For the Love of Local Farmers, Eat Your Produce!
Kayla Parker, Seacoast Eat Local Intern
If you grew up in any way similar to me, your parents constantly told you to “eat your vegetables”. Luckily for my parents, I liked most vegetables, even as bland as they had been prepared. Yet there always still seemed to be a few varieties that I just didn’t have a taste for, no matter how great my mom thought she was at “hiding them”, (which in my opinion she was not very good at).
I realized while working at the farmer’s market in Portsmouth recently, that there are some fruits and vegetables that just don’t sell as well as others. At the close of the market, farmers collectively have an overabundance of certain types of them. I recognized that some of the local produce may not be familiar to people, or they might just not know what to do with it.
Eat Your Vegetables! In this series I’m going to tell you the same thing your parents did, but instead of the old “because I said so” mentality, I’m going to give you clear reasons as to why you should eat them and how to turn them into something that you will love instead of just trying to hide them in something else. As I feature the different types of seasonably available produce, one thing that that I will emphasize is the importance of locally sourced ingredients in these recipes. In doing this, not only will you have the best tasting selection of food, but you will also be supporting local farms and communities.
Segment 1: For the Love of Eggplant!
Why you should Love the Eggplant
This vegetable is an interesting one to look at, with many different colors, shapes and sizes. From long and cylindrical, to round and stout; its colors range from purple, to green, to white, even striped! A good source of dietary fiber, eggplant contains some B vitamins, potassium, and folate. Although the peel can be a little tough, you should eat that part too! It contains two specific phytochemicals, which are chemicals naturally found in fruits and vegetables and have been shown to be beneficial to health. Chlorogenic Acid and o Nasunin (a flavonoid), both of which protect against free radicals. At just under 30 Calories per cup cubed, it’s a great way to meet the requirement for your daily intake of vegetables.
Nutrient profile from whfoods.org
How to Love the Eggplant:
I know what you are thinking, what the heck do I do with an eggplant besides making the traditional eggplant parm? Those were exactly my thoughts too, but, after a little research I found a really great grilled eggplant and tomato sandwich recipe that I tried out for myself. This recipe was so easy; I could make it a few times a week if I wanted. Pair it with a soup or a side salad to create a delicious and satisfying meal for lunch or dinner!
Locally Sourced Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sandwiches
Cooking Time: 15 min
2 Medium sized Italian eggplants* sliced ¼ inch thick lengthwise
2 TBSP olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 finely chopped fresh basil plus 4 large fresh basil leaves
4 Slices of whole grain bread**
1/2 large tomato, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 slices of cheese of your choice*** approximately one ounce each
*I used the striped Italian eggplant, but you can use whatever is locally available.
**Having Celiac, I used whole grain gluten free bread and it worked just the same
***I chose mozzarella!
Prepare grill (medium-high heat).
Combine oil, garlic, and chopped basil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Brush eggplant slices, bread, and tomato slices with garlic oil.
Grill eggplant until very tender and slighty charred, turning frequently, about 5 minutes per side.
Arrange bread and tomatoes on grill during last 3 minutes of eggplant-grilling time and cook until bread is golden and tomatoes begin to soften, about 1 minute per side.
Transfer 2 bread slices to plate.
Top each remaining bread slice with eggplant, cheese, tomato slices, and whole basil leaves, dividing evenly.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover grill until cheese just melts, about 1 minute.
Transfer sandwiches to plate. Top with second bread slices. Garnish with basil sprigs and serve.
Modified recipe found at recipelion.com