Know your knives

Chopped tomatoes surrounding a knife
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Every kitchen is sure to have a knife or set of knives. But let’s face it; these razor-sharp tools can be intimidating. How comfortable are you at using a knife, caring for your knife, and knowing which knife to use?

There are many different types of knives, but I’ll focus on three essentials. The most widely used is the chef’s knife. It has a broad, tapered blade about 8-10 inches long. Considered the workhorse, it’s used to chop, slice, dice and mince foods. A paring knife is small with a 2-4 inch blade, making it easy to handle. Use it for peeling soft foods, such as peaches or apples, and for removing stems and cores. A serrated knife has a long 8-10 inch blade with a sawtooth edge. It slices through foods with a tough outer surface, such as breads, tomatoes, and cakes without smashing the soft inner surface.

When using a chef’s knife, take your thumb and first finger and pinch right where the handle meets the blade; then wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle. Don’t lay your finger across the top of the blade. Your other hand should firmly hold the produce with your fingers curled under, like in a claw position. If necessary, “square off” the food, such as a potato, by thinly slicing the bottom edge to give it a flat surface that doesn’t wobble while cutting.

Caring for your knives entails keeping them sharpened. A dull knife is a more dangerous knife because it can easily slip. Sharpen your knives with a stone or electric sharpener and hone (straighten) them with a honing steel. Store them in a way they won’t rub against other items and get chipped or dull. Like many things in life, when you learn more about your knives and practice more and more with them, you start to become an old pro!


Cool Cucumber Tomato Salsa (Printable PDF)

1 small cucumber, peeled seeded and chopped

¼ cup red onion, chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Juice of ½ a lime

⅛ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or on top of chicken or fish.

Yield: 2 cups, ½ cup each


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 20 calories, 0 grams fat, 160 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber and 1 gram protein

This blog post first appeared in The Pantagraph on August 19, 2020.