3 Fun Ways to Eat Eggplant

by Tiffany Tse for SHAPE.com

Fun and healthy new ways to eat eggplantFun and healthy new ways to eat eggplantIf the soft, tender flesh and glossy purple skin of eggplants don't appeal to you, then the veggie's rich health benefits will! Thanks to nasunin, an antioxidant in eggplant peels that helps protect brain cells, and a host of other vitamins and minerals, this wholesome veggie is an ideal brain food. And since it's also low in calories and carbs, eggplant makes the perfect base for a variety of delicious entrees, side dishes, and snacks.

We asked healthy food bloggers for their most mouthwatering eggplant recipes, so you can start working this nutrient-dense vegetable into your diet right now!

1. Summer chicken and eggplant pasta:
494 calories, 10.75 grams sugar, 15.6 grams fat, 66.6 grams carbohydrates, 29.45 grams protein
It may not be summer just yet, but this flavorful pasta is perfect all year long, especially when you want to indulge your carb cravings. Though the mouthwatering dish is on the heavier side, it includes plenty of fresh veggies (eggplant, zucchini, squash, and cherry tomatoes) and protein (chicken). You'll walk away completely fulfilled!

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
2 chicken breasts, about 4 oz. each
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Salt & pepper
Non-stick spray
Grill seasoning
6 oz. angel hair pasta
5 tbsp. good, olive oil-based Italian dressing, divided
8-10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Directions: Lay eggplant slices on a cooling rack. Generously salt each side and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot excess moisture and salt off the top with a paper towel. Brush each side with extra-virgin olive oil and season with pepper. Spray chicken breasts with non-stick spray and season each side with grill seasoning. Cut the ends off the zucchini and yellow squash, then cut in half. Cut into strips with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, then add strips and tomatoes into a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil and grill seasoning. Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat and generously spray with non-stick spray. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the eggplant slices until tender, about 3 minutes per side. Grill squash, zucchini, and tomatoes together until tender, tossing every so often, about 5 minutes total. Chop chicken and eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile add angel hair pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with 3 tbsp. Italian dressing. Divide pasta between four plates. Top with grilled chicken, eggplant, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. Drizzle each plate with the remaining Italian dressing, and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe provided by Iowa Girl Eats

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2. Baked eggplant fries with lemon dill dipping sauce:

Without dip: 141 calories, 4.7 grams sugar, 1.3 grams fat, 28.3 grams carbohydrates, 5.9 grams protein
Crunchy eggplant strips coated in whole-wheat breadcrumbs taste just like fries, except without all the empty calories! Tossed in a mix of spices like paprika, cumin, and garlic powder, and accompanied by a creamy lemon dill dip, this savory baked treat is a much healthier alternative to French fries.

Ingredients:
For fries: 1 eggplant, cut into strips
1/3 c. plain soy yogurt
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 c. whole-wheat seasoned breadcrumbs

For dip:
1 c. plain soy yogurt
1 tsp. dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Fresh black pepper to taste

Directions:
For fries: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. Cut the top and bottom off of your eggplant. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and then into quarters. Next, cut the eggplant quarters into slices roughly 1/4 in. thick. Now cut the eggplant slices into strips roughly the size of French fries. Combine yogurt, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, ground cumin, onion powder, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl. Toss eggplant fries in soy yogurt mixture, coating evenly. Place breadcrumbs on a plate and lightly coat eggplant fries with breadcrumbs. Spread out evenly on trays making sure they don't touch. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Turn halfway during baking to brown evenly. Serve immediately with lemon dill dipping sauce.

For dip: Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour to chill and allow flavors to combine.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe provided by Virtually Vegan Mama

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3. Healthy baked penne with vegetables:

585 calories, 21 grams sugar, 15.3 grams fat, 89.6 grams carbohydrates, 23.4 grams protein
This hearty whole-wheat pasta serves up one truly satisfying meal. It's packed with vegetables, including eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, onions, and mushrooms, and bursts with intense flavor, thanks to spices like oregano and red pepper.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-in. wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-in. cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-in. cubes
8 cremini mushrooms, halved
1/2 small eggplant, diced
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-in. strips
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
Garlic powder to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Whole-wheat penne pasta (16 oz.)
3 c. marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
1 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c. grated fontina cheese
1/2 c. grated mozzarella
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Directions: Chop all the veggies and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. On a baking sheet (or in a casserole dish/large pan), toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, eggplant, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander. Once the veggies are done, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. If you used a large casserole dish/pan to roast the veggies in, you can just dump all of the additional ingredients (pasta etc.) into that pan to mix everything together. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined. Top the pasta with the remaining cheese (about 1/3 c.). Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe provided by The Picky Eater

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