What it is: A member of the nightshade family, Eggplant is botanically a berry, not a vegetable. While we may be most familiar with the large and deep purple varietals, eggplants can range in size from bijoux to huge and they range in color from pure white, intense oranges, palest purple to nearly jet black. Eggplants are a key component in dishes around the world, particularly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, India and Thailand. Eggplants are at their peak from mid-summer through the end of October.
What to do with it: When choosing eggplant, avoid any that are particularly hard or squishy. Also keep in mind, the larger the eggplant, the more bitterness potential it has. For large eggplants, salting them before cooking will draw out some of the bitterness and moisture. You can skip this step for more slender specimens. Never refrigerate, instead store your eggplant in a cool, shady spot in your kitchen.
What some chefs are doing with it right now: Gramercy Tavern recently featured a chilled eggplant with cucumber, pepper & cilantro on their Tavern menu. At Angelo Sosa's Añejo one of the big lunch hits is the eggplant torta — cripsy fried eggplant, Baba ganoush with pumpkin seed tahini, market greens, and oven roasted tomatoes. The Piggery in Ithaca New York had an enticing special of Thai basil & lemongrass crepinette with basil couscous and an eggplant succotash. The Porch Restaurant in Dallas was serving up Comeback Creek Farm Eggplant & Squash with roasted tomato & herbed ricotta. In San Francisco Kin Khao is known for their Burnt Eggplant salad, with toasted coconut and herbs. Burnt eggplant also made an appearance at Pittsburgh's Cure where Chef Justin Severino paired a hanger steak with burnt eggplant, smoked potatoes, padrones, caramelized onion, sauce "muhummara"