A ripe eggplant should be firm, with a fresh green cap at the stem end and no soft spots or brownish bruises. An old wives' tale claims that there is a difference between male and female eggplants, but it is not true. Avoid eggplants that are oversized for their variety. The very large ones tend to be overgrown, with tough seeds.
Unless you are sure the eggplants are very fresh, it is best to salt them before cooking to draw out the bitter juices. If I buy eggplants from the farmer's market, I skip the salting step.
Peeling eggplant is optional. The skin is attractive and helps the eggplant hold its shape as it cooks, but it can be tough. Sometimes, if I think the eggplant skin may be tough, I peel off half of the skin in strips at one-inch intervals.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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