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Eggplant Exploration – two recipes to introduce and explore eggplants!

Why comparing two recipes can help when exploring new foods:

This or that? Exploring new foods with deeper questions around why one is tastier than another allows you the ability to prompt more descriptive answers when discussing food, rather than giving kids the intimidating “yes or no” options only.

#1 Tip – The salt soak!

No matter what eggplant variety you’re using or recipe you’re embarking on, this tip is your best way to pull the bitterness from eggplant before you start cooking:

  • Fill a bowl of warm water – you’ll want the eggplant submerged with just a few floating on the surface, so a small to mid-sized bowl will do
  • Have your child add salt – you don’t need much, just enough to submerge the eggplants in (1-2 tbs depending on size of bowl and quantity of eggplant)
  • Add eggplant (sliced into rounds or half-moons) and periodically mix so that all of them have time under the surface of the water (you can also turn a plate upside down and place it over the bowl to keep them underwater if needed). Let them soak for 30-40 minutes and then pat dry.

In addition to helping to remove bitterness, this process of brining the eggplant will help lock-in moisture so the eggplants skin stays intact on the grill.

Introducing – the Asian Eggplant Variety!

A slenderer variety, this eggplant is less seedy and can cook to a less mushy consistency because of its size. Both recipes will work with any variety, but we recommend purchasing this option to try something new and have a more consistent size to grill and do the egg wash.

The first step in any recipe:

Wash your hands! Cooking together is a great way to reinforce good hygiene habits. As we’re working with raw egg especially, it’s a good idea to tie all long hair into a bun or pony tail so no hands are accidentally touching their face as they work.

Recipe 1: Breaded Eggplant

Oven preheated to 350°F

Ingredients:

  • 1 Asian eggplant*
  • Half a cup of flour*
  • A quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese (can be omitted)*
  • 1 egg*
  • Salt
  • 2 mixing bowls and a baking tray with parchment paper

*one Asian eggplant makes 8-12 chips depending on the thickness of each round, feel free to double for larger portion.

Steps:

  1. The egg break! Set a cloth or paper towel under the bowl and expect a little spillage if it’s their first time cracking an egg, but don’t be afraid to ask them to do this important task.
  2. Mix the eggs and have them break up the yolk with a fork. The egg whites and yolks should be completely combined.
  3. In a second mixing bowl, have them combine flour, salt, and parmesan.
  4. Egg wash time! Have them dip each eggplant round/half-moon into the egg wash. Ensure both sides are coated and give the eggplant a moment to drip any excess into the egg bowl before moving to the flour bowl. Next, coat the egg bathed eggplant in the flour mixture (they can place each side in the flour, or try dropping it in the bowl and shaking it back and forth until evenly covered. Finally, lay on each slice on the pan.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes – about halfway check on them and turn over to ensure both sides get crispy. Remove when they are crispy and golden (bake longer if needed as all ovens are a bit different).

Recipe 2: Grilled Eggplant

Heat grill to medium-high or turn on panini press.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Asian eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 mixing bowl or basting brush

Steps:

  1. Lay the eggplant slices out and brush each with olive oil and sprinkle salt. If you don’t have a brush, you can add them to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt, then toss until evenly coated.
  2. Place on the grill and let cook until grill marks appear – approximately 5 minutes
  3. Flip over and grill the other side for another 5 minutes
  4. Remove and serve!

The set-up & question prompts:

Now time to set up your food exploration! Once the fun of cooking the 2 recipes is done, serve both and feel free to whip out some other condiments and sauces to experiment with flavours. From ketchup to tzatziki to mayonnaise, a glob of each will help them approach the food as something with many flavour possibilities and feedback opportunities. Try asking them about the 5 core flavours (salty, sweet, sour, umami and bitter) and where they taste these on their tongues, or about the texture differences, or the flavour combinations. Refrain from the limiting “do you like it” questions, and focus more on descriptive open-ended questions that will leave them free to say what they enjoy and free to say what they may not enjoy. Remember, food explorations like this are just as much about introducing new foods as they are about introducing the language of flavour, the science of cooking, and the relationship-building of everything all together!

Eggplant health benefits and fun facts to share:

Health Benefits:

  • High in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K
  • A top source of vitamin B6 which is important for your blood, brain and lots of tissues throughout the body. Just 75g provides a whole day’s supply (for the average adult).
  • Antioxidants can be found in the purple skin

Fun Facts:

  • They belong to the nightshade family and are closely related to potatoes and tomatoes
  • They are actually fruits as they have seeds and grow from a flowering plant
  • They grow mid-summer to fall and need high temperatures to grow, preferring a range of 21°C to 30°C
  • This delicacy was enjoyed by the Emperors of China as early as 600 BC
  • However, it is suspected they were found in India even earlier
  • At one time, it was fashionable for women to purposely stain their teeth a gray-black and dye made from eggplant was primarily used
  • In Australia, eggplant is called an aubergine and in South Asia and South Africa it is called a brinjal
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