What's in season: Although it's easy to think of eggplant as a vegetable, because we find it in so many savory dishes, it’s actually a tropical fruit. Available from early summer through fall, varieties range from the familiar dark globe and slender Japanese varieties to mounds of small, round Thai and Sicilian (sometimes called Graffiti), White Cloud, striped Calliope and other uncommon and heirloom varieties. Although some of the Asian varieties are prized for their bitter flavors, it's age that causes most eggplant to become bitter; when selecting, look for young, firm fruit that are almost hard to the touch.
What to cook: Slowly roast cubes of the fruit, tossing them with aromatic oil, fresh herbs and crumbled feta cheese for a Mediterranean-inspired salad. Toss thick "steaks" of sliced eggplant on the grill, studding the slices with wedges of garlic and fresh herbs to infuse flavor as they cook. Purée cooked eggplant to make a classic baba ghanouj, tapenade or other dip. You can also salt eggplant to remove excess moisture and make for a silkier texture before deep-frying.