Only buy spanking fresh, firm, blooming and thoroughly sexy aubergines. Prod and poke, check the leafy and, incidentally, spiky stem. If the leaves are withered and old, so is the aubergine; if they are crisp, and hard to prise away from the fruit, good. An old aubergine is a bitter and twisted aubergine, and no amount of salting will alleviate this psychological condition. Salting a fresh aubergine is another matter; that removes liquid and in many dishes improves the texture.
Look out for the pale Italian aubergines in the summer, they are the works. Avoid very small aubergines that are used in other cuisines, the Italians on the whole prefer the big ones. Aubergine skin will blunt any knife (as will tomato skin), so use a serrated knife for slicing and cutting.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.