Last week I went to a vegan umami cooking class down in Chelsea. Last time I went to a professional cooking class was a vegan baking class at Blossom Bakery. That was on a Saturday morning, there was plenty of red wine involved, and it was a much smaller class (just 3 students including myself, plus our teacher) so it was very relaxed. This time it was on a Thursday night; it lasted 4 hours; we were divided into 4 teams, each team making 4 dishes with our chef and her assistants swarming around. Talk about intense! But I did learn some really great tips and tricks to enhance umami flavor in vegan eggplant dishes. Stay tuned for more!
One of the dishes we made was a vegan eggplant rollatini. I loved it, but I made some changes to make it easier to recreate at home. Instead of pine nuts, I used cashew to make the “ricotta” cheese. The original recipe also included umeboshi vinegar, but I just used red wine vinegar. I also chose a light purple eggplant instead of the regular Italian eggplant, which made it look even prettier. And I also used nutritional yeast; for some reason the entire umami class was conducted sans noush–probably because it’s not a super sexy ingredient among chefs’ circles. Balsamic vinegar “caviar,” it is not. Well, it has a super sexy taste (in my opinion) and I love it in “cheesy” dishes like this one. And my version was a huge hit! This vegan eggplant recipe is lovely, comforting, and perfect for wowing your guests.
Vegan Eggplant Rollatini
Serves 2 for entree and 4 for appetizer (with plenty of cashew cheese leftovers)
1 large light purple eggplant (regular Italian is also okay, but light purple is prettier)
2 cups marinara sauce
1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 7 hours
2 tsp white miso
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
pinch of raw sugar or another natural sweetener
salt to taste
3 cups loosely packed basil, chopped roughly
1/3 cup roughly chopped raw walnuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (more to taste)
salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1. Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4″ thin slices. If the eggplant is really long, you can also cut it in half crosswise first. This will make for more bite-sized rolls.
2. In a large bowl, put the eggplant slices and toss with oil, salt, and pepper to coat. Then, either grill the eggplant, about 2-3 minutes on each side or (if you don’t have indoor grill) place the pieces over wire rack, on top of a baking tray, and broil on high for 10 minutes. (I broiled).
3. Meanwhile, put all cashew cheese ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor and process until the texture is very thick and creamy. Set aside.
4. Process all the pesto ingredients together and set aside.
5. To assemble, pour about 3/4 – 1 cup of marinara sauce at the bottom of the baking dish. Add about 1 tbsp each of cashew cheese and pesto to the end of the eggplant piece, and roll from that end to the other end. Place in the baking dish, the loose end down. Finish with the rest of the eggplant slices. Dot the eggplant with remaining sauce and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degree F for 10 minutes.
More hearty vegan entrees:
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling