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Eggplants are more than a funny name with an odd shape. They are versatile, nutritious and quite tasty. And lucky for us, the eggplant season generally lasts until the end of October.

There are different varieties of eggplant, some of which are white rather than the more common purple color, and some of which are round or oval rather than elongated. Like many vegetables, eggplant is low in calories and has virtually zero fat, cholesterol and sodium. Plus, it’s abundant in antioxidants and rich in dietary fiber.

Choose eggplants that are heavy for their size and without cracks or discolorations. It’s best to eat them as fresh as possible, but they may be stored in the refrigerator and used within five to seven days. Eggplant may be eaten raw, but it may have a chewy texture and bitter flavor. It’s generally best cooked, and can be baked, sautéed, broiled, roasted, or even grilled. Eggplant is probably most famous for Eggplant Parmesan or Baba Ghanoush, a Levantine dish of mashed eggplant, oil and seasonings.

Whether to peel the eggplant depends on the recipe, cooking technique and personal preference. Roasted, grilled, broiled or stuffed eggplant can be left unpeeled until cooked, but then any blackened skin should be removed. Some people like the taste of the peel and leave it on when cooking. Others prefer that the tough skin be removed. Find out your preference by trying different eggplant recipes. The big purple vegetable may seem daunting, but don’t let it fool you; it’s easy to prepare, and it’s delicious!

 

Eggplant and Pepper Dip

1 eggplant (large)

2 red pepper

1 onion (small)

1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the eggplant. Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Chop the red peppers. Peel and chop the onion. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together. Spread the ingredients on a baking tray. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. While the dip is baking, stir it a few times. When the eggplant is lightly browned and soft, take the dip out of the oven. Let the dip cool for at least 10 minutes. Put the dip in the blender, and blend until smooth. Serve the dip cold or at room temperature.

 

Nutritional Facts (per ¼ cup serving): 60 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 75 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein.

 

This article originally appeared in The Pantagraph on 9/19/12.