Whether you choose to grill it, roast it, or bake it, the slightly sweet, fiber-rich eggplant can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes and be deliciously prepared using a number of different cooking techniques. Available year round, eggplant has a mild flavor and “meaty” texture that makes it the perfect addition to meat and poultry-based stews and casseroles, as well as vegetarian main dishes. Here are a few tips for buying, storing, and cooking this versatile vegetable, which can be enjoyed on all Phases of the South Beach Diet.
Buying and Storing Eggplant
The most common eggplants, which are dark purple, are known as American, or globe eggplants. But there are also Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Italian, and Spanish varieties, which come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, including squat and tear-shaped, canary yellow, bright orange, and white. One variety, called “Tiger,” is named for its vertical stripes.
When shopping for eggplants, be sure to look for those that are firm, heavy, and smooth. Eggplants with wrinkled or flabby-looking skin will most likely be bitter-tasting. To check for freshness, simply press the vegetable with your thumb; the indentation should fill up rapidly if the eggplant is fresh.
Eggplants should be kept in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for a couple of days if not refrigerated, or for up to four days in the fridge (as long as you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap).
Eggplant can be cooked and eaten with or without its skin. If you want to eat it without the skin, you can peel it before cooking or simply scoop out the flesh when you’re ready to eat. The flesh of eggplant begins to turn brown when exposed to air, so avoid cutting the vegetable until you're ready to cook it. Eggplant can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles, or eaten on its own. Here are four more ways to enjoy eggplant:
- Grill eggplants whole (with a couple of holes poked in them to let steam escape) or grill them halved or sliced with a light coating of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs.
- Roast eggplant slices for sandwiches or add cooked cubed eggplant to a tomato sauce and serve with whole-wheat pasta (on Phase 2).
- Add cooked and mashed eggplant to your favorite hummus recipe.
- Steam halved or cubed eggplant, then drizzle with a little sesame oil, some reduced-sodium soy sauce, and a little white vinegar for a delicious appetizer.