When was the last time you took an eggplant to make more than just eggplant parmesan? This underrated vegetable can make a killer eggplant parmesan, but it can also make so much more.
Find out how healthy eggplants are and check out some of the amazing ways you can use them in your cooking.
This member of the nightshade family is related to tomatoes, white potatoes, and peppers. Botanically, aubergines are considered berries, but gastronomically they are vegetables. The most popular eggplant in the US is the teardrop-shaped vegetable with dark purple skin, but eggplants actually come in all shapes and sizes. You can find round, oblong, thick, and thin eggplants that come in white, black, and even light lavender. The flesh inside is off-white in color and spongy in texture.
Eggplants are grown all over the world, but in the US, they are mainly grown in Florida and New Jersey. The eggplant season lasts from July to October.
One cup of raw, diced eggplant provides:
- 21 calories.
- 5 grams of carbohydrates.
- 2 grams of fiber.
- 3 grams of sugar.
- 1 gram of protein.
It is free of fat and saturated fat. Eggplants also provide a range of vitamins and minerals, including copper, of which they are a good source.
You can also find several phytonutrients in eggplant, including anthocyanins, which give the vegetable its gorgeous purple color. Anthocyanins have been shown to have a variety of benefits, including antioxidant and antimicrobial functions. Other potential benefits of anthocyanins include reducing the risk of heart disease and helping prevent cancer. Additional phytonutrients in eggplant include chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that helps fight cancer, and nasunin, an antioxidant that helps protect the brain.
Some people avoid eggplants because they belong to the nightshade family and believe that a compound in nightshade called alkaloids can cause inflammation. Many people with inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, report worsening symptoms, such as joint pain and swelling, after eating nightshade plants.
However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, this is anecdotal, and research does not support this theory. Additionally, a 2011 study found that yellow and purple potatoes (which are also members of the nightshade family) lowered the blood markers for inflammation in healthy men. If you think something you eat is affecting inflammatory symptoms, it’s best to talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian.
Select and cook eggplant
Choose eggplants that are heavy for their size. They should not show any cracks or discoloration. Store eggplants in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer and use within five to seven days.
While eggplant parmesan is a favorite, there are so many other ways to make this superstar vegetable. Here are six ways you can make a meal with eggplant:
- Mash cooked eggplant into babaganoush, an eggplant dip. It goes well with pita chips and veggies like carrots, celery, and bell peppers.
- Dice the eggplants with the skin on and add to your skillet early when you add your hard veggies.
- Slice the aubergines, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and olive oil and grill. It makes a quick and easy weeknight side dish.
- Dice the aubergines, toss with the curry sauce and sauté over medium heat until the aubergines are tender.
- Spiralize the eggplants and cook them in a medium skillet with olive oil on the stovetop for five minutes. Season with your favorite pasta sauce.
- Bake eggplant to soften the eggplant flesh and use as a meat alternative in patties or burgers. To bake, cut off the stem end of the aubergine and gently prick the skin a few times with a fork. Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 degrees for about an hour. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Remove the skin from the eggplant and use the pulp as you like.
Recipe for eggplants stuffed with lentils
This is one of my favorite eggplant recipes.
Serving Size: 1 half eggplant
- cooking spray.
- 2 aubergines, halved lengthways.
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) olive oil.
- 1 yellow onion, chopped.
- 1 carrot, chopped.
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped.
- 1 can (14 to 19 oz/398 to 540 ml) low sodium brown lentils, drained and rinsed.
- 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) finely diced tomatoes with juice.
- 1 zucchini, grated.
- 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth.
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried parsley flakes.
- 1⁄2 tsp (2 ml) smoked paprika powder.
- 1⁄8 tsp (0.5 ml) ground black pepper.
- 1⁄2 cup (125 ml) grated parmesan cheese.
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) panko breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat.
- Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Scoop out some of the flesh from the eggplant halves, leaving about an inch around the edge. Put the halves aside.
- Place the scooped out pulp and 1 Tbsp (15mL) oil in a blender or food processor and puree. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and set aside.
- Brush both sides of the eggplant halves with 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil and place skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle 1⁄4 teaspoon (1mL) of salt on the flesh side of the eggplant halves. Bake for 20 minutes or until the eggplants are slightly soft and browned.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F).
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp (30mL) oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is simmering, add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes. Add the mashed eggplant, lentils, tomatoes with juice, zucchini, vegetable stock, parsley, paprika, black pepper, and 1⁄4 tsp (1mL) salt and stir. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors combine, 10 minutes. Remove pan from stove and let cool for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese with the panko breadcrumbs.
- Divide the lentil mixture evenly among the four aubergine halves. Cover each eggplant half with 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of the cheese and panko mixture. Return to the oven and bake until cheese is melted and top is lightly browned, 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the aubergines cool for 10 minutes.
- Place an aubergine half on each of the four plates. Serve warm.
Recipe from Toby Amidor’s Family Immunity Cookbook. Published by Robert Rose Books.