Return of the Classic Implements

Times Staff Writer

The buzz of modern electric kitchen gadgets may be roaring and soaring, but many cooking enthusiasts have remained faithful to their old-fashioned mechanical tools. In fact, a good selection of classic implements is being rediscovered and is popping up in some gourmet shops.

A current sampling includes an old-fashioned potato masher, the classic spice and coffee mills, the mandoline, the wooden lemon reamer and the screw-type apple corer.

The Coily Q ($39.50) Potato Cutter from Norpro is another wonderful example. A clamp-on, crank-type cutting blade device, the Coily Q was basically redesigned from an old commercial tool that made spiral potatoes for French fries.

"We introduced it two years ago as a scaled-down unit for the home," said Steve Scott, vice president of sales for Norpro. "It produces the same effect as the bigger commercial product, which is substantially more expensive."

According to Scott, Coily Q sales have been considerably higher in New York and in the Southeast region where people are more familiar with spiral fries. Those who have sampled deliciously crisp curly Q French Fries peddled in stalls around Niagara Falls end up stopping in stores and buying the spiraling cutter, he said.

Spiral Strips in Seconds

The machine involves a simple operation. Once the gadget is securely fastened to a counter or table top (it can also be screwed on to a sturdy bread or chopping board), the peeled or unpeeled potato can be attached to the pronged end of a shaft. The handle on the opposite end of the shaft may then be cranked until the potato reaches the blade, and thereafter spiral strips are spun out in a matter of seconds.

The good news about Coily Q is that it'll also cut onions into spirals for French-fried onions. Not only is it a safer tool for this purpose, but it also minimizes the tears shed, particularly if a lot of onions have to be sliced. The invention also works for root vegetables like sweet potatoes and turnips for terrific vegetable tempura spirals.

Ever tried a bouncing food chopper? Modernized by German designer Hans Erich Slany, the contemporary Leifheit Food Chopper ($24) from West Germany retains the original styling consisting of an impact-resistant dome that houses a sharp stainless steel S-shaped blade. The springlike up-and-down blade motion cuts onions, garlic, parsley, herbs, chocolate and nuts, while the dome keeps the food inside during chopping. The blade rotates automatically to ensure evenly chopped pieces.

With the dome protection, no more tears are shed when chopping onions in this tool. An added benefit is a little exercise of the arm muscles. The trade-off, of course, is the noise from the chopping motion.

Another entry in this category comes from Zyliss and is manufactured in Switzerland. The product is available in about four different sizes. Medium-sized, the model 80 Zyliss Universal Chopper ($17) has a stainless chrome nickel steel blade. It features a chopping base, which has an advantage of holding the food so no chopping board is needed, and the sound is considerably minimized. Like the Leifheit, the spring-loaded handle bounces up and down and rotates, chopping the food from coarse to fine mince size. Both choppers can be dismantled for easy cleaning.

Early Designs

For grating cheese manually, there are box graters, flat graters and rotary graters. The rotary grater is remarkably interesting with its revolving steel drum grating blade contained in the cylinder. Early designs have been traced as far back as the late 1700s. The modern Zyliss Mini-Grater ($17) works not only with cheese, but it will also grate chocolate and nuts. Small chunks of hard Parmesan cheese are placed into the top hopper and as you turn the side handle, the cheese comes out in even fine shreds.

The Zyliss Mini-Grater is available in sleek white with polished stainless steel drum that detaches easily for cleaning.

The Norpro Coily Q Potato Cutter is available at Cookin Stuff, Torrance and La Habra, and Kitchen, Kitchen, Rancho Mirage.

The Zyliss Mini-Grater and Zyliss Universal Chopper are available at Cookin Stuff, Torrance and La Habra, and Kitchen World, Santa Monica.

The Leifheit Food Chopper is available at the Basics, Newport Beach, Cook's Corner, Carlsbad and Ingrid's Gourmet, Ventura. For mail order , call Star Crest California: 1 (800) 777-0327, or write to Signature Catalogue, 19465 Brennan Ave., Perris, Calif. 92379.

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