Many eggplant recipes start with slicing or dicing and sautéing in oil. But this approach can add a lot of unnecessary fat to your dish, as porous eggplant flesh absorbs oil like a sponge as it cooks, leading most of us to add more fat than we realize. Instead, consider roasting the eggplant whole.
Simply pop the entire eggplant in a hot oven — prick a few holes for steam to escape and lightly spray or rub with the tiniest bit of olive oil to keep the skin moist — and in 20-45 minutes (depending on size), your eggplant will be cooked and ready to join almost any recipe.
Besides being a healthier cooking method than frying, roasting is easier — almost completely hands-off. You can roast the eggplant a day in advance to make weeknight meals even faster. Roast just until tender, cut into cubes and make a stir fry, or cut roasted eggplant into large chunks and cover in marinara sauce and sprinkle of cheese and bake for a low-oil version of eggplant parm.
Or roast until completely soft, scoop out the flesh and mix with garlic, smoked paprika, and Greek yogurt for a delicious dip. Either way, you'll get all the benefits of eggplant, with its high fiber, low-sugar count, and wide variety of vitamins and minerals, without adding unnecessary fat. Save the fat, I say, for tasty ingredients like a modest amount of cheese.
Today's recipe, Eggplant and Chicken Marinara, is a one-dish-wonder, where you have veggie, complex carbohydrates, and chicken all in one gorgeous dish that is simple enough for family meals, but pretty enough for company.
Leftover cooked brown rice and chicken add heft to the super-low-calorie eggplant (under 30 calories a cup), but note you can make this meatless simply by leaving out the chicken. The result is somewhere between an eggplant-chicken parm and an eggplant gratinee.
But no matter what you decide to call it, enjoy knowing your family is loading up on veggies as they dig in. Using baby eggplant or Japanese eggplant means the skin is soft enough to eat, which will only add to the nutrient profile.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy." Online: melissadarabian.net.