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Wed, Mar. 15th, 2006 12:08 pm
Martha's Cooking School

Monday, March 13: Suggested Cookbooks and Knives 101

Martha's Favorite Cookbooks

What should you look for in a cookbook? Martha suggests asking friends and family members which cookbooks have been the most successful in their kitchens. Also, cookbooks that contain information about nutrition, instructional illustrations, helpful lists of measures and equivalents, and include some of your all-time favorites are always a smart choice. Below, you'll find a list of Martha's favorite cookbooks.

Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker
Joy of Cooking (Scribner, May 1, 1975)

Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1
(Knopf 40th Anniversary Edition, October 2001)

Julia Child and Simone Beck
Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2 (Knopf, October 1970)

Marcella Hazen
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Knopf, October 1992)

Elizabeth David
Italian Food (Penguin Books, February 1999)
French Cooking (Penguin Books, February 1999)

Daniel Boulud
Cafe Boulud Cookbook: French-American Recipes for the Home Cook (Scribner, November 1999)

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart's Quick Cook (Clarkson Potter, May 1992)

Other Suggested Cookbooks

Madeline Kamman
The Making of a Cook (Morrow Cookbooks, 1st Edition, November 1997)

Anne Willan
La Varenne Pratique (Clarkson Potter, September 1989)

Jacques Pepin
La Technique (Crown, December 1976)
La Methode (Crown, November 1979)

Harold MacGee
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Scribner, November 2004)

James Beard
Beard on Bread (Knopf, February 1995)

Knives 101:

Three Essential Knives:

Chef's Knife

Though an eight-inch blade is adequate for an all-purpose knife, a ten-inch one is best. It is important to buy a knife that feels comfortable in your own hand. If your hands are small, you may prefer a narrow bolstered knife that allows the forefinger to perch more comfortably on top of the blade.

Bread Knife

Most bread knives come with a serrated or scalloped edge that saws through both hard crust and soft crumble. The tip curves down, exerting pressure while biting down into the crust. Bread knives are not only used for cutting bread, they are also good instruments for cutting pineapples, melons, tomatoes, and even chocolate.

Paring Knife

A three-and-a-half-inch or shorter paring knife provides flexibility in peeling, cutting, and sharpening fruits or vegetables. Paring knives are great for digging out potato and pineapple eyes and thinly slicing cheese and vegetables.

Proper Storage

Knives must be properly stored to maintain their edges. A wooden drawer tray with slots isolates each blade. If you are storing knives in an open drawer, make sure it is lined with a non-slip material. Also, try using a magnetic strip that hangs just above your countertop-freeing up valuable counter space and making your knives easily accessible. Just be careful that the knives are not in reach of small children.

Sharpening Knives

A knife should also be sharpened several times a year on a stone. A rectangular Carborundum block with medium-coarse and medium-fine grit is most common. Before using, cushion the stone in a damp towel, lubricate it with oil, and point it away from yourself with the short end facing you. Start with the coarse side up; lay the heel of the blade on the bottom right-hand edge of the stone. Holding the knife at a 20-degree angle to the stone, push the blade down the length of the stone, while sliding it sideways from heel to tip. Hold the handle with one hand while guiding the blade with the other. Turn the knife over; repeat, starting with the heel of the blade on the lower left-hand edge of the stone. After ten to twenty swipes on each side, use the fine-grain side to keen the edge.the stone. After ten to twenty swipes on each side, repeat these steps on the smooth side of the stone. Finally, give the blade a few passes over the steel to remove any loose bits of metal.


Chop an Onion

The best way to chop an onion is to slice off the stem ends with a chef's knife, and using a paring knife, peel the skin off of the onion and cut out the root end-which allows the onion to cleanly fall apart. Then, using your chef's knife again cut it in half from top to bottom and place the cut halves, flat side down, on a work surface. Lay an open hand on the rounded side of the onion and push down while making vertical cuts lengthwise, using about 90% of the knife's blade. Make a few horizontal cuts, then chop across the onion to make cubes.

Slice an Onion

Slice off the stem ends of the onion with a chef's knife, using a paring knife peel the skin off of the onion and cut out the root end. Then, use your fingertips as a guide for slicing by tucking them under and holding the food to keep them from getting nicked as you slice horizontally.

Julienne Carrots

Peel carrots, cut into equally sized pieces. Hold chef's knife and cut each piece horizontally, rocking knife from front to back.

Chiffonade Basil

"Chiffonade" refers to very thin strips of lettuce or herbs, such as basil leaves. Stack several leaves, with the largest on the bottom. Roll them up, and thinly slice them from one end of the roll to the other.