“So, what do you eat?”
This is the most common question I get when I tell people I’m a nutritionist. It’s also the most difficult to answer. In part because — bad news — there’s no formulaic secret to healthy eating. In part because — good news! — there’s such an abundance of good-for-you foods that it’d be blasphemous, on behalf of both my taste buds and my health, to eat the same foods day in and day out.
So while I can’t hand you a golden “breakfast-lunch-dinner” recipe for health, I can give you an insider’s look into a nutritionist’s eating style.
With that, I welcome you to Sarah’s Plate – where, each week, you can find out what I’m eating and why. And, if I do my job well, you might even leave with a little “foodspiration” to get some of those good-for-you foods onto your plate.
Let’s dig into this week’s dish: Curried Eggplant Caponata with a Runny Egg (recipe below). This is my Indian twist on the classically Sicilian caponata. In its most traditional form, caponata is an eggplant-based, cooked vegetable salad with a sweet and sour flavor profile. It’s most often served atop bread as a bruschetta-like appetizer.
In my Indian interpretation, the caponata is a vegetable-dense main course with a slightly sweet and intensely spicy punch. As a fiend for all things spicy, all year round, this served-room-temperature dish is one of the only ways I can get my fiery fix during the summer without breaking into a "Man Versus Food"–mannered sweat. The runny egg, when mixed into the caponata (don’t neglect this step if you have any respect for your taste buds), lends a rich creaminess that also counterbalances the hits of cayenne.
And, while I’m all for bold flavor and solid nutrition (which we’ll get to in a minute), simplicity is the key reason why this shows up on my plate time and again. Don’t let a few foreign ingredients fool you. This one-pot meal is one of the easiest Indian recipes you’ll ever come across: Sauté. Stir. Boil. Cool. Eat. And eat again. (The leftovers get more flavorful each day!)
So, nutritionally speaking, why should you get this onto your plate?
It’s a one-stop veggie shop. The strongest nutritional punch behind salads — whether traditional or cooked — is the fact that you can pack a variety of vegetables into one bowl. In this curried caponata, you get a hefty dose of eggplant, tomatoes, onion and garlic.
On top of a variety of vitamins and minerals, the eggplant and tomatoes bring a generous amount of phytonutrients and antioxidants to your plate. The antioxidant in the eggplant’s skin is a powerful free radical combatant that protects brain cell membranes from damage. Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, has been found to protect against a long list of cancers and heart disease. Onions, too, have been linked to cancer reduction, and garlic is a selenium-rich anti-inflammatory.
Your spice rack can boost your immunity. It’s true. Of the spices used in this dish, turmeric can help detoxify the liver, slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s and ease arthritis pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. And cumin is a great source of iron and a natural diuretic, which aids in digestion.
Oh, and don’t leave off the egg. The nutrition benefits are too great to abridge here — expect an egg-centric post in the near future — but trust me on this one. Not only is the egg your sole source of protein in this dish, it also provides essential fatty acids, without which your body can’t absorb those magical vitamins and minerals vested in the vegetables below.
Curried Eggplant Caponata with a Runny Egg
Serves 4 as a main course
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp. curry powder
- 1 tbsp. turmeric
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1-2 tsp. cayenne (this leaves the dish very spicy; reduce amount or omit for less heat)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups chopped eggplant, about 2 medium-large
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1.5 cups vegetable broth
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (including liquid)
- 2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- 4 eggs
- Heat olive oil in a large crock pot, and sauté onion until translucent, about 5-7 minutes at medium-high heat.
- Add spices and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute
- Add remaining ingredients, except for eggs. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Cover and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.
- Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, and serve at room temperature.
- When ready to serve, top each portion with a runny egg. (To make: Simply cook an egg in a splash of olive oil until the whites are set but the yolk is runny. It helps if you put a lid on your pan, and take a peak every 30 seconds or so.)
- Don’t forget to poke the yolk!
Sarah Levy is a New York City-born and based nutritionist and food writer who blogs at The Foodie Diaries. She loves food and hates diets.