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Ask Kirstin: Choosing Eggplants; Stir-frying


There are two kinds of eggplant in my grocery store now, a big fat one and a long skinny one. How do I know which one to use? — Janet F. M.

There are hundreds of different kinds of eggplants in the world, from tiny egg plants the size and color of peas, to white and green striped eggplants and the huge purple ones we are familiar with.

The two you most likely have in your store are the very large dark purple ones called “Black Bell” or “Purple Globe.” Their main advantage is their size, as they are good for stuffing, or using as rolls or wrapping around fillings. The long, slender light or dark purple ones, often called Asian or Japanese eggplant, are sweeter, with thin skin and fewer seeds.

You can use both interchangeably in most recipes, but the slender ones are often more flavorful and easier to work with, so unless I need large slices, I always use Asian eggplants. Pick eggplants that feel plump, firm, and are very shiny. To test ripeness, just press in a bit with a finger or thumb, if you can’t press at all, the eggplant is not ripe. If it doesn’t bounce back, it’s overripe. If you can make a little indentation that lasts for a second then fills back out, then it’s just right.


I am having trouble with my stir-frys. I can’t get the wok to stay hot. — John. P

… And the meat never browns and the vegetables “steam fry” instead of stir-fry right? It is not your fault, blame it on the wok. Most of our home burners are just not able to get that tiny cooking surface of the wok hot enough to sustain heat after you throw a lot of ingredients into it, so your meats end up releasing all their juices and bubbling in liquid then sadly turning gray, and if you then add vegetables as well, then they just steam instead of fry so you end up with mush.

My suggestion is to use your wok as a nice pot to grow basil in, and use the biggest pan you have for stir-frys. Remember to get the pan scorching hot before you add a high smoke point oil like grape seed or peanut, gently throw in the rest of the ingredients, and don’t over-crowd the pan. You might need to stir-fry in two batches, but since it only takes a few minutes it is worth the extra effort.


How long does chicken stock last in the fridge? — Ted. F

If the stock, any kind, is homemade, it will only last 2-3 days. So it is a good idea to put it in the freezer as soon as it has cooled down. Stock from a can or carton will last 4-5 days. Canned stock needs to be transferred to a glass or plastic container. And if you are like me, and think you will remember when you opened it but never do, mark the date on the container.


Want to “Ask Kirstin” for help in the kitchen? Send your questions to And check out the “Ask Kirstin” Archive.


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