Different Ways to Cook Eggplant

As a vegetable, eggplant does not necessarily have the best reputation. But this is not due to the eggplant itself, this is because of the way it is frequently prepared. Breaded and fried, then layered with greasy cheese, eggplant suddenly becomes a caloric nightmare. Eggplant itself is not high in calories, however. It is actually made up of 92% water and therefore contains only about 14 calories per half cup on its own. It is also a good source of fiber, calcium, and potassium. So eggplant is a great choice to include on your dinner plate, and there are many healthy and delicious ways to prepare it.

First, before preparing your eggplant dish, take care to select your desired type of eggplant. At your local grocery store or farmers' market, you may find Japanese White Eggs, which are small and white; Thai eggplants, which are a small green variety of Kermit eggplant; and Black Beauty eggplants, which are the large, glossy and dark purple variety that we most commonly see today. As with all vegetables, I highly recommend growing your own, since this is the best way to insure that they are healthy, fresh, and free of chemical pesticides and herbicides. The variety that I have grown successfully and enjoy most is an Italian heirloom variety called the Rosa Bianca eggplant. Whereas Black Beauty eggplants sometimes tend to have bitter flesh, the Rosa Bianca has a mild flavor that is not bitter, and a very nice meaty flesh. It works well as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes, and is excellent in the following recipes.

Eggplant Parmesan In traditional eggplant parmesan, the eggplant is fried, which fills it with grease and negates its traditional value. Instead of frying the eggplant, try broiling it. Cut the eggplant into ½ inch slices, coat them with breadcrumbs, spray the slices with cooking spray, then broil them in the oven for 5minutes on each side. Serve the eggplant slices with marinara sauce and a slice of low-fat mozzarella cheese on top.

"Poor Man's Caviar" An entire eggplant can be baked inside your oven, then split open and served with toast points or crackers, a dish known as Poor Man's Caviar. Simply wash the eggplant, cut off the stem and ends, and slice the whole thing in half length-wise. Brush the cut sides of the eggplant with olive oil, then sprinkle them with garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and/or basil. Bake the eggplant halves for 30-40 minutes (or until the flesh is nice and tender) at 400 degrees F.

Indian Style Eggplant This dish is seasoned with coriander, a fragrant spice frequently used in Indian cooking. To make it, you will need 2 and ½ pounds of eggplant, 2/3 of a cup of clarified butter, 1 cup of chopped white onions, 4 large tomatoes, chopped, and 4 teaspoons of crushed coriander seeds. To begin, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the eggplants in half, brush the cut sides with olive oil, and bake them for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh becomes soft. Remove them from the oven, and use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the peel and into a bowl. (Or, if you prefer, you can leave the peel on.) Mash the eggplant flesh with a potato masher. Set the bowl of mashed eggplant aside. Next, heat the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes, until the are translucent. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and the eggplant. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the skillet from the heat, and sprinkle the dish with coriander.

Grilled Eggplant Eggplant makes a great addition to shish kebabs when cut into chunks. You can also place ½ inch slices directly on the grill rack. Brush on a little bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking, season them with salt and pepper, and grill them over direct heat until they are tender. It should only take about 3 minutes or so per side. These eggplant slices are excellent on top of couscous, or on a sandwich with Focaccia bread, goat cheese, and some fresh tomato and spinach.

Eggplant Lasagna Thinly slice an eggplant lengthwise. Then use these slices as a substitute for noodles in your favorite lasagna recipe.

Ratatouille Ratatouille is a classic hearty and filling eggplant dish. To make it, you will need 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons of dried parsley, 1 eggplant that has been cut into cubes, 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 2 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced onion, 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, 1 sliced green bell pepper, and 2 large tomatoes, chopped. Begin by greasing a casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet and heat in over medium heat. Saute the garlic for 2 minutes, then add in the eggplant and parsley. Allow these to cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Remove the sautéed eggplant from the stovetop, and season it to taste with salt. Then spoon the seasoned eggplant evenly into the casserole dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the eggplant. Arrange the zucchini slices on top of the eggplant, and add another layer of parmesan. Follow with the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomatoes. Top it all off with the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 45 minutes, and enjoy.

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