Simple Succulent Eggplant

Simple Succulent Eggplant in 2 Ways

Vegan, Paleo; no gluten, dairy, eggs, cane sugar, citrus; one has no soy or other legumes

Big, small, deep purple to pale green. Low-cal, high-fibre eggplant readily absorbs colours and flavours. It is a favourite in the diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa, India, East Asia and ever since the Spanish took it to South America. Kiwis should likewise learn to bake, fry, grill, BBQ, fritter, casserole, simmer and stew it. An easy preparation-style is to cut it into slices or in half – as I’ve done below – top it (eg olive oil, salt, pepper, hummus, red onion) and bake.

There is no need to salt eggplant before cooking. That method helps with old, wrinkled or otherwise bitter eggplant. It is unnecessary with fresh produce and today’s varieties.

Eggplant is a good source of potassium, folate, fibre, B1 and B6. It contains antioxidant flavonoids called anthocyanins and nasunin. These can help blood flow to the brain and reduce high blood pressure. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with diets high in anthocyanins have 34% less risk of heart disease. Be sure to eat the gorgeous skin for its phenolics to scavenge inflammatory free radicals – one of the top 10 performing vegetables in this regard. Another antioxidant – chlorgenic acid – reduces high cholesterol (as does eggplant’s soluble fibre) and protects cells from cancerous growth.

Moroccan-style Eggplant   serves 4
1 medium purple eggplant, top removed
extra olive oil
***
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp tahini*
1 ½ Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp mustard (Crystal brand has no added sugar)
2 tsp basil
2 tsp sea salt with kelp*
1 clove garlic, chopped
***
1 large tomato, sliced; or 1 small red onion, sliced

Slice eggplant horizontally to produce even halves.

Without cutting the skin, slice diagonal lines deeply about 2 cm apart into the white flesh. Then make another set of similar slices on an angle to those. This diamond pattern will create lots of openings for the topping and flavour to permeate. It will also cook quicker.  Slice each half in half lengthwise to create 4 even ‘boats’. Place on an oiled baking dish. Use a pastry brush to coat the top and base of the eggplant with olive oil.

With a fork, combine the oil, vinegar, tahini, capers, mustard, basil, salt and capers. Scrape this on to the eggplant, patting it into the crevices. Place slices of tomato or red onion on top. Fan Grill 30-40 minutes at 180°C (or bake at 190°). Eggplant needs to be cooked until dark and thoroughly soft to be succulent. Serve. For a more glam touch, drizzle with a little more tahini and chopped parsley.

Harissa and Miso Eggplant   serves 4
1 medium-large purple eggplant, top removed
extra olive oil
***
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
2 Tbsp harissa*
2 Tbsp miso*
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp coconut sugar*

Slice eggplant horizontally to produce even halves.

Without cutting the skin, slice diagonal lines deeply about 2 cm apart into the white flesh. Then make another set of similar slices on an angle to those. This diamond pattern will create lots of openings for the topping and flavour to permeate. It will also cook quicker.  Slice each half in half lengthwise to create 4 even ‘boats’. Place on an oiled baking dish. Use a pastry brush and coat the top and base of the eggplant with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

With a fork, combine the oil, harissa, miso, cumin and sugar. Scrape this on to the eggplant, patting it into the crevices. Fan Grill 30-40 minutes at 180°C (or bake at 190°). If it starts to over-brown, turn off the heat for the last few minutes and let it sit in the oven instead. Eggplant needs to be cooked until dark and thoroughly soft to be succulent. Serve.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Coconut sugar: granulated; looks similar to raw sugar; mild caramel taste. Buy from health stores and many supermarkets; use in baking like brown sugar. Made from the syrup of coconut palms. Low 35 GI; good source of alkaline minerals, iron, zinc, some B vitamins.

• Harissa: North African and Middle Eastern spicy, red seasoning paste. Usually made from red pepper, chilli, vinegar, spices, salt and olive oil. In jars in supermarket seasoning or gourmet section. I use Julie Le Clerc’s – not too hot.

• Miso: ancient soybean and rice paste (some have barley); looks and tastes a bit like vegemite. Use as a spread, or flavouring to stock, soup or sauce. From pale and delicate to dark and gutsy. Lengthily fermented food so can help increase good guy bacteria in the gut. To gain this benefit, add miso to hot but not boiling liquid, such as at the end of the cooking. Mix with a little hot liquid before adding it to the pot to prevent lumps. Mild, golden brand from local organic beans: Urban Hippie-HS,SP.

• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my TIPS article: The Fats of Life.

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed or kelp (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. NOTE these are less salty in taste than other brands. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

• Tahini: is a paste – like runny peanut butter – made from ground sesame seeds and possibly added oil. It is available in jars in supermarkets next to nut butters. Referring to the processing of the seeds, it may be labelled ‘unhulled’ which has a bitter taste (traditionally for East Asian cooking), or ‘hulled’ which has slightly lower nutrient levels but a milder flavour (this is a Middle Eastern staple such as used in hummus). Try on crackers, toast and baked vegetables. As with nut butters, store in the refrigerator.

 

 

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