When it comes to cooking eggplant, the results can be rather hit or miss. All too often eggplant is under cooked and under seasoned. You know what I’m talking about—we’ve all taken a bite of spongy, tasteless eggplant. Ick!
On the other hand, when eggplant is properly cooked until it’s perfectly tender and seasoned courageously, it becomes one of the most delicious vegetables on the planet.
In this recipe we are going to salt and drain the sliced eggplant—one way to ensure it’ll be tender and not spongy; coat it with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic; roast it; then slather it with homemade pesto. Add a simple strip of roasted bell pepper rolled up in the middle, and you’ve got yourself one amazingly flavorful, nutritious appetizer.
Note: If you have leftover pesto, keep it wrapped in plastic in the fridge and use it when you make scrambled eggs or omelets throughout the week. Nothing jazzes up eggs like some fresh pesto.
Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven, regular oven, or dry skillet for a few minutes—watch closely, as they go from browned to black very quickly.
Combine the walnuts, basil, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until combined. Add the olive oil, then the nutritional yeast, and then the lemon juice, blending after each addition. Combine until your pesto has the consistency of paste—don’t over blend.
Trim the ends from the eggplants. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Arrange the pieces on parchment paper–lined baking sheets and generously sprinkle with sea salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 20 minutes, until some liquid is drawn out. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Use a paper towel to blot any moisture that’s been drawn out of the eggplant, as well as most of the salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Generously coat the tops of the eggplant with the mixture. Transfer the eggplant to the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until it’s tender and very soft. If the eggplant feels firm, then continue to roast until it’s soft. Allow the eggplant to cool slightly before topping it with pesto.
Rub the red bell peppers with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and place them in a grill pan over high heat. Use tongs to turn the bell peppers until the skin is black on all sides. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag and let them steam for 10 minutes with the top folded. Remove the peppers from the bag, rub off all of the skin, and remove the stems and seeds. Slice the tender, roasted peppers into thin strips and set aside.
Spread 1 tablespoon pesto down the center, crosswise, of each slice of roasted eggplant. Top with a strip of bell pepper, then roll and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, pesto, and bell pepper. Arrange the rolls on a serving platter and top with the chopped fresh basil. Store in the fridge until serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.