An Occasional Series at A Life of Food
To be functional at the most basic level, a kitchen requires an oven, a refrigerator, a sink, a knife, a sharpening stone, a whisk, a spatula, a towel, a pot holder, a pot and a pan. Nearly everything else, I would argue -- Tupperware, dishwasher, garbage disposal, Magnalite, Cuisinart, Krupps, Kitchen-Aid, ramekins, oyster knife, pizza slicer, food scale, aluminum foil -- are all desirable in their own ways, and certainly extend the range of goods coming from your kitchen to table, but they are not absolutely mission critical to human survival.
One can wash one's own dishes by hand. One can cut their homemade pizza with a large knife (kept sharp! Or else, why have a bloody knife?). One can mix bread dough by hand. One can do without chocolate soufflé (regretfully) and one can go out for chilled, briny, delicate Kumamotos.
Or so I thought.
Now I must add another implement to the mission critical list: the mandoline. And not just any mandoline. I'm talking the ergonomic, functional wonder that is the mighty OXO mandoline pictured here!
This is kitchen-tool-as-revelation. I actually weep to know that I live at this time in history, where such a dream utensil is a reality. How do I love thee, OXO mandoline? Let me count the ways...
1. You are sturdy. I can push an onion or eggplant through your blade and you do not feel as if you are about to collapse as some others do.
2. You are big enough to do the job. That same giant Walla Wall sweet and that bowling pin-sized eggplant all fit comfortably in your slicing channel.
3. You are sharp. Both your main cutting and julienne stainless steel blades could split a hair. Exactly what's needed when running beets or other tough roots through.
4. You are versatile. Whether I need near translucent potato chip slices or thick sticks of carrot, you can serve it up with nary a hesitation.
5. You are handsome. Your black-and-silver, completely intuitive design is a triumph of form and function skipping merrily hand-in-hand down the path to good food.
6. You are easy to clean. All I have to do is hit you with a few blasts of hot water or, if you're a total mess, stick you in the top rack of the dishwasher.
7. You are a cheap date. I think I paid $75 for you and you just keep giving back.
8. You are flawed. Perfection is boring and arrogant, so someone decided to assign you a "pusher," a device to slide the foodstuff across the blade. Sadly, the pins that embed into the food usually just tear through the food and disfigure it on top, especially softer things like tomatoes and zucchini. It's unhelpful and unnecessary. Just use your bare hands or, if you really think you're going to take off half your palm with the potato, use a simple pot holder between your hand and the food.
God bless you, mandoline, and thank you for opening up so many new possibilities to me in my life of food!
SUGGESTED RECIPE FOR BREAKING IN YOUR MANDOLINE
This is "inspired by" (or is it "ripped-off from?") La Spiga in Seattle, where it is called Melanzane della Zia Irene. Try theirs...it is fantastic!
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 T capers
1/3 cup of olive oil
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1. Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices on mandoline.
2. Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Lay the slices of eggplant on the cookie sheet.
4. In a small pot, place olive oil and garlic and heat till bubbling. Remove from heat and let oil infuse with garlic. Cool for several minutes and then add the parsley and capers.
5. Lightly brush both sides of eggplant slices with the olive oil mixture; do not worry that the eggplant suck up the oil and may appear dry -- you do not want an oil soaked slice!
6. Place slices 6" under broiler on high setting.
7. Broil till lightly browned, then flip using tongs.
8. Broil other side in same manner.
9. Using a non-slotted turner, remove slices and place onto warmed salad plates, garnish with Parmesan and sea salt to taste (and maybe a few extra capers, if they are favorites of yours), and serve immediately.