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Jewish World Review
Easy to Love Aubergine
When I was 11, a strange purple vegetable appeared in our kitchen. My family had moved to France, and my mother, enthralled by the bulbous aubergines at the market, lugged a giant one home. It looked strangely amorphous. I promptly declared it inedible. But then came a ratatouille, a stew of vegetables I never would have eaten on their own. Simmered with garlic and onions, the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes made a heady, irresistible dish. I was hooked.
Later, I found eggplant had a magical effect on so many Mediterranean dishes, absorbing the flavors of the region (olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs), giving recipes a buttery richness and often replacing meat. Stuffed eggplant became my vegetarian staple; eggplant caponata, a Sicilian spread often spiked with anchovies, a go-to appetizer.
Today, I keep reading studies on how the traditional Mediterranean eating pattern is associated with such low incidences of heart disease, diabetes and even depression. Some say it's the olive oil. Some say it's the abundance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fresh seafood. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but those weird purple aubergines have simply made me happier. I thank my mom.
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BAKED STUFFED EGGPLANT
These stuffed eggplants are filled with peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes. Serve along with olives, hummus, warm pita and tabbouleh for a fantastic vegetarian feast.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/4 hours
- 2 small-to-medium Italian eggplants (6-8 inches long, 10-12 ounces each)
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large green bell pepper, cut lengthwise into quarters
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- Lemon wedges for serving
Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray.
Remove leaves from eggplants, but leave the stems on. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, through the stem. Using a small sharp knife, make a deep slit lengthwise down the flesh side of each eggplant half: start about 1 inch below the stem and stop about 1 inch from the bottom. Do not cut completely through the skin.
Brush the eggplant all over with 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle the eggplant flesh with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place cut-side down in the prepared roasting pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter and thinly slice onion. Finely chop garlic. Thinly slice 1 bell pepper quarter and set aside; dice the remaining pepper. Cut 1 tomato into 4 wedges and set aside; dice the remaining 2 tomatoes.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the diced bell pepper, the diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup parsley, sugar, bay leaves and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; discard bay leaves.
After the eggplant has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven. Carefully turn each eggplant half over and use 2 spoons to open and widen the slits. Stuff the slits with the vegetable mixture, pressing it down gently. Place a wedge of tomato in the middle of each half; evenly divide the reserved sliced pepper among the halves.
Add 1/4 inch hot water to the roasting pan. Drizzle the eggplant with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Bake 30 minutes more.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely, refrigerate and serve cold. Garnish with the remaining 3 tablespoons parsley and lemon wedges.
To Make Ahead: Loosely cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Per serving: 192 calories; 13 g fat (2 g sat, 10 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 1 g added sugars; 3 g protein; 7 g fiber; 595 mg sodium; 632 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (103 percent daily value), Vitamin A (29 percent dv), Potassium (18 percent dv), Folate (17 percent dv)
1 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 2 vegetable, 3 fat
(Lisa Gosselin is contributing food editor at EatingWell. EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
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