Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-Ups – 7/67

EHKCE

How to combat the 6 Weeks Til The Wedding nervous energy:

  • Wine. Wine helps.
  • Be nicer to Daniel. We’re both doing lots of things. I am better at some and he is better at others. Good to remind myself of that.
  • Now would be a really good time to find that “my personal fitness routine” that I hear other people talk about but … it’s just so cold outside. All I want to do is eat cheesy things and cuddle. My body is my body and my body likes cheese and this is what my cheese-loving body will look like at my wedding.
  • See and connect with married friends to see how to make this easier for myself, and see what ideas and decorations we can stealimean borrow.
  • Continue to see friends for dinner, meet my fiance for randomly fancy cocktails just because it’s Wednesday, go to salsa classes, cook healthy things, don’t eat a whole wheel of brie. You know, keep life going.

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What not to do:

  • Spend hours on Pinterest. Boo Pinterest.
  • Spend hours on Etsy. Boo Etsy.
  • Keep procrastinating booking a makeup person.
  • Plan a giant month-long work trip the week after the wedding. Whoops, can’t help that one.

I’m  going to keep reminding myself that however this day turns out, I will be surrounded by my favorite people in the world, in my favorite city in the world, and will probably get to dance a lot, eat a bit, and hug a whole lotta people.

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So, back to one of those tips I gave myself — cooking! Here’s what we made for dinner last night, straight outta my bridal binder cookbook. This was really delicious! Might simplify it next time, doing more a lasagna style bake than the roll-ups. A little fussy but still doable on a week night (plus, leftovers for days!). Here’s how I did it.

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one year ago: nothing of note but I made this chickpea curry this week for a quick pantry meal and it was soooo good 
two years ago: erm, nothing, how about a mango mezcal margarita? (this would be a great wedding cocktail!)
three years ago: roasted tomato and kasha bowl
four years ago: butternut-tahini mash

Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-ups

thanks to my friend Rachel

¾ cup golden raisins
2 eggplants
Tablespoon or two olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ cup basil leaves, torn
24 oz jar prepared arrabbiata sauce (I used most of the jar)
3.5 oz jar prepared basil pesto (I used most of the jar, probably about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Soak golden raisins in warm water. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, then drain.

Slice eggplants the long way, so you have 8ish long slabs per eggplant. Brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill on a flat pan until tender, about 2 minutes/side.

Preheat oven to 400F. Spoon about ⅓ cup arrabiata sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish.

Set aside about two-thirds of your eggplant slices (the longer, most supple ones). Finely chop the remaining slices and put in a big bowl. Add to this bowl: a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mozzarella (about ⅓ of your mozz log), olives, basil leaves, most of the raisins, red wine vinegar, ½ cup arrabbiata sauce, some salt and pepper.

Lay eggplant slices out on your cutting board. Spread a dollop of basil pesto over each slice. Put a spoonful of filling on the larger end of each eggplant slice, then roll up. Place rolls in prepared dish, seam-side down.

Spoon more sauce over the rolls, then cover with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and any remaining basil.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbling and melty. Remove from oven and top with lots of fresh parsley and pine nuts.

I served it with pasta but it likely could stand on its own as a meal. Yum!

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heh, I seem to be an expert at taking up how ever much space is available. Thanks hairy-arm Daniel for this shot 😉

Roasted Radish, Blistered Pepper, and Olive Pizza

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Things I’d once assumed crazy and impossible and now know are doable:

  • I successfully only wore 1 pair of shoes (TEVAS iloveyou) for the entire month.
    • Daniel: You’ve been wearing Tevas this whole time?!! Shakes head.
    • Me: hehehehe.
    • Him: Stop googling your sandals at the coffee shop.
    • Me: hehehehe.
      Mom, be so proud.
  • Bike riding from Boston to NYC. My childhood friend Lauren and her lovely manfriend proved me wrong last weekend. Not sure the 180 mile trek is something they’ll try again for a while, but sounds like it was quite the adventure. We loved welcoming them with beer, Thai food, AC, and bagels.
  • Watching all 6 Star Wars movies. Okay, I still haven’t officially completed this one (and in fact fell asleep midway through the first), but I am DETERMINED. It is high time I know what my dorky imeanlovely boyfriend and his friends are talking about.
  • Making sticky dough form the same rectangular shape as the pan you’re putting it into. My mom made pizza all the time growing up, and I had one major success in college, but this was my (our) first Adult pizza-making session. In the middle, Daniel passionately exclaimed “I am never cooking again!” (as he is apt to do in moments of frustration), but then we tried a new tactic and voila pizza making led to pizza eating led to LET’S DO THIS AGAIN NEXT WEEK! An empty threat in the end.

