Side Orders: Casserole combines eggplant, ground lamb

Until recently, I always thought of eggplant as a vegetable. Come to find out, it's actually a fruit that originated in the tropics. Unlike most other fruits, eggplant is good fried. It's good with meats such as beef and lamb. And you wouldn't dare consume it in its raw state, I don't imagine. So it's different from just about every other fruit around, save tomatoes.

Fresh eggplants are plentiful summer through fall and come in several varieties. There are the familiar dark - almost black - slender Japanese varieties, but also small, round ones, striped ones and, in this time of heirloom fruits and vegetables, there are several of those varieties, too. All are interchangeable, but what you need to consider is the age of the fruit. Age brings on bitterness, so when selecting, look for young, firm fruit that are almost hard to the touch.