Knife Skills

Most of us strive to eat more vegetables. They make you feel good, they taste delicious, and they add colour and vibrancy to your meal. Chopping vegetables isn’t something that most people dream about, but it’s constantly on my mind. Each vegetable has its own way to be chopped or worked with, and the cooking method varies as well. I like keeping my knife as sharp as possible to ensure accuracy and ease for cutting. When I hold my knife, I move my hand a little above the actual handle to gain better control of the blade. The bottom part of my index finger and most of my thumb sits just on top of the start of the blade. The rest of my hand rests on the actual handle of the knife. 

All of my meals are centered around vegetables and this is easy when you take time to prepare at the beginning of the week. When I open my fridge, I have tupperwares full of pre-chopped veggies that I can add to any dish. From eggs to pasta to salads, having these items ready to go (even without a specific plan of how to use them) helps limit decision fatigue around what to make for dinner and ensures I will always have a healthy serving of vegetables integrated into my meals.

Processing food is different than processed food. Taking raw ingredients and preparing them so they can be integrated into recipes is a hugely important and underrated skill when it comes to cooking. An onion doesn’t always have to be diced and zucchini isn’t always in coins. This month, I wanted to write down a few tricks for cutting veggies and a delicious quinoa salad recipe where you can employ your new-found skills!

Dice or Fine Dice
Most vegetables (thankfully) don’t come in a box-shape. That would be odd and a bit disconcerting. Instead, we have round edges, varying sizes and textures, as well as firmness. Regardless of your vegetable’s shape or size, you always want to start with a flat edge when you’re going for a diced vegetable. It’s important to have a system for cutting the vegetable so that you can get the pieces as uniformly sized as possible. This helps ensure that cooking time is evenly distributed. If you are a ‘Type A’ person, this will be a soothing exercise! 

Let’s pretend we are working with a carrot. 

1. Peel the carrot
2. Cut the carrot into 3 equal pieces starting from the top to the bottom. 
3. Holding one piece of the carrot, carefully slice away a sliver from the long end so that the carrot can sit flat on the cutting board. Repeat for all three pieces. 
4. Lay the carrot flat-side down and then cut rectangular pieces, If you want a fine dice, cut them as thin as possible. If you want bigger cubes, just cut thicker “rectangles.”
5. Stack 3-4 rectangles on top of one another and cut thin pieces along the long edge of the rectangles. Now you should have square-ish strips. 
6. Line the strips up and cut across them in even increments to make perfect small diced cubes. Le voilá!
7. Repeat with all the rectangular pieces. 

Zucchini is a great vegetable to practice with as well, as it’s much softer than a carrot. Other uses for pre-chopped veggies: 

Diced zucchini: use in quinoa salad
(recipe below) or throw into a pan for a few minutes for eggs. Can also be added to ground beef for tacos, combined with shallots for a fresh pasta dish, or added to rice for fried rice or Spanish rice. The smaller the dice, the less time it needs to cook. 
Cubed sweet potatoes: roast with coconut oil or have them pre-chopped to add into a soup.
Diced carrot: use in a salad, as a base for a curry, or toss into a soup. 
Diced bell peppers: same as a above for salad, curry, or soup. Add to eggs or as a fresh crunch in a burrito. 

Quinoa Salad (serves 6-8 people)
3 cups cooked quinoa   
2 cups finely diced zucchini 
1 cup finely diced carrot 
½ cup finely diced shallot or red onion ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley 
¼ cup chopped cherry tomatoes 
(uniformity doesn’t matter as much!)  2-3 Tbsp rice vinegar (to taste)
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil (or more to taste)
Optional: crumbled feta 

Toss the red onion, carrot, zucchini, and tomato together in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add in the cooked (and cooled) quinoa to incorporate all the ingredients. Add the rice vinegar, then olive oil. Season to taste. Finish with parsley and feta.