Knife Skills! A Class on Using Chef’s Knives Properly

Man and woman using chefs’ knives

Knife Skills! How to use knives properly

Learning how to improve my Knife Skills is one of the best things I have done as a cook.

Learning to properly use knives, especially chef’s knives, is a skill that every cook can use. I just returned from a long trip to Italy and France (plus a few stops in the Western Mediterranean). I’ll report on some of the places and foods in subsequent posts, but I thought this would be a good return info post as it’s a topic that’s so useful for all cooks.

The class was held at a local kitchen store in Santa Cruz, Toque Blanche, http://www.mytoque.com, a comprehensive source of all kinds of kitchen items, including a very good stock of knives, with a full range of types and brands. They also professionally sharpen knives for a reasonable fee.

5 Main “Never Do” Points

You may know these but they’re a good reminder:

1. Never put chef’s knives in the dishwasher; (most chef’s knives have wooden handles and the blades can be damaged).

2. Never use the blade to scoop anything off a cutting board- use the back of the knife.

3. Never use a chef’s knife on plastic or glass boards (they dull the blades). Composition/wood boards are best.

4. Never chop bones with a chef’s knife —it can chip the blade; (use a cleaver instead).

5. Never leave chef’s knives in a wet sink- some blades may rust. Wash and dry your knives after use.

Sharpening vs. Honing

Honing: This confused me for a long time. Actually, honing is the action using a honing stick or wand that is recommended every time you use a chef’s knife; just 2 or 3 slides on each side of the blade at approximately 15 degree angle will reform the metal. (I used to do this at a more extreme angle but have learned that is not correct). Some honing sticks have a guide that shows or guides the proper angle.

Sharpening: Sharpening is only necessary once or twice yearly. It is a process of grinding the blade and thus takes off some of the metal. It can be done with commercial sharpening equipment you can buy, or by professional knife sharpeners.

There are many types of chef’s knives, including stamped (blade is cut from a piece of metal and stamped out); forged, (made from a single bar of metal, heated and then pounded into shape- typically heavier and more sturdy then stamped knives, and has a wider lip, called a bolster, on the end of the blade where it meets the handle), Japanese knives (including Santoku, Gyuto), which have a different shape than Western chef’s knives. Chef’s knives range in length too, typically from 8” to 11”. My brother gave me the 11” ( Wusthof, a good brand made in Germany), which intimidated me at first but now I appreciate the length as I know better how to use it’s leverage for chopping.

Another important tip is to hold a knife by the bolster- and make sure you “claw” your other hand as you chop.

Holding a knife near the bolster

Properly holding a chef’s knife by the bolster ( the wide part between the handle and the blade)

 

 

This is just an overview of best knife practices- and that’s the main thing- practice!

Enjoy til next time!

Knife skills class- people using knives

Knife skills class- people learning to use knives properly

 

 

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German Tangy and Sweet Red Cabbage

Bowl of Red Cabbage made with sugar and vinegar on a mosaic table

My Grandma’s Sweet and Tangy Red Cabbage (Rote Kraut)

After going to Nevada City to join Rick’s daughter and boyfriend and his family, we had Thanksgiving 2 at our house with my son Alex, his girlfriend Shannon, and my son-in-law’s parents. (My son-in-law is in the Navy, stationed in Japan, with my daughter and our two grandkids).

We had a lot of fun and one of the highlights was making authentic German red cabbage. Actually, it was my son’s request–but as I was limited in time and space, I asked him to bring the chopped cabbage. He did and I was happy to make the recipe. It’s very easy. The trick for the best results is to use no water, just red wine and red vinegar for the liquid. Also it does take a few hours to cook to the right tenderness and flavor, but is just as good if made in advance and reheated. In fact, that’s my favorite method.

When I have had red cabbage at most German-type restaurants I find it too sweet. The way my Grandma made it it is on the tangy side, with just a hint of sweetness, from the apples and sugar, (in this case, Xylitol. ( If you’ve been following my blog, you know that’s my preferred sweetener for low carb sweetening.) It’s such a great way to enjoy a dish that’s not often served, that is low carb, low calorie, and is full of flavor, fiber, and nutrition *.

 

Dining table with my son and his girlfriend at the end

Thanksgiving2–my son and his GF at our table

GERMAN TANGY AND SWEET RED CABBAGE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 red cabbage (size–your choice) this recipe is for about a 1-2 lb, cabbage
  • 1-2 apples,  sweet/tart, such as Pink Lady, or Pippin, cored and chopped (I do peel them, but leave some peel on)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (the butter gives a smoothness to the result)
  • 1 cup dry red wine (use more if the cabbage is drying out)
  • 1/2 cup good quality red wine vinegar
  • 2-4 Tbsp. Xylitol –to taste
  • Salt or Salt free seasoning–to taste

TO DO: (serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2 with leftovers)

1. Remove cabbage outer leaves and inner core; chop cabbage into approx. 2 “ pieces

2. Core and peel apples, and chop into approximately 1/2″ pieces

3. Add all ingredients into a Dutch oven or 4 qt. pot.

4. Cook on stovetop for approx. 3-4 hours, tasting for sweet/tangy balance and tenderness

That’s it!

