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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IT’S DRIED PERSIMMON TIME!

Delicious Dried Persimmons

It’s definitely fall here in Santa Cruz- although it’s the start of winter in much of the country. Here we don’t get the glorious fall colors of my native Ohio, but we do get gloriously colored fall produce, like the Persimmons. You probably know there are at least two common varieties of this fruit—Fuyu, which can be eaten right away, and Hiyachi, which need to be completely ripe and mushy before eating or cooking in most ways (otherwise they are very astringent, due to their tannin content). However, there’s a great way to use either of these persimmon varieties, especially when not quite ripe- dried persimmons!  That’s the beauty of drying persimmons—it’s actually better when they’re firm. And the astringency somehow goes away.

It’s quite easy—just slice them, put the slices on cookie racks, bake slowly, and Voila—A yummy and healthy snack! Rick also discovered that the dried fruit can be added to hot tea- another delicious way to enjoy them.

INGREDIENTS/Supplies

Persimmons- any variety, especially when still firm; (one tip- drying persimmons takes a lot more than you think- they do dry up!)

Spray oil (your choice- I use TJ’s spray canola oil)

Baking racks- such as for cooling cookies

Cookie baking pans (optional)–you can put the baking racks on top of the cookie sheets/pans if you like, or add the baking racks directly on your standard oven racks.

TO DO ( preheat oven to 180-200 degrees F

1. Cut off stems and Slice persimmons approx. 1/4” thick

2. Spray baking racks lightly with oil

3. Lay persimmon slices on racks so that each slice is touching the rack

4. Bake for 1 1/2 —2hrs. , check if no longer sticky. If they are, bake for another 1/2 hr. (another method is to bake in 100 degree oven overnight- I discovered this by accident as the oven was still hot and I’d left the racks in overnight. I’ve had success with both methods).

Enjoy!

Sliced fresh persimmons on a green cutting surface

Sliced Fresh Persimmons

Sliced fresh persimmons on baking rack

Sliced fresh persimmons on baking rack

Rick eating a dried persimmon and holdin a tea cup with one in the tea

Rick enjoying the results

Cup of tea with dried persimmons in it

A  cup of tea with persimmons in it.

 

Health Benefits of Persimmons

 

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End of Summer Veggie Salad with Carrots, Avocado & Corn

Salad with Heirloom tomatoes, Avocado, Corn and Sautéed Carrots

Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Avocado, Corn and Sautéed Carrots

I’m still in the summer time mood as the weather is still lovely here; high 70’s, warm breezes, and blue blue skies. It makes me crave a salad using produce from my local Farmers’ Market. Stone fruits are on their way out, to my deep regret, but we still get Heirloom tomatoes and fresh corn, plus excellent avocados, a staple in our household. I also had leftover carrots that Rick had sautéed, with some herbs and a bit of cayenne pepper mix. Putting the cool tastes of the tomatoes, lettuce and avocado and the spice of the carrots tossed with a lemon, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette resulted in a satisfying combo of sweet, tang with a bit of heat.

What is good about this recipe is it’s flexibility–you can use many kinds of produce in the salad, including leftover veggies, such as sautéed carrots, corn, or if you have grilled eggplant, squash, zucchini, or other grilled or cooked veggies, refrigerate; or marinate them in a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then refrigerate, and mix with your favorite greens such as butter lettuce, arugula, romaine or spinach. Add chopped avocado, red onion, fresh herbs and your favorite dressing (mine is a simple blend of olive oil, balsamic vinegar with a squeeze or more of lemon), and your salad is ready.

If you want a heartier dish for lunch, add leftover cooked chicken or salmon, or canned tuna, and you’ve got a great meal. Serve with whole grain crackers or toast and you, your family and guests will be well satisfied!

 

INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3)

  • Lettuce– (I used butter and red leaf)
  • 1-2 Heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 small or 1/2 large avocado–chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn kernels (I used 1/2 of a leftover corn on the cob)
  • leftover cooked or grilled veggies–sliced carrots, in this case
  • Vinaigrette:
  • 1/3-1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 fresh lemon (if this is too lemony for you, reduce the amount. I love lemon!)
  • Wisk dressing ingredients together.
  • Let greens sit in refrigerator for at least 15 min before serving–without dressing. *
  • Garnish with fresh chopped herbs, chopped red onion, nuts etc. (your choice!)

* Tip: you can put oil on salad and then refrigerate, but not vinegar or lemon juice as these will cause the greens to wilt. After taking greens out of the fridge, add the dressing. Toss greens with dressing, then add veggies and garnishes–so the they don’t all sink to the bottom as they are heavier than the greens.  Also retain some of the dressing and pour over the top to serve.

Enjoy!

