Involtini is an Italian word for a small bite of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filling.
It seems the market is awash with lush spring vegetables calling to me to get to the kitchen.
This is a delicious little spring starter, light dinner,or side dish. A little bit of effort, involving a bit of slicing and standing over the chargrill pan, but then it’s all fun and as creative as you want to be. I teamed this with a kale salad, but any simple salad would go just as well. The ingredients and vegetables I used are really just a rough guide, though the eggplant and courgettes make for good sturdy wrappers. The cheese could just as easily be feta or haloumi for these. I felt they were equally delicious as they were straight after wrapping ( this keeping them a bit light and fresh) or, given a hot fast bake to meld and melt all together. Left to sit for a while the tomato juices and combined flavours start to run a little, and are delicious served with a slice of toasted ciabatta to mop it all up.
Ingredients on the day[ enough for 4 starters or 2 main course)
- 1 mozzarella ball, equivalent amount of feta or haloumi.
- 1 eggplant
- bunch fresh basil
- 3-4 courgettes
- 1-2 red peppers
- 1 red onion
- 1/2 bunch asparagus
- 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
- sticks or skewers to secure involtini
- Optional extras or substitutions such as olives, artichokes anchovies……
Drain your mozzarella and put to one side
Heat the char grill pan.
Slice eggplant and courgettes finely lengthwise (approx 1/2 cm thick). I got about eight slices from the eggplant and four or five slices from the courgettes. I give eggplant a light salting to draw out the moisture and then after a few minutes press down on the slices heavily with paper towels to draw out the moisture, but you don’t have to do this. Cut the onion into fine wedges take the ends off the asparagus and cut the peppers into slices, if the peppers are long enough you can use these to wrap as well.
Char grill or roast your vegetables except the cherry tomatoes, making sure the eggplant, courgettes and possibly peppers are soft enough to wrap.
Now the fun begins, Put aside 1/2 mozzarella 1/2 of your cherry tomatoes and a pile of your basil leaves to finish the dish. Have the rest of your ingredients assembled in lovely piles around a lined baking tray or platter (if not baking), and a chopping board and knife. Choose an outer wrapper then slightly to one end make a small pile of ingredients ie basil leaf, mozzarella, cherry tomato, slices of asparagus and roll up and secure with a skewer. You need to make sure that when you fill it you have a little room for overlap, so sometimes i had to unroll and take something out. I enjoyed making lots of different combinations with some being bigger than others. Once you have all the involtini piled in your dish scatter with the remaining cherry tomatoes mozzarella and basil (I used parsley as my basil is still a bit young).
Bake 220’c for approx 15 minutes just to release the juices and soften the cheese. Make sure either way to leave for a while so the flavours meld together before serving
Simple Kale Salad
- bunch of Kale (not baby kale for this method)
- big pinch of sea salt
- big pinch of pepper
- big tablespoon of your favourite mustard (dijon for me)
- juice of one or two lemons (two if small and not very juicy)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pomegranate seeded
- handful of toasted pine nuts
Place dressing ingredients in a large bowl and stir together. Cut kale off the stalks and into bite size pieces and add to the bowl. Using clean hands or food prep gloves spend a couple of minutes massaging the dressing and leaves together. the harder your kale the longer this takes, but it is well worth while as it breaks down the fibres, makes it much easier to eat and digest, and makes the leaves lovely and bright green and shiny. This should taste very assertively of lemon and mustard with a good balance of salt and pepper. Toss through your pomegranate seeds and pine nuts, toast a piece of ciabatta in your chargrill pan. Plate or platter it all up send to the table and enjoy.
This is the sort of food that lends itself to being prepared earlier and served at room temperature either later or even the next day, possibly with a nice glass of wine? It would also sit well alongside a barbeque or simple leg of lamb or beef.
Life is good!