Three new tools make food prep more efficient, minimize messes and reduce food waste.
HERB CHOPPING BOWLS AND KNIVES
Ask any home cook what she dreads most about cooking and she will probably say, “the cleanup.” If cleanup doesn’t discourage you, maybe carpal tunnel syndrome does. The solution: a traditional, ergonomic, curved chopping knife known in Italy as a mezzaluna and a solid wood chopping bowl. Popular in many cultures, these tools make easy work of chopping and mincing parsley, dill, onions and other vegetables, dried fruit and nuts. Whether you rock the blade back and forth over herbs or chop up and down over larger vegetables, the technology requires less effort than a conventional knife and contains cut food while you work, minimizing cleanup.
A small Vermont company featuring hand-made tools for your home, House In The Woods forges the blades for its mezzalunas using high carbon stainless steel. The company makes the handles from its state’s rare and beautiful bird’s eye maple and make each chopping bowl from a solid block of Vermont rock maple or oak.
The 9-inch square, 2-inch thick chopping bowl features a dish-shaped design and a square, flat bottom that doubles as a small cutting board. The company also makes deep, round chopping bowls in two sizes: a 12-inch diameter, 3-inch deep bowl that holds two quarts when filled to the top and a 15-inch diameter, 4-inch deep bowl that holds a full gallon of food when filled to the brim.
You can purchase the chopping bowl and knife individually or as a set, although they work best together. Chopping knives start at $28; the flat bowls sell for $30. The more rounded chopping bowls start at $50. House In The Woods Vermont also sells mineral oil and a mineral oil-bees wax blend for maintaining the finish and prolonging the life of your chopping bowl.
For more information contact House in the Woods Vermont, P.O. Box 251, Middlebury, VT 05753; (802) 388-0118; www.HouseInThe WoodsVer mont.com/html/chopping_ bowls_html.
A SCOOP A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY!
The biggest obstacle to eating fresh fruit and vegetables is often the rind and peel. Now you can extract every bit of goodness from thick-skinned fruits such as papaya, mango, melon, or avocado, quickly and without risking injury, leaving large chunks of edible food behind or creating odd shaped pieces.
Reinforced nylon and stainless steel Fruit Scoops elegantly and easily slice, core and create attractive shapes. They help you scrape the maximum amount of fruit or vegetable from the skins, and are safe for children to use (just cut the fruit in half before handing it and an appropriate-sized scoop to your children). Progressive International’s patent-pending design features a firm cutting area that never needs sharpening.
The scoops come in three sizes. The small (green) size works well with kiwi fruit, tiny tubers and small fruits, and for seeding cucumbers, halved apples or pears, or making stuffed zucchini. Use the medium (red) size to seed bell peppers or tomatoes, scoop small melons, or remove potatoes from their skins for mashing or making twice-baked potatoes. The large (orange) size allows you to easily scoop large melons, such as cantaloupe, honeydew, crenshaw, canary or watermelons.
Select a scoop that closely approximates the size of the fruit or vegetable you want to scoop or seed. Slice the fruit or vegetable in half with a knife (try a serrated spreader or butter knife for avocados). Hold the vegetable or fruit half in one hand, skin side down. Grip the handle of the Fruit Scoop with your other hand and carefully slide the hoop between the skin or seeds and flesh, being careful not to tear the skin as you scrape.
Now nobody in your family will ever have an excuse not to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
A set of three scoops retails for $12.99. To find a retailer near you, contact Progressive International online at www.ProgressiveIntl.com or (800) 426-7101.
For years I’ve searched for the best way to extend the life of fresh herbs. I tried standing them in a jar of water, like a bouquet, with and without a plastic bag on top. Perched precariously in an overcrowded refrigerator, the jar tipped over too easily. I wrapped them in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag. I also tried a dry cotton kitchen towel, a cotton canvas bag, and tossing them into the crisper bin with other vegetables. The herbs absorbed odors from other foods, lost their fragile fragrances, or suffered an untimely death. I had less luck leaving fresh basil on the counter. A plastic bag lined with a dry, unbleached paper towel seemed my best bet ... until I discovered The Herb Keeper, a tall, lightweight but thick plastic product promising to keep herbs hydrated and fresh longer than my previous storage options. The tube-shaped canister stores one to three bunches of fresh herbs at a time — parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano, thyme, and others — for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.
To use, fill the base with fresh water, twist the top of the Herb Keeper onto the base, and herbs in the Herb Keeper (trimming 1/2 inch off ends if you haven’t just clipped them out of the garden), immersing the stems in the water. Put the cap on top, store in the refrigerator and change the water every three to four days. The clear container allows you to see the herbs and monitor the water level.
Although most herbs require refrigeration, basil and cilantro fare poorly in cold temperatures. You can keep them on the counter. Simply add cool water to the fill line and keep the herb-filled container on the counter without the lid.
The Herb Keeper retails for $12.99. To find a retailer near you, contact Progressive International online at www.ProgressiveIntl.com or (800) 426-7101.