A vegetable – or fruit – by any other name

Newsletter - Feb16- EggplantEggplant or aubergine? It doesn’t really matter what you call it, nowadays in Hungary you can find them pretty much year-round at most of the international supermarkets such as Spar, Lidl or Aldi, which all seem to carry them. Eggplant can be tricky to cook for many people because dishes they may eat out in a restaurant are difficult to reproduce at home, for the simple reason that if you knew how much oil was used in cooking those delicious dishes you would shudder.

One of my favorite places to find new dishes to try out is the Foodwishes blog of Chef John, whose food videos have over 225 million views on YouTube. As I am trying to incorporate more vegetables in our family’s meals, so when making Eggplant Parmesan the thought of adding lots of oil to cook each eggplant seems a bit of overkill, wiping out any health benefits. Fortunately Chef John has a great recipe which uses a fraction of the oil normally used in preparing this dish. Below you can find a tasty and healthier way to eat eggplant that even kids will like (at least my three-year-old did…minus the skin).

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants or 3 smaller ‘winter’ ones.
  • olive oil as needed
  • 300g cup ricotta cheese. If you can’t find ricotta, mix 250g of túró with enough sour cream to make evenly creamy.
  • 50g grated Parmesan (try not to use the pre-grated sachets)
  • 25g shredded gouda or similar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5g oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 cans (700g) of good chopped tomatoes or favorite tomato sauce

Topping:

  • 70g breadcrumbs
  • 50g grated Parmesan
  • 25ml (about two spoonfuls) olive oil

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 175 degrees C
  • Slice the thick portion of the eggplant into 1½ cm rounds and season with salt and pepper. Make small dice of the remaining eggplant and set aside.
  • In a heated pan, pour in 2 spoonfuls of olive oil. Cook eggplant in batches over medium-high heat for three minutes a side, until slightly browned and softening. Place on paper towel while cooking next batch. Repeat until all eggplant has been cooked.
  • In pan heat one spoonful of oil and sauté garlic for about 15 seconds. Add diced eggplant with pinch or two of the salt and cook over medium-high heat until starting to soften.
  • IMG_9971Once softened, add tomatoes or sauce to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and if it becomes too thick add a spoonful or two of water.
  • Combine ricotta cheese, 50g Parmesan cheese, gouda, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper and 5g oregano in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Spread about 2 tablespoons cheese mixture over each eggplant round, folding over like a taco to enclose the cheese mixture.
  • In baking pan or casserole dish, cover bottom with cooked eggplant-tomato sauce (slightly less than half). Lay folded eggplant on top of the sauce, one next to the other. If you have enough you can put on an angle. Cover with remaining sauce.
  • Combine breadcrumbs with remaining Parmesan and two spoonfuls of oil and spread over casserole
  • Bake in the heated oven until bubbling and crumbs are browned, about 45 minutes.

 

Enjoy.

 

Did you know?

 

  • Eggplants aren’t really vegetables! In fact they are berries. A berry is a fleshy fruit that has multiple seeds on the inside.
  • Eggplant contains the highest level of nicotine of any vegetable, sorry fruit. Don’t worry though: you’d need to eat about 20 kilograms to equal what you find in a cigarette.
  • The word “aubergine”, which is used by the British and French, goes back to Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, which considered it the King of the Vegetables…sorry, fruit.
  • Eggplant is a rich source of dietary fibers, vitamins C, K and B group, and minerals such as copper, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • In Italian the eggplant is also known as “mad apple” due to past widespread belief that a diet rich in eggplants leads to madness.
  • Delphinidin is a substance isolated from eggplant that exhibits anti-tumor properties
  • China grows almost 30 million tons each year.
  • Salting eggplant will reduce the amount of oil absorbed in cooking.