Really nothing more than a flat tool fitted with an angled adjustable blade, the mandoline is one of the few gadgets and gizmos that is actually worth making space for in the kitchen. Mandolines save time. The compact slicer makes fast work of often time-consuming cuts, slicing through firm vegetables and fruits quickly and easily. Fit it with special attachments for fancy work like a julienne or waffle cut.
A mandoline is easy to operate -- simply slide the food along the flat surface and past the blade to make clean, uniform cuts. The non-electric tool works on elbow grease -- the faster you slide, the faster it slices. But be careful when using it -- one careless move and you may slice your fingers or hand on the amazingly sharp blade. Mandolines usually come with some sort of guide or carriage to hold the food -- while these guides may be a bit awkward to operate, they'll help to shield your hands from the blade as the food is sliced.
Mandolines can vary widely in price -- a traditional stainless steel mandoline can set you back hundreds of dollars. Cheaper versions, like the Benriner one above, will cost you around $30. It may not have all the bells and whistles of one of the more expensive models, but it can still save you a lot of time in the kitchen.
Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you've been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it's a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, including how to hold a chef's knife for maximum control and how to use a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.
SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH COPPA
Total time: 30 minutes | Makes 2 salads
Note: Adapted from Julienne restaurant in Santa Barbara. Preserved lemon is available at select well-stocked supermarkets, as well as at cooking and gourmet supply stores.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons very finely diced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons finely diced preserved lemon
3/4 teaspoon sliced garlic (about 1 clove)
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons chile flakes
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, preserved lemon, garlic, parsley, dill and chile flakes. Add the Champagne vinegar and mix well to evenly distribute. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. This makes a scant cup vinaigrette, more than enough for the remainder of the recipe. The vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.
1 bunch (about 12 stalks) asparagus, trimmed and very thinly shaved or sliced lengthwise using a knife or mandoline
1 small, young onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup Champagne vinaigrette, more if desired
14 slices spicy coppa (prosciutto or pancetta can be substituted)
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
1. Place the shaved asparagus and onion in a bowl and add about 4 tablespoons vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Set aside for a few minutes to soften the asparagus and onion.
2. Meanwhile, divide the coppa between 2 plates.
3. Take the marinated asparagus and onion (it should be pliable like firm noodles), gently twist them into a little nest and place atop the coppa. Garnish with shaved Parmigiano. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 311 calories; 31 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 77 mg cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 2,715 mg sodium.