The winter months provide ample time to spend inside trying new recipes and ingredients! Did you know that eggplant, commonly found in purple color and an oblong shape, is a fruit?
It’s often thought of as a vegetable due to its mild flavor and being placed amongst the other vegetables at the grocery store. It’s treated as a vegetable in the grocery store and in the kitchen as it is used in main dishes and not eaten for sweetness.; but, botanically, eggplant is a berry, just like blueberries, watermelon or tomatoes.
The trademark of eggplant is its glossy, vivid purple skin which is a good source of the flavonoid nasunin which has antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, and nasunin is found in vegetables with red, blue and purple hues which is why you’ll hear Dietitians say, “eat a rainbow of colors.” By getting a variety of color in your diet, you’re giving your body an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals to benefit your health. And, when was the last time you ate something purple? Additionally, eggplant serves as a high-fiber, low-calorie food with 35 calories per cup cooked.
Eggplant flesh acts like a sponge that absorbs oils and liquids due to its mesh of tiny air pockets. This spongy nature makes it ideal for silky purees, custards, and sauces. It is easy for eggplant slices or cubes to become undesirably soggy. To keep a firm texture, coat eggplant with oil just before baking, roasting, or grilling.
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes. Yields 4-6 servings
Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat baking sheet(s) with oil. Set aside.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 tablespoon water. In another bowl or pie plate, combine the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan, Italian Seasoning, and pepper.
Cut the eggplant into thick rounds (between ½ and ¾ inches). Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the dipped slices in the parmesan mixture, pushing down gently to coat well. Transfer the coated slices to the baking sheet.
Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 17-20 minutes. Flip the slices and continue baking until lightly browned on the other side but still slightly firm, about 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and serve as is or with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
Taryn Carlson is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System
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