Anyone who has seen the film “Julie & Julia” can recall the scene above. Meryl Streep as our beloved Julia Child enrolls in classes at Le Cordon Bleu and learns on her first day exactly how important knife skills are if you want to become a chef.
You must hold the knife, first of all, like this. Wrist, easy. Leave the thumb here. The hand and the knife are one. And the hand, the other hand, you must protect it. Here, you must cut only the onion. Yes? And then, you put your thumb here and the other fingers here.
Practice most certainly makes perfect when it comes to knowing how to slice, dice and mince with ease but the key to success is a set of sharp knives. Yes, I know, it sounds dangerous but a finely honed blade can actually safeguard you from needing stitches. A dull knife can’t slice a tomato but press hard enough and it could slip and mean an afternoon in the emergency room.
A while back, I collaborated with Calphalon to road test pans from their Calphalon/Williams Sonoma Elite Nonstick line. I was pretty excited when they contacted me again to test drive one of their new knife sets. The block has a great feature for the every day kitchen warrior: SharpIN™ ceramic sharpeners built right into all straight-edge knife slots. Whenever a blade is removed or replaced, it’s primed for use so there’s no need for that separate, how-do-I-use-this-again? sharpener. Wash and dry them by hand and you’ve got yourself a great set that will last a long time and let you focus on learning.
The 8-inch Chef’s knife (top two) cuts like a dream. It has a nice weight and feels good in the hand. I sliced some portabella mushrooms for a dish but this knife went right along with me for the rest of my afternoon of recipe testing, from cutting tofu blocks to breaking down a chicken. The two gems in this set are the 5-inch Santoku (bottom left) and the 4.5-inch Parer (bottom right). I fell in love with these two little work horse knives when I used to kitchen assist for a cookbook author. Besides the chef’s knife, this duo are most useful. There’s also a set of kitchen shears, which I learned were an invaluable tool in the tiny kitchen drawer I had when I lived in Japan.
Test your knife skills with this dish. If you have the Calphalon SharpIN™ set, you’ll need the santoku and pairing knives.
Flat Noodles with Zucchini, Garlic and Chili Pepper
1 package wide egg noodles
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red chili pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta in a large saucepan, according to package instructions. Save a few tablespoons of the pasta water when draining. Set noodles and water aside.
- Wash zucchinis and pat dry. Carefully pare the green skin into long strips. Once finished, arrange pieces and slice into thinner strips. Save the fruit itself for a nice summertime soup or bread.
- Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high to cook chili and garlic until fragrant. Add zucchini and cook, stirring gently, until soft and golden.
- Stir pasta, pasta water and zucchini mixture together. Add parsley last then season with salt and pepper plus a hearty sprinkle of cheese. Serves up to four.
Sarah Platanitis grew up a “restaurant kid” and spent most of her childhood pretending to be Julia Child. Her blog sarahinthekitchen.com is a place for kitchen musings and her food writing, photography and illustrations.