Prepping squash is a lot like prepping zucchini, except that some squash have a more irregular shape than zucchini. You can take care of this by cutting the squash into similarly-sized sections and going from there.For longer cooking dishes like ragouts, braises, and stews, you can slice the zucchini into full rounds of any thickness. For most dishes you'll want them from 1/4 to 1-inch thick.For quicker-cooking dishes and to make bite-size pieces, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Then slice it crosswise to any thickness. To make quarter-rounds, just cut the squash halves in half again lengthwise, then slice crosswise to any thickness.For a prettier cut, you can slice them on the bias. This cut is great for stir-fries.For even smaller pieces, usually for quicker-cooking dishes, just slice the lengthwise halves in half again. Then slice them crosswise as before, either straight on or on the bias.
Endive is most often used in salads and hors d'oeuvres. Whether you're keeping the leaves whole, or slicing them into bite-size pieces, it's good to know how to release them from the core that holds the leaves together. For grilling and braising, keep the endive whole, or slice it lengthwise through the core.To release the next layer of leaves, slice of more of the core. Repeat this process, alternating slicing off the core and pulling away the increasingly smaller leaves.To free the remaining leaves, slice away the bottom or root end at the point where the outer leaves join it. They should fall off easily.Start by pulling off and discarding the outer layer of leaves. They tend to be limp and bruised from transport.To make bite-size pieces for salads, slice the whole bulb crosswise into slices as thick or thin as you like.
Here are three common ways to slice a zucchini. The type of cut you use will vary depending on the size zucchini you have. A half-round from a medium zucchini and a full-round from a small one might be about the same size. Once you have this technique down, you can vary the cuts as you need to. Here, we happen to be prepping a medium zucchini (though we think the small ones usually taste best).For longer-cooking dishes like ragouts, braises, and stews, you can cut the zucchini into rounds of any thickness. The longer the cooking, the thicker the slices. For full rounds, cut off the top and very bottom of the zucchini, then slice crosswise.For quicker-cooking dishes, and when you want bite-size pieces, cut the zucchini into half or quarter-rounds. After cutting off the top and bottom, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Some zucchini are curved, making it difficult to make two even-sized halves. When deciding where to make the cut, rotate the whole zucchini until it looks straight, then slice.To finish the half rounds, slice the zucchini crosswise. For dishes where the zucchini plays a starring role, cut the rounds on the bias (at an angle).To make quarter-rounds, cut the lengthwise halves in half again lengthwise.Then slice the quarters crosswise to make quarter-rounds of any thickness. Like with whole and half-rounds, you can cut these on the bias for the sake of appearance.
Shiitake mushroom caps have a wonderfully meaty texture. And unlike white button and cremini mushrooms, shiitakes have inedibly tough stems. To remove them, turn the mushroom on its back and slice away the stem where it joins the cap.For longer-cooking dishes like roasts, soups, ragouts and stews, you can just cut the cap in half. It's nice to leave some semblance of mushroom shape in tact.For quick sautees and stir-frys, slice the cap all the way across into slices as thick or thin as you like.
To free the cloves from the head, press down on the head with the heel of your palm. Apply firm, even pressure so the cloves don't fly all over the place.To peel an individual clove, cut of the hard stem end where the clove attached to the bulb. Either stop the cut just short of the skin on the other side and peel the skin around to remove it, or make the cut all the way through and squeeze out the clove. The older the clove, the easier the skin releases. When you want a dish to have distinct, toasted garlic flavor, thinly slice the garlic.You can also peel it by setting the side of your knife blade on the clove and pressing down until you feel the skin release. If you crush the clove it's difficult to slice, so resist the temptation to smash here.Put the peeled clove on its flattest, most stable side, and slice away. When you've sliced about halfway through the clove, it's a good idea to roll the clove over to the flat side for more stability, then finish it off.
Onion slices are versatile. In quick-cooking dishes, they stay distinct enough from the other ingredients that they don't permeate every bite as diced onions would. In longer-cooking dishes, they have enough surface area to turn soft and brown, but their natural shape and length keeps them intact.
