I don’t do favourites. There are just too many pretty colours in the rainbow. And in a world with Nicholas Sparks, how do you choose just one favourite movie? Even the various shades of chocolate have their own pros and cons. But I do have a special spot in my heart and in my tummy for one vegetable, and that is eggplant. I mean, really, how do the other vegetables expect to compete? I think it has to do with the way it transforms from a bitter, bouncy ball of uselessness when raw, to a silky, fall-apart-in-the-mouth mouthful, when you feed it a little love. And with a little love, it welcomes and absorbs any flavours that come it’s way like a grandma with arms wide open.
Yes, I love eggplant.
Until recently, I was a biased Italo-Aussie. It was melanzane impanate fritte, always. AKA eggplant dipped in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and shallow fried. AKA eggplant schnitzel. AKA yum! But the world has shown me that on each continent eggplant is loved almost as much as I love it. In Japan they do a mean grilled eggplant. In India, why not pickle it? When you find yourself in Greece, make sure you find a yiayia to make you moussaka. And just recently, I discovered that boy, do the Afghani know what they’re doing. Not unlike the italian melanzane parmigana, in Afghan there is a delicious dish called Borani Banjan, which too relies on shallow frying eggplant, combining it with a rich tomato sauce and the accompaniment of dairy (though yoghurt, instead of cheese). Add there are magical flavours and like eggplant worldwide, it absorbs these and no more words will do it justice. Here's my version: Afghani Eggplant and Potatoes, made also with potato, just like the dish that first introduced me to this magicalness.
Instead of sharing my basic melanzane impanate fritte recipe (which is basically described above), I got Nonna to describe how she makes her Eggplant Stuffed with Eggplant (I made up the name; it’s pretty self explanatory of the dish). I love this recipe not only because it is simply delicious and lets the flavours of the eggplant do the talking (why stuff it with fancy meat, when you can stuff it with what was originally there?), but because Nonna always makes it for me as my “vego option” when she is making a roast. Yes, she will continue to offer the roast at minimum five times. Little does she know that so long as the vego option tastes this good, the roast will continue to get the “no” that no doubt breaks her heart a little each time.
So how does eggplant go in the nutrition stakes? In terms of total energy, gram for gram it sits in the middle… more than tomatoes and lettuce, less than carrot and pumpkin. Potassium, Vitamin C and A? Eggplant comes in at last place compared to these other four, with the exception of having slightly more potassium than lettuce (generally color= more micronutrients. And eggplant is as pale as I am come end of winter). Don’t let this disappoint, despite this eggplants are jam packed with antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, which neutralises chemicals in the body called free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally in the body, however too much of these, caused by factors including stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight and pollution can lead to diseases such as heart disease and cancers. Yep, vegetables lower the risk of cancers. It’s not fancy advice, but thanks to antioxidants, it’s true (unlike many nutrition claims currently circulating the net).
But really, I just like eggplant coz it tastes so damn good.