This plump and glossy member of the potato family (which also includes bell peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos) has plenty of nutritional merits worth mentioning. Its meaty texture also soaks up flavors like olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs, giving recipes a buttery richness and often replacing meat. Try grilling, sautéing, braising or roasting this hearty purple vegetable—the tips below will help you get started.
What You Get: One cup of cooked eggplant has a mere 35 calories. The deep purple skin contains anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, antioxidants that may play a role in helping to prevent some cancers.
How to Buy Eggplant: Look for: Smooth, glossy skins without wrinkles or spongy spots; each eggplant should feel heavy for its size.
Prep: Slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (peeling is optional).
Braise: Cut eggplant slices into cubes. Mix with an 8-ounce jar of salsa. Pour into a pan and place over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring often, until thick, about 15 minutes.
Grill: Preheat grill. Brush eggplant slices lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Place over medium-high heat and grill, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes.
Roast: Preheat oven to 500°F. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet or pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender, about 15 minutes.
Sauté: Cut eggplant slices into cubes; mix with 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand for 5 minutes, then blot dry with paper towels. Heat 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant; cook until tender, stirring often, about 4 minutes.
Peak Season: Summer and fall.