Core of how to cut veggies and fruit

THE best way to cut up vegetables depends on their size and shape and how you're going to use them.

THE best way to cut up vegetables depends on their size and shape and how you're going to use them.

Usually, they are chopped, diced, minced, or sliced. Occasionally, they are shredded or julienne. How do you decide if to chop, slice or julienne?

Chopping usually means to cut foods into smaller pieces of no particular shape and no particular size.

Chop vegetables and herbs when appearance isn't important, or when the vegetables will be strained out of a sauce or broth and not served.

Generally, vegetables are chopped larger for longer-cooking dishes and smaller for shorter-cooking dishes.

Mincing simply means to finely chop and it is used for dishes that cook very quickly, or when you want to leave the minced food in the dish, as in a pan sauce.

Dicing means exactly what it sounds like, cutting the food into cubes, like dice. Dice when appearance is important.

Shred, julienne and chiffonade all mean to cut into thin strips.

Leafy vegetables such as cabbage are shredded; leafy herbs and greens such as basil and spinach are cut into chiffonade. And other vegetables, such as root vegetables like carrots, are cut into julienne.

Julienning is the first step in cutting a vegetable into the tiny dice called brunoise.

Vegetables may also be cut into larger shapes to be used as garniture for braises, roasts and stews or for serving on their own.

Vegetables such as turnips and fennel are often cut into wedges.

Vegetables can also be "turned", which means to trim the vegetable into an attractive oval shape with rounded sides.

Here are a few tips to remember: While basic knife skills will help you with cutting anything on your cutting board, remember that fruits and vegetables are not manufactured. They are all different sizes, have soft skin or tough skin, have seeds or a large pit, many things that complicate the process of removing undesirable parts while not wasting edible product.

In general:

l Is the skin edible or not? If not, the item should be carved to get to the flesh.

l Is there a central core, stone pit, or seed cavity? Pineapple has a stalky core, mangoes have an oblong pit, avocados have a stone pit that needs to be removed without carving too much of the desirable fruit.

l Is the flesh then scooped from the skin, or sliced? Once you remove the core, pineapple is diced or sliced, while avocado is scooped from the skin with a spoon.

So, consider your item, your knife, and what the best method is to remove skin, seeds, or pit with best edible yield.