Recipe w/lots of Chopping
This asian slaw recipe requires julienne of carrots, which is a good one for testing your skills. It also has a number of other veggies to be chopped:
This recipe for "Fava Bean Salata" is delicious and calls for diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley (the recipe is adapted from Rosemary Barron's Flavors of Greece, and it is excellent):
Fava Bean Salata:
2 Cans Butter Beans (14 oz cans) (reserve juice from can
)3 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 med. carrot, finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, finely diced
1 bay leaf, crumbled
2-1/2 T. finely chopped parsely
Salt and freshly fround black pepper to taste
1 thick slice coarse-grain white bread, crust removed, soaked for 5 mins in 1-3 T. extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
Juice of 1 small lemon
Paprika for serving
Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Saute the onions, carrot, garlic, celery and bay leaf over med.-low heat for 15-20 mins, or until dark golden brown, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Stir in 2 T. of the parsley, the salt, pepper, beans (and their liquid) and about 2-3 T water. Cook for a few minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Transfer to a food processor and add soaked bread. Puree, and with the machine running, add most of the remaining olive oil and about 2/3rds of the lemon juice and process until thick and smooth. Add a few T of water if the puree is too thick, and add salt, pepper, and additional olive oil or lemon juice to taste.
Serve sprinkled with remaining parsley and olive oil and the paprika. Great with toasted pita or french bread.
More people need to do this, they would want to cook more often, chopping can be fun if you know how. I like to freak new servers out by chopping with my eyes closed at work- and yes I can be a show off, but it's easy with a little practice. Unfortunately people develop bad habits then don't want to relearn the proper way.
for practicing knife skills, think not just about lots of cutting, but lots of different cuts, and cuts that require precision.
anything julienned is a great place to start - remoulade of celery root is pretty knife intensive, or a salad of thinly julienned carrots with olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. a saute of julienned zucchini, peppers, carrots, and onions with pasta is a nice idea too.
think then about dicing - make homefries with lots of potatoes and onions, or even better, use multiple roots - sweet potatoes and rutabegas can be mixed in.
some of your julienned roots can be minced into a confetti dice to sprinkle in salads and the like - little specks of orange from carrots are great here.
very thin round slices can be intersting steamed or in a semi-pickled (dress and let sit) salad, or made into pan-fried potato (or beet, or turnip, or taro, or..) chips.
dishes with minced ginger can be good knife practice too - peel the root, slice, shash with the flat of the knife to break fibers, and then mince.
you can also cut up stuff into any variety of shapes for practice if you want to cook it into a pureed soup - try a lot of different cuts out, cook it all down and puree.
if you want to really get into this, look for cookbooks or online recipes giving instructions for some of the more interesting japanese decorative vegetable garnishes - radish roses and carrot butterflies and the like.
Make a killer salad! I ended up getting a giant cutting board to accomodate all the stuff I chop up for a good salad. I use lettuce, baby spinach, parsley, broccoli, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, red or green onions, carrots, celery and black olives. Other things I might put in are red cabbage, avocado, red or green peppers. Depends on who's eating it.
Also maybe a cobb salad, or a chef salad.