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Eggplant is nutritional hit with seniors

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By Joan Martin

Eggplant is on sale, and a couple of women at the grocery asked me how to fix it.
I had a recipe in my purse because I was getting the ingredients for Easy Cheesy Eggplant, which was part of my monthly program at the Senior Center.
As I gave the recipe to one of the women, the other one asked me to just tell her the recipe, she would remember it.
It’s easy to make and delicious. Most of the seniors liked it and many had never tried eggplant before.
Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing eggplant to America. Eggplant is related to potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.
The peak growing season in Kentucky is June to October.  Look for an eggplant that doesn’t have tan patches, scars or bruises. An eggplant should feel heavy. One that seems light for its size may not have a good flavor.
While I usually think of eggplant as beautiful dark purple, there are white eggplant, mauve, yellow and green varieties. Some are even striped.
Store eggplant in the vegetable bin in the refrigerator but it’s best to use soon.
I usually peel the eggplant because the skin can be tough.  Eggplant can be baked, grilled or sautéed. It works well with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese. Eggplant is very versatile but it isn’t good raw.  Frying may taste good but it seems to absorb a lot oil and taste quite greasy.  
Eggplant is nutritious, naturally low in calories and is a fair source of potassium, iron and protein. A half cup of plain eggplant has only 15 calories.
Most importantly, eggplant is a very good source of fiber. Give it a try for a healthy main dish or side dish.  
If you like the recipe below, you may also want to try Moussaka. I love Greek food and this is one of my favorites. I adapted the recipe to make it easier and used ingredients, which were more commonly found in Kentucky kitchens.
You can find many variations of Moussaka online. My version of Moussaka is available at the Anderson County Extension Office or on our website at www.ces,ca.uky.edu/anderson/  or you can just search for Anderson County KY Extension Office online.

Easy Cheesy Eggplant
Six servings (1 cup each) as a main dish
3 cups cubed eggplant (about 1 medium eggplant)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1/3 cup melted butter (divided in half)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs, Italian style or plain
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
Cut eggplant in half-inch slices, peel and then cut in half-inch cubes.  
Spray 2 quart casserole lightly with oil.
Layer eggplant, tomatoes, and onions in a casserole dish.
Sprinkle with the salt, basil and garlic powder.
Pour half of melted butter over top.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in 450 degree oven.
Remove from oven and top with mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Pour the remaining butter over the cheese.
Bake an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
Nutritional analysis:  240 calories, 14 g fat, 340 mg. sodium, 12 carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 12 g protein

Joan Martin is a family and consumer science agent at the Anderson County Extension.