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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New Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken and vegetables cooking in delicious tomato sauce

Chicken and vegetables cooking in delicious tomato sauce

cooking the vegetable and chicken in the sauce

cooking the vegetables and chicken in the sauce

The weather has been very cold and dreary even here in Santa Cruz; (although nothing as cold and dreary as in the MidWest and East Coast)–I am very sorry for those who’ve experienced such cruel temperatures and conditions. When an old friend we hadn’t seen for a few years told us that he was coming for a visit I was looking forward to sharing a meal with him. I know he has a reputation as a “foodie”–someone who knows and enjoys good food. He has a pretty sophisticated palette, but also appreciates good home cooking. I wanted to make something delicious and very tasty, “comfort food” for this weather, as well as a recipe that can be made in advance so I can spend as much time as possible with our friend. This Chicken Cacciatore fits the bill!  Not only is it very delicious and satisfying, it can be made in advance. This recipe even makes enough sauce to freeze for future use. What’s new about this Chicken Cacciatore is the addition of extra vegetables, including zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms as well, of course, the traditional tomatoes, onions and garlic.

Be the way, after dinner, our friend told his wife (who was unable to come) that it was so delicious and asked for this recipe. Now you, too, can please your  family and foodie friends!

 

New Chicken Cacciatore

 

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut up, or 3-4 whole legs (cut apart drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced in 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 lb zucchini, sliced in 1/2″ rounds
  • 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms (I usually use Cremini but have a new find–Pompioni, an Italian type I sometimes get from my organic market)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, cut up and juice reserved
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine or water (I use only the wine–but up to you of course)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or Xylitol)
  • Hot cooked pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
    • TO DO:
    • Dust chicken with flour. Season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown chicken on all sides in oil and butter over medium-high heat. Remove chicken to platter.
    • In the same skillet, cook and stir the onion, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, wine, herbs, garlic and sugar/Xylitol.
    • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
    • Return chicken to skillet. Cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
      Freeze option: Cool chicken mixture. Freeze in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight.
    • Heat through slowly in a covered skillet until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 165°, stirring occasionally.
    • Or just freeze the excess sauce to use for future delicious meals–also good with pork chops or sausages.
      • Serve with whole grain pasta, grated cheese and a green salad, with a vinagrette dressing, as I often recommend. (Check out the delicious salads on my blog; such as the link here:
        • ENJOY!
          • Nutrition Facts: 4-1/2 ounce-weight: 517 calories, 25g fat (8g saturated fat), 112mg cholesterol, 790mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 6g fiber), 39g protein.

 

 

 

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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Eggplant Cheese Stacks

stacks of eggplant topped with cheese and marinara sauce

Delicious eggplant stacks!

I’m reposting this eggplant recipe as I just made it again a few nights ago. It had been awhile and I remembered how delicious and easy this is! If you’re a fan of Eggplant Parmesan, but want to lower the calories and carbs, this is for you. The key is baking and not breading the eggplant. We also use non-dairy cheeses but that’s not a carb issue. Also we love eggplant in almost any dish. This is a favorite.

This dish is easy to make; scrumptious, rich tasting and especially satisfying as a treat with good friends; to share with a good glass of chianti and a fresh green salad, such as Persimmon and Endive Salad. 

By the way, Rick is doing very well with his reduced carbs, exercise, including walks after dinner, and lots of veggies and fruits. So far no meds necessary!

Eggplant Cheese Bake (type of Eggplant Parmesan)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 eggplants (choose ones that are full and glossy, deep purple colored)
  • 32 oz. jar of marinara sauce (make your own from canned or fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, or buy prepared – I’m a fan of Mezzetta’s sauce for this dish.)
  • 1/2 lb. cheese in slices (we use Dayna’s non-dairy Jack but if no dairy issues use mozzarella or regular Jack)
  • cheese for grating (again, goat Midnight Moon* or regular Parmesan)
  • Optional- 2-3 tsp Breadcrumbs for topping
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil

TO DO:

1. Wash and slice eggplants into 1″ rounds; preheat oven to 400.

2. In a bowl, shake eggplant slices with 1 Tbsp olive oil.

3. Lay parchment on baking sheet and lightly spray with olive oil. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on parchment.

4. Bake eggplant for 20 minutes until almost tender.  Remove from oven.

5. In a 9×13 casserole (I use Pyrex); spread about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce.

6. Make a stack base of eggplant in a single layer on top of the sauce, usually 6-8 slices; (depending on the size of your eggplant).

7. Top each eggplant slice (stack base) with a slice of cheese, grated cheese and a dollop of sauce. Stack  remaining slices evenly on the bases, using the same order of ingredients.

8.  Top the dish with remaining sauce, add grated cheese and, if you like, about 2-3 tsps breadcrumbs.

9. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Remove from heat and let set for 10-15 minutes. Serve at least one stack per person.