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End of Summer Zucchini and Tomato Sauté

Onions, Zucchini and Tomatos in a pan

End of Summer Vegetable Saute Ingredients

Tomatoes, Zucchini, Onions in a pan

Summer Vegetable Saute

Summer Vegetable Sauté

If you’re lucky enough to have a bounty of tomatoes (my favorite!) and zucchinis, this is a tasty and very easy side dish.

I’m originally from Ohio, and we had great weather for growing tomatoes. Come September, the crop was often still abundant, and we were finally ready to do something besides eat them raw or on BLT’s. After making spaghetti sauce, and perhaps canning, this dish is one of my favorites to serve along side roast chicken and grilled fish.

Basically it’s three main ingredients; chopped onions, zucchini and tomatoes. The cooking is simple–sautéing in stages; you can put this together and serve in less than an hour. It can be cooked in advance, refrigerated and then reheated. (I suggest reheating in a pan–not microwaved.) What’s especially good about this dish is that it combines these wonderful summer vegetables and keeps their fresh tasting integrity, while the combination adds a lot of flavor.

Easy, low carb and very delicious!

INGREDIENTS (serves 3-4 with leftovers)

  • 4-6 diced zucchinis (depending on size and how many you want to make–this is easily doubled)
  • 1/2 -1 cup chopped onions
  • 4-6 tomatoes (again, or more– as many as you want to make)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • Fresh herbs–thyme, basil, etc. (your choice–I prefer thyme)
  • salt-free seasoning/pepper to taste
  • Optional: a squeeze of lime or lemon juice

TO DO:

1. Chop onions, dice zucchini to approx. 1/2″ pieces, cut tomatoes into quarters, or smaller, depending on the tomato size..

2. Preheat a saute pan to med.high heat, add olive oil

3.  Add the onions and sauce (no cover) for approx 4-5 min. until slightly brown and soft; of course, stirring as they cook.

4. Add zucchini–sauté another 5-6 minutes, until softened (if you like them slightly crunchy, taste for firmness to your taste).

5. Add tomatoes  and sauté another 2-4 minutes, until they are softened and skins separate.

6. Mix all together with herbs and seasonings to your taste, and a few drops of lime of lemon if you like.

Very simple, very fresh tasting–your family and guests will thank you!

Enjoy!

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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!

Summer Salad with Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Avocado

 

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Avocado salad on plate

Delicious Summer Vegetable Salad

 

Fresh Vegetable Summer Salad

I’ve been traveling a lot since December 2017, mainly for family events; but been to Chile, Argentina, NYC, Japan (my daughter and family just moved there in May), Denver/Arches National Park, and LA; (Rick asked if I’m bragging or complaining!)–now finally a breather at home! (Although I must admit it was great to get to eat such different cuisines–see below for photos of two excellent meals we had). Feels so good to enjoy my house and garden! Since I’ve been gone so much, I had no time to plant my usual tomatoes or other veggies. Thank goodness we have excellent Farmer’s Markets here in Santa Cruz.

Recently we had a warm and inviting evening, (it’s often cool and foggy); we decided to grill vegetables. We had several eggplant pieces left over, but not enough for a full portion for each of us for dinner. (Actually, from now on, I’ll grill extra vegetables just to make this salad.)

I put together this simple, fresh and tasty salad, using tomatoes from the local Farmer’s Market and ripe avocado–a staple in our house. Just slice all the veggies, sprinkle lemon on the avocado, make dressing with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, (for 2 individual salads use approx. 1/3 cup oil to 2-3 Tbsp. vinegar); chill for 1/2 hr. before serving.

If you have fresh chives, parsley, cilantro, or basil, cut pieces of your favorite on top and serve!

Easy, low carb and very delicious!

Grilled Sable Fish with Daikon spear

Grilled Sable Fish with Daikon spear –in Japan

plate of roast chicken and brown rice --

Roast chicken and brown rice — in Argentina

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 individual salads; increase the amounts as needed for more servings)

  • 8-10 pieces of leftover grilled eggplant–(you can use any grilled vegetables of your choice)
  • 1 avocado
  • ]2-3 tomatoes-again, any kind of your choice
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • Chopped herbs –your choice (I grow chives all year round so that’s what I use)
  • salt-free seasoning/pepper to taste
  • TO DO
  • 1. Whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl.
  • 2. Wash and slice tomatoes, slice avocado and sprinkle with lemon.
  • 3.  Arrange vegetables on plates
  • 4. Add dressing to each serving. Let flavors meld for about 1/2 hour.
  • 5. Serve for lunch by itself with whole grain crackers or as accompaniment for grilled fish or chicken. (See, I said this was easy!)
  • Enjoy!

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