General Cooking Tips for Peppers, Eggplant and Okra
by National Gardening Association Editors
Peppers, eggplant, and okra are tasty ingredients in many dishes. Here's some tips on preparing them and information about their health benefits.
Raw or cooked, sweet peppers are delicious served in salads, soups, stews, casseroles or stuffed as a main dish. Red and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C, some vitamin A and small amounts of several beneficial minerals. Red peppers contain more vitamin A and C than green ones, and raw peppers are richer in vitamins than cooked ones.
Eggplant is a low-calorie, low-fat food that deserves more attention. Finding new ways to serve eggplant is a lot like experimenting with summer squash; once you start, the possibilities really open up.
There's no need to peel eggplant; the skin is perfectly edible when cooked.
You can remove eggplant's slight bitterness before cooking by salting slices or cubes, then leaving them to drain in a colander for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse the slices or cubes well and pat them dry before use.
Like many light-fleshed vegetables, eggplant discolors when it's cut open. You can prevent this by sprinkling or rubbing the slices with lemon juice as soon as you cut them. Or dilute three tablespoons of lemon juice in a large bowl of water and place each eggplant slice in this "anti-darkening" solution until you're ready to cook it. It also helps to use stainless steel knives and non-corrosive cookware.
This southern specialty is a good source of vitamins A and C. It can be served alone or in soups or stews. Gumbos, or soups containing okra, usually include meat, fish, chicken and other vegetables. Okra, a natural thickening agent, is used instead of flour or other starch.
To cook, wash the pods well and cut off stem ends. Cut in 1/2-inch slices and cook in boiling salted water 10 to 15 minutes, or until just tender.
Okra will keep well for a few days in your refrigerator in a covered container, or you can easily freeze or can it.
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