Did you know that botanically, eggplant is actually a fruit, or a berry to be more precise? In the culinary world, it’s a vegetable, as it’s used in main dishes and not eaten for sweetness. It is a member of the nightshade family which also includes tomatoes and potatoes.
Its origin is considered to be India where it still grows wild. As the trade routes opened, eggplant was introduced in Europe by the Arabs and eventually carried to the New World by the Spaniards. By the 1800’s both the purple and white varieties of eggplant were growing in American gardens.
The name “eggplant” developed in the U.S and Canada because some of the varieties were pale yellow or white and resembled goose eggs!
While eggplant isn’t the most nutritious vegetable, it does give a decent amount of potassium and fiber. At 25 calories and a gram of fat per serving, eggplant is a pretty guilt-free food as long as you don’t soak it in oil!
Eggplant may be the ultimate versatile fruit (aka vegetable) because you can fry it, bake it, stuff it or grill it. It is often used as a meat substitute as well.
When choosing an eggplant, smooth and shiny is the way to go! You also want to pick one that is slightly firm, but not hard. The stem end should be green and free and clear of any mold or mushiness. Choose small to medium-sized and well-formed eggplants, as the larger ones tend to be bitter.
You can find many eggplant recipes on the internet, but I have one that I want to share with you. It is a meal in itself and only 158 calories per serving. Talk about guilt-free deliciousness!
Baked Eggplant with Mushroom and Tomato Sauce
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices
- Cooking spray
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 (8 oz,) package- sliced fresh mushrooms
- ¼ tsp pepper, divided
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce, divided
- 2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- ¼ cup (1 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- Preheat broiler
- Arrange eggplant slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; broil 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium heat until hot. Add onion and next 4 ingredients. Cover and cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Uncover; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates.
- Spread half of mushroom mixture in bottom of a 1 ½ quart round baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of eggplant slices over mushroom mixture; sprinkle with 1/8 tsp pepper. Top with ½ cup tomato sauce and 1/3 cup mozzarella, and top with remaining eggplant slices. Sprinkle with remaining pepper and top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 375 for 1 hour. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes. Yield: 4 servings
FYI: It’s peak eggplant season from now through October – the perfect time to cook with eggplant!
– Becky Lynn is a writer for EllisDownHome.com. She and her husband Bob enjoy spending time with their 8 grandchildren and traveling. Becky loves cranking up the music and heading to the kitchen to try out new recipes or cook for an upcoming party. She is passionate about continuing to be a life-long learner!