I’ve been thinking about eggplant. It’s in season – inspiring! – but the flavor, the texture, is so… uninspiring. Hmm. What to make? Then, I remember the eggplant rolls Mamma Agata makes in Ravello and I have a plan. We stopped off at her cooking school with Mingus in tow when he was just a year old. Her recipes for Lemon Chicken, Lemon Risotto, and Lemon Cake have become stand-bys in our home. And Mamma Agata solves the eggplant problem brillantly – with fat and flavor.
I skin three eggplants and slice them thinly, laying them out on a cookie tray. I sprinkle both sides with salt and let them sit for twenty minutes to sweat off some of their moisture. Beluga helps me flip them and blot the slices with a paper towel.
Mamma Agata recommends frying the eggplant in peanut oil, but I only stock olive oil, so I heat it to just shy of smoking and slip the slices in. While those sizzle in the skillet, I cook up a couple sweet Italian sausages in another pan, and thinly slice sun-dried tomato. I lay out these ingredients on a board, adding arugula, goat cheese and sliced mozzarella.
Everyone will assemble their own rolls, at the table. Beluga gets nibbles. As I load up the kids’ plates with ingredients and show Mingus how to make a roll, he asks, “Mommy, what is this?” I explain, it’s mozzarella cheese – not the soft kind, but with less water, sliced. [silence – oh, unusual silence – as he contemplates the strangely uniform cheese on his plate] I can see Mingus’ body shift from consternation to delight. He makes eyes at me and says, “I call it mogjkdjfsda.”
Me: Huh? It’s called Mozz-ar-ell-a.
Mingus: No, I call it MONSTER-ELLA!
We all laugh:) This is why it’s wonderful to make something new. It’s entertainment.
Eggplant Monster-ella Rolls:
8 Slices Mozzarella Cheese
A Small Log of Dense Goat Cheese
A handful of Arugula (William loves the British name for it: rocket)
4 Sun-dried tomatoes
2 Sweet Italian Sausages
1/2 Cup Parmesan
Skin and slice the eggplants, lay them on a tray, sprinkle them with salt and let them sweat for twenty minutes. Then blot them with a paper towel. Cook them in a medium hot skillet coated with olive oil in batches so that there is only one layer of them in the skillet at a time. Cook each side until lightly browned. At the same time, cook the sausages on medium in another skillet until cooked through, about fifteen minutes. Slice up the sun-dried tomatoes, and the cheese. Wash and dry the arugula. Cut up the cooked sausage and lay everything on a platter. To assemble a roll, lay out a slice of eggplant and splrinkle grated Parmesan over it. Lay down a slice of Mozzarella cheese and two or three Arugula leaves on top of the Parmesan. Then at one end of the strip, place three or four pieces of sun-dried tomato and a chunk of sausage. Roll it all up. For a creamy variation, nix the Mozzarella and add a chunk of goat cheese alongside the sausage.