August 15, 2012

Recipe: Quinoa with Japanese Eggplant

Squash bounty from the greenmarket, including Japanese eggplant.

It's summer squash season!   My greenmarket bags have been stuffed weekly with all manner of squash -- delicate yellow summer squash, zucchini, assorted bi-color and striped varieties, patty-pans, and multiple kinds of eggplant -- striped, Italian, fairy-tale, Japanese...  If it's squash, it's in my grocery bag.   The other week, I brought home too much eggplant, so I used my favorite strategy to use up too man vegetables: make my own "frozen lunches" for work. I hacked a favorite quinoa-spinach-chickpea recipe, combining the quinoa and eggplant for a new twist.

The result is a smooth, tasty, GERD-friendly lunch that freezes very well and re-heats in the microwave (and probably oven -- just cover with foil for part of the time) with excellent results.  I consider it GERD-friendly because in my experience:  1) the soft, mushy texture pleases my cranky esophagus and guts,  and 2) eggplant and quinoa especially agree with me -- I never have concerns after eating either one.  The soft foods trend is interesting -- I'm finding "mushy" foods very good for my whole digestion process.  They go down well, my stomach deals with them well, and they seem to continue through well.   Some of my favorite soft foods include applesauce, Wheetabix (after soaking in almond milk for a moment, they turn to mush), oatmeal, grits, ice cream, potatoes -- you get the idea.

However: see my caveat on eggplant and GERD after the recipe -- it may not be for everyone.  As always, trust your gut and see what works for you.


1 C. Alter Eco Royal Pearl quinoa (I like to source from Alter Eco, self-described "food activists," since quinoa is still problematic)
2-3 medium eggplants, sliced thin and cross-sliced as you wish (Japanese are recommended but other varieties can work well, too; you can increase the amount of eggplant as you desire, or if you have tons of it)

  1. Rinse quinoa.  There is a bitter coating on the quinoa seeds; even with "pre-washed" quinoa, I feel more at ease giving it a quick rinse.
  2. Add 1 Cup quinoa to pot with 1 and a 1/2 C. water.  Bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and cover.  Simmer about 20 minutes or until quinoa "threads" curl; you may need to add more water if the quinoa soaks it up too fast.  I treat quinoa a bit like "risotto" in checking it frequently, stirring, adding water as needed (but in small increments to avoid bloated quinoa).
  4. While the quinoa cooks, prep the eggplant.  I always leave the skin on -- the best part!?   Cut as the shape dictates.  With small eggplants, I may just make thin slices.  With larger ones, I'll slice lengthwise, and then slice those halves lengthwise again, and then cut those into small slices.
  5. Brush/massage with olive oil.  Eggplant is a sponge and soaks up olive oil in a flash.  I've discovered a silicone brush works very well to distribute the oil throughout:

Various eggplant slices and my silicone brush.

Eggplant segment:

  1. Heat cast iron pan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil (I don't know how this recipe performs in another metal) and add eggplant.  Stir frequently for a few minutes.  Cover and cook, checking frequently and stirring as needed to keep eggplant coated and from sticking.
  2. The eggplant will change to a slimy brownish-gray color.  This is what you want.
  3. When quinoa is done, add eggplant.   Most recipes call for draining the quinoa.  Mine has always worked out perfectly, a soft but well-textured pot without any excess liquid.

You can add a handful of other vegetables as you have on hand.  For this version, I had a handful of leftover string beans and just tossed them in, heating everything together.  This meal is one of the tastiest lunches I've had!

Quinoa with Japanese eggplant -- tasty work-desk lunch.


How to Cook Fluffy, Tasty Quinoa by the Kitchen is an excellent (and good-looking) guide.

The LA Times highlighted quinoa and provides 6 recipes.

Who doesn't love a good homemade vegan loaf?


My experience with eggplant is positive, gut-wise.  It is not a trigger food for me, though sometimes have itchy mouth "oral allergy" symptoms with the Italian variety (the Japanese eggplant variety does not seem to trigger this).

Eggplant is regarded as a healthy food for intestinal health in traditional Chinese medicine, helping clear the tract and alleviate constipation due to its high fiber content.  There are also studies linking it to lowering glucose levels, making it a favorite of diabetes management diets.  

But…eggplant is a nightshade, a food family which can trigger a negative response for some people due to the high alkaloid content.    It's also been marked as a trigger for joint flare-ups.  See what works for you.  (That is always my mantra and caveat.  GERD is so individual in experience, it's good to keep this in mind.  What works for me may wreak havoc on your guts, and vice versa!)

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