Once you have planned a menu and shopped carefully, you will need to begin preparing the ingredients.
All good cooks will agree that sound skills in basic preparation methods are essential, whatever the type of food you are cooking, and whatever the occasion.
Learn the correct way to prepare ingredients, and you will save time and effort in the kitchen.
The use of good-quality utensils is important even for basic food preparation – not only for the sake of efficiency but also to make the task more pleasant. A sharp knife, for example, will make chopping and slicing quick and safe. As your skills improve, try new techniques.
Cutting Up Foods: Slicing Safely
When slicing vegetables, use your knuckles to guide the knife and prevent it from cutting too close to your fingertips. Keep fingertips tucked in, and slice downward and forward.
• Chopping finely: To chop food finely, use your knife like a pivot. Hold the tip down, and use a rocking action to chop.
• Dicing foods: First, square one end of the vegetable or fruit. Cut into slices, stack, and cut lengthwise into sticks. Cut crosswise for diced pieces.
Cutting Julienne Strips
To produce extra-thin julienne strips of vegetables, use a vegetable peeler to slice very fine ribbons. Then stack these together, and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible.
• Trimming vegetables: Before cutting julienne strips from vegetables such as carrots or cucumber, trim the vegetables into neat, rectangular blocks.
• Cutting cabbage: To slice cabbage into thin strips, roll each leaf firmly like a jelly roll. Slice with a sharp knife.
Sprinkle your cutting board with lemon juice before you dice apples or pears, then squeeze lemon juice on the cut fruits. This will keep the fruit from browning during preparation.
Using Diced Fruits
• Preventing sticking: If the blade of your knife becomes sticky while dicing sugary ingredients, dip it from time to time into a deep cup of very hot water placed nearby.
• Using color: Consider adding diced’fruits to a salad for a colorful “confetti” effect.