You know what is more pleasing and fulfilling than cooking? Cooking with my friend Yasmine who’s just as passionate as me about cooking!
On my way back to Montreal from Spain, I stopped in Toronto to visit my two great friends (who happen to be sisters) Yasmine and Caroline. Yasmine believes that eggplants are underrated and they’re the most versatile vegetable. To prove this to me, she suggested she bake this signature dish of hers, which kept us in the kitchen almost all morning.
Before I have Yasmine write up her recipe for you guys, let me just say that if you do not like eggplants or are impartial to them, this dish has the power to transform you into an eggplant lover. What a masterpiece. Yasmine, take over.
Baked Eggplant Rolls with Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Pine Nuts
5 Italian eggplants (you can substitute with the large American variety)
A cup of milk, and salt as needed
1/4 cup organic palm oil and 1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 cup goat cheese (preferably the variety with black pepper)
1/3 cup cream cheese
2 handfuls of basil (one handful for the stuffing, another for scattering)
3/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted
I prepared the eggplant rolls by peeling them, slicing them lengthwise (about an inch) and then soaking them for over an hour in salted milk. Salting and soaking the eggplants helps extract the bitter juices out of the eggplant.
Then I heated the oils in a deep saucepan and lightly fried the eggplant. I placed the slices or eggplant on a bed of thick kitchen towels to soak up the oils. The reason I like to use palm oil instead of regular corn oil or sunflower oil is because palm oil is a healthy alternative: no transfats or hydrogenated oils.
I used the same saucepan to caramelize the onions at a low temperature. You will realize that there’s not much oil left in the saucepan. If nothing was left, add a tablespoon or so.
Meanwhile, I prepared the baking dish by diluting the tomato paste in a 1/4 cup of water and spreading on the bottom. Then I sliced the tomatoes an inch thick and spread across the dish.
At this point, preheat the oven to 350F.
And now for the best part, the stuffing! Mix the goat cheese, cream cheese, onions, pine nuts, and shredded basil in a bowl. Place a spoonful in the center of the eggplant and roll. Assemble the mini eggplant rolls in the baking dish over the tomatoes and place in rows tightly.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining basil before serving.