Technically a type of berry that belongs to the nightshade family, eggplant is a highly versatile fruit that peaks in August and September. Introduced to Japan in the 8th century, Europe in the 13th, and North America in the 16th, they’ve since become a highly popular ingredient in cuisines all over the world. The large, bulbous, deep purple variety is the most common in supermarkets in the U.S., but eggplants come in an incredible range of sizes, shapes, and colors, from smaller Italian eggplants to slender, mild Asian varieties to meaty, dense white-skinned eggplants and more. No matter the type, we love cooking with them all through the summer; they take well to baking, broiling, and frying alike.
HOW TO BUY
Choose firm, smooth fruits that are heavy for their size; avoid any with soft or brown spots. Buy them just before you plan to use them, as they don’t store well.
HOW TO STORE
Keep eggplants in a cool, dry place and use them within a day or two. You can store them in the crisper drawer for a few days if needed, but these subtropical fruits don’t generally fare well in cold storage.
HOW TO PREPARE
Peel older eggplants; on younger, smaller eggplants the skin is edible. Rinse them, trim the cap, and cut them just before using—they tend to discolor quickly. Salting them won’t “draw out” their bitterness, but it will help mask the slightly bitter taste of older/larger eggplants, and the salted slices will absorb less oil.