Tuesday, September 29, 2015
E IS FOR EGGPLANT
Stephanie, the nutritionist from Shop Rite, came to the library yesterday with the fifth of her Cooking through the Alphabet programs. This time it was E is for Eggplant.
How to Select an Eggplant:
1. Look for firm, smooth, deep purple skin that is free of cracks. There should be no shriveling or soft spots.
2. Heaviness is also important -- choose an eggplant that is heavy for its size.
3. Gently squeeze the eggplant, it should give slightly.
4. Avoid rock hard or spongy and squishy eggplants.
5. A medium-sized eggplant, between 3 and 4 inches in diameter is the best bet.
6. Shriveled and flabby eggplant is often bitter and poor in flavor.
7. Check the leaves at the stem end; it should be fresh and green, not dried out and brown.
8. Avoid eggplants with brown or blue streaks, a light color, or yellowish cast -- these eggplants are of poor quality.
We also found out that the end opposite the stem has an indentation. If it is round, it is a male, if oval a female. The male has less seeds and is sweeter. The female is interested in producing seeds and sowing new plants so is more bitter so that animals won't be interested in eating it. Fascinating, isn't it?
Why Eat Eggplants?
Eggplants are a member of the nightshade or potato family, which also includes tomatoes and hot peppers. Eggplants can be purple, green, white or striped. They are often used as a meat substitute.
Fat and cholesterol free -- part of any healthy diet.
Fiber -- promotes heart health and can aid in weight loss and feelings of fullness.
Vitamin B6 -- helps the immune system produce antibodies which fight off diseases.
Vitamin B12 -- helps form strong red blood cells as well as boost brain and nerve function.
Potassium -- an important electrolytem, this mineral is essential for normal fluid regulation.
Manganese -- plays a role in metabolism and can help regulate blood sugar.
Different Ways to Prepare Eggplant!
1. Eggplants contain no sodium, and pair well with many herbs and spices, like marjoram, oregano, allspice, chili powder, curry powder, garlic or rosemary.
2. They also go well in Italian dishes that include tomato sauce and low-fat cheeses, like mozzarella.
3. Instead of frying, try sauteing or pan-frying eggplant. These cooking methods still make it crispy, but reduce a lot of the fat content.
4. Eggplant can also be roasted or grilled for a delicious smoky flavor.
And then we made the most delicious Sicilian Eggplant Pasta. I'm sharing the recipe here for you.
2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cups cubed eggplant
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup diced Roma (plum) tomatoes
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
1. In a large pot of water, cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, high sided pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook, and stir about 2 minutes. Add eggplant, cook, and stir 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes, cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add pasta and toss to combine and cook until heated through. Remove pan from heat. Add basil and drizzle remaining oil over pasta, toss to coat.
4. Spoon pasta into serving dishes and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.