Eggplant More Versatile Than You Think!

— Written By and last updated by Adrian Gaskins

Eggplant is on of those vegetables that many folks are a little timid to try due to it’s unusual shape and color, and even sometimes bitter taste. But eggplant is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and its health benefits extend beyond just adding vital nutrients to a meal. Eggplant contains compounds that promote good health as well, such as helping to prevent cancer and lowering cholesterol. Once you realize how beneficial eggplant is to your health, and some tasty ways to prepare the unusual purple (and sometimes white) vegetable, you may want to try making it a regular part of your diet.

Some ways that eggplant provides health benefits; 

Eggplant is a good source for dietary fiber.  The dietary fiber in eggplant plays a role in reducing cholesterol levels and relaxing blood vessels. One cup of eggplant supplies 2 g of dietary fiber, or 8 percent of the recommended daily value, based on a 2000-calorie diet.

You will find Vitamins B-1, B-6 and B-3 abundant in eggplant. Vitamin B-1, also known as thiamin, helps your central nervous system by coordinating activity between your nerves and muscles and promoting the normal development of nerve coverings. Thiamin also maintains energy production by encouraging the breakdown of sugars within your body. Vitamin B-6 also supports nervous system health and the breakdown of sugars and starches. Adequate B-6 levels are crucial in maintaining hormone balance and eliminating waste through the liver. Vitamin B-3 is known for stabilizing blood sugar, lowering blood cholesterol and helping your body process fats. Like the other B vitamins, B-3 helps energy production.

Several nutrients are in eggplant; they include copper, manganese, folate and magnesium. Copper reduces tissue damage caused by harmful free radicals, maintains healthy bones and connective tissue and helps your body use iron. Manganese assists the thyroid gland to function normally, protects cells from free radicals and helps your body use cholesterol. Folate supports red blood cell and skin cell production. Magnesium relaxes muscles and nerves and helps strengthen bones.

Summer Chicken and Eggplant Pasta

1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
2 chicken breasts, about 4 oz. each
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Salt & pepper
Non-stick spray
Grill seasoning
6 oz. angel hair pasta
5 tbsp. good, olive oil-based Italian dressing, divided
8-10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Lay eggplant slices on a cooling rack. Generously salt each side and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot excess moisture and salt off the top with a paper towel. Brush each side with extra-virgin olive oil and season with pepper.

Spray chicken breasts with non-stick spray and season each side with grill seasoning.

Cut the ends off the zucchini and yellow squash, then cut in half. Cut into strips with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, then add strips and tomatoes into a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil and grill seasoning.

Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat and generously spray with non-stick spray. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the eggplant slices until tender, about 3 minutes per side. Grill squash, zucchini, and tomatoes together until tender, tossing every so often, about 5 minutes total. Chop chicken and eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile add angel hair pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with 3 tbsp. Italian dressing.

Divide pasta between four plates. Top with grilled chicken, eggplant, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. Drizzle each plate with the remaining Italian dressing, and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Yields 4 servings, each serving contains; 494 calories, 10.75 grams sugar, 15.6 grams fat, 66.6 grams carbohydrates, 29.45 grams protein

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Stacks

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium eggplant (1 pound)

2 medium tomatoes (3/4 pound)

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Prepare the grill so that the temperature on 1 side is hot and the other is just medium-low (you should be able to hold your hand 5 inches about the grill for about 5 seconds).

Whisk together the vinegar, rosemary, and salt and pepper, to taste. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Peel the eggplant and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices (12 slices total). Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/3-inch slices (8 slices total). Put the vegetables on a tray and brush generously with the dressing.

On the grill’s hot side, grill the eggplant until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side, brushing with more of the dressing. Grill the tomato slices for 1 minute per side. (The vegetables should retain their shape.) Transfer the vegetables to a tray as they finish grilling.

Arrange 4 stacks of vegetables on the cooler side of the grill: start with the eggplant, add a slice of tomato, then add some crumbled cheese. Repeat. Cover the grill and cook the stacks or 3 to 5 more minutes or until the feta melts. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings, each contains; Calories: 309; Total Fat: 27 grams; Saturated Fat: 7 grams; Protein: 6 grams; Total carbohydrates: 11 grams; Sugar: 6 grams; Fiber: 5 grams; Cholesterol: 25 milligrams; Sodium: 469 milligrams

Quick Fake-Out “Stuffed” Eggplant

5 small firm eggplants, about 6 to 7 inches long and 3 inches wide or 5 Japanese eggplants about the same size

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 small to medium onion, finely chopped

3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Splash white wine or chicken stock

3 to 4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

A handful basil leaves, torn or chopped

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves, a couple generous handfuls

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Halve 4 eggplants lengthwise. Pour about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season the cut eggplant with salt and pepper, to taste, and arrange, cut side down, in the oil. Put in the oven and roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

Peel the remaining eggplant and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in the beef, the tomato paste, onions, garlic, and diced eggplant. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the wine or stock, and cook until the eggplant and onions are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pine nuts and basil.

While the meat cooks, melt the butter in small skillet over medium heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

Stir the parsley and cheese into the breadcrumbs and add half of this mixture to the meat.

Remove the eggplant from the oven, flip it over and transfer to a serving platter. Top each halved eggplant with a mound of stuffing and sprinkle the remaining cheesy breadcrumbs over the top before serving.

Spaghetti with Roasted Eggplant and Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato Sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 cans (28-ounce) whole, peeled tomatoes, drained (or the fresh equivalent)

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 small (3/4 pound) eggplants, stemmed but not peeled

2 to 3 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound dried spaghetti

1 pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus extra for serving

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

First, make the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 7 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes, crushing them in your hand to break them up. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and put them in a large bowl. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Toss to coat, drizzling in more oil if you needed. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast 20 minutes until eggplants are very tender.

While the eggplants are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. About 5 minutes before the eggplants are done, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.

Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer and pour it into a large pasta bowl. Add the drained spaghetti and stir to coat with the sauce. Fold in the eggplants and the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and basil, and another drizzle of oil, and toss gently. Serve immediately and pass extra cheese at the table.