Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Choo! Choo!: Everybody on the Eggplant Train!

Image courtesy of onehungrymama.com
I know what most of you are thinking! Ew! Gross! Eggplant? Why, Lauren? Why? My friends, you are not alone. I didn't eat one single eggplant growing up, and I've probably only had them a handful of times in my adult life. Eggplant is one of those fruits (yes! it's a fruit) that just doesn't have a good rep on the streets. It actually has a long history of being globally despised. In various parts of Europe before the 18th century, eggplant was believed to cause all sort of horrible things - insanity, leprosy, cancer, even bad breath. In Italy, it was dubbed 'mala insana', meaning 'bad egg' or 'mad apple'. Ancient Persian philosophers cited eggplant as the reason behind everything from pimples to epilepsy. Poor little fruit. Nobody seems to like it very much.

On this glorious Wednesday though, I'm here to tell you that eggplant has caught the attention of my taste buds. I'm not sure how it happened, but it did. If you can visualize eggplant outside it's typical (and disgusting, i might add) eggplant parmesan incarnation, then I'm here to tell you, you might just be pleasantly surprised!

Image courtesy of toonpool.com
In addition to being surprisingly tasty, eggplant is full of nutrients. Here's why you should work a 'mad apple' into your diet...

FIGHTS CANCER - Eggplant helps fight cancer in a number of ways... 1) The peel of an eggplant contains an antioxidant compound called nasunin, which has antiangiogenic properties. Cancer cells have angiogenic properties, allowing them to increase their own blood supply and grow rapidly. The nasunin in eggplant can actually prevent the growth from occurring. 2) Eggplant also contains a plant compound known as chlorogenic acid. It's actually the DOMINANT compound in eggplant. It works to fight cancer-causing free radicals and also has antimutagenic properties, which protect cells from mutating into cancer.

LOWERS LDL (BAD) CHOLESTEROL - The chlorogenic acid in eggplant also has the ability to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease.

AIDS THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM - 1 cup of raw eggplant contains 11% of your DV of fiber. The best part is that it contains both soluble AND insoluble fiber. When your digestive system is working properly, you decrease your risk for colon cancer and other intestinal issues.

RICH IN MINERALS - Eggplant boasts large quantities of potassium (for cellular and electrical function), magnesium (for energy production), calcium (for bone formation and maintenance) and phosphorous (for bone and teeth formation, as well as growth and maintenance of cells and tissues).

ASSISTS IN WEIGHT LOSS - Because of it's fiber content, eggplant will make you feel full without consuming a lot of fat and calories. A 1 cup serving contains no fat and only 27 calories.

Now here comes the disclaimer... If you have kidney or gallbladder issues, then you might need to watch your eggplant consumption. Eggplant contain a noticeable amount of oxalates. When oxalates become too concentrated in the body, they crystallize and can cause damage if your kidney or gallbladder are not working properly to flush them out. 

Last night for dinner I made Grilled Eggplant with Herbed Quinoa from Sprouted Kitchen (Can you tell I love her blog?). The dish was fabulous, first of all, but better yet was it's ability to provide leftovers for lunch at work the next day. That's what you call a win-win, folks! 

Here's a visual step-by-step for those of you who like that sort of thing (no shame in needing extensive visuals like this girl). Check the recipe link above for exact measurements 'cause this is only a quick play-by-play...

Cut the eggplant into slices about 1" thick.
Spread them out on a baking dish or cutting board and sprinkle the tops with salt. This makes the eggplant
'sweat' out all the water inside. Let them sweat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile...
Cook the quinoa. Quinoa is nothing like rice. Do not fear. You can't mess this up.
While the quinoa is cooking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and toast the pine nuts for 5-10 minutes until brown.
Pine nuts can be expensive, so feel free to use raw unsalted cashews instead.
Roughly chop the red onion, basil and cilantro. The recipe calls for fresh dill as well,
but I cheated to save the wallet. 
Now roughly chop the capers. You can find capers near the olives in the supermarket (usually in a glass jar).
Pat all the water off your eggplant with a paper towel or dishcloth. Brush both sides with olive oil
and grill 5 minutes on each side on a grill pan. They should be fairly soft when they're cooked.
Remove to a plate and sprinkle the tops with za'atar seasoning.
Now add all the fixins' to the quinoa, including the red wine vinegar, olive oil,
honey (or agave nectar) and salt and pepper.
 Cover the eggplant with the quinoa mixture and garnish with the pine nuts. You're done! Even the
eggplant-haters in your life will be converted with this one!

Here are some other recipes to get you started...

Image courtesy of eatingwell.com

Image courtesy of shape.com

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick note. If you're in New York, you can find za'atar seasoning at Dean & Deluca. If you live elsewhere, you can order it from them online or check specialty groceries in your area!