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Roasted Radish, Blistered Pepper, and Olive Pizza

aka Pizza Experiment #1
hand held by Smitten Kitchen’s pizza section in her book or website

  • 2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large clove garlic, quartered
  • ½ t + 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 t sugar
  • 4-5 radishes, cut into thin circles
  • ½ onion, sliced thin
  • 1 small summer squash (yellow or green), cut into small chunks (optional)
  • 1 T olive oil, plus extra for drizzle
  • s&p
  • 2 peppers (I used red but your choice!)
  • dough (I am lucky enough to work at a bakery; my pizza dough came from the day’s baguette scraps. There are a million recipes on the internet to make easy dough, or ask your local pizza guy if they’ll sell you some, or just use the supermarket variety. You can’t really go wrong here.)
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • fresh mozzarella
  • black olives, one can (although most were eaten during prep), cut in half
  • prosciutto (totally optional)
  • fresh basil, torn into smaller pieces (NOT OPTIONAL….just kidding. But Seriously, DO this.)
  • olive oil for drizzle (fine, fine, optional).

Sauce

In a food processor, blend tomatoes, quartered garlic clove, ½ t red pepper flakes (or less), 1 T white wine vinegar, and 1 t sugar. Blend until there are no more chunks of tomato left. If you want to be totally anal you can strain it, but ours was more than smooth enough. This sauce is quite runny (don’t expect pasta sauce) but makes a great pizza base layer. As written, it is quite spicy; feel free to taste and spice as you go.

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Roast Radishes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sliced radishes, onion, and squash together on a baking tray. Coat in 1 T olive oil and cover with salt and freshly ground pepper. We used rosemary sea salt, but any old salt will do. Roast for about 20 minutes, until radishes are tender and sweet, and onions (and squash) get soft, sweet, and a bit mushy. Set Aside. Turn oven up as hot as it will go to prepare for pizza baking.

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Blistered Peppers

To make blistered peppers, remove grate on top of a gas stove. Cut just the very end off a pepper and spear it with a skewer (or chopstick). Turn one burner to highest flame. Hold pepper in flame (without burning your hand!), turning every so often, until skin gets blackened. This will be a fairly noisy process, as pepper actually emits sound bursts as skin gets charred! Don’t be alarmed. When peppers are totally blackened, set aside to cool. When cool, use your fingers or a small sharp knife to peel off the blackened skin. Don’t worry if some small charred pieces stick! They will just add extra flavor. Cut into thin strips.

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To assemble pizza

Sprinkle cornmeal to cover the bottom of a baking pan. (We used a rimmed cookie sheet.) Take that dough and manhandle it until it covers the bottom of the pan in a basic rectangular shape a preschooler could recognize. Use plenty of olive oil on your fingers and be patient. Gently use both hands to press on dough, inch by inch, starting at lumpy parts and pushing them outwards. If holes form, pinch them closed.

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Once this is accomplished, pat yourself on the back and move on to the fun part. Daniel and I each claimed half a pizza to do with as we wished (his meaty, mine overly cheesy). Here’s my ideal: spoon a bit of sauce over dough. Cover with roasted radish mixture. Next add pepper strips decoratively. Then tear long stringy pieces from your mozzarella ball and cover liberally. Top with halved black olives. (And if you’re Daniel, add proscuitto and hot sauce.) Pop into your super hot (as hot as it gets) oven for about 10 minutes, or until the crust bakes and cheese melts. Immediately out of the oven, cover with torn basil leaves. Devour while hot, perhaps while (finally) watching Star Wars.

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