Eggplant Pecorino With Brown Rice Fusilli Pasta

And A Word About Healthy Fats

Eggplant Pecorino With Brown Rice Fusilli

Eggplant Pecorino With Brown Rice Fusilli

Monday night I had the privilege of meeting the great Michael Pollan at a book signing in the east bay.  If you have not read Michael Pollan, you need to – The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are required reading if you are interested in conscious eating, which you probably are if you are here reading my blog.  Michael Pollan is one of a few pioneers spearheading the movement to return to sustainable and healthy eating through whole, unprocessed foods from local, small farms in a non-industrial food chain.

One of the things Michael Pollan talks about is how the demonizing of fat in our diets is completely misguided.  I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with friends or aquaintances who are worried about their weight or cholesterol and so they flat out refuse to eat anything with fat in it.  I have a good friend who is deathly afraid of eggs.  It’s amazing how many people don’t realize that we need fat, including some saturated fats, in order to survive!  Many nutrients are fat soluble, meaning that they don’t get absorbed into our bloodstream without the help of essential fatty acids.  And many of our hormones are synthesized from cholesterol in our bodies.  There are such things as “good cholesterol” and “good fats”- they are what keeps the bad stuff in check and regulates your body through hormones and nutrient assimilation.  If you aren’t eating any fat or cholesterol at all, well, you aren’t getting any good fats or cholesterol either.

The problem with most diets is that they include a lot of processed foods, which have a lot of fat added to them that normally wouldn’t be there.  These are usually poor quality fats such as hydrogenated vegetable oils (including trans fats, which are not found in nature and are much more harmful than saturated fats) and omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn, soy, canola, sunflower and safflower oils and fried foods).  If you have too high of a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3’s, your balance of good and bad fats get out of whack and begins to cause health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, depression, osteoporosis and inflammation.  I’m sure by now you have all heard of omega-3 fatty acids, those miraculous beneficial fats that are the new cure-all for everything.  Those are the fats you want to have lots of.  Where can you find them?  In fish, flax seed, walnuts, olive oil, other mono-unsaturated oils, and even in meats that are pasture-raised including, you guessed it, eggs!  Bottom line is, if you are avoiding processed and fried foods and eating good quality, whole foods, just like our ancestors did, then you don’t need to worry about how much fat is in your diet.  You can even enjoy butter and eggs in moderation without feeling guilty.

My favorite oil to cook with is olive oil.  Especially a good extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil (I use Bariani).  This week I was inspired to cook Italian food after seeing a scrumptious-looking eggplant recipe in the Chronicle.  Who says you can’t eat Italian food if you are dairy and gluten-free?!  Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta to the rescue!  And, the point I was getting to, my other big news of the week was that I was recently overjoyed to discover a new cheese that I can eat (without consequences) that is made from sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk – pecorino, an aged hard cheese that is similar to parmesan.  That discovery, as well as the appearance of fresh basil and eggplant at the farmers’ markets last weekend led me to try out my own version of eggplant parmesan, sans parmesan and sans spaghetti.  Of course, if you are sensitive to all cheeses or are on a candida diet, feel free to skip the cheese – it’s still good!!

1 medium eggplant

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves garlic

1 can diced tomato

8 oz. brown rice pasta

fresh basil leaves

handful pinenuts

grated pecorino cheese

sea salt

fresh cracked pepper

Slice the eggplant, unpeeled, to about 1/2-inch thick.  Lay it out on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.  Set aside for a half an hour.  The salt will cause the eggplant to ooze water – this is normal, you want it to do this so it has a nicer texture and doesn’t absorb too much oil when cooking.

Make your basic sauce by sauteing onion and garlic in olive oil until tender and fragrant, then adding a can of tomatoes and pinch of salt and simmering for 20-30 minutes.

Then cook your brown rice pasta in boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes, or according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Pat the eggplant dry and arrange in a large glass baking dish.  Drizzle with a few tablespoons olive oil, toss to coat.  Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling with grated pecorino cheese in the last 5 minutes if desired.

Layer the eggplant slices on a plate.  Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce, and spoon onto the eggplant.  Sprinkle with pecorino, a handful of pinenuts, and sliced fresh basil leaves.  Season to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Pop open a nice bottle of chianti sangiovese and enjoy!

Serves 2

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