Don't Limit the Surprisingly Versatile Eggplant
By Beth Cecil
Owensboro Health HealthPark dietitian
A few weeks ago we were visiting my in-laws and they offered us some fresh eggplant from the garden. I readily accepted while my husband gave me “the look”. On the way home he looked over at me said, “Now that you took that, you have to use it. So what are you going to do with it?” Translation: “good luck finding a way to cook the eggplant so that I will eat it.”
I have tried eggplant before, but it has been a while and I wanted to try it again. You may remember that I recently suggested we all try a new vegetable (or fruit) this summer. Since I try to practice what I preach- here was another chance.
Most of us are familiar with eggplant Parmesan, fried eggplant and possibly even ratatouille. But that is probably the extent of it for many of us. I have recently discovered that there is so much more. First though, let me share with you some facts about eggplant that perhaps you didn’t know.
Eggplant, while certainly not one of the most popular veggies, has many good nutritional qualities. Eggplant has a high water content and one serving (one cup cooked) has only 25 calories. It is a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins and contains 2.1 grams of fiber per serving. Additionally, it is believed that eggplant has a diuretic effect (likely due to the high water content), anti-bacterial effects and the purple shade offers antioxidant properties.
Eggplant, also know as Aubergine, is part of the Nightshade family. Other members of this family include tomatoes, peppers and tomatoes. And did you know that technically, eggplant is a fruit?
The season for eggplant typically runs from July to October. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and their color can range from white to deep purple. You can eat the skin or peel them. They are actually quite versatile and can be baked, roasted, sautéed, steamed, grilled, fried, stir fried and even used as a dip or stuffing.
It is important to store them in a cool dry place and cut them just before using (like bananas and apples) or their flesh will turn brown. Also, cooking in an aluminum pan is not recommended as it can also cause discoloration.
So, now let’s get back to the little conversation between my husband and me that I mentioned earlier. After our little talk, I set out to create a delicious eggplant dish that my husband not only would eat, but also would leave him begging for more.
Mission accomplished!! I found a recipe for eggplant that also uses fresh onions, tomatoes and basil. I made a few modifications of my own. Since I made this eggplant dish, he has requested it again and even suggested that I write this article and publish the recipe in the paper. So here it is.
Eggplant, Tomato and Onion Casserole
4 medium eggplants, sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
2 or 3 fresh tomatoes- diced (depends on your preference)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
One-fourth cup fresh basil or 1 TBSP dried basil
1 tsp pepper
One-half cup shredded cheddar cheese
Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced eggplant to pan with heated oil and cook, turning once until lightly browned on each side. Repeat until all the eggplant has been browned. (The eggplant can absorb the oil easily, so it is best to use a small amount of each time and use a non-stick pan). Transfer to a plate. Then add the onion and garlic to the pan and briefly sauté. Remove from pan and combine onions and garlic with diced tomatoes, basil and pepper. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Then layer the eggplant slices with the tomato and onion mixture. Repeat layers. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with the shredded cheese and cook 8-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
Makes 8 servings
Per serving: 95 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 3 grams unsaturated fat, 1.8 grams saturated fat, 2.5 grams fiber, 7.5 mg cholesterol, 51 mg sodium, 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrate