I go to my favourite big farmers’ market every second weekend. The whole return trip together with the shopping process takes several hours, but I enjoy it immensely, even if the weather is awful. The first and most important place I head to is the tiny stall where a kind farmer fills my big plastic box up to the rim with a dozen pieces of delicious fresh organic “cottage” goat cheese. This cheese, spread on a piece of crisp bread and topped with pickled jalapeños is the most frequent light breakfast I have, though I also transform some into a chives spread. I usually eat half of the box’s content during the first week and freeze the other half, defrosting afterwards piece by piece. I always make a bigger frozen stock at the end of the autumn when this farmer’s cheese production stops for several months (even defrosted it still tastes better than any other fresh goat cheese I’ve ever had). As much as I love it, I hardly ever cook with fresh goat cheese, so these rolls were an exception. I’ve based this dish on a recipe I read in Greece : the Cookbook by Vefa Alexiadou, an impressively huge collection of recipes I love leafing through. I made some replacements and changes, the main being the cheese, but I hope I can still claim this dish is of Greek inspiration… and even if not, it is a delicious light dish, perfect for a beautiful sunny summer day.
TIPS: I didn’t have the Greek anthotiro, so I’ve used fresh goat cheese and pecorino the author advises in the absence of kefalograviera. If you don’t have anthotiro or the fresh goat cheese, you can follow the author’s replacement suggestion: ricotta. I find this cheese very bland and am not a fan, so if you share my opinion, I would advise another cottage cheese instead (fresh cow/ewe cheese, but not the one with artificial big “grains” sold in supermarkets).
The dish is time-consuming, but very easy and some stages – such as tomato sauce or grilling the aubergine slices – can be made one or even two days ahead. It’s also delicious reheated, so make a big batch.
Preparation: about 1.5 hour
Ingredients (serves two, if served only with bread):
1 big aubergine, cut lengthwise into thin (1/2cm) slices
300 g fresh/cottage goat cheese, anthotiro or cow’s cottage cheese
100 ml natural yogurt
50 g pecorino (or parmesan)
5 heaped tablespoons of chopped dried tomatoes
1 big crushed garlic clove
about 400 g tomatoes, skinned (or not) and finely chopped or mixed (you can use of course canned tomatoes instead)
1 big garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt, pepper, dried chilli pepper
some more pecorino or parmesan to sprinkle on top before baking
fresh parsley leaves
First prepare the aubergine slices. Sprinkle them with salt and leave for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime prepare the tomato sauce.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan, add the chopped garlic and stir-fry for a minute at medium heat.
Add the tomatoes, the salt, the pepper and the dried chilli.
Let the sauce simmer until it thickens (about 20 minutes).
Pat dry the aubergine slices with paper towels and brush them with oil on one side.
Heat oil in a big pan (you can also heat a grill pan or a grill).
Grill the aubergine slices (the oiled side down) until they are slightly browned.
Brush them with oil on top, flip over and grill on the other side.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Mix the fresh cheese with grated pecorino or parmesan, yogurt, salt, pepper and chopped dried tomatoes.
Place equal amounts of the cheese filling on every aubergine slice and roll them horizontally.
Brush a baking dish with oil.
Place the aubergine rolls.
Pour the tomato sauce on the rolls, grate some more pecorino or parmesan on top and bake for about 40 minutes.
Serve with a splash of olive oil, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and flat breads or simply any good quality bread.