I never will tire about talking about how frugal food does not need to mean bad food. I love proving to people that you can have fancy food on a minimal budget, especially when I have company.
We recently had a special dinner with extended family, and one of my many contributions was these Asian style eggplant roll ups. (Another contribution was my stuffed mallow leaves.) They were a big hit, gobbled up! Everyone wanted to know how I made them.
And the best part about it was that they were totally healthy, great for a variety of diets (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Primal, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, etc...) dirt cheap, and completely versatile- the only required ingredient here is eggplant.
Since I got these eggplants for free, as they were past prime and they would have been tossed otherwise, it was even cheaper... If you have a seconds rack at your grocery store, check it out to see if you can find any past prime veggies to make this even cheaper. Or just wait till eggplant is in season and cheap.
The recipe idea for this originally came from a recipe I saw in a cooking magazine at a friend's house, but it was made very differently. My friend told me that she changes this up and uses other filling ingredients, etc... which inspired me to mix and match myself.
Asian Style Eggplant Roll Ups Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS/Paleo/Primal LegalIngredients:
1 pkg mushrooms
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1 batch homemade teriyaki sauce (I used my gluten free, grain free, sugar free homemade teriyaki, you can use regular homemade teriyaki, or store bought)
1. Take a few eggplants, the longer the better, and cut them into thin slices, lengthwise. Its important to make them even thicknesses, otherwise certain parts will get cooked before others, and some might burn before the rest is soft enough. The perfect thickness is about half a centimeter thick, give or take a few millimeters.
2. Lay the eggplant slices flat and bake them until they're soft and pliable. This will take more or less time depending on their thickness, but assume between 5 and 20 minutes at 350. I lay mine on a grill rack in my oven and baked them that way, so I didn't oil them, but if putting them on a (lined) tray to bake, consider greasing them lightly so they don't stick.
3. Make the filling by sauteing chopped onions until golden, adding grated carrots and cooking until they're soft, then adding sliced or chopped mushrooms until soft. Season with garlic, ginger, and salt.
4. Lay eggplant slices on a plate, place a scoop of filling on one end, and roll up into a spiral shape with the filling in the middle. Lay the eggplant roll seam side down in a baking pan.
5. Pour the sauce over the eggplants, and bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes.
6. Garnish with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, hot pepper flakes, etc...
So long as you use eggplant, the rest of this recipe is as versatile as they come. The filling can be whatever you please, as can the sauce. The only important thing is that the filling be cooked either fully or most of the way before baking, or it will need a longer cooking time. (If you fill with chopped meat, it doesn't need to be pre-cooked, but cook at least 45 minutes; hard vegetables definitely need to be precooked.)
Filling ideas: chopped meat, either mixed with breadcrumbs or cooked grains, or without. Cheese with our without breadcrumbs. Chopped veggies such as carrots, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, spinach, swiss chard, wild greens, etc... Feel free to mix and match filling ingredients.
Sauces can also be played around with- just try to pick a flavor that works well with eggplants and the filling ingredients you're using. Consider using homemade tomato sauce, homemade Italian dressing, white/cream sauce, homemade healthy ketchup, homemade French dressing, pesto, homemade mayo with herbs, honey mustard dressing, etc... You can also just dust with spices, like homemade chili powder or garam masala, but if you use spices instead of sauce, pour a half cup of water into the pan and cover before baking so it doesn't dry out.
Does this look like a recipe you'd try out? Have you ever heard of, made, or had eggplant roll ups before? If you'd make this, what filling ingredients and what sauce/topping would you most likely make?
What is your favorite, go-to cheap fancy dish to make?
Linking up to Real Food Wednesday and Allergy Free Wednesday