Tuesday, August 24, 2010


We have this thing in nutrition. We are always telling people to consume a variety of foods. Recently I have been thinking about variety and what variety really means. Here is my example. Take a stroll through the produce aisle and you will find about one of everything. In some neighborhoods, you may find two, but rarely does one find more than two varieties of anything, except maybe apples and oranges.

Eggplants are one example. There used to be one main type of eggplant – the large purple globe type. Recently, I have found the Japanese variety. These tend to be long and skinny. When visiting farmers markets and ethnic grocery stores, I am fascinated by the amount of variety of foods.

Ethnic grocery stores sell items that I long to become knowledgeable about. What can I say; I am fascinated about all things food. We usually think of eggplants as purple and glossy. Eggplants are available in a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes. Colors of eggplant range from white to green to purple stripped. They are a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. Botanically, the eggplant is a fruit and is classified as a berry, containing numerous small edible seeds. Most eggplants are slightly bitter with a spongy texture.

Salting and rinsing sliced eggplants is a common practice. Salting reduces the amount of bitterness. Since eggplants have a spongy texture, they are capable of absorbing oil. Salting collapses some of the cells and reduces the amount of oil absorbed. The spongy texture can be used to your advantage when making dishes with sauces, such as lasagna or moussaka.

Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
Hot pepper, to taste
1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1. Cook eggplant, whole, in an oven or grill, until it has softened. Place in a paper bag and allow to steam. When eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove the skin.

2. Chop eggplant into small pieces. (Do not use a blender.) In a bowl, combine eggplant with the remaining ingredients.

3. If desired, a small finely chopped tomato can be added to this dish.

Notes on this recipe: There is an old saying that we eat with our eyes first. Well, those people who adhere to this philosophy will not be eating this dish. In short, this is an “ugly” dish. I do think the chopped tomatoes help. At my home we ate this as a side dish. When we “finished” eating, some of us ate the leftovers on top of bread.

Here’s another eggplant recipe. It’s perfect for the summer. Briam (Greek Roasted Vegetables) During my travels in Greece, I found this to be a very common dish. Basically, it is roasted vegetables and roasted vegetables appear to be the 'in' thing. This recipe can easily be adapted to what is in season. Traditionally, I believe this recipe is made with eggplant, zucchini and cooked in a savory tomato sauce. I even found one recipe that added feta cheese. If only, I could have found that before I made my dish. Here is my version of briam.

Serves 6.

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ¼” slices
Salt and black pepper
2 small eggplants, about 1 pound, total
2 small zucchini
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1½ cups fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Toss potatoes and ¼ cup oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to roasting pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

2. Slice eggplants and zucchini in half lengthwise. Slice crosswise into ½” slices. Cut onion in half and each half into fourths.

3. In a large bowl, combine remaining oil, eggplant, zucchini, and onion. Add oregano and garlic. Add more salt and pepper, if desired. Add vegetables to potatoes. Stir to combine. Bake until done, about 45 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes and continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Note: I made this recipe on a gas grill. It worked perfectly. This is an easy recipe and I will make it again.

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