Savory Eggplant over Rice

When I was in college, I had the life-changing experience of studying abroad in Spain. I lived and went to school in a small town near Madrid, called Alcalá de Henares. Alcalá is the birthplace of Miguel of Cervantes, who is best known for writing The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Other than that, it's a pretty quiet little place.

 Hanging with Sancho Panza and Don Quixote in front of the childhood home of Cervantes on a trip back to Alcalá in 2010

Hanging with Sancho Panza and Don Quixote in front of the childhood home of Cervantes on a trip back to Alcalá in 2010

I lived with a Spanish host mother, Manuela, and her cat, Jóta (that's pronouced HO-tah). She not only housed me for three months, but she also fed me amazing Spanish food and - while we ate - spoke to me in rapid Spanish. Towards the end of my time, I even understood some of the things she was saying to me.

I loved Manuela and she loved me. Honestly, I think I found my way into her heart because I always cleaned my plate. At every meal. (You taught me well, Dad.) And yes, I gained weight in Spain. That's what happens when you eat lots of food and don't have access to a gym.

 My host mama Manuela and me <3

My host mama Manuela and me <3

 Jóta, el gato (the cat)

Jóta, el gato (the cat)

Manuela was an excellent cook. She prepares a mean paella (a very traditional Spanish rice dish), and her guisantes con jamón (peas with ham) quickly became one of my favorite dishes. She also introduced me to new foods that I (mistakenly) thought I didn't like, such as alcachofas (artichokes) and berenjena (eggplant).

Manuela deep fried her eggplant. She sliced it thinly, dipped it in olive oil, then flour, and then fried it. This is my all-time favorite way to eat eggplant. It just melts in your mouth. Divine.

 Eggplant!

Eggplant!

I've tried making eggplant with less fat - sautéing it like zucchini. It just isn't the same.

Which brings me to the question of fat. We've explored carbohydrates and protein. The very popular fat-free craze of the mid-to-late 20th century did a great job of demonizing this essential nutrient, but it's now making a comeback. Hold onto your hats, folks; I'm about to tell you why.

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Fat Tastes Awesome

Oh c'mon. You know I'm right.

Fat is a flavor carrier. Which is why manufacturers started stuffing their newly created fat-free foods with sugar. Take the fat out of a cookie? You just created cardboard.

In all seriousness, fat (especially the healthy kinds of fat) should be strategically used in cooking to transform your foods. Which would you prefer: boiled or sautéed Brussels sprouts? Trust me, the latter is going to be much more delicious.

 Olive oil!

Olive oil!

Fat Keeps you Full

Fat is more slowly digested than carbohydrates or protein, and so hangs around in your stomach longer than the other two nutrients. As such, including fat with a meal will keep you full for longer.

For example, (assuming equal calories) a piece of toast with peanut butter would stave off the hunger longer than a piece of toast with jelly.

Because fat slows digestion, it also helps to stabilize blood glucose levels. Foods take longer to digest, and thus are absorbed over a longer period of time. Blood glucose levels rise more slowly after a meal with fat, don't rise as high, and stay stable for longer. 

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Fat is Essential for Your Body

From forming a component of your cells' membranes to transporting nutrients to storing energy, fat has many important roles in the body.

Your body actually makes most of its fat out of other substances, but there are two types of fat that are essential for your body: the famous Omega-3 fatty acids as well as the less famous Omega-6 fatty acids. Both are essential for health.

Omega-3s are found in foods such as fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), flaxseed, canola oil, and some types of nuts.

Omega-6s are found in soy oil, corn oil, and other various vegetable oils. Although we need it for life, we generally consume way too many Omega-6s compared to the amount of Omega-3s in our diet. Thus, I recommend focusing more on Omega-3s and trying to cut back on Omega-6s.

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

How are you feeling about fat in your diet now? I hope you're feeling good. Because we're about to add a whole lotta the stuff to this delicious, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant dish.

Start by slicing two onions thinly; add the onions to a large sauté pan along with with one-fourth cup of olive oil. Begin to sauté over medium-high heat.

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Meanwhile, cut two eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Once onion cooks until translucent, add eggplant, an additional one-fourth cup of olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt.

Stir well to coat eggplant with oil and cook until eggplant is very tender - even a little mushy; it will cook down significantly.

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Serve hot over brown rice (if you've never tried making brown rice before, try this recipe.)

Savory Eggplant over Rice from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Enjoy!

Savory Eggplant over Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 white onions
  • 2 eggplant
  • 1/2 c. olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Slice onion thinly and add to a large sauté pan with 1/4 c. olive oil. Begin to sauté over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Once onion cooks until translucent, add eggplant, additional 1/4 c. olive oil, and salt. Stir well to coat eggplant with oil
  3. Cook until eggplant is very tender and has absorbed all of the oil - it will cook down significantly.
  4. Serve hot over brown rice.

Eggplant: Serves 4 - Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups - Nutrients per serving: 338 calories -- 28g total fat -- 4g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat - 0mg cholesterol -- 453mg sodium -- 24g total carbohydrates -- 10g fiber -- 13g sugar -- 4g protein

1 cup brown rice: 216 calories -- 2g total fat -- 0g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat - 0mg cholesterol -- 10mg sodium -- 45g total carbohydrates -- 4g fiber -- 1g sugar -- 5g protein