Eggplant, I think, is one of the most misunderstood of all vegetables. Few people I know claim to like eggplant, and even fewer actually cook it. Often, the only exposure people have had to it is in restaurant eggplant Parmesan, where it is sadly breaded and fried, covered in sauce and cheese, and turns out mushy and barely recognizable. But eggplant by itself is *so* yummy! It is a real treat, and one I love to make.
Eggplant is one of the world's healthiest foods. It contains loads of vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants to benefit our bodies. One cup of raw eggplant contains 11% RDA of fiber, 10% RDA of manganese, 5.4% RDA of potassium, and is a good source of folate, vitamin K, copper, vitamin C, B6, B3, and magnesium, and 0.8 g protein... all for only 20 calories! It's also a low carb vegetable with only 4.7 grams of carbs per cup (under 2 grams net carbs). It's hard to beat!
Eggplant should be firm and heavy with a smooth, shiny, vividly colored skin. Look at this yummy baby:
But what do you do with eggplant? Well, the best (in my opinion) and simplest way to prepare it is to roast it. You can cube or slice up a whole eggplant and then use it in various recipes. You can use the cubes as a pasta substitute with sauces, layer them in lasagna or any casserole, or toss the cubes into a salad. I like to eat them plain! I also have a delicious recipe which simply layers roasted eggplant with Italian-style canned tomatoes and light mozzarella cheese, baked until hot and melty. Delicious!
To roast eggplant, just cut it into 1" cubes or 1/4" thick slices. The skin is edible and you can leave it on if you like; it adds texture. I prefer my eggplant peeled most of the time, unless it is cooked into a sauce. People commonly think that eggplant must be salted in order to make it not taste bitter, but that's only really true if you are using older, seedier eggplant that is actually bitter. Young, small eggplant tastes better and when you cut it, it looks creamy white like this:
If you are using a big eggplant with lots of browning seeds inside, you may want to salt the slices, set it aside in a colander for a half hour, and then rinse and drain it before cooking. If there's any doubt about whether or not your eggplant is bitter, taste it! Just take a cube and give it a lick. Mine tasted sweet, so I didn't need to salt it before cooking.
Once your eggplant is prepared, toss the cubes with a little olive oil. If you are using slices, coat them very lightly with the oil, salt and pepper them lightly if desired, and spread on a cookie sheet lined with nonstick foil.
Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25-35 minutes, or until the edges are browned to your liking and the middle is soft.
These got a teeny bit browner than I usually like, but still tasted awesome! The flavor is mild and the interior is creamy. Great for snacking right out of the oven! They also freeze well to use in recipes later.
If you haven't tried eggplant (or have only had it under tons of sauce and cheese), give it a try! You might find your new favorite veggie.
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