I’m not a very manly man. I don’t pump iron, I don’t leave the seat up and I don’t know who is in the playoffs, ever.
In the kitchen, though, things are a bit different. When I’ve got my chef’s knife in my right hand and my honing steel in my left, I feel like Schwarzenegger from the original “Terminator,” after his skin has been blasted away and all that remains is a hulking skeleton of steel, hydraulic libido and bloodlust. I need to chop things. Big things, small things, vegetables, meats, even liquids — I like to chop them all. I sharpen my knife, set my cutting board on the kitchen table, lay down my victims and hack away …
Until they reach the right size, of course, whether by way of a mince, a dice, a chop, a chiffonade or a julienne. I love the different shapes and sizes of chopped ingredients. Wielding a knife is fun and rewarding. You get to enjoy playing with a sharp thing, and then you eat the results.
A word on proper knife handling: Hold the thing-to-be-chopped with your left hand and make sure your fingers are curled back at the first knuckle. Some people call this the “claw.” I find that name lame, so I call it the “MEgA-CLaW.” The MEgA-CLaW keeps your fingers from being chopped off, so you should use it. The other thing to keep in mind is that your knife strokes should be fluid and should go up and down as well as forward and back. Cutting this way is safer and easier.
The following recipe allows you to work on your knife skills. If you want to imagine that you are a giant, and that your hands are giant knife hands, and that a lot of giant princesses will come running once you chop these vegetables, don’t let me stop you.
Corn Salad (serves 4)
6 ears fresh corn
1 avocado, cubed
1 cucumber, seeds removed (see note), chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
This recipe could not be simpler:
Shuck the corn ears and boil them in salted water until tender.
Drain the corn and cut the kernels from the husk.
Mix all the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
Whisk the dressing together, correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and pour over salad.
Mix well and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This gives the ingredients time to get to know each other.
Note: To remove the seeds from a cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and drag a spoon down the middle of each half, scooping out the seeds.
If you double the quantities, you can enjoy cutting up twice as much stuff. I recommend multiplying all amounts by 10, and inviting over 10 times as many people as you would have otherwise. This is the season for sharing (and chopping), and if you’re like me, hacking the kernels from 60 ears of corn can quickly become an experience of almost pure joy — heartless, demented joy.