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Full Circle Eggplant Cannelloni

Posted Aug 26 2011 10:08am
When AJ and I were newlyweds living in Pensacola, we lived mostly on chicken breasts grilled on the George Foreman and Mahatma rice mixes. On weekends when we had a bit more time away from work, we started cooking simple dishes together, sometimes pulling ideas from the few cookbooks on our shelf. My favorite to peruse was the shiny Essentials of Healthful Cooking  my mom had given me. We loved the full page, enticing pictures that accompanied each healthy recipe complete with detailed instructions.

One Saturday night, we invited one of AJ’s buddies from the Academy whom was also in training with him at the Naval Air Station, over for supper. I wanted a comforting, special dish to serve him as he was pining for his lovely, pregnant Navy nurse wife in California, waiting for her to transfer to Florida. Traditional Cannelloni is a baked pasta dish stuffed with ground meat, usually pork & veal, vegetables and cheese and topped with a Béchamel or white sauce made with a roux and scalded milk. The healthified version in Essentials is made with Eggplant in place of the noodles and ground turkey for the filling. Although the first go around took me the better part of the afternoon to prepare, the boys apparent enjoyment of the finished dish made it well worth it. By the way, the couple are happily living in Hawaii with three beautiful little boys now. : )

Recently, as AJ and I sat down to my naturally veggiefied version of the original he pointed out the full circle the dish had made as our tastes and life had evolved the last 5 years.

Here is the original recipe, graciously shared courtesy of Dana Jacobi from the William Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking , copyright 2003, Oxmoor House Inc. My veggiefied version is below.


Eggplant Cannelloni
“Ingredients:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant 1 3/4-2 lb

Filling

  • oilive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 6 oz. white button mushrooms, brushed clean, stems removed and caps finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, trimmed of all visible fat and finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 3 cups Lean Béchamel Sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2-3 gratings fresh nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsps canola oil
  • 2 tbl. all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Instructions:
Eggplant
  1. Position racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°. Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil.
  2. Cut off the stem end of the eggplant. Standing upright on the cut end, and using a very sharp or serrated knife, cut the eggplant vertically into slices 1/4 inch thick. Discard 2 outer slices which are mostly skin.
  3. Arrange 6 slices on each baking sheet and brush with oil. Turn the slices and brush with the remaining oil.
  4. Bake until the eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes.
  5. Turn the eggplant slices and return to the oven on opposite racks. Bake until the slices are flexible at the neck end and still hold together at the wide end, 6-10 minutes longer. Using a spatula, transfer the slices to a plate and set aside.
  6. Reduce oven to 350°
Filling
  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
  2. Add onion and saute until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix in the mushrooms, cook until they release their liquid and start to brown, 6-7 minutes.
  4. Stir in turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When the meat loses its pink color, after 4-5 minutes, transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  5. Mix in ricotta and prosciutto, then stir in the bread crumbs and 1/8 tsp. pepper until ingriednts are evenly distributed; be careful not to overmix the filling, or it will become gluey.
Béchamel
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it begins to steam, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the nutmeg. Keep hot.
  2. In a heavy, nonstick pan over medium heat, warm the canola oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour.
  3. Using a mashing motion, stir constantly until the flour mixture begins to become fluffy and looks shiny, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Cook for 30 seconds longer, taking care not to let the flour color.
  5. While whisking vigorously, pour in 1/2 cup of the hot milk. When the mixture is as smooth as you can get it, pour in the remaining milk while whisking constantly.
  6. Cook over medium heat until lumps have disappeared and the sauce comes to a boil.
  7. Then reducing the heat as needed to prevent scorching, cooking, stirring often, until the sauce has the consistency of light whipping cream, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add 1/2 tsp. salt & season to taste with pepper.
Assemble Cannelloni
  1. Spread 1 cup of the Béchamel sauce to cover the bottom of a 1-qt baking dish.
  2. Lay an eggplant slice on a work surface. Place 1/4 cup of filling at the wide end of the eggplant.
  3. Lift the slice and roll away from you, pressing lightly so the filling spreads the whole width of the slice and enclosing the filling completely.
  4. Place in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining slices, forming 2 rows.
  5. Pour the remaining Béchamel sauce evenly over the eggplant.
  6. Sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  7. Cover with foil, bake until the eggplant is soft and a knife inserted into the center of the roll is hot to the touch when removed, 1-1 1/4 hrs.
  8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Divide the cannelloni evenly among warmed plates and serve.”

Full Circle Eggplant Cannelloni
Print
Recipe type: Entree
Author: Cowgirl Beans
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour 40 mins
Serves: 6
Original Recipe from “Essentials of Healthful Cooking”. To veggify, I added more mushrooms and chopped eggplant or you could add some cooked chickpeas or soy crumbles. To make vegan sub tofu for ricotta and rice cheese for topping.
Ingredients
  • Spray of olive oil
  • 2 eggplants, washed, ends cut off
  • Filling
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 3 cups spinach
  • mushrooms (any kind, I love baby bella) chopped
  • reserved eggplant, chopped
  • in the past I used 1/2 lb. ground turkey or elk) now I up the mushrooms & chopped eggplant to about 1 cup or add a cup of chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup organic ricotta cheese
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper
  • Béchamel Sauce
  • 2 cups almond or rice milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil OR Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 2 tbl. unbleached flour (King Arthur)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, nutmeg
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Fresh herbs
Instructions
Eggplant
  1. Preheat to 375°.
  2. Cut eggplant vertically into slices 1/4 inch thick. Save extra eggplant for filling.
  3. Place slices on a baking sheet so not touching and spray lightly with olive oil.
  4. Bake until the eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes, then flip and bake about 6-10 more minutes.
  5. Using a wide spatula, transfer the slices to a plate and set aside.
  6. Reduce oven to 350°
Filling
  1. In a pan over medium-high heat sprayed with olive oil add onion and garlic and saute until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix in the mushrooms and chopped eggplant, cook until they release liquid and start to brown, 6-7 minutes.
  3. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and gently stir in ricotta and pepper
Béchamel
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it begins to steam, about 5 minutes. Turn heat off.
  2. In a heavy, nonstick pan over medium heat, warm the oil or butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour.
  3. Stir constantly until the flour mixture begins to become fluffy and looks shiny, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Cook for 30 seconds longer, taking care not to let the flour color.
  5. While whisking vigorously, pour in 1/2 cup of the hot milk. When the mixture is as smooth as you can get it, pour in the remaining milk still whisking constantly.
  6. Cook over medium heat until lumps have disappeared and the sauce comes to a boil.
  7. Then reduce the heat and stir often, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  8. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Assemble Cannelloni
  1. Spread 1 cup of the Béchamel sauce to cover the bottom of a baking dish.
  2. Spoon about 1/4 cup of filling on the wide end of an eggplant slice.
  3. Roll up and place in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining slices, forming rows.
  4. Pour the remaining Béchamel sauce evenly over the eggplant.
  5. Cover with foil, bake until the eggplant is soft about 45 minutes- 1 hr.
  6. Remove foil, sprinkle each bundle with a touch of mozzarella and broil until browned, 10-15 more minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, grate fresh Parmesan cheese over top and add snipped fresh herbs.
  8. Let rest for 10 minutes, (if you can!), use a large spoon to serve.
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