‘Tis the season where you’ll find many different varieties of eggplant at your farmers’ market. I’m cooking more eggplant dishes these days because everywhere I turn people are talking about why we should all be eating more of this healthful vegetable:
- Eggplant is naturally low in calories and low in sodium. One cup of eggplant (with the skin) has about 35 calories and 1mg of sodium.
- Eggplants provide nutrients called phytochemicals. People who eat a lot of phytochemicals have a lower risk for heart problems. Eggplant and other purple foods contain a specific phytochemical called nasunin. Nasunin is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off cancer and aging.
- Eggplant is high in fiber. One cup provides about 3g of fiber.
- Eggplant is rich in manganese, thiamine and folic acid. Manganese helps you maintain normal blood sugar levels, keeps your bones strong and helps regulate thyroid function. Thiamine, aka Vitamin B1, is known as the “anti-stress” vitamin. Folic acid helps your cells work properly and your tissues grow.
Okay, so I get that eggplant is good for you. But I won’t be eating much of it unless I can make it taste good. I usually find eggplant to be too seedy, mushy or bitter for my liking. I’ve found that I like the eggplant I get at the farmers’ market much better than what’s available at the supermarket. The longer eggplant sits, the more bitter it gets and who knows when that produce at your grocery store was picked. Look for eggplant with smooth skin; as with all of us, age makes it wrinkle. I’ve also found I prefer smaller, skinnier eggplants to the big fat ones.
A few notes about the recipe:
- Slice the eggplant as thinly as you can. The thinner it is, the easier it will be to roll up.
- Don’t peel the eggplant. Most of those beneficial nutrients are in the skin.
- You can either used canned tomatoes or fresh ones. If you use canned, try to pick a brand that only contains tomatoes and drain them first. If you use fresh tomatoes, peel them, core them and seed them before dicing. The smaller your tomato chunks, the easier the eggplant will be to roll.
- I was very tempted to sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top of the eggplant rolls before baking, but I resisted. (The Grillmaster and I are trying to cut back on our dairy consumption.) I admit I did add a tiny bit of Parmesan at the table. Just a tiny bit.
Eggplant Roll Ups
Adapted from The End of Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman, MD
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into thin strips (I used the graffiti variety)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup meatless pasta sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil plus 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine vinegar and water in an oblong baking dish. Add eggplant slices and marinate for about an hour, turning slices over halfway through.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain eggplant and place on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is flexible.
While the eggplant is baking, heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté pepper, onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add pasta sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then let sauce cool slightly.
On each slice of eggplant, spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce and roll up. Place seam side down in a baking dish. (Use a dish just large enough to hold all of the rolls.) Pour remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls.
Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 133 calories, 4g fat (1g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 204mg sodium, 21g carb, 6g fiber, 12g sugar, 4g protein