Thursday, 22 August 2013

Involtini di Melanzane Grigliate Ripiene ai Formaggi( Grilled Aubergine Slices with a Mozzarella and Ricotta Filling. SO GOOD!)

The air was still warm, though a slight breeze played with the lilies and the pink geraniums, on the bedroom balcony. Through the wooden shutters, she could see the sky: beautiful white clouds were chasing red and blue horses, up in the infinite. She felt happy, as she could smell Summer rain in the air.
Have you ever seen a thunderstorm in a hot country, in the middle of Summer, when people are still swimming in the sea, and riding on the high waves? I was one of them. I can still remember being "kidnapped" by waves taller than a house, and letting go, knowing that everything would be alright and that I would just be carried ashore, sailing on top of the waves, with Neptune and the mermaids. Because, you know, they do exist. I have heard the song of the mermaids...
... And that song always leads me back to a time of love, happiness, warmth.. family... my beautiful family... still here... in my heart... in me... why can't we leap back to the past and stay, just for a little while?
There is no consolation, I know, but I do like to remember our happy, sunny, full of music home. And my parents... where are you, home of my young years?
Finding a connection between my family and a recipe... well... it may seem silly, but, being Italian, you can't help loving and sharing food with those you love. It's what I have learnt from my mum. She grew up without a father, in a very strict family where people didn't show affection by kissing and hugging. But she had other ways of showing her love. I still remember falling asleep with my head on her lap, on the sofa, in front of the television, while she "secretly" stroked my hair. You will probably laugh when I tell you that I was seventeen! Nobody taught her how to be openly affectionate, but what I do remember, was all the time we shared together in her kitchen, cooking, laughing and sharing that precious time together. Food... sharing food... doing things together, with love can be more meaningful than a hug.
Anyway! This morning I went out with my sister. The lady in one of the greengrocer's, Teresa (she has the most wonderful turquoise eyes!) was so welcoming and she had these huge, round aubergines for sale. My mum loved aubergines and we often had them in Parmigiana, stuffed, or preserved in olive oil. With her in mind I bought this huge aubergine.

Today, I wanted to try a new way of cooking this versatile vegetable, as yesterday I saw an intereastin chef on TV. The dish he prepared  inspired me. I believe I changed and improved on the original, the chef's version, and made it much more... delicious! A kind of a first for me, as we don't usually use ricotta in savoury dishes.
Anyway... do try this dish and be creative with the filling!

Involtini di Melanzane Grigliate Ripiene ai Formaggi
(Grilled Aubergine Slices with a Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese Filling)
6 slices aubergine
(2 cm deep)
some olive oil
("painted" with a brush on the griddle pan)
For the filling:
250 g (1/2 lb) ricotta cheese
6 thick slices mozzarella
a generous handful Parmesan cheese
3 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 fresh chilli pepper chopped
black pepper
For the salad:
1/2 kg ( 1lb 1oz) salad tomatoes, de-seeded and very finely chopped
1/4 onion, very finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
fresh basil
1tbsp vinegar
1/4  small onion, very finely chopped
2 spring onions (scallions) chopped
1tbs white wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
A selection of salad leaves
dressed any way you like
(I just used Extra Virgin Olive Oil
and salt)
I went vegetable shopping with my sister. The choice of fresh vegetables is unbelievable. Everything is locally produced, very fresh and organic. Most stalls are held by local farmers, proud of their fantastic produce. Walking round an Italian market is a feast for the eyes.
I don't know if you have read the Odyssey, but, well... I can't help feeling like Ulysses, who had to be tied to his ship, so he would succumb to the song of the mermaids... I want to buy everything... I look at everything... If I could, I would buy the whole market!
Anyway! I bought just one of those huge aubergines, like the ones my mum used to buy.. big, fat and grown in the southern Italian sun. It weighed more than a kilo! I took it home and decided to try this new recipe. The original recipe was cooked by a chef, on TV, but I have used his basic idea, to produce my own, healthier version.


I cut my aubergine in half. I then cut six 1 cm deep slices. Rather than fry, I decided to use very little oil on my old griddle pan and grill the slices, until they went golden and kind of "toasted."


I placed the slices on my mum's old pastry board to cool down.

 I then proceeded to make my ricotta filling. I placed the cheese into a bowl and with the help of a fork, I worked some chopped chilli pepper, some basil, and some parmesan cheese into it. I actually had some Provolone Piccante cheese in my fridge, so I decided to also grate some of that and add it to my mixture (you can add any cheese you like to your ricotta... feel free to play with your favourite flavours!)


I cut my mozzarella into thick slices... and I was now ready to make my "involtini!"
I spread my ricotta on each of the aubergine slices and placed one slice of mozzarella on top of it. I then added more flavours, using fresh basil, rucola (rocket) a bit of chilli pepper and more Parmesan. I made my involtini by rolling the slicing up and securing with a cocktail stick. DONE!


I served my aubergine with a little tomato salad. As you can see from the image, the tomatoes I used are what we call "pomodori verdi" (green tomatoes) which is a variety of very sweet tomato only used in salads. I de seeded each one of my tomatoes and chopped very finely. I did the same with a small piece of onion. To this I added fresh basil, rocket, olive oil, and some white wine vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is a fantastic alternative, or any kind of vinegar you like!


I placed some salad leaves (the purple one is radicchio, which I love!)  on a plate and dressed with some olive oil and little salt. I placed one or two of my involtini over this and finished my dish with a cascade of my beautiful looking tomato salad. A fantastic Summer dish, also suitable for a cold buffet!