I just got back from a mini break in Maine for a wedding. Between the celebrations that included a sunset sail and slurping oysters on a dock during cocktail hour (and chucking the shells over the rail back into the ocean) I made sure to get some canoe and kayak time in, to eat seafood everyday (lobster count was 4 out of 6 days,) and picked apples and pears in the orchard down the road from where I was staying….
Having a set standard of things that are always around helps me keep tabs on what I can cook even when I think I have nothing. The 10 things I always make sure are on a shopping list or in my cupboard range from fave go-tos like seltzer (I’m partial to a glass of bubbly water with citrus) to versatile mainstays that can be whipped up in a jiffy. Think chickpeas that can become a quick hummus, salad with parsley and lemon juice or used in a stew. Tinned tomatoes can be cooked down into a pasta sauce or made into a quick skillet breakfast/brunch/dinner with some eggs….
It’s the end of the summer but the heat (and humidity) is still cranking here in New York, which means the flavors and ingredients of the season are still going strong. I went to the market today and picked up more peaches that I could carry in order to take full advantage before they disappear until next year. Then I knocked up this quick lunch with some cilantro I had to use up, shrimp I had in the freezer and a few other things I picked up at the farmers market….
Ok, bear with me–I’m putting on my ranting hat. Well, that sounds harsh, my ranting chapeau (already friendlier with an international jauntiness). Having just watched another Youtube video of a fellow blogger holding a knife incorrectly I can stay silent no longer.
A knife used for cooking should never be held the way a dinner knife is. There is no room for extended pointer fingers in the kitchen (lest they be lobbed off). A firm, full-fisted (that came out raunchier than I wanted) grip is the only way to hold a chefs knife, paring knife, serrated bread knife–any knife that isn’t being used while sitting down to eat.
I’ll stick with the serrated bread knife for a minute. Think of it as a mini saw (that’s what it is) and trust me, it really is one when it comes in contact with the tip of your thumb! Would you ever conceive holding a saw any other way than grabbing the handle with all your fingers? Sticking your pinky out for an aristocratic effect has never crossed ones mind while a cutting a branch. The same goes for halving a loaf of sourdough with your pointer finger resting along the top of the knife.
Control comes from grabbing the handle of a knife with all fingers. Extending your pointer like you would on a butter knife (and like so many people do) gives the knife the opportunity to wobble or strike what you’re cutting at an angle which could bounce. With your other hand also on the board, often holding the food you’re cutting, you never want to open the door of opportunity for unsteadiness and a lack of control on the blade you’re handling.
Accidents happen when we don’t feel comfortable, and I’ve had many friends who say they’re scared of using big knives because they may cut themselves. But, if you grip the knife correctly, pay attention to what you’re doing (and where all your fingers are,) steady the board if you need (a wet paper towel placed underneath does the trick,) and you’re relatively sober, there’s nothing to worry about. (My bread knife accident happened after a rather strong G&T. But the groove in the top of thumb eventually grew back.)
Now, there is an option for even more control, and is the way I hold a knife. Choke up on the handle so that your thumb and pointer are actually gripping the steel. Your middle, ring and pinky wrap around the handle and the other two pinch the butt of the blade itself. You have complete control to dice, slice and chop.
Please, for the sake of digits and manicures everywhere, start practicing and become comfortable with the proper way to hold a knife.