Artichokes, eggplant and zucchini! How do I incorporate these and other unique foods into my family’s menus and how in the world do I get my kids to try them? If you are the adventurous food type or just like to experiment with something a little out of the ordinary, now is a good time to try out those new vegetables that show up at the local farmer’s market.
The Versatile Eggplant
My dad’s garden is growing well, in spite of the dry, hot summer, and he recently provided me with five extra eggplants that he had grown. I asked our chef at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, Chad Cooreman, how he likes to prepare and serve eggplant, and he had several suggestions.
One thing that Chad notes is that eggplant can tend to be bitter, especially if it is more mature. In that case, he recommends soaking eggplant slices in icy, salt water for about an hour, then drying them thoroughly with a paper towel before fixing them. This also keeps the eggplant from absorbing excess oil, if using oil to cook it. Chad gave me a recipe for roasted eggplant to share.
2 eggplants, washed, diced into 1” cubes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp of white granulated sugar
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chopped garlic
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Lay eggplant out on a cookie sheet and roast for 18-22 minutes at 350 degrees in convection oven or 400 degrees in a standard oven. Serve immediately.
Roasting or frying eggplant is one option, or you can put eggplant slices on the grill. Angela Chesley, vice president for Patient Care Services at Avera Marshall, notes that she likes it best right off the grill. Lightly coat the slices or the grate with oil or a non-stick cooking spray to keep them from sticking. Other suggestions for preparation include eggplant parmesan or eggplant lasagna.
Artichokes: The Tasty Thistle
Artichokes are technically in the thistle family, which makes it sound like an unusual thing to eat, since we used to hoe thistles out of the soybean field as weeds in my younger days. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this vegetable is a spinach and artichoke dip. Fresh garlic toast slices or baked crackers pair nicely with this hot dip.
The Abundant Zucchini
Zucchinis are prolific, even if you plant only one or two hills in your garden. This summer squash can be prepared in a variety of ways, including steaming, grilling, sautéing and stir-frying. There are also numerous recipes for breads, muffins and other baked goods in which zucchini provides a unique flavor and texture.
National Fruit and Vegetable Month
September is National Fruit and Vegetable Month and that is for a good reason. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful and tasty at this time of the year. In addition, fruits and vegetables are high in nutrition and generally low in calories. Following is an interesting comparison to keep in mind the next time you choose a snack or a side dish to your meal. Each of the following contains about 100 calories:
¾ oz of potato chips
2 cups of baby carrots
½ of a single doughnut
4 cups of grilled eggplant
10 – 15 french fries
2 ½ cups of green beans
One 2 ½ inch chocolate chip cookie
14 cups of raw, chopped lettuce
8.5 oz of sweetened cola soda
4 cups of raw, sliced peppers
3 ½ cups of sliced, boiled zucchini
1 ¼ of a raw, 2 ¾ inch diameter apple
1 ¼ cup of raw blueberries
You do get MORE with fruits and vegetables: more nutrients, more flavors and more food. In this case, MORE does matter and it’s a good thing.