Food & Drink

Techniques and tools for making a salad

Chop: Cut into coarse or fine irregular pieces with knife, food chopper, blender or food processor.

Chopping garlic: Hit garlic clove with the flat side of a heavy knife to crack the skin, which will then slip off easily. Finely chop the garlic with the knife.

Dice: Cut food into squares smaller than 1/2 inch, using knife.

Grate: Rub a hard-textured food, such as chocolate, citrus peel or Parmesan cheese, against the small, rough, sharp-edged holes of a grater to reduce it to tiny particles. For citrus peel, grate only the skin, not the bitter white membrane.

Julienne: Cut into thin, matchlike strips with knife or food processor, as for fruits, vegetables and meats.

Peel: Cut off outer covering with knife or vegetable peeler, as for apples and potatoes, or strip off outer covering with fingers, as for bananas and oranges.

Shred: Cut into long, thin pieces with either the round, smooth holes of a shredder, a knife or a food processor, as for cabbage, carrots and cheese.

Slice diagonally: Place knife at 45- degree angle to food, and cut into slices of equal width.

Toss: Tumble ingredients lightly with a lifting motion, as for salads.

A few cooking how-tos:

How to cut bell peppers: Cut pepper lengthwise in half. Cut out seeds and membrane.

How to squeeze lemons: Squeeze and measure juice from lemon halves by placing the juicer over a measuring cup. The juicer also strains out most of the seeds and pulp.

How to chop onions: Wash onions; remove any loose layers of skin. Cut green onions into thin slices, using some of the green part and the white part. Discard the tip with the stringy end.

How to prepare mushrooms: Rinse mushrooms and cut off stem ends. Leave mushrooms whole or cut into slices.

How to prepare fresh tomatoes: Wash tomatoes. Cut into 8 wedges or slice 1/2-inch thick. Peel tomatoes before cutting if desired. To remove skin easily, dip tomato into boiling water 30 seconds, then into cold water. Or scrape surface of tomato with blade of knife to loosen; peel.

Tools for salad preparation

Salad spinner: After rinsing salad greens, using a salad spinner is a quick and easy way to dry them. It's a plastic bowl containing a basket that holds greens. The lid contains a mechanism that spins the basket and forces moisture out into the bowl.

Salad tongs: They may be wooden or plastic, usually have a larger end for tossing a salad.

Scissors or shears: Good for snipping fresh herbs, cutting and trimming of ingredients.

Chef's knife: This knife has a heavy, triangular blade 6 to 12 inches long. A medium-size blade, about 8 to 10 inches, is the most versatile size. It is used for chopping, slicing and dicing as well as for crushing a clove of garlic. This knife also is called a cook's knife.

Paring knife: It has a small blade, about 21/2 to 3 inches long, and a rounded or pointed tip. If you plan to have only one paring knife, choose one with a pointed tip. You'll need it to cut up fruits and vegetables.

Vegetable brush: Use to clean vegetables.

Vegetable peeler: Use to remove a thin peel from apples, potatoes and carrots. Is much easier to use than a knife.

Zester: A cousin to the vegetable peeler, a zester is a kitchen tool made to remove strips of peel from citrus fruit. The cutting end has 5 little bladed holes.

Sources: Cook's Illustrated, Betty Crocker,