Serve as a side dish; and, as we usually have, a crisp green salad with a tart, lemony vinaigrette–see previous Salad posts for the vinaigrette recipe: https://wordpress.com/post/type2delicious.com/1075

Enjoy!

*https://www.livestrong.com/article/272966-red-cabbage-nutrition-information/

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Summer Squash with Secret Sauce

I posted this last year but have had an abundance of squashes, so thought it is a good idea to post again. We’re still enjoying the last of the summer. (Actually, September/October is our real summer- June, July and August are usually foggy and cool here by the ocean); except this summer which was unusually warm— say global warming anyone?

A mix of squash, onion and ketchup sautéed in pan

Delicious sautéed squash and onion dish

Sautéed squashes and onion with ketchup

German Secret Sauce

Which brings me to this recipe for your remaining summer zucchini/squash harvest – plus what’s still available at farmer’ markets. You can use any type of soft skinned winter squashes just as well. This family favorite is a great side dish for roast chicken, broiled fish or almost anything you serve.

I first enjoyed this recipe when I was visiting my mom’s cousin Erica in LA in the eighties. My mom and her cousins Hans and Erica were born in Germany- escaped here during the war. Erica was an excellent cook. This dish surprised me as I had no idea that the “sauce” was nothing but ketchup, and that ketchup is a mainstay of  German cooking!

This is a very easy to make dish with a rich, satisfying taste. It always comes out delicious. You can use any combination of squash and onions you like.  I make it for company and let them guess what is in the sauce- so far no one has figured it out!  But now you know!

German Squash with Secret Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 5-7 squashes- your choice (I like to vary the colors- using yellows and greens)
  • 1 large onion plus 1-2 cippolini onions if you like
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • Salt-free seasoning, pepper; or use salt if you can
  • Fresh chopped herbs- thyme or marjoram are my favorites for this

TO DO: (serves 3-4 or 2 with leftovers)

1. Chop onions into 1/2 “ pieces

2. Chop squashes in approximately 1/2 pieces also- they can be sliced but the way Erica made it they were chopped

3. Heat oil on med high heat in large sauté pan; add onions and sauté until just brown- 5-6 minutes

4. Add squashes to pan, and spices; sauté 3-4 more minutes uncovered- cover for about 5 more minutes til tender

5. Add 1/2 cup ketchup—sauté another 2-3 minutes; taste and add more if you like

That’s it! I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how rich tasting this is! Thanks Erica!

Serve as a side dish; and, as we usually have, a crisp green salad with a tart, lemony vinaigrette–see previous Salad posts for the vinaigrette recipe: Summer Salad with Fresh New Peas and Strawberries

Enjoy!

Favorite Meatloaf with Italian Tomato Paste Topping

Meatloaf with Italian tomato paste topping

Meatloaf with Italian tomato paste topping

It’s that time of year when I crave something warm and cozy to eat; ok, ”comfort food.” And my favorite is Meatloaf. Besides being satisfying and delicious right out of the oven, you can make my favorite
sandwiches on good whole grain toast the next day
(or two). With ketchup of course! You can make this Meatloaf with ground turkey or a ground beef/pork mixture depending on your preferences. It’s delicious either way.

I confess we often watch TV while we eat, and meatloaf sandwiches are just great to munch while watching British mysteries! Of course, Rick being the disciplined guy that he is takes a walk every evening after dinner to lower his blood sugar; I join him often; see the Journey for more Type2 diabetes lifestyle tips.

I’ve recently discovered something that makes my favorite Meatloaf topping very special and easy. It’s Italian tomato paste in a tube. You just squeeze out what you want – I like to make squiggles that melt and spread while cooking. Instead of opening a can and only using a small amount and the remainder then usually sits in my fridge and I forget about- yes, it goes bad and I throw out once I notice it!

INGREDIENTS (2-3 servings, plus leftovers)

  • 2-21/2 lbs ground turkey (I prefer thigh only as it’s juicier); or a ground beef/pork mixture
  • 1/2 large or 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup Cremini mushrooms, chopped fine (optional)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Italian tomato paste for topping
  • Thyme, and/or salt-free seasoning/pepper to taste

TO DO:

1. Mix turkey or meat with chopped onions, beaten egg and spices- I use my hands.

2. Sauté mushrooms in butter; after they’re browned (about 6-7 minutes), let Cool

3.  Add mushrooms to mixture. Set aside

4. Mix tomato sauce with bread in a bowl- mash with fork til completely mixed and bread is soft.

5. Combine all in a bowl- best using hands again.

6. Put meatloaf mixture in a loaf pan prepped with an oil spray; Pam or olive oil spray works fine.

7. Squeeze tomato paste on top

9. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Turn oven off and let sit inside for another 10-15 minutes.

