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Finding foods that help keep you full, while maintaining race weight, can often be challenging. Eggplant is loaded with fiber and low in calories (only 20 calories per cup), making it a great vegetable to help achieve this goal. It is also high in vitamin B1, which promotes healthy brain function and a positive mood, as well as copper, which is beneficial for tissue repair. Incorporate this versatile veggie into your diet with these four recipes.
Farro and Turkey Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant
Eggplant is the perfect vessel for stuffing, and the preparation is quick and easy. Use your favorite pepper or mushroom stuffing or try this inventive, flavorful recipe. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a large baking dish with foil or parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray. Cut two small eggplants in half lengthwise, and use a paring knife to separate the soft flesh from the skin. Scoop the flesh out, and discard (or save to add extra to the eggplant dip recipe, at right). Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove 2 turkey sausages from the casing and break apart in the pan with a wooden spoon, sautéing for 8 minutes, until golden. Add finely diced half yellow onion, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, and sauté another 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium, and add 4 cups finely chopped kale leaves and 1 cup white wine, and sauté until kale is wilted and wine cooks down. Add ¼ cup balsamic vinegar and cook another 1–2 minutes. Toss this mixture with 1½ cups cooked farro*. Place eggplant shells into baking dish and divide mixture evenly into the shells. Bake for 30 minutes, until the eggplant shells are soft.
*Note: Rice, quinoa, barley, couscous, etc. can be substituted for farro.
Roasted Eggplant Dip
Roasting eggplant brings out its robust flavors and creamy texture, making it the ideal dip ingredient. Fresh veggies and grilled pita are great for dipping, but try mixing it up by roasting or grilling veggies like cauliflower, carrots and zucchini. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare two large sheet pans with foil and nonstick cooking spray. Dice 1 large eggplant, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper and 1 red onion. Divide evenly on the two sheet pans, adding 2 cloves of garlic to each pan. Toss each pan of veggies with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper. Place pans in oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the veggies are soft and golden brown. Transfer the veggies to a food processor, and let cool 15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve warm, or store in airtight container in fridge for up to one week.
Eggplant Hash with Soft Baked Eggs
Often overlooked as a breakfast item, eggplant is a tasty addition to eggs and makes a good substitution for bread or potatoes. Try making a lighter version of one-eyed toast with eggplant instead of bread. Or use eggplant instead of potatoes in this ratatouille-inspired hash recipe. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet with foil and non-stick cooking spray. Dice 1 large eggplant, layer evenly on the baking sheet with 2 cups diced broccoli florets, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until eggplant is soft and golden. In the meantime, sauté half of a diced red onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add 1 diced yellow squash, 1 diced zucchini, and 2 diced carrots, and sauté another 5–8 minutes, until golden. Toss in ½ tablespoon (each) finely minced garlic and ginger, 1 teaspoon (each) freshly chopped thyme and dried basil, and sauté 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup prepared masala simmer sauce. Combine the eggplant and broccoli with this mixture and pour into a 9×11-inch baking dish, prepared with non-stick cooking spray. Make 4 large wells in the mixture and gently crack an egg into each well. Bake until the egg starts to set, so the white is cooked through but the yolk remains soft. Remove from oven and serve with fresh chopped cilantro as garnish.
Grilled Eggplant Caprese
Take traditional caprese up a notch. The key to grilling eggplant is to cut extra thick pieces because they will lose water and shrink on the grill. Cut 2 large eggplants widthwise, into thick (about ½-inch) pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill on medium high about 90 seconds per side, until each side is charred lightly. Assemble caprese by alternatively layering grilled eggplant with fresh-cut tomatoes (or try roasting tomato slices) and slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, and drizzle with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or balsamic glaze if available). Scatter freshly sliced basil leaves over the top. Store extra eggplant slices in the fridge.
Eggplant, also called aubergine, is at its peak late spring to early autumn. Store eggplant at room temperature (not the fridge).
Jessica Cerra is the owner of Fit Food by Jess, a private chef and catering company in Encinitas, Calif., and the co-founder of Harmony Bar. A former professional XTERRA triathlete, Cerra now races for Twenty16 Women’s Professional Cycling Team.