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“Palette” Cleanser

Autumn Feature: Aubergine

November 4, 2021
Color! It is all around us and is more powerful than we might suspect. As we noted in our very first “Palette” Cleanser feature, color has a profound effect on our mood – and even our physiology. It evokes strong memories and can affect anxiety levels, pulse, and blood flow. Calming blues. Cheery yellows. Renewing greens. Fiery reds (which can signify passion or danger, depending upon the circumstance). From time immemorial, art, textiles, interior design, and fashion lines have always drawn from the amazing array of colors provided by nature. And nature provides a glorious abundance of foods in every color of the rainbow. In fact, one of the very basic mantras for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is: “Eat the Rainbow.”

Our tongue-in-cheek take on a “palette” cleanser explores a beautiful ingredient that is also a powerful color. For autumn we’ve chosen Aubergine! Eggplants were domesticated from wild forms in the Indo-Burma region with indications that it was cultivated in antiquity. As early as 300 BCE, many Sanskrit documents mention this plant, describing it in such a way that indicates it was most likely widely popular as food and medicine way back when. As a matter of fact, “shakasreshta” means excellent vegetable. Excellent, it is – though technically it is a berry.

While the cultivation origin story begins in the east millennia ago, Spanish Moors eventually brought the eggplant to southern and eastern Europe, where it remains popular to this day. New World explorers introduced the Americas to eggplant in the 1500s, but at the time, interest was low and suspicion was high. The eggplant is, indeed, a species belonging to the nightshade family Solanaceae (but don’t worry, its nature is not nefarious, it is delicious!). Point proved: Aubergine is enjoyed all over the world in countless delicious recipes.

And now, about the color: Aubergine! It is deep and cozy and mysterious. It’s rich and regal. It’s the color of the perfect sweater one happily pulls on to take a brisk walk to view the changing leaves. It’s the color of an enveloping evening. It’s the color of a statement necktie – understated and powerful (be brave…you can pull it off!). It’s a color that can keep your secrets…and has plenty of its own. There’s a hush associated with eggplant. It has a bit of a sultry vibe, at the same time there is no mistaking its formidable presence. The psychology of color may not be as ancient as the cultivation of the versatile aubergine – but the visceral human response to color certainly is.

Aubergine - the visual appeal is inextricably connected to culinary pleasures, possibilities and power. In other words, the external informs the internal. And speaking of internal, eggplants offer health benefits aplenty!
Aubergine Attributes
1. Rich in Many Nutrients
Eggplant provides a good amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals in few calories.

2. High in Antioxidants
In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, eggplants boast a high number of antioxidants.

3. May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Thanks to their antioxidant content, some studies suggest that eggplants may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

4. May Promote Blood Sugar Control
Eggplants are high in fiber and polyphenols, both of which may help reduce blood sugar levels.

5. Could Help With Weight Loss
Eggplants are high in fiber and low in calories. Fiber moves through the digestive tract slowly and can promote fullness and satiety, which may reduce calorie intake.

6. Very Easy to Add to Your Eating Plan
Eggplant is incredibly versatile and can be easily incorporated into countless recipes. It can be baked, roasted, grilled, or simply sautéed and enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick dash of seasoning. Adding eggplant to your eating plan can reduce carbohydrate and calorie intake, as well as increase the fiber and nutrient content of your meal.
Did You Know?
The eggplant is typically used as a vegetable in cooking, but it is really a berry by botanical definition.
Recipe Idea - Pasta alla Norma
This is a beloved Sicilian dish, with origins in Catania specifically. (It is also a recipe that pays homage to the beautiful aubergine!) It was named in honor of native Catanian, Vincenzo Bellini, the composer of the opera, Norma. Legend has it the Italian writer, Nino Martoglio, exclaimed, “This is the real ‘Norma!’” (meaning he felt it was a masterpiece) when he tasted the dish. The actual opera, first produced in 1831, was a tragedia lirica, but this dish is anything but a tragedy – it’s a celebration of beautiful ingredients: deep, delicious, and satisfying. Perhaps you will create the next “real Norma” in your own kitchen!
Ingredients
• 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
• 3/4 pounds small Italian or Japanese eggplants (2 to 3 small eggplants), trimmed, split in half lengthwise, and cut into ½ inch half moons (Can’t find the smaller eggplants? Do not despair! Use a large eggplant and cut into 1-1/2” x ½” pieces)
• Kosher salt
• 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand into 1/2-inch chunks
• 1 pound dry ridged, tubular pasta such as rigatoni or penne rigate
• Handful fresh small basil leaves, or roughly torn large leaves
• 2 ounces aged ricotta salata, finely grated
Preparation
1. Heat 2 tablespoons quality olive oil in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. (This skillet needs to be large enough for the sauce and the pasta to be tossed together at the end.) Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer and season with salt. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until eggplant is well browned on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside. You will need to do this in batches. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned.

2. Add any remaining olive oil and increase heat to medium-high. Heat until olive oil is shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes. Let the herbs and spices “bloom” and meld. Stir constantly until the mixture is fragrant but the garlic is not browned. Add tomato paste, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated. You actually want the tomato paste to start to sizzle. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to barely a simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce. Season to taste with salt.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid (this is always a pro tip for finishing pasta sauces perfectly).

4. Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water as necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Add eggplant slices and toss to combine.

5. Serve dish immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, garnished with grated ricotta salata and torn basil leaves.
Wildfare Work-around
Pasta alla Norma in a flash! Give yourself a head start and use Wildfare Eggplant Bruschetta as a base. It has all the right ingredients and flavor profile for the sauce. Toss with al dente ziti or penne and you have a quick, easy, and delicious dish! Top with ricotta salata (if you can’t find it, feta or cotija are great substitutes). Start with a fresh garden salad and sing the praises of an opera inspired meal!
*DISCLAIMER
The information that appears in Wildfare communications is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or instruction.
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