Faux cheeses made with nuts are key to vegan cooking. To stuff these involtini, chef Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley re-creates the flavor of ricotta by combining pureed raw cashews with nutritional yeast, which has a very savory, almost cheese-like flavor and is available at well-stocked specialty and natural food stores.
2 cups (10 ounces) raw cashews1 teaspoon nutritional yeast1/2 cup water1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, finely choppedSalt and freshly ground pepper2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thickExtra-virgin olive oil, for brushing1 pound tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick2 medium red onions, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick4 Italian frying peppers1 (1 pound) eggplant, sliced crosswise 1 inch thick2 (1 pound) small zucchini, halved lengthwise2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushingSalt and freshly ground pepper2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced1 bay leaf1 teaspoon chopped thyme1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled1/2 cup dry white wine1/2 cup water1/2 cup shredded basilHarissa, for serving
In a food processor, combine the cashews with the nutritional yeast and water and process to a fine paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl, stir in the olives and season with salt and pepper.
Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices (there should be about 24) with olive oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Arrange the eggplant on a work surface and season with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cashew filling onto one end of each eggplant slice. Roll into tight cylinders. Cover with plastic wrap.
Brush all of the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables in batches until tender and lightly charred, about 3 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onions, peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Transfer the grilled tomatoes to a blender and puree until smooth.
Peel, seed and dice the peppers and chop the onions. Add them to a large deep skillet along with the 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and oregano. Cook over moderately high heat until tender, 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil until evaporated, 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, 15 minutes. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1/2-inch pieces; add to the skillet. Simmer 10 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the basil.
Spoon the ratatouille into shallow bowls and top with the involtini. Spoon a dollop of harissa on top and serve right away.