I absolutely love to throw a dinner party. That must be why we have one almost every week.
I usually don't put too much thought into whom I get together to sit and eat at our table. The guests are usually whomever I ran into that week.
This time, my mom and step dad were in town for a visit. I had a few friends I really wanted them to meet. So, this was a well-planned dinner party. My guests were chosen with care. I wanted it to be relaxing and with no drama. I envisioned intelligent conversation with lots of humor and good times. Not only were the guests chosen with care, the food was as well.
Eggplant are sliced thin, and stuffed with roasted red peppers and ricotta cheese in this recipe. They are rolled up and covered with marinara sauce before baking.
Once the guest list was determined, Claud and I discussed what we would cook. I suggested lasagna and he said, "That is so weird. I was thinking lasagna." So, we knew that lasagna was meant to be. Good thing we thought about it a few days before because our lasagna takes at least two days to make.
That evening, after Daphne's choir concert, even though I was really tired, I ran to the store and picked up what I needed to get started on the two sauces. I knew the Bolognese had to be started that night or it wouldn't be perfect. I bought ground beef, tomato paste, onions, garlic, red wine, oregano, bay leaves, and stewed and roasted tomatoes for the Bolognese. I bought cheese and butter for the bchamel sauce.
Bchamel sauce has to be one of the most delicious creamy cheese sauces on the planet. I cannot resist bchamel, barnaise, or hollandaise sauces. You combine this type of sauce with a rich Bolognese, layered in thick sheets of pasta and you are in heaven. You'll have to add a few miles on the treadmill but the experience will be well worth it. I have written about this lasagna before. It is a very special treat. It is so indulgent and fattening. We only make it once a year.
Time: 45 minutes
2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise
cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups ricotta cheese
cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 roasted red bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
2 roasted yellow bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
4 cups marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the eggplant out on a flat surface. Rub the olive oil into each slice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parsley, and garlic. Mix well. Place a slice of pepper onto each piece of eggplant. Place a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture onto the top of each slice of eggplant. Roll the eggplant down from the top. Place the rolls into a oven proof dish. Cover with marinara sauce. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
I had five vegetarians coming to dinner, so I needed to come up with some other dishes to accommodate all of our guests, including the non-meat eaters. I decided to make vegetable lasagna too. As I gathered the vegetables for this lasagna, I couldn't keep my eyes off of the eggplant. For some reason, these two eggplants, which sat in my bowl on the counter, kept drawing my attention. I wanted to make something with these tasty beauties. They are really pretty with their glossy deep purple skin and their white flesh. I figured I should use them for the dinner party because my kids won't eat eggplant. I probably won't eat two eggplants on my own. Besides, I thought, I could make a nice treat to complement the lasagnas with these babies.
I like eggplant because it is so versatile. Eggplant can be grilled, fried, stuffed, roasted, and baked. The English call them aubergenes, which is a much prettier name. They can be made into moussaka, ratatouille, baba ganoush, eggplant Parmesan, and stew. Eggplant is also very good for your health. They contain phyto nutrients, which improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. These nutrients are found in the skin so it is important not to char or remove the skin from this fruit. Eggplant is high in fiber and their low soluble carbohydrate content has been proven to help people with diabetes. They are also low in calories with only thirty-five calories per cup. Furthermore, eggplant helps to lower bad cholesterol and lower high blood pressure if they aren't fried in oil.
I just made this dish up as I went. I sliced them thinly lengthwise and filled them with roasted red peppers and ricotta cheese. Then, I added some store-bought marinara sauce and baked them for about 20 minutes. If you took the cheese out of the recipe, I believe this would still be a tasty dish. You could even add more vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, or onions. Heck, you could add all three of those.
I added ricotta because this was a dinner party with over-indulgent dishes. We were just going a little out of control for this evening, throwing caution to the wind. I thought of it as a last hurrah before having to think about sunshine and bathing suits. In the end, these turned out to be almost like another lasagna. But, everyone tried them and seemed to enjoy it. Of course the meat lasagna was the biggest hit of the evening. I expected that. That dish never fails. I didn't mind. By the end of the evening, I am pleased to say, the drama was minimal and the conversation and humor were abundant. Everyone went home with smiles on their faces and full tummies.