Eggplant is an unfortunately, often forgotten vegetable despite it’s deep purple beauty. Beyond it’s attractiveness, eggplant has the uncanny ability to soak up all the flavors introduced to it, making this nightshade ideal for curry sauces or balsamic and olive oil marinades. Eggplant’s other benefits are that it is a great source for fiber, Vitamins K,B1 and B6, potassium and folate. It is also rich in phenolic acid, an antioxidant said to fight cancer and to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Eggplant was first discovered to grow wild in India and was later cultivated in China. There are many varieties of eggplant, some being tiny and green, others large with purple and white stripes. The most popular in the United States are the Black Magic, Black Beauty and Black Bell, which are all pear shaped and an almost black, purple shade.
One of my favorite ways to prepare eggplant is in the form of a dip. As outdoor picnic time is here (well, mostly here), dips are a convenient and tasty addition along with a pile of cut up raw vegetables for vessels. This also makes a healthy, portable lunch to bring to work with a side of sliced turkey and trail mix. Following is my recipe for Eggplant Cilantro Dip, which you should make and serve it to your friends at that barbecue you’re attending this weekend.
Eggplant Cilantro Dip Makes 2 cups
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise 1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil ¾ + ¼ teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon cumin dash cayenne pepper 2 Tablespoons cashew butter 2 teaspoons coconut aminos 1 Tablespoon lemon juice ½ cup loosely packed cilantro (If you are not a cilantro fan, substitute Italian Parsley)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place eggplant halves on greased cookie sheet or Pyrex pan. Divide olive oil and ¾ teaspoon sea salt between halves, making sure they are evenly coated. Bake flesh side down, for 40-50 minutes, or until skin pierces easily and flesh is soft. Cool.
Scoop flesh into food processor, discarding or eating skin. Add additional ¼ teaspoon salt, cumin, cayenne, cashew butter, coconut aminos and lemon juice. Puree mixture until mostly smooth. Taste for salt and cayenne, if more is preferred. Add cilantro and blend until desired consistency. Serve!
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