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The Eggplant Demystified – Health Benefits, Grow Tips & Recipe

     The eggplant (aka aubergine) is perhaps one of the most misunderstood foods of all time. The staff at SD Hydro harvested these four gorgeous eggplants at our Bay Park location a few weeks ago. No one really knew what to do with them so I decided to take them home and turn them into a delicious dish.

Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables along with tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  They are extremely high in fiber, magnesium and potassium; making them an excellent choice for a heart healthy diet and for aiding digestion. The skin of the eggplant is especially rich in nasunin, an antioxidant that helps to protect brain cells from becoming damaged.

Eggplants are quite easy to grow; they thrive in conditions similar to those favored by tomatoes. This means they grow top heavy (so a tomato cage may be necessary), need lots of sunlight and a soil that drains water well. In San Diego, eggplants will grow mid spring all the way though until early fall.

Eggplant is a highly versatile cooking ingredient; it can be stuffed, fried, rolled, mashed, baked and who knows what else. The recipe I decided to try is a traditional Georgian dish called Badrijani. Badrijani is usually served as a side dish or appetizer (though from personal experience it is also a tasty late night snack).

Eggplant Rollups

Walnut, Garlic & Pomegranate Eggplant Rolls (Badrijani)

Ingredients:

  • 2 small – medium sized Eggplants
  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 cups Walnuts
  • 1 cup Cilantro
  • 4 Cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. Pomegranate seeds
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Serves 4 -6

Directions:

1. Cut the tops and the bottoms off the eggplants and cut lengthwise into 1/2″ slices.

2. Fill a bowl with water and add a generous amount of salt. Place the eggplant slices into the salt water mixture and let sit for 30 minutes. This step will draw out bitter flavor from the vegetable.

3. Meanwhile, combine the walnuts, cilantro, garlic and 1 tbs of water into a food processor. The end result should be a paste-like consistency. Add more water if necessary.When the mixture is the proper consistency, fold in the pomegranate seeds. Set aside.

4. Next, remove eggplant slices from water and pat dry with a paper towel. Add 2-3 tbs of olive oil to a frying pan and turn stove to medium heat.

5. After the oil has heated, place the eggplant slices into the frying pan and fry both sides until golden brown. NOTE – the eggplant will absorb the oil very quickly. You will need to continually add oil throughout the frying process. After each slice in done, set aside on a paper towel to cool.

6. When the eggplants pieces have cooled to room temperature, take one and evenly spread the walnut mix onto one side; roll  into a spiral.Repeat this step with each piece of eggplant.

7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Can be served cold or at room temperature.