Swiss Chard Wrapped Pesto Eggplant with Polenta and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a dish I had at Portabello Vegan Trattoria, my absolute favorite restaurant. In the vegan mecca that is Portland, this is one of the most upscale and delicious vegan restaurants of them all. You have to make reservations about a week in advance, unless you want to wait about 2 hours for a table. Their menu is ever-changing, based on what is locally in season. This recipe tastes and looks pretty damn close to an entree they are currently serving at Portabello. It’s absolutely amazing, but it does have a lot of steps to it. I would definitely save this recipe for a special dinner or a weekend. The ingredients listed make 4 servings. I had leftovers for dinner the next 2 days and it was still delicious.

Ingredients 

12 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed.

1/4 cup roasted chopped pistachios for garnish

Polenta
1 tube of polenta
I got mine pre-made at Trader Joes, it’s also very easy to make yourself and you can find tons of basic polenta recipes online.

Eggplant filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large eggplant (or 2 small eggplants)
½ large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pesto:
4 cups fresh basil
½ cup walnuts
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 large roasted red peppers with skins removed or 1 can roasted red peppers
*(I roasted mine myself, see directions below)
1 tablespoon garlic powder or 3 cloves garlic
½ cup cashews
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable broth

Directions

1. Slice the eggplant into ½ inch rounds. In a large bowl, place the eggplant rounds with about 2 teaspoons of salt, let the salt evenly coat the slices. Set bowl aside for 30 minutes to let the moisture sweat out of the eggplants. After 30 minutes, drain the eggplants. Squeeze the eggplant slices between a towel to remove more of the moisture. The point of removing the moisture is to take away the eggplant’s sponge-like consistency, they may almost feel soggy afterwards, but this is fine. Once moisture is removed, cut eggplant rounds into ½ inch cubes.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

3. In a food processor, add all pesto ingredients and blend for about 15-20 seconds, until all ingredients are incorporated into a coarse paste.

4. To make the eggplant filling, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add red onions and cook for about a minute. Next, add eggplant and red pepper flakes, cook for about 10 minutes while stirring, or until onions are translucent and the eggplant is cooked through (eggplant should no longer have a spongy consistency).

5. Remove skillet from heat and immediately add the pesto to the eggplant. Stir well.

6. If using pre-made polenta from a tube, divide into 4 equal slices. Take each slice and form into into a round cake, about 6 inches in diameter and about ½- ¾ inch thick.  If using home-made polenta, once the polenta is cooked and semi-cooled, place it in a foil-lined baking pan and refrigerate until it’s firm. You can prepare the polenta ahead of time, or even the day before. Once the homemade polenta is prepared. You can form it into 6x1/2inch round cakes just like the store-bought polenta.

7. On a large wax-paper-lined or well oiled baking sheet, place the 4 polenta cakes and set aside

8. Take the four largest Swiss Chard leaves and set aside, you will need the largest ones to be the outermost leaf for each of the four servings.

9. On a flat surface, take one of the 4 largest leaves and lay it flat. Take 2 more of the remaining leaves and lay them in the center of the largest leaf so that their outer edges are touching back-to-back and the stem part of the leaves is furthest away from the center. Place 1/4th of the eggplant pesto mixture onto the center of the leaf configuration and fold the leaves over to meet in the center, surrounding the eggplant.  Flip the wrapped eggplant over and place on top of one of the polenta cakes.
The part where all the leaves meet is placed on the polenta cake facing downward to help hold the wrapped eggplant mixture together. The part facing up will be the largest leaf (this sounds a lot more confusing than it really is, just look at the picture of the final product, you want to surround the eggplant mixture with the Swiss chard leaves so that it stays together and doesn’t fall apart)
Repeat step 9 three more times and place atop the remaining polenta cakes.

10. Brush each eggplant wrap with olive oil and place the baking sheet in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

11. In the meantime, in a food processor, combine all roasted red pepper sauce ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour ¼th of the sauce onto each serving plate.

* If you are roasting your own peppers, you can do this over a gas stove. Take each pepper and place over a medium flame. Roast until the outer layer is blackened and peeling away from the pepper. Turn pepper so that all sides are equally roasted. You may hear a popping sound, which is fine. Once the peppers are fully roasted, the outer skin should be easy to remove. Remove the skins from both of the peppers.  Here is a link to step by step instructions.

12. Once the polenta eggplant wraps are done cooking, place one on each serving plate over the top of the red pepper sauce. Sprinkle each serving with chopped pistachios and serve immediately. 

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