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Meatless Monday: Baked Eggplant with Spinach and Ricotta

April 25, 2016



After graduating to my 24th week of pregnancy I needed to whip up something to make good use of my 23 week eggplants!


In honor of #meatlessMonday, and much to the initial chagrin of Mr meat-lover-Vine, this baked eggplant recipe is perfect for vegetarians and carnivores alike, with the eggplants lending a robust and 'meaty' texture.



Teamed with the classic combos of ricotta & spinach, and a sweet, rich tomato & basil sauce, this recipes lends itself to being made in large quantities and enjoyed straight out the oven, then portioned up and frozen for easy weeknight meals.


Makes 8 portions
Ingredients:

olive oil
3 cloves garlic
28oz/800g canned tomatoes
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of white sugar
small bunch of basil

2 eggplants/aubergine

2 cloves garlic
nutmeg
1lb/450g fresh spinach
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
1lb/450g whole milk ricotta
pepper

8oz/230g fresh mozzarella 

Method:

Preheat oven to 385F.

Eggplants have a lot of water in them, to get them baked without becoming mushy, and to enhance their flavour it's best to salt them before cooking with them.

Cut the eggplant into thin, lengthwise slices and lay out on a baking rack over the sink or over another large baking tray. Generously sprinkle salt over all the slices, this might seems crazy but the salt will be washed off before you put them in the dish

Whilst the eggplants leach water, make the tomato sauce and ricotta mix. To make the sauce, finely mince the garlic (3 cloves) and add to a pan with a little oil, fry on a gentle heat until the garlic softens but does not colour. Pour in the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar, then simmer for fifteen minutes. Turn out the heat under the sauce an add in finely chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste.

To make the ricotta mix, finely mince the garlic (2 cloves) and sauté in a little oil in a large, high sided frying pan. When the garlic is softened but not coloured, add in a handful of spinach, sauté until the spinach has wilted. Continue to pile in the spinach and cook it until it wilts until you've cooked all the leaves. I prefer sautéing spinach as it allows a lot of the excess liquid to fry off in the cooking process, unlike steaming. 

Remove the spinach from the pan and lay out on a few layers of paper towel, press the spinach with more paper towel to removed as much liquid as you can, then allow the spinach to cool.


Once cooled, chop the spinach and add it to the ricotta, along with the parmesan. Add about half a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and pepper to taste. I tend not to add additional salt as the parmesan is very salty.
To build the dish, first wash the salt off the eggplant. It may seem counter productive to put water back on to the slices when you've been trying to draw moisture out of them, but the water will not be on the eggplant long enough to be reabsorbed. Rinse each slice off all the salt, lay onto a couple of folded layers of paper towel, press the slice with more towel to be sure it's as dry as can be.

Layer a large ovenproof dish with ricotta, slices of aubergine and tomato sauce, repeating until you've used everything, finishing with a tomato sauce layer.

Tear the fresh mozzarella into small pieces and dot over the top of the sauce. Bake in the over for about an hour, test whether the eggplant is cooked by inserting a knife into a couple of spots to check how tender they are. If they are still quite firm, continue cooking but place some foil over the top of the dish to stop the mozzarella burning.




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