I’ve happily walked into the life of someone who owns a grill. And a pool. Seeing as though I live in a small, city apartment with not even an inch of backyard space, this new addition to my life overcomes me with joy. I’m not talking about the new friend. Just the swimming and the grilling. (Kidding, of course).
While as a kid I had more than enough yard for forts and capture the flag, I didn’t grow up with a grill. Or a pool. But I begged my parents for both. I can see why they didn’t want to take on the latter, but the absence of a grill is still something I’ve never quite figured out. When veggies are in season, I find it to be one of the easiest ways to create a healthy plate full of flavor.
As of lately, I’ve been using my friend’s grill to feast on a ton of portobello mushrooms. It’s as simple as whisking up a 3-ingredient marinade of garlic, olive oil and splash of balsamic. From there, just throw those saucy rounds to the flame. Easy. Add some melted cheese, toast up a bun, and you’ve got summer’s easiest vegetarian burger.
Before I discovered my new friend had grill access, I invited him over for post-yoga dinner of Eggplant Rollatini. If I would’ve known about his backyard status, I would’ve saved this one for a later date. There are only so many eggplant slices you can fit on a countertop George Foreman. Chilling outside while waiting for food to char is one thing. Chilling inside, impatiently counting the minutes till the next batch, is another. Times that by four batches, and you get the true 2-br Philly apartment grilling experience.
If you have a backyard grill, by all means, use it for this recipe. If you don’t, but have a grill pan or other smaller device, I assure you, the slight impatience you may suffer through will be worth the results. Take the time to slice and cook through several batches. Grilling the eggplant first ensures you won’t end up with a chewy, undercooked rollatini. If there’s anything that can easily ruin an eggplant parm or rollatini, it’s an undercooked base. Don’t let that happen.
Here, I’ve created a vegan version of the Italian classic by using a ricotta-like crumbled tofu and then adding bulgur wheat for a little extra texture. Herbs and nutritional yeast make sure this is by no means a flavorless vegan dish, and marinara seals the deal to compliment all the flavors. If you’re lucky, eat this pool-side or deck-side. If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Literally. Grab a beer, open the window and enjoy.
- -1 1/2 large eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise (1/4-inch thick)
- -1/2 block of extra firm tofu
- -1 large clove garlic, minced
- -1 lemon, juice and zest
- -1 cup cooked bulgur wheat
- -2 cups kale, stems stripped, leaves chopped
- -1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- -1 scant tsp. salt
- -1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
- -2 Tbsp. fresh basil
- -2 tsp. dried oregano (or 3 times fresh)
- -Pepper, to taste
- -Olive oil, for brushing
- -2 cups marinara sauce
- -1/4 cup bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Lightly brush eggplant slices with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them on a hot grill or grill pan and cook until each side is lightly browned, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
- In a large bowl, crumble tofu. Add garlic, lemon plus zest, bulgur wheat, nutritional yeast, salt, chili pepper flakes and herbs. Stir to combine, and then toss in kale. Season with pepper, to taste.
- Line large baking pan with aluminum oil and spray with cooking oil. Place a slice of eggplant on a cutting board. Place a large spoonful of the tofu-bulgur mixture in the center, and then fold the two outer edges towards each other so that one just slightly flaps over the other one. Don't be afraid to over-stuff these. The kale will wilt down, and any rips or tears will be disguised by the sauce later on. Repeat this with each slice of eggplant, placing each roll side by side into the baking pan.
- Cover with sauce, and then sprinkle bread crumbs over top. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling. Let cool slightly, then serve.