Involtini vivaci (stuffed eggplant rolls)
Inspired by Sicily
Sicilia: diversely captivating, rough around the edges, tremendously sensual.
In short, this is Sicily to me. One cannot visit Sicily without becoming overwhelmed by the landscape, the people, the history, and of course, the food. Start off the day with a sugar hit from a granita, take in all the sounds and scents from the markets and taste pani ca meusa (rounded off with a huge slice of watermelon), embrace eggplant in any form you come across, and indulge in gelato with a freshly baked brioche col tuppo. Only then will you see what I mean.
Now, on to the involtini. I consider rolls of any kind to be timid creatures, hiding their true nature and revealing it only at the perfect moment. Each bite is an explosion of flavour: the lemon, anchovies, and olives are bold and vibrant, while the ricotta and eggplant caress and unite them all.
Involtini Vivaci (Lively Rolls)
- 2 long, striped eggplants (melanzane striate)
- 200 g ricotta
- 50 g caciotta (or other semi-soft cheese)
- 10 g fresh parsley
- 2 lemons
- 8 anchovies preserved in oil (alici)
- 32 small olives
- 4 grape leaves
- olive oil
- sea salt
Cut the eggplant in thin slices, around 5 mm thick, until there are 16 of them. Brush them with some olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Grill the slices for about 30 seconds per side. Set aside on a plate. (A frying pan could also be used.)
Cut the lemon in thin slices, around 3 mm thick.
Combine the ricotta, grated caciotta, a pinch of pepper, and the chopped parsley leaves. Mix well.
Prepare a baking pan, brushed with olive oil, and preheat the oven to 200°C. (A closed barbecue could be used in place of an oven.)
Each roll requires 1 slice of eggplant, 1/2 of an anchovy, 1 tablespoon of the filling, and 2 olives. Alternate between 2 versions.
Version 1: With the eggplant lying on a flat surface (nice side down), place the anchovy and the filling in the centre. Roll up the eggplant and place it open side down on the pan. Place 1 olive on either side of the filling.
Version 2: With the eggplant lying on a flat surface (nice side down), place the filling in the centre. Roll up the eggplant and place it open side down on the pan. Place 1 olive on either side of the filling. Place the anchovy on top.
Arrange the rolls in an alternating manner, placing a folded slice of lemon in between each one. Randomly place a few rolls inside of a grape leaf.
Bake the involtini for 15 minutes at 200°C. Serve them hot, tepid, or even cold!