Small purple eggplant. Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash
There is something magical about the season of fall. That wonderful time of year when the crisp, cool weather is ushered in. It seems to coax summer to release its intense grip, giving way to one of the most beautiful and welcoming of all the seasons.
As we pull out our sweaters and jackets, it is also a good time to pull out our hearty, traditional favorites — recipes, that is. Those satisfying homemade recipes, like a signature lasagna or chicken parmesan. But with eggplants being a popular fall harvest, why not kick off the season with a perennial favorite: eggplant parmesan.
Eggplant Versatility in Recipes
Aside from eggplants being both nutritious and delicious, they are easy to customize and can be adapted to a variety of palates. Eggplants have a delightfully absorbent quality, allowing them to soak up and hang on to flavors and seasonings really well. This makes them ideal to cook with and a pleasure to serve in many types of dishes. Eggplants are practically fail-proof in casseroles, stews, parmesans or in stir-frys. Eggplant's versatility lends itself well in both light and fresh, garden-style recipes, as well as in the more hearty and robust recipe profiles.
There are good eggplant parmesan recipes and then there are exceptional eggplant parmesan recipes. Without compromising flavor, I prefer a good, workable mix, varying only in the complexity of preparation steps. Because let's face it, there are times when one prefers convenience and simplicity over a full-scale, more involved production. Below, I have provided a quick recipe version that is just as tasty as a complex one.
Interesting Eggplant Facts
Recipes notwithstanding, there are as many positive features about eggplants as there are of the festive fall season in which they are typically harvested in. Eggplants come from the solanaceae nightshade family and are of the species called Solanum melongena. Also known as aubergines, eggplants are technically a fruit. They are grown and used in many cuisines worldwide.
The fruit has a spongy and absorbent inner flesh and typically has a dark, purple outer skin. Normally treated as a vegetable in recipes, but is actually considered a berry by its botanical definition.
Without refrigeration, an eggplant stored in a cool, dry place will keep one or two days. Refrigerated, an eggplant can be extended to last up to five to seven days. An eggplant has a very nutrient-rich skin, which may absolutely be left on in most prepared recipes. Although personal preference will dictate if the skin is to be removed.
Eggplant Gardening Tips
Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in a moist, compost-rich soil. From transplant, an eggplant will be ready to harvest from 80 to 90 days after planting. Ideally, the soil should range between 5.5 - 7.5 pH. Water thoroughly, so that the soil becomes saturated about 12 inches in depth. Water deeply again whenever the top 2 inches of soil becomes dry to the touch. Apply a good vegetable fertilizer at planting and monthly thereafter or according to the plant's specific needs.
At harvest, remove the fruit with a sharp knife, leaving at least 1 inch of stem attached to the eggplant. Interestingly enough, you can grow eggplant indoors if you live in an area where the outdoor temperatures are less than the ideal warm and sunny growing conditions required.
Eggplant Health Facts
As reported in Healthline and elsewhere, eggplants can promote weight loss due to their being high in fiber, water and low in calories. Eggplant’s versatility allow them to be prepared as a parmesan, baba ghanoush, which is a hummus-like dip or rolled into a rollatini, similar to a manicotti.
Eggplant prevents osteoporosis and protects bone health by increasing bone density due to its rich calcium and iron mineral content. High in vitamin C and water, eggplants are good for overall skin, hair and general body health. The vitamin C prevents oxidative cell damage which aids in preventing fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. The dark, purple skin contains beneficial anthocyanins, which are a chemical that lowers blood pressure.
Eggplants have the ability to balance blood sugar levels by keeping blood glucose levels from becoming either too high or too low. Eggplants contain vitamin A and C which provides cells protective antioxidants and significant levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are chemicals which may assist our bodies' cells to process sugar.
The skin of an eggplant contains nasunin, a very beneficial antioxidant. Nasunin protects the cell membranes of the brain, transports vital nutrients throughout the body, while removing waste that may cause harmful toxins from the body. Nasunin also aids in preventing neuroinflammation and helps increase vital blood flow, which could help memory.
Savory eggplant Parmesan
Photo Credit: Pexels - Melanie Dompierre
Monica’s Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
1. Slice one medium sized eggplant into 1/2" round slices.
2. Coat the slices in fresh extra virgin olive oil. 3. Add salt and pepper to each side of the eggplant slices.
4. In a skillet or grill pan on medium-high, brown or lightly char the slices. Approximately 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until the slices have softened. 5. Remove pan from heat and set the eggplant slices aside.
6. In a medium-sized baking dish, lightly oil the bottom of baking dish with olive oil.
7. Layer three times, the following ingredients in the order listed: marinara sauce, eggplant slices, grated parmesan, Romano and Pecorino cheeses. If you don't have Pecorino cheese, you may substitute it with a firm goat cheese. Layer the top and final layer with grated mozzarella cheese.
8. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, coat 2 cups of toasted and crushed bread crumbs in 1/4 cup of each: olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and basil. Mix well. Spoon the bread crumb mixture generously over the entire dish.
9. Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 to 50 minutes.
10. Let stand 15 minutes prior to serving.
Eggplant Nutrition Profile
(For an average size eggplant)
- Calories: 35
- Total carbohydrates: 8.64g
- Dietary fiber: 2.5g
- Copper: 1mg
- Vitamin B1: 1mg
- Vitamin B3: .6mg
- Vitamin B6: 85mcg
- Vitamin K: 2.9mcg
- Manganese: .1mg
- Folate: 14mcg
Leaf raking aside, there is plenty to celebrate during the season of fall. As we reap the rewards from our fall harvests, be sure to incorporate eggplant in plenty of warm and savory dishes this season, reaping its many flavors and benefits that this wonderful plant has to offer.
Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she's growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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