so I decided to try to recreate their involtini for last night's dinner. Some recipes I found have you bread the eggplant; some fry it. After slicing it as thinly as possible, I dipped them in flour, then egg whites and baked them in the oven. Meanwhile, I mixed together spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiana-reggiano, another egg white, basil, and seasonings. One meets the other, the rolls get popped in a pyrex dish with tomato sauce and topped with more mozzarella and parmigiana-reggiano, and 45 minutes later, we had dinner.

It was good, but not a patch on the restaurant's version. I'm pretty certain the ingredients were the same - sort of. This turned out to be a real lesson in sacrificing flavor for healthier foods. Summer is (hopefully) coming soon, so in a fit of winter flab angst, my last grocery trip netted fat free ricotta and fat free mozzarella. (Real parmigiana-reggiano, though; it will be a cold day in hell when I buy that powdered crap in the green shaker.) On the plus side of fat free ricotta, I didn't need to drain it ... of course, that means that it is dry, dry, dry already. And fat free mozzarella turns out to be flavor free mozzarella. Using whole eggs rather than egg whites might have made a slight difference in flavor, but it is really down to the cheese.

I love cheese.

Next time, I'll make this with fresh mozzarella and whole milk ricotta. Or maybe I should just head back to Brooklyn - purely for research, of course. There are probably lots more restaurants' involtinis I never tried.


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