10. Serve with your favorite whole grains and a great salad – this is a delicious one with goat cheese, persimmons and greens.

Enjoy!

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Chicken Italiano

Chicken pieces ready to be baked for step 1

Chicken pieces ready to be baked for step 1

Chicken pieces with sauce

2nd step-Chicken pieces with sauce ready to be baked

Chicken pieces with sauce and cheese- ready to be served!

Chicken Italiano ready to be served!

Maybe it seems a little off season during summer months, but this hearty Italian dish is simple to make, including in advance, rich tasting and satisfying when you don’t want to barbecue burgers and want something easy and delicious to serve for a dinner party or as a treat your family.

When my kids were growing up, this was one of their favorites, plus it was one of the first dishes my son mastered; (he’s  now 28 and an excellent cook).

As I said, this can easily be made in advance as there are only a few steps. Just make it through step 1, refrigerate and do the final baking just before you’re ready to serve. Very easy, very delicious, low carb–hope it becomes a favorite for you too!

Chicken Italiano ( serves 3-6)

INGREDIENTS:

–6-8 Chicken pieces (we prefer breasts and thighs)

–1 32 oz. jar pasta sauce ( I’m a Mazzetta’s fan- any type of theirs is very good– or make your own)

–6-8 cheese slices; we use goat cheese slices from- yes, my go-to place; Trader Joe’s

–no salt spices, fresh oregano if you have it

–1-2 eggs, beaten

— bread crumbs- your choice ( I actually toast whole grain bread and crumble it, or use commercial whole wheat bread crumbs)

TO DO:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Spread about 1 cup sauce on bottom of a 9×13 baking pan

Dip chicken pieces in egg ( both sides)

Either dredge chicken in bread crumbs in a plastic bag or in a flat pan

Add chicken to baking pan (I use Pyrex)

Step 1: bake chicken for about 20 minutes (here’s where you can let this cool and refrigerate and finish later- like the next day- obviously don’t wait too long!)

Step 2: Pour rest of sauce over chicken; add a cheese slice on each piece; sprinkle bread crumbs on top.

Bake for another 30 minutes, til brown and bubbly.

Serve with whole grain pasta, green salad with tangy vinaigrette, and a good bottle of red wine if you like.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Marinated Swordfish

Two Barbecued Marinated Swordfish

Marinated Swordfish Steaks

Two Swordfish Steaks in marinade

Swordfish Steaks in marinade

Fish is great for lots of reasons and Swordfish is one of my favorites; low calories/low cholesterol, healthy for you, plus overall deliciousness.

We try to eat fish at least once a week, sometimes more often. If available, I look for fresh, line -caught varieties, or line-caught frozen fish; just as nutritious. See * below for more information about healthy fish choices.

(Trader Joe’s is a good source of many frozen fish varieties, and Costco often has fresh.) Our local farmer’s market as well as other local markets offer fresh line-caught fish depending on the season– yes, a California coastal option, not everywhere.

Barbecuing fish in warm weather is a great option and actually very easy. While the grill is hot and there’s room, we like to add sliced fresh vegetables such zucchini, onions, eggplant, red pepper ( I’m not a fan of green peppers- but if you are add them too). You can also broil the fish for equally great results. We’ve done it both ways and both are delicious!

Starting with a tangy marinade gives great flavor. The one I’m giving you has lots of citrus, garlic and a touch of heat. We love it- hope you do too!

* https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/swordfish/overview

Marinated Swordfish 

INGREDIENTS

  • MARINADE:
  • Juice of 1lemon, plus 1-2 tsps. grated rind (yellow only as the white is bitter)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (something dry like Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Dijon-type mustard
  • 1-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine
  • 1tsp. Ground red chili pepper ( we get a mild/medium mix at a Mexican grocery store- use whatever type you have)
  • Salt-free seasoning, pepper; or use salt if you can
  • Fresh chopped herbs- thyme is my favorite
  • Paprika to dust on top before serving
  • FISH:
  • 1 Swordfish steak per person, preferably wild, line-caught

TO DO:

1. Prepare Barbecue coals (spread coals on sides. When hot; put fish in middle and vegetables on sides)

2. In a Pyrex glass or Corningware pan (I used Pyrex 9×13 size) lay steaks on a single layer on a thin layer of olive oil ( approx. 1Tbsp.).

3. Mix/wisk together marinade ingredients; olive oil, mustard, white wine, lemon/rind and herbs/seasonings.

4. Pour marinade over fish.

5. Let fish marinate approx. 1/2-1 hr.

6. Barbecue 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of fish; (we like our fish moist and just a tad underdone- cook yours how you like it).

7. Sprinkle fresh herbs and dust with paprika.

Serve with grilled vegetables, your choice of whole grain rice or other grains, and, as we usually have, a crisp green salad with a tart, lemony vinaigrette–see previous Salad posts for the vinaigrette recipe: https://wordpress.com/post/type2delicious.com/1075

Enjoy!

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