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What’s In Season: Eggplant & More


By Stefanie Cassetto

“The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other.” — Arthur Rubenstein

This week, the fresh and seasonal food focus is eggplant. This deep purple vegetable is at it’s very best from August through October and belongs to the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. It is a brain food known for protecting cell membranes from damage. It is high in antioxidant compounds and supports cardiovascular health.

Eggplant is a great source of dietary fiber—protecting against colon cancer and keeping the digestive system regular. It is loaded with vitamin A, B vitamins, folate, and vitamin C. Eggplant also boasts it’s share of minerals including, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous.

Eggplant can be eaten either with or without their skin, and can be baked, roasted in the oven, or steamed. It can be added to stir-fry, stuffed with delicious cheese or roasted peppers, or pureed to be made into a tasty dip or dressing.

This essentially fat-free and cholesterol-free veggie helps to maintain a strong immune system, can promote healthy sugar levels, and has cancer-fighting antioxidants. It is a great fall food to add to your regular meal time routine.

As we continue our search for the freshest most-healthy foods for fall consider this quote from Terry Walters in her book Clean Food.

“For maximum nutrition, we’re better off eating closer to the source and relying on Mother Nature for seasonal produce to keep us in balance.”

The seasons create the most natural guidelines for eating. Technology, the ease in which food can be distributed, and modern food-processing make it easy to forget about the seasons. Most foods are available year-round. But, if our goal is to eat food that hasn’t been processed or artificially enhanced to look fresh and beautiful, then it is best to eat food grown locally and choose food that is in season. We will gain the most nutritional benefits when we start shopping and eating with these facts as our guide.

Whfoods.com gives these suggestions for optimal nourishment during every season:

In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including Swiss chard, spinach, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.

In summer, stick with light, cooling foods in the tradition of traditional Chinese medicine. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apple, pear, and plum; vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn; and spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro.

In fall, turn toward the more warming, autumn harvest foods, including carrot, sweet potato, onions, and garlic. Also emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.

In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All of the animal foods fall into the warming category including fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and venison. So do most of the root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as do corn and nuts.

ONLINE REFERENCES
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=22
http://www.livestrong.com/article/19046-nutritional-benefits-eggplant/
http://www.livestrong.com/article/347747-how-healthy-is-eggplant/
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=28



Italian Eggplant Recipe with Crumbled Beef, Tomatoes and Mint

Recipe courtesy of glutenfreegoddess.com Link to recipe: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2008/08/mediterranean-eggplant-with-crumbled.html

This rustic, simple Mediterranean dish is hearty and delicious- without being heavy. And I didn't miss the fried crumbs or the cheese. Honestly. Cooking light? Use ground turkey instead of beef. Vegetarians simply omit the beef and add some chopped Baby Bella mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium firm eggplants
  • Sea salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3/4 pound ground organic free-range beef or buffalo meat
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram or basil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 6 Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup light broth or pure plain tomato juice, as needed
  • 2-3 fresh mint sprigs

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Weep the eggplant to remove the bitterness. Salt the slices of eggplant and toss them into a colander. Allow them to "weep" moisture for 20 minutes. Press with a spatula to squeeze any last remaining liquid. Rinse in cold water briefly; drain. Pat dry with a clean tea towel.
  3. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly on both sides with a little olive oil. Roast the slices in the oven till fork tender and a wee bit crispy around the edges. This takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes or so depending upon your oven, altitude and the thickness of your eggplant.
  4. In the meantime heat a deep sided skillet on medium-high heat and cook the onions for five minutes or so, till softened; add and cook the ground beef, breaking it apart and stirring a bit here and there until nicely browned.
  5. Add the chopped garlic, oregano, marjoram and thyme. Stir and cook a minute.
  6. Add the tomatoes, balsamic and broth; stir and bring to a simmer. season with sea salt, to taste. Reduce heat and cover, keeping it on a steady slow simmer.
  7. Cook for about 15 minutes- till the beef is thoroughly cooked. If you need a small amount of liquid at this point, add a splash of broth. Remove from heat.
  8. Lightly oil four individual serving gratin dishes or a single shallow baking dish such as an 9 x 12-inch baking dish.
  9. When the eggplant is done remove the baking sheet from the oven and reset your oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  10. Divide the cooked eggplant slices among the four individual gratin dishes (or layer them into a single baking dish).
  11. Top with the cooked beef and tomato mixture.
  12. Bake in a 350 degree F moderate oven till heated through- about 15 to 20 minutes.
  13. Chop some of the mint leaves and sprinkle on the dish before serving. Add a mint sprig for color.
  14. Serve the baked eggplant with a generous crisp green salad.
  15. If you'd like to serve this dish with a grain it pairs well with low glycemic brown rice or cooked quinoa pilaf.

Serves 4