Spotlight on the eggplant
In the movie Coneheads, the eggplant makes a brief but hilarious appearance. It should, however, be a regular inhabitant of your kitchen.
Poor eggplant -- it does not receive the respect it deserves. Botanically a fruit, used as a vegetable, the eggplant is rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber and antioxidants. It is low in calories and sodium, and helps lower cholesterol and prevent cancer.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family of plants, which includes the potato, tomato and all peppers (except for black pepper). In sensitive individuals, these foods may aggravate joint pain. In such cases, it is recommended to eliminate all nightshades for 4-6 weeks. Then add them back, one at a time every few days, to observe whether they are tolerated.
Botanists are not certain whether the eggplant originated in India or China. Over the ages it spread to all parts of the world. The fruit is in wide use particularly in India, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Romania, Japan and China.
Eggplant grows in different colors, shapes and sizes, and it is also cultivated for its ornamental appeal.
Wild eggplant requires salting and rinsing to eliminate bitterness. This is unnecessary when cooking today's cultivar -- although many recipes call for this precooking procedure. A mature, well-cooked eggplant does not taste bitter. The most common purple eggplant is delicious baked, stuffed or grilled -- and lends itself to numerous exciting recipes. Its skin is edible as well. Cooked eggplant dishes also make great appetizers, side dishes or salads.
Eggplant is often used in stews, such as French ratatouille. It is fried in Italian eggplant parmesan and Greek mousakka. Fried foods amount to weapons of health destruction. But even the above celebrated ethnic dishes, in which the fruit is fried first, can be adjusted to render them wholesome, by baking or steaming the eggplant and adding somewhat larger amounts of the herbs or spices called for in the recipe.
Roasting the eggplant whole or sliced imparts a fabulous, smoky flavor. When roasted whole, the cooked pulp is then scooped out and mixed with other ingredients, such as lemon juice, minced garlic and finely grated onion -- like in the Middle Eastern spread baba ganoush.
When the eggplant is stuffed, the flesh is scooped out and blended with meat and/or rice, herbs, spices, sometimes topped with cheese, and baked. Another option is mounting pieces of eggplant onto shish kabob -- alternated with chunks of meat, mushrooms and other veggies -- and grilling them.
Improve your health luck: unearth the joys and benefits of eating eggplant, a versatile star in a healthy cuisine repertoire.
1 medium eggplant
1 large clove garlic, finely grated
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sweet onion, finely
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Remove the stem. After washing and drying, cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cutting 2-3 at a time, cube slices making crisscross cuts. Steam until tender, but not mushy, 7-10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix all other ingredients. When eggplant is done, add to onion mixture. Serve warm or cold.
EGGPLANT WITH TOMATO
1 small eggplant, cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1-1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Trim eggplant stem-end, wash, dry, cube and steam (see cubing instructions above in Eggplant Salad.) Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat oil, sauté garlic 30 seconds. Add cumin. Mix in tomato and pepper. Cook covered 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss steamed eggplant, parsley and lemon juice into tomato mixture. Do not add salt, unless you tasted the dish first.
(Serves 2 )
1-1/2 cups water
1 small eggplant, sliced and cubed
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons cooking olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Cook eggplant in water. When translucent add onion, garlic, tomato salt, pepper and oregano. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add oil, cook 5 more minutes. Remove from stove and mix in lemon. Serve on brown rice (or any whole grain), rice and beans or cooked potatoes.
Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor the Rath Education Center and is a member of the American Nutrition Association.