July is the beginning of the eggplant season for both the home gardener and the market shopper. Anytime from now through October is a good time to explore the many things one can do with an eggplant.

Though commonly considered a vegetable, an eggplant is actually a fruit. Eggplants are members of the nightshade family and are related to tomatoes and potatoes.

There are many varieties of eggplant, in colors ranging from white to deep purple, in shapes from oblong to round and in length from 2 to 12 inches. The variety most commonly seen in the United States is large and pear-shaped with dark purple, glossy skin.

Farmers markets and home gardens offer many other shapes, sizes and colors during the eggplant season. Narrow, straight Asian or Japanese eggplants come in a variety of purples and have a tender, sweet taste. So-called baby or Italian eggplants look like the common eggplant in miniature. Their flesh and skin, however, is more delicate. White, egg-shaped eggplants have slightly tougher skin but firmer flesh.

When choosing an eggplant, look for a firm, smooth, shiny skin. Avoid those with dull skins and soft or brown spots. A good eggplant is heavy for its size. Store eggplants in a cool, dry place and try to use within a day or two because they become bitter as they age. Refrigeration, in a plastic bag, may buy you a few extra days.

Eggplants should be cut just before using because their flesh discolors quickly. They should not be cooked in aluminum which makes them discolor.

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There are a variety of ways to prepare eggplant. They can be baked, fried or broiled. Just keep in mind that they soak up oil. Coating with crumbs can minimize fat absorption. The skin is edible in young eggplants. Older ones should be peeled.

This savory recipe can also be made with zucchini or yellow squash instead of eggplant.

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Turkish Stuffed Eggplant

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • Canola cooking spray
  • 4 small eggplants, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large shallow baking dish with canola spray.
  2. Scoop out flesh from eggplants, cut into chunks and reserve. Sprinkle inside of the shells lightly with 1/4 teaspoon with salt. Place upside down on paper towels. Let stand 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, spray large skillet with cooking spray. Cook garlic and onion over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, reserved eggplant flesh and allspice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, remaining salt and pepper.
  4. Pat eggplant shells dry with paper towels. Spoon eggplant mixture loosely into shells. Place filled shells in prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until shells are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; sprinkle tops evenly with feta cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes, then serve.

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
71 calories
2 g. total fat
1 g. saturated fat
12 g. carbohydrate
3 g. protein
5 g. dietary fiber
236 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges:2 Vegetable, 1/2 Low-fat Milk


AICR