Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family of vegetables like tomato, bell pepper and potato. Known for its characteristic taste as well as texture, eggplants are best enjoyed in North America between August and October. Among the main growers of eggplant are Italy, Egypt, China, Japan and Turkey. Eggplant has glossy skin, while its flesh is spongy and cream-colored. Some might find that eggplant is an acquired taste, but I personally love them for its flavor and ability to absorb the flavor and juices of other ingredients.
Its fiber content is high, which helps our digestive process and also acts against coronary heart disease.
Nutritional values of eggplants include vitamins (in particular, C, as well as B1), proteins, minerals and phytonutrients. In the phytonutrients found in eggplants, there are phenolic compounds, such as caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids. Flavonoids exhibit cancer fighting properties and phenolic compounds are considered antioxidants. Nasunin helps prevent damage of cell membranes and blocks the creation of free radicals. Potassium in eggplants brings a balance in salt intake and maintains a nice level of hydration. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Eggplants also contain folate, magnesium and niacin as well as copper, manganese and thiamine (vitamin B1).
Below you will see a simple caponata. Caponata is a cooked vegetable dish popular throughout Italy (helps since my husband is Italian), though it is believed to have originated in Sicily. There are many variations, most of which contain eggplant as the primary ingredient. Although it can be served as a side dish to fish or meat, don’t be afraid to enjoy it like I do….with a hunk of garlic bread and a spoon. Personally, I think this is better the next day so I double the ingredients and take leftovers for lunch. Buon Appetito!!
¼ cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped, ½“ pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped, ½” pieces
1 14oz can diced tomatoes with juice
3 tablespoons raisins
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the celery and saute for 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and onion, sauteing 3 minutes. Add the red pepper cooking until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raisins and oregano. Simmer over medium-low heat letting the flavors blend, about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar and sugar, simmering 2 minutes more. Salt & pepper to taste.
Enjoy, this is a good side for Thanksgiving.