Eggplants are ready for harvest in the garden, and they are making their appearance in my CSA box too. Eggplants are beautiful, relatively easy vegetables to grow and delicious, diversely nutritious vegetables to eat.
Eggplants provide generous amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). They are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin.
Eggplants also contain phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid, the latter of which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Chlorogenic acid is thought to be anti-mutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral.
Eggplants are among the few foods containing sizable amounts of oxalates. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. Therefore, anyone with sensitivity to oxalates or already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating eggplant.
Lastly, folks with arthritis should limit their intake of all nightshade vegetables (which also includes tomatoes, peppers and potatoes). Researchers think there may be a connection between joint stiffness and solanine, the toxin in nightshades that makes them somewhat poisonous.
Sweating Your Eggplant
It’s a good idea to peel large-fruited or white varieties as they can be more bitter than the other types. Also, before cooking, you should do what’s called “sweating” your eggplant.
After washing, remove the top (and peel, if you choose to do so), then cut the eggplant into whatever size your recipe calls for and place it in a colander in the sink. Salt the eggplant lightly on all sides and leave it alone for 30-60 minutes. When time is up, place the eggplant slices on a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth. With a second cloth, blot off all the excess moisture which has formed, then use as directed.
Not only will sweating cut down on bitterness, but this technique will also prevent the eggplant from soaking up too much oil if you’re frying it.
- Peel the eggplant.
- Using a mandolin, slice into 1/8" thick rounds about 3 inches wide. You'll need about 16 pieces of the eggplant, but cut a couple extra pieces for back-up. (This recipe will only use about 2-3 inches of the eggplant, so you might want to think about a second recipe and using the eggplant up in the next day or so.)
- Salt the eggplant for about 30 minutes to "sweat" it.
- Blot the salt and sweat off of the eggplant, pat dry, and place it in a large non-reactive, glass dish in a single layer if possible (overlapping slightly is fine).
- Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pour over the eggplant to marinate. It's a good idea to put a smaller non-reactive, glass dish on top to weigh the eggplant down slightly.
- Marinate for 1 hour, flipping the eggplant over half way through.
- While the eggplant is marinating, pulse all of the filling ingredients in a Vita-mix or food processor until the walnuts have broken down into tiny pieces and have begun to stick together.
- Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
- Remove the eggplant slices and pat dry.
- Lay an eggplant round in front of you and add 1-2 tsp. of the filling in the center, being careful to not overfill.
- Fold the top of the eggplant over the filling and press down firmly on the edges to seal the ravioli.
- Place the ravioli on a dehydrator tray and dry about 6-7 hours at 105°F—flipping about halfway through. The edges should be crisp, but the filling moist inside. Alternatively, you can dehydrate the ravioli in a 200°F oven or carefully fry them in oil.
For the Sauce
- Put all the ingredients in a Vitamix or blender and blend until smooth and well combined. If sauce is too thick, add water a little at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Spoon over your eggplant ravioli or other favorite pasta and enjoy!
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Photo credit: Vegan Menu