Easy Eggplant

Every single time I go into an Italian restaurant I order eggplant parm.  My favorite Greek place has the best vegetarian svoulaki with grilled eggplant and other succulent vegetables tossed with feta on a hot grilled pita.  At my favorite Chinese place I always get the eggplant and brown rice.  As hard as I try I can’t not order eggplant when I see it on a menu.

For the longest time my love affair with eggplant was only happening when I was away from home because I was intimidated by cooking it.  I was worried that it would be too bitter or tough.  Not so!  It is easier to cook than you might imagine.

Eggplant is very porous so it soaks up flavors that it is cooked in.  In addition to soaking up flavors, it can soak up an incredible amount of oil.  All of the dishes I described at the restaurants can be extremely high in calories because eggplant actually retains more oil than most meats.  To avoid this, grill, stir fry or bake the eggplant instead of frying in lots of oil.  Some people like to salt eggplant or slice it and blot the eggplant before cooking to reduce the bitterness, but as long as eggplant is cooked thoroughly it should not be bitter.

As the weather is getting cooler, a great dish to warm you up that incudes eggplant is ratatouille.  Ratatouille is traditionally a French dish of sautéed eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.  You can make it plant based by adding some chickpeas or tofu for protein or add some lean ground turkey sausage if you like.  

Eggplant makes a great dip.  Roast an eggplant whole (poke a few holes in it) for about 35 minutes at 375 degrees.  Let it cool and cut it open and scoop out the soft insides.  Blend it in a blender or food processor with tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, minced garlic, and some sesame seeds.   Add salt, pepper, or some fresh parsley to taste.  It goes well with baked pita chips.

Ever topped a pizza with eggplant?  It makes a nice Mediterranean-style twist on one of the popular foods in America.  Oh, that’s right….Pizza really came from Italy didn’t it?   Either way eggplant is a staple in Italian and Mediterranean dishes and blends nicely with tomatoes, onions and other veggies. 

I would love to hear about your favorite ways to eat eggplant!  Do share!

Tara Collingwood
Tara is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition, fitness, and health promotion and is quoted in a variety of media including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and websites.

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