Smoked Cheese Eggplant Rolls

Eggplants have that hearty, meaty texture like some kinds of mushrooms; this is one reason why they are beloved by vegetarians. Cheese-stuffed eggplant rolls is a wonderful meal for a Meatless Monday, especially when a friend has just given you beautiful, shiny lavender eggplants from her garden. If you don't have eggplant, a similar dish can be made from other long summer squashes like zucchini.

The creamy, smoky taste of the cheese is what we think is the highlight of this dish. We urge you to splurge on some really good melty high-quality kind if you can afford it. The rest of the recipe is really inexpensive, and you are worth it.

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 20-oz can crushed tomatoes

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp capers

1 large eggplant (a long, thin one works best for this recipe)

1/2 pound smoked provolone, gouda, or scamorza cheese, sliced sandwich-thin

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

 

Directions

Take the cheese out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature.

Heat the oil in a saucepan until wavy. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Add the oinon and red bell pepper and saute for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the thyme, salt, and capers, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is ready to be stuffed.

Cut off the top of the eggplant. Slice it lengthwise into 1/4 thick strips. On a medium grill, cook the eggplant for several minutes on each side, or until the eggplant is tender and pliable.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x11 casserole pan.

Lay an eggplant slice flat on a cutting board. Place 1/2 slice of cheese on the slice. Rip a basil leaf in half and place each half on the slice. Roll up the slice and place it in the casserole pan. Repeat with each slice. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the rolls. Tear up the remaining cheese and sprinkle over the top.

Bake the casserole for 20-30 minutes,until heated through and bubbly. Serve with a tossed green salad and crusty bread, if desired.

 Serves 4-6.

See more Meatless Monday recipes at The Hungry Lovers.

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