Combining eggplant, buckwheat, and bell peppers represents a welcome change from the usual, with each ingredient each adding its unique layer of flavor and consistency.
It all starts with eggplant, one of the least appreciated vegetables in the US. Native to Southeast Asia, they are closely related to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Domesticated for over 4000 years, they have become a culinary favorite over the centuries from the Mediterranean to China. The Turks alone are believed to have over 1000 native recipes that use eggplant in various ways.
When cooked, eggplant becomes tender and develops a rich satisfying flavor with a wonderful consistency. Since they are capable of absorbing the flavors of other ingredients, they are perfect for creating dishes with complex characteristics. Eggplants have zero cholesterol and saturated fat and are high in dietary fiber.
When purchasing, choose firm, smooth-skinned eggplants that are heavy for their size, avoiding those with soft or brown spots. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a couple of days. If stored longer, place them in the refrigerator vegetable drawer to prevent spoiling.
Buckwheat is a versatile, nutty-flavored grain that can be used to prepare everything from simple side dishes to elaborate breads, deserts, and main course meals. In English, the term is often used interchangeably with the word kasha, which is actually an entire family of porridges popular in Eastern Europe. Unroasted buckwheat is pale in color. Roasting causes it to take on a brown coloring and this form is commonly called kasha in Western countries.
Buckwheat produces triangular grains. Unlike other grains, however, it’s not a grass, but a plant crop. It’s sold in whole or cracked form and is commonly used in breakfast cereals and to add texture to bread and other baked products.
When paired with eggplant the combination produces a palate-pleasing flavor and consistency. Add the subtle sweetness of red bell peppers and the result is surprising. Broiling the eggplant and peppers imparts an overall roasted vegetable flavor, which further enhances the taste.
Try this recipe as an appetizer or side dish, and provide your family and guests with a taste of summer’s bounty.
Buckwheat with Eggplant and Pepper
Makes 4 servings. (6 cups)
- 1 small eggplant (less than a pound)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut in half vertically
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 cup buckwheat (a.k.a. roasted whole-grain kasha)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Juice and pulp of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- ¼ cup minced fresh basil
Cut eggplant in half vertically, then blanch in boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes.
When eggplant is ready, set it cut side down on baking sheet, along with pepper halves. Broil until charred, about 6 to 7 minutes, then put vegetables into brown paper bag. Fold to seal and set aside.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and buckwheat together, sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Add garlic, stock, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Add lemon juice and pulp, butter, parsley, thyme, and basil to buckwheat and stir well.
Remove pepper and eggplant from the bag and use your fingers to remove the charred skins. Chop vegetables, add them and onions to buckwheat and stir well. Remove bay leaf, then place the mixture in a serving dish and serve warm or at room temperature as an appetizer or side dish.
Per serving: 250 calories, 6g total fat ( 2 g saturated fat), 40 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 9 g dietary fiber, 45 mg sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.