By: Jennifer MacKenzie

Eggplant is one of the most well known purple vegetables and comes in various hues, ranging from lavender to the deepest, darkest plum. Use one with medium- or dark-purple skin to enhance the colour of this flavourful roasted vegetable filled pastry. Add in purple tomatoes, onions and basil to complete the effect. If you can’t find purple tomatoes, red will certainly do. Ideally, choose a plum-style tomato (purple or red) for the best texture. These strudels can be made ahead, making them perfect for entertaining as a vegetarian main course or on the side of roasted or grilled meat or poultry.

1 small (12 oz/375 g) Italian eggplant
4 purple tomatoes, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small purple (red) onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) balsamic vinegar
8 black olives, pitted and chopped
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh purple
or green basil
1 cup (250 mL) shredded aged
provolone or fontina cheese or
½ cup (125 mL) shredded
Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh oregano
8 sheets phyllo pastry (thawed)
⅓ cup (75 mL) cornmeal
Tomato sauce (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). 

2. Cut eggplant lengthwise into quarters. Cut each quarter crosswise into ½-inch (1-cm) slices. Combine eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, onion, ½ tsp (2 mL) salt, ¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper, 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the oil, and vinegar in a bowl. Spread out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes until vegetables are browned and eggplant is tender. Let cool completely. (Vegetables can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Drain off any accumulated liquid before assembling strudels.) 

3. Stir olives, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the basil and the cheese into vegetable mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine remaining basil and the oregano in a small bowl. 

4. To assemble strudels, lay phyllo on work surface and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on large work surface and brush lightly with some of the remaining oil. Sprinkle with one-quarter of the herb mixture. Place second sheet on top and brush with oil. Starting about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from 1 long side of sheet in the centre, sprinkle one-quarter of the cornmeal in a 6-inch (15-cm) square. Spoon one-quarter of the vegetable mixture on closest half of cornmeal. Starting at edge closest to you, fold pastry and filling over so vegetable filling is surrounded by cornmeal. Fold both short ends toward centre. Roll up and place seam-side down on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush outside of strudel with oil. Repeat to make 4 strudels. (Strudels can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours). 

5. To serve, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). 

6. Bake strudels for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. If desired, heat tomato sauce and spoon a pool onto each serving plate. Cut strudels in half on a diagonal and place on top of sauce.

Serves 4