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August, 2009

Stop the Clock! with Eggplant

By Cheryl Forberg

A neutral flavor profile means that eggplant combines well with other vegetables and seasonings. Ratatouille is a perfect example.

Ratatouille
Though they’re found in a myriad of colors and sizes, most of the eggplants we see in the market are deep purple in color and oblong in shape. The purplish skin is indicative of the presence of anthocyanins. These powerful antioxidants can help lower the risk of a number of different cancers as well as support memory function. But that’s not the only reason to savor them. This versatile veggie is 95% water which means it doesn’t have an awful lot of calories. For example, a 1 ¼ pound eggplant yields about 5 cups of uncooked eggplant with just over 100 calories.

You won’t want to eat it raw though – it can be very bitter. But everything changes when it’s cooked. Baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed – even microwaved; a little cooking yields a tender, almost creamy texture. Some like to salt their eggplant before cooking it, which neutralizes acidic flavors and also draws out water, making the flesh seem meatier.

Eggplant
Eggplants have a dimple at the blossom end that can be round or oval in shape. An oval dimple is usually shallower, and oftentimes indicative of fewer seeds and a meatier, more desirable eggplant. A round, deeper dimple frequently indicates many seeds inside, especially if the eggplant is large and mature. When shopping for eggplant, look for smooth skin that yields slightly to pressure, but bounces back. Fresh eggplants should seem heavy for their size and yield optimal flavor. For this reason, it’s best to cook them right away. Its neutral flavor profile means that eggplant combines well with other vegetables and seasonings. Ratatouille is a perfect example.