2015-09-10 / From The Garden

End of Summer Supper

By Cynthia Gibson

It is almost autumn in the vegetable garden. The tomatoes have, indeed, run their course except for a few green hangers-on, but the beets are finally fattening up and the eggplant is perfect for picking. The last of your fresh basil is ready for harvesting, as are the herbs.

A perfect end-of-summer supper made up of a few of these final treasures from the vegetable garden is eggplant involtini.

If you were unable to travel to Tuscany this summer, now is your chance to catch up with this terrific Italian café dish. While it is baking, continue dreaming of Florence and Lucca, as the aroma will definitely make you think you are there.

Eggplant involtini is a simple Italian dish to make, and one your guests or family will enjoy. Involtini is the diminutive of involto–the Italian word for "to wrap or bundle." The recipe here is doing exactly that; you are wrapping two cheeses, eggs and herbs in eggplant.

If you planted eggplant in your garden this summer, then you are in luck. If you did not, make the effort to visit one of the farmer’s markets for fresh-grown eggplant, as I'm afraid the grocery store varieties have little taste. Select large purple eggplants for this savory meal because they will be sliced lengthwise.

Not only does this dish taste good, it looks beautiful and is filled with divine garden bounty.

Eggplant Involtini

Serves 6-8

2 large purple eggplants
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1 large container whole-milk
ricotta cheese
4 tbsp. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 large fresh balls of mozzarella
cheese (save one and grate the
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
(chiffonade, please)
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 large cloves of freshly minced
1/2 tsp. finely chopped thyme
1/2 tsp. finely chopped oregano
2 cups or a bit more of tomato
sauce of your choice
Italian flat parsley leaves for garnish Salt and ground black pepper

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Heat the oven to 3500. Wash eggplant, remove prickly stem and cap. No need to peel. With a very sharp knife, slice the eggplant length-wise 1/3 inch wide. Cut 12-16 of these slices.

Line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Spray the foil with olive oil spray. Place the sliced eggplant on the tray and brush with good olive oil. Sprinkle the eggplant with pinches of salt (not too much) and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the slices start to turn brown, turn them over and bake an additional 10 minutes. Watch them, as you want them golden brown and not burnt. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In large bowl, combine the cheeses, eggs, herbs, spices and scallions and mix well. Add a large pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground pepper. On a large cutting board, lay out the slices of eggplant. With a large soup spoon, place a generous mound of the cheese mixture at one end of the eggplant and roll it. Continue doing this until you have used all of the slices of eggplant.

With a pastry brush, brush the rest of the olive oil on the bottom and sides of a baking dish (large enough to hold all of your eggplant rolls). Pour 3/4 of the tomato sauce into the dish. Retain at least a 1/4 of a cup for later. Place each eggplant roll so the end flap is facing down into the sauce. Carefully brush the top of the eggplant rolls with the rest of the tomato sauce.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. While the eggplant is baking, take the last ball of mozzarella and thinly slice it. After the 10 minutes is up, place the mozzarella down the center of the eggplant and place the dish back into the oven until hot and bubbly, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with Italian parsley leaves. Serve piping hot.

Bask in the afternoon sun and enjoy this luncheon or prepare an al fresco dinner for friends. You have brought Tuscany home!

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