By Noelle Carter
Los Angeles Times
What’s in season: It’s easy to think of eggplant as a vegetable because we find it in so many savory dishes, but eggplant, also called aubergine, is 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 eggplant and other uncommon and heirloom varieties. While 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: 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. Slowly roast cubes of the fruit, tossing them with aromatic oil, fresh herbs and crumbled feta cheese for a Mediterranean-inspired salad. Puree 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.
What’s on the horizon: A wide variety of green beans, from Kentucky blue and haricot vert to yellow wax, Romano and exotic varieties with names such as “Tongue of Fire,” are making a strong show at markets now. Asian pears, normally in season from late summer through fall, are just beginning to show up.