Brinjal rings in the benefits

LIVING IN THE KITCHEN

An eggplant, rather the  purple brinjal, with its stalky crown and glossy  looks, might not offer much of a gastronomic note.

Yet, however, as I sat down  to a feast of the eggplant in several guises  at a Turkish restaurant, my mind travelled  back to a time when the eggplant was the most revered vegetable in ancient Turkey.

A glance through 16th century Mediterranean European texts tells me that the  cooks at the Topkapi Palace wonderfully  stuffed the eggplants in honour of Prince  Suleiman, while the ancient Arabs and Persians  scorched the eggplant over charcoal and  crushed it to make a purée.

Then, the English, around 1587, prepared a ‘Guinea  Squash’ of the roasted eggplants. For the  elite French of the Palais Royale, the eggplant was a popular ingredient of the Ratatouille dish. The eggplant also became  a favourite item in the United States in  the 17th century.

Indeed, the eggplant has had a long sojourn. Wherever it travelled, with its different shapes and  sizes, distinctive flavours and aromas, turned out to be a highly esteemed vegetable. While many a cook have looked  upon the eggplant as an exotic ingredient  of cuisine through the ages, scientists  and doctors feel that the simple eggplant  has a lot to offer as a health food.

Take for example, the Dentie Powder (a mix of roasted eggplants and salt, ground  to a fine powder) that was recommended  by the ancient Japanese physicians for reducing toothaches. According to recent reports, the Dentie Powder contains essential chemicals like calcium, manganese and chloride, that alleviate toothaches and strengthen the gums and the teeth.

Corroborating this observation, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service  have pointed out that purple eggplant skins contain powerful anti oxidants like nasunin that protects brain cells and   chlorogenic scid anti-oxidant that helps  prevents the onset of viral infections and rheumatoid arthritis.

Besides, this vegetable also has Vitamin C (6 milligrams) and Vitamin B (0.5 milligrams) which help the immune system  work efficiently; potassium vitamin (630 milligrams) that helps regulate blood pressure; minerals like magnesium and manganese for good metabolism of proteins and fats  and copper.

For preparing a healthy dish, one would require 450 grams of medium-sized purple eggplants, 2 chopped capsicums, purée of 2 tomatoes, 2 tablespoons each  of  crushed garlic, ground black peppercorns and olive oil.

Peel the eggplants in lengthwise strips and then cut them into cubes. Sprinkle some salt, soak in a bowl of water and dry them. Fry them in olive oil until  golden brown. Stir-fry a mixture of the chopped capsicums, the tomato purée, the crushed garlic, the ground pepper, salt  and pour it over the fried eggplant slices. Mix well and serve.

Eggplants also help prevent coronary heart diseases thanks to its ability to reduce blood cholesterol levels. They also have low sodium and saturated fat levels. In fact, a typical heart-friendly dish  would be a grilled eggplant sandwich that provides  zero cholesterol  levels, a fat content of about 0.1 grams  and a low sodium-level of 3 milligrams.

This dish would require 100 grams of eggplants,  halved and sliced into ½-inch thick, round shapes, 2 bread slices, ¼ cup  grated low-fat cheese, a tablespoon each  of butter and garlic paste, a teaspoon of olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Spread the mixture  of garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil over the  sliced eggplants. Grill these eggplants and place them between the bread slices to make a grilled eggplant sandwich. Grill the sandwich, sprinkle some grated  cheese and serve.

Yet, another option would be a traditional Middle Eastern eggplant soup.  This preparation would need 250 grams of eggplants, roasted and peeled, 2 bread slices, torn into pieces, 3 cups vegetable  broth, a tablespoon ground black pepper, 2 chopped tomatoes, a sprig of coriander leaves and salt.

Blend the roasted eggplants, a cup of  vegetable broth and the bread pieces to a purée. Transfer the  purée to a  pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander leaves, the remaining two cups of vegetable broth and stir. Boil  and let it simmer. Finally, pour out the hot eggplant soup into bowls, seasoned with the black pepper and salt.

According to centuries-old ayurvedic texts, a preparation of eggplants in tomato sauce increases the flow of digestive juices in the body. Also, eggplants pacify the vata and the kapha doshas by eliminating the accumulated toxins.

Preparation of this dish would require 350 grams of  eggplants, purée of two tomatoes, a teaspoon each of cumin paste, coriander paste and ground garam masala , ½ teaspoon turmeric paste, a pinch of hing (asofetida), two tablespoons olive oil and salt.

Wash the eggplants and cut them into  medium-sized pieces. In a deep pan, heat up some olive oil. Stir in the garam masala, hing, cumin, coriander and turmeric pastes, tomato purée, eggplant pieces and salt. Cook till the eggplants turn soft.

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