* http://www.cypresscreamery.com

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Super Califragalistic Cauliflower!

Rick and I went to Birba, an excellent restaurant in Palm Springs. It’s a popular place with all outside tables and beautiful lighting, especially enjoyable on a warm night. We loved all the food, but were especially blown away by the cauliflower. It was served whole; twice cooked; boiled first and then baked with cheese. It’s actually quite simple to make and is a wow dish to serve your friends and family as a side dish; (true confession–we usually make one and eat it all ourselves).

I’ve tried to reproduce the dish we had at Birba, but have made my own variation, with more of an Indian spice flavor. You can use other spice combinations that you like, such as Italian seasoning, dill or basil. The main thing is the first steam or boil the vegetable whole, then add seasoning in an olive oil base, grate cheese on top and bake. Looks very elegant and tastes delicious!

Whole Cauliflower with topping of smoked paprika

Cauliflower with smoky paprika

Whole Cauliflower topped with grated cheese

Cauliflower topped with grated cheese

Baked whole cauliflower, topped with melted cheese

Baked cauliflower, ready to be served

 

Twice Cooked Cauliflower (serves 2-3, depending on size of cauliflower) 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cauliflower (or make two to serve four or more)
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp. capers
  • Smoked Paprika
  • 1/3 cup grated aged goat or cow gouda, or Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Salt-free seasoning, pepper; or 1tsp. salt–your choice
  • TO DO: (Preheat oven to 400 degrees before baking) 

1. Wash and core cauliflower, but leave whole.

2. Boil cauliflower with approx. 3 inches of water, in a 4-6 quart oven proof pot, such as Calphalon, or Corning ware, until still firm, 10-12 minutes (test with knife)

3. Whisk all spice ingredients and capers in olive oil, except for Smoked Paprika.

4. Pour olive oil mixture over cauliflower, getting into crevices. (You can do this in advance–marinate the cauliflower by pouring the mixing over it and letting it sit for an hour or so before baking.)

5. Sprinkle paprika, and grate cheese on top.

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until brown and cheese is melted.

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: Persimmon and Endive salad; (can be made with pears, orange/tangerine pieces or even strawberries, depending on the season).

Enjoy!

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Hearty Lentil and Veggie Soup

Lentil Veggie Soup process

Here’s the recipe as promised:

When the weather is turning colder we like a hearty, healthy soup chock full of fresh vegetables. It’s easy to make and very satisfying as the evenings get cooler and we like to prepare soups and stews for comfort and warmth. And I like to make a sufficient quantity so we have leftovers; (this freezes well too).

If you have veggies from your summer garden such as zucchinis and tomatoes, this is a great way to use them.

It is a thick soup; almost like a stew. You can, of course, thin it with additional broth, but we enjoy the texture and heartiness of it as is.

Recently, however, I made this soup with red lentils from a company called “Preger” and found that the lentils never got totally tender, even with repeated cooking. First time for one hour, then, as I had made a large batch, we had leftovers, and cooked them for 1/2 the next time, then 45 minutes. Still not tender! I did add cumin, and allspice, and the flavor was very good, but still disappointing. Have any of you, dear readers, had this experience?

INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6 or 2-3 with leftovers)

  • 1lb. Dried Lentils, any kind; (rinsed and any bad ones removed- no advance soaking necessary)
  • 1-3 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 large onion -chopped
  • 2-4 carrots (depending on size), washed, chopped or diced
  • 2-3 zucchinis-chopped
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes in juice ( plus 3-4 fresh diced tomatoes)
  • 2-4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 32 oz/quart low sodium chicken stock (or more, depending on how thick you want it)
  • 1/3 -1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1-2 Bay leaves
  • salt free seasoning (or 1 tsp salt if you like), pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp.fresh herbs or 1tsp. Dried; thyme, oregano, marjoram (you probably know that dried herbs are much stronger tasting- also best to crumble or crush before adding)
  • Paprika or smoked Paprika
  • (Optional) 2-3 fully cooked, smoked chicken sausages, chopped into 1/2 “rounds

TO DO: in a 6 quart Dutch oven or other large pot:

  1. Sauté onions til soft (medium to medium high heat depending on your stove, on stove top) in 1-2 Tbsp. oil (4-5 minutes); add carrots -sauté another 4-5 minutes; add zucchinis, sauté additional 2-3 minutes. Add another 1Tbsp.oil if needed.
  2. Add garlic; sauté another 2 minutes
  3. Add rinsed lentils, Bay leaves and seasonings to pot
  4. Add broth, tomatoes and wine; stir
  5. Bring to low boil- then reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes-1 hr. Til lentils and carrots are tender
  6. Garnish with fresh herbs
  7. optional: add cooked sliced sausage before final cooking; and grate cheese on top of each bowl

For a delicious meal serve with whole grain toast and a green salad with your favorite vinaigrette, (for a suggestion see ).

Enjoy!

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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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