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Are you on the cutting edge with your knife skills?

Following knife safety tips help prevent injury.

Cucumber salad with feta cheese, tomatoes and pita chips.
Cucumber salsa offers an opportunity to practice safe knife skills.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Extension
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“We are underdressed for this restaurant,” our older daughter said.

She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt on the warm day. Our younger daughter was dressed similarly.

“There is no dress code. They are all students in this culinary school,” I commented.

An attentive instructor was watching from the sidelines.

We were on a family vacation, and I had heard about the culinary school from a friend. We took a chance and parked nearby. Fortunately, they had seats available for lunch.

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service
Julie Garden-Robinson
Courtesy / NDSU Extension Service

The students made room for us to have a five-course meal with a tea service. We were seated at a table with white tablecloths and cloth napkins folded elaborately.

The culinary students were scurrying about the dining area. I think we had five students helping us, and the attention greatly entertained our daughters.

This was quite a fancy experience for my kids, and they remember it 10 years later.

I remember the perfectly cut vegetables and artistically arranged plates by the soon-to-graduate students. I am sure the students spent a lot of time perfecting their knife skills.

I have taken some courses on culinary skills, and assembling a “knife kit” is among the costs of the course. Learning various knife cuts is a key to mastering recipe creation.

How much do you know about the terminology related to cutting? Many of these words come from French cuisine, by the way. I have added a few of the phonetic pronunciations.

Here’s your word bank: A. bias, B. batonnet (“baw-tow-NAY), C. brunoise (“bru-NWAZ”), D. chiffonade (“shi-fuh-NAYD”, E. dice, F. julienne (“joo-lee-EN”), G. mince.

  1. What is name of the ribbonlike cuts typically used to slice herbs? Stack the herb leaves (such as basil), roll the stack, slice into thin ribbons and unroll.
  2. This is the name of the cut when you finely chop garlic or ginger. These are not as precise sizes as other cuts.
  3. This style of cut results in the formation of even matchstick-sized pieces. Ideally, these cuts are 1/8 inch wide by 2 1/2 inches long.
  4. These are cubes of evenly cut vegetables. These cuts are classified as small, medium or large.
  5. This is the name for vegetables cut into somewhat thick sticks (such as carrot sticks).
  6. This is a type of cutting where you cut vegetables diagonally, instead of into round “coins” or “rondelle.”
  7. These are tiny pieces of vegetables cut into perfect 1/8-inch cubes.

Impress your family with any of the new terms you learned. Here are the answers: 1. D; 2. G; 3. F; 4. E; 5. B; 6. A.; 7. C

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Before practicing these cuts, keep these knife safety tips in mind.

  • Sharpen your knives. Sharp knives are essential for cutting and chopping. You can have them professionally sharpened periodically in addition to using home-sharpening equipment.
  • Choose the right knife for the task.
  • Be sure to pick up knives by the handle and not the blade.
  • When carrying a knife from one place to another, carry it with the blade by your side. Do not carry a knife with the knife blade pointing ahead of you.
  • Use an appropriate cutting board made from plastic or wood. Ideally, your cutting board will have “gripping feet.” Try placing a damp cloth under the board if needed. Glass or marble cutting boards are not recommended because they can dull your knife.
  • When cutting, hold the knife properly and protect your fingers of the hand holding the carrot or apple by curling your fingers.
  • If your knife falls, do not try to catch it.
  • Do not put knives in soapy water for unsuspecting people to accidentally cut themselves.

Here’s a summery recipe to enjoy with fresh vegetables. Try cutting into different-sized dice cuts.

Cucumber Salsa

3 cups diced cucumbers
1/2 to 1 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup feta cheese, reduced fat

Dressing:
2 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chop cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and olives, then add to a large bowl. Mix in feta cheese. Make dressing with the juice of lemons, olive oil and salt. Toss together mixture with dressing. Serve with pita chips.

Makes six (3/4 cup) servings. Each serving of salsa has 125 calories, 10 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber and 290 milligrams sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.

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