by Sharon Quercioli
Being part Italian I grew up with all kinds of fabulous recipes for Eggplants. Eggplants are one of the most surprisingly beautiful vegetables that you can find in a produce aisle. They are a vibrant shade of purple and are glossy to boot. They have a unique flavor and a complicated texture, which make them fun to cook with. The Filipino dish “Kare Kare” utilizes the unique flavors and blends it wonderfully with beef and bok choy in a peanut butter sauce.
While they may be beautiful and unique, the question remains: are they good for you?
In a simple answer, YES!
Eggplants Help Your Mind
Eggplants have a nutrient in it called nasunin which is an antioxidant. Most vegetables and fruits that have a dark purple color have high levels of antioxidants and eggplants are no exception. These types of antioxidants can help protect the lipids on your brain. Research has also suggested that it can help prevent and keep you healthy from certain types of mental disorders that have to do with getting older. Boy I think we can all use that. They can also improve your memory and can aid in reducing the stress on your body from oxidation.
They Are Great For Your Heart
Eggplants have vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium which all help keep you healthy from heart disease. They also have vitamin K, which can help with blood clotting as well. This means that it helps your arteries from calcifying. In other words, it helps plaque from forming and clogging your heart.
Eggplants Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Studies with lab rats have proven that when lab rats with high cholesterol ingested eggplant juice, their cholesterol (in their blood, within their artery walls, and around their aortas) were reduced significantly.
Bone Health and Eggplants
People who are at a high risk for osteoporosis and bone degradation can benefit from eggplants. There are certain compounds in eggplants that can reduce the symptoms and signs of diseases that decrease bone minerals, osteoporosis, and can help build strong bones. Those compounds are called phenolic compounds.
How Do You Buy and Keep an Eggplant?
Eggplants should be firm and feel dense. Avoid ones that are withered, discolored, or bruised. Look for a glossy skin that is smooth and have an intense purple color – almost black. You can check their ripeness by holding your finger against the purple skin and pressing lightly. If you press on it and your finger leaves a slight imprint, it is ripe. If it does not, that eggplant needs to ripen for a little while longer.
Since they grow year-round, you don’t have to worry about them being out of season. It is also useful to know that smaller eggplants have fewer seeds and are sweeter than larger ones.
Keep it in a vented bowl. If you keep it in a plastic bag, it will decay and rot faster. It is best to keep it on your counter at room temperature.
One of My Favorite Eggplant Recipe
When I started to cut back on all-purpose white flour, white sugar, and most bread, I found that I missed some of my Friday night “junk food” meals. I did find some great replacements, however. One of those replacements was this recipe for Eggplant Bites.
What you’re going to need for this recipe:
- A medium or half of a large eggplant (sliced into rounds that are thin)
- A half of a cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- A tablespoon of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- A third of a cup of tomato sauce
- Pine Nuts (optional)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- A half of a cup of shredded Cheddar cheese, mozzarella , or provolone (I love to add goat cheese on top)
- Some salt and pepper for seasoning
What to do with these ingredients:
Preheat the oven to 425 degree. Slice the eggplants and sprinkle some salt on them and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 17 minutes.
While you are waiting, mix the parmesan and the other cheese together in a bowl.
Take them out and turn the broiler on your oven on. Flip them over. Spread the tomato sauce evenly over all the slices. Follow with the cheese. Sprinkle the grated cheese mixture or put on a slice of provolone on top. Place toppings on them. I suggest some cherry tomatoes (cut in half) and spinach, pine nuts and top it with goat cheese).
Broil for five minutes. Watch it closely because they will burn easily.
Serve while they are hot. Sometimes the toppings have a tendency of slipping off of the eggplant so slicing them in half with a pizza slicer, to make them easier to eat/pop in your mouth, can be helpful.
Once you’ve mastered the recipe, try different types of cheese (like feta) and toppings. Enjoy!
I have also attached an article written by Helen Nichols from Well-Being Secrets entitled “27 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eggplant” that you should check out here: http://www.well-beingsecrets.com/eggplant-health-benefits/