To make contoured half-round slices, first cut the onion in half through the root.
Next, slice away the both ends of each half and pull away the onion's skin. Since the ends hold the slices together, cutting them off frees the slices to fall into individual pieces.
Starting on one side of the onion with the knife at an angle, make slices as thick or thin as you like.
Rotate the knife around the contour of the onion, bring it closer to perpendicular to the cutting board as you go.
When you prep carrots and other vegetables for dishes where their form really stands out -- like salads and stir-fries -- it's nice to cut them on the bias. Cutting this way increases the surface area of each slice, makes a thinner cut easier and just looks better.
To cut a carrot on the bias, chop off and discard the the root and stem, then slice the carrot at a sharp angle. Hold it firm against the cutting board for stability with one hand but keep your fingers tucked under and away from the blade.
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The flavor of a shallot falls somewhere between red onion and garlic, often without the pungency of either. The shallot's subtle flavor works in soups, stews, sauces and pretty much anywhere else you'd use an onion or garlic.
Thinly sliced shallots are nice to use in place of sliced onions, say in a stir-fry where you want onion flavor but you want it in a subtle, less aggressive way.To slice a shallot, first cut it in half through the root.Next, cut the papery end (not the root end) off and discard it. This will make the skin easier to peel away.Now just slice across the shallot crosswise. Cut the slices thin for quick-cooking dishes and thick for longer cook times, like a stew.
Cutting a baguette, a carrot, a zucchini, a shallot, a scallion, a green bean or a banana on the bias means to slice it not straight across, but at a roughly 45-degree angle.
This angled cut creates elongated, oval-shaped pieces and makes for a more elegant presentation. In the case of baguette slices, it means you can get more surface area on even, thin slices of bread, in order to make bruscetta, pile on cheese, or to float in a soup.
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Here's a fast, organized way to slice a bell pepper. First, cut off the top end. You can use the flesh around the stem, so save it to prep at the end.Next cut off the bottom. Save it to slice or dice at the end, too.Split the pepper from top to bottom with a single cut.Pull out and dscard the core and seeds.Now you're left with relatively flat sections. You can slice them to any thickness, in any direction. For stir-frys, slice the pieces into long thin strips.To make larger irregular slices for longer-coooking dishes like braises and stews, rotate the sections back and forth as you slice.
For most dishes, eggplant needs to be sliced before it's cooked. There are two basic cuts - rounds, which are great for almost every dish, and planks, which work particularly well for layered dishes like moussaka or vegetable lasagnas.
When choosing eggplants, reach for the smallest ones you can find. Their flesh is usually more tender and less fibrous than the older, larger ones.
Round slices are the most basic cut. They're great for grilling, broiling, and traditional dishes like eggplant parmesan. Remember that eggplant loses moisture and shrinks when cooked. To compensate, cut the raw eggplant into pieces about twice as large as you want the cooked pieces to be.
Lengthwise slices are good for grilling and layered dishes where you want the eggplant to have the most surface area. To make them, first stand the eggplant upright on its end and slice away a section of the peel. This isn't a must, but it gives the end slices more fleshy surface area to take on color and flavor when cooked.
Then just slice down the length of the eggplant to make slices as thick or thin as you like. You can slice away a section of skin on the other side of the eggplant when you're finished slicing.
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Green onions are a milder, versatile alternative to onions. The white parts are great for cooking, but mild enough to work into raw salsas and salads. The green parts work in either, too, but have an almost herbal quality when raw.To prep them, first pull off and discard any soft outer layers. It's best to rinse them after you do this. Cut off the root and and any damaged top green parts and discard them.Now just thinly slice straight across the onion. Thin slices are good to at at the end of cooking, sprinkled over a finished dish, or raw in salads and salsas.Make thicker slices for longer cooking dishes, and when you plan to sauté them first with oil or butter and spices. As with onions, a little salt at the beginning of cooking helps them soften more quickly.For stir-frys and shorter-cooking dishes where the green onion plays a starring role, slice the onions at an angle. The sharp slices look great on the plate (if you're impressed with that sort of thing).