It's been said that food that looks "too pretty to eat" will more than likely be consumed with more pleasure. After achieving good flavor in a dish, go a step further in tempting the palate by presenting it attractively.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are great natural enhancers in any food presentation. To carve them, a sharp knife is really all that's required, but a good variety of special tools are becoming more available for the less skilled.
One of these tools is the Japanese Saladacco, a manual type of food processor. Long renowned for their culinary artistry, the Japanese now make it easy for the cook to create dazzling garnishes that appear to have taken many hours of preparation.
Lightweight, this three-tiered plastic gadget is crank-operated and takes slight pressure and lever-rotating to produce thin, delicate, long shreds and ruffles of food. It consists of two sharp blades, one toothed and the other smooth-edged. These blades are in the bottom of an orange tub, which is placed over a receiving bowl. A dome lid of smoke colored plastic holds the crank.
Use fresh, raw, hard vegetables such as daikon, carrot, turnip, beet, jicama, parsnip, onion, potato, zucchini or cucumber, and for fruit, an apple. Food should be cut no more than three inches high and then pressed onto the blade and rotated. Long shreds or spirals are then produced.
Wonderful for salads and garnishes, Saladacco-processed strands or ruffles may be used as follows:
Zucchini and carrot shreds may be tossed with hot noodles for a pretty pasta primavera; short segments of potato spirals make unique fries; long spirals and/or shreds of daikon, carrots, cucumber, beets or zucchini can be arranged around any meat tray for garnish or to hide any grease spots or meat scraps around the meat.
For instant "flowers," use short spirals of carrots or dyed daikon, beets or jicama. One of the most impressive vegetables we tested were the beets, which came out in beautifully marbled burgundy-colored spirals.
For convenience, the garnishes may be prepared a day or two in advance and kept in cold water or chilled in plastic bags.
If the chore of peeling the pineapple's thick skin prevents you from buying this refreshingly delicious fruit, the simple solution comes in the form of coupe ananas , a pineapple peeling gadget from Zyliss. This pineapple-shaped plastic gadget peels and cores one pineapple slice at a time and can be adjusted to slice any pineapple.
Unlike other fruits, cut-up pineapple keeps better than the whole fruit, which not only bruises easily but spoils rather quickly after ripening. After the fruit is peeled, the slices or chunks will last up to a week, if sealed in plastic bags or airtight containers.
The gadget operation starts with cutting off the top and the bottom end of the fruit and partially inserting the center spike of the peeler into the center of the core. Then the sliding guide is adjusted so that it rests on the outside of the pineapple.
Next the pineapple peeler's blades and spike are pressed into the pineapple and the peeler rotated 360 degrees in a clockwise direction. After this, you still need a knife to cut the slice (about 1/2-inch thick) off the fruit but then, you have your peeled and cored pineapple ring. The peeler comes in red