Prairie Fare: Give versatile, nutritious eggplant a try
I recall the first time I brought home an eggplant from the grocery store. I probably would have gotten similar attention if I brought a Martian home for dinner.
I pulled it out of the shopping bag and set it on the counter. My husband and our kids gathered around and examined it.
As I recall, my husband said, “Anything as weird as eggplant has to be nutritious.”
I gave my husband “the look.” He stopped talking.
“It doesn’t look like an egg,” our son remarked. He was 7 years old at the time.
“I think it’s pretty and shiny,” our then-4-year-old daughter added.
“It’s supposed to be purple, not almost black,” our son reminded her.
When I finally was able to extricate my family from staring at the intact eggplant, I prepared it in a way I thought they might enjoy or, at least, taste. I dipped eggplant slices in beaten eggs, rolled them in crushed crackers and herbs and fried them in canola oil.
I loaded my husband’s plate with a hefty pile of eggplant. He ate it all with no further comments. I think he talked about how delicious it tasted.
Our daughter ate a small piece. Our son wrinkled his nose. He looked at me and said, “This is too weird.” I think I coaxed him to have a tiny nibble.
Echoing in my brain was the advice of nutrition researchers who say a new food may take 10 or more exposures before a child will try it. I decided to be patient.
Now, 12 years later, our two teenagers are adventurous eaters who will try almost any food. They love to try new things in restaurants and appreciate unique combinations of foods at home.
Eggplants have been eaten for centuries. Spaniards called it “Berenganias” or the apple of love. They thought eggplant contained a love potion. In the U.S., eggplant was first used as an ornamental plant.
Eggplant is very low in calories unless you bread it and fry it. A half-cup serving of plain eggplant contains about 20 calories and is a source of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
Eggplants are very perishable, so they should be used quickly after purchase or harvest. Look for eggplants with a smooth, even-colored, dark purple skin. Avoid eggplants with any sunken dark areas. Store them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator because the higher humidity helps keep them fresh.
Eggplant can be sauteed, baked, broiled, grilled or stuffed. Extra eggplant can be frozen. To freeze, slice or cube the eggplant and dip in a solution of 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 quart of water. Blanch in boiling water for four minutes. Cool promptly in cold water. After cooling, dip again in the lemon juice solution. Drain well and package in air-tight containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Here’s a tasty recipe that makes good use of a variety of late-summer garden goodies, including eggplant, zucchini, green peppers and onions. In fact, a few years ago when we watched a movie with the same name as this recipe, my kids remembered the first time they tried eggplant at home.
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and cut in strips
3 medium unpared zucchini, cut in ¼-inch slices
1 medium eggplant, pared and cut into cubes
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 tomatoes, peeled and cut in wedges
Heat oil in large skillet; add garlic, onion, green pepper and zucchini. Cook about three minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add eggplant, herbs and seasonings and then cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato wedges; cover and cook for five minutes longer or until tomatoes are heated. Serve hot or cold.
(Note: To remove skins from tomatoes, plunge tomatoes one at a time in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Skins then will slip off easily.)
Makes six servings. Each serving contains 136 calories, 9.5 grams of fat, 12.5 g of carbohydrates and 4 g of fiber.