The eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. If it sounds like I’ve said this before, I probably have because I really have a weak spot for all summer vegetables. When eggplant season comes around there are all sorts of traditional Greek recipes to choose from. I remember one summer, I was spending my vacation on the island of Kithira and the family of my sister-in-law Maria, had their own organic garden with plenty of eggplants. So everyday we would eat eggplants. One day it was melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), another day eggplant with rice, then eggplant stuffed with beef or eggplant with tomato or moussaka (a lasagna like dish of eggplant cooked with beef and potatoes) or stuffed eggplant. There was even sweet syrupy eggplant preserves. But even after that eggplant overdose I never got sick of them.
The eggplant is a decadent vegetable; when cooked it literally melts in your mouth and caramelizes giving it a sweet taste. Although Greeks have plenty of eggplant recipes, the Mediterranean in general is known for its love of eggplants and there is an abundance of traditional recipes to choose from.
Nutritionally, eggplants are a fantastic vegetable to include in your diet, here’s why: Eggplants are a source of soluble fiber, this type of fiber slows down the emptying of your stomach making you feel full longer and that can help you eat less if your are trying to lose weight. But one of the most important functions is that this fiber may lower the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood.
Eggplants also contain several substances that can protect from chronic disease. One of them is chlorogenic acid, don’t worry about pronouncing it correctly, all you need to know is that this substance is an antioxidant and it appears to control blood sugar levels. Anthocyanin is another a substance present in these vegetables, it is responsible for the purple color and it also has antioxidant properties, studies show that it may offer protection from cancer.
Many people complain that eggplants are bitter, well guess what? The Greek variety Tsakoniki is not (see photo above), it is actually mild, almost sweet. This eggplant is from the town of Leonidio in Peloponissos, it is long with white stripes and it has PDO status, which means that it must come from Leonidio to be called Tsakoniki.
Stay tuned for my favorite Greek eggplant recipe…