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Eggplant Manicotti - total time 1 hour

It is eggplant season... and if you're like me, eggplant is one of those vegetables that you don't use often.  There aren't a lot of recipes out there for eggplant.  At least not like there are for zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, or other home garden vegetables.  Outside of eggplant parmesan and ratatouille, it can be difficult to find something to make for dinner.  And if you have a bumper crop of eggplant (or just want to try something different) that can be a problem!

One thing you will find with all eggplant recipes... it calls for "sweating" the eggplant.  If you have had eggplant before and didn't like it, maybe it tested bitter, it is probably because they didn't take the time to sweat the eggplant.  Essentially it is just letting salt remove some of the moisture from the eggplant before cooking it.  The larger the eggplant, the more important this process is.  If you pick your eggplant young or select some of the smaller asian varieties, you can get away without it, but miss an opportunity to really add some flavor with the salt.

This recipe uses sauteed eggplant essentially as noodles.  You could do steps one through two and make a number of noodle dishes, like lasagna or slice into strips for spaghetti.  I always felt eggplant seemed like an Italian vegetable and this may be why!  The eggplant noodles take on a buttery flavor and the filling is creamy and garlicy.  This will be a new summer recipe staple at our house!

Eggplant Manicotti
1 eggplant
1 cup sauce
1 cup ricotta
.5 cup creme fraiche, divided
.5 cup bread crumbs
.5 cup parm, shredded and divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp butter
basil, shredded
salt and pepper

1.  Slice eggplant lengthwise.  Salt and lay out on paper towel and let it sweat for 20 minutes, blotting away any "sweat" every five minutes.
2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt butter in pan over medium heat and saute eggplant, about one minute per side.  Return eggplant slices to paper towel.
3.  In a medium mixing bowl combine ricotta, half of the creme fraiche, bread crumbs, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.
4.  Add tomato sauce and remaining half of creme fraiche to casserole dish and stir to combine.  
5.  Place 2-3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture on the ends of the eggplant slices.  Roll and place in casserole dish.  Top with half of the shredded parm.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Top with remaining parm and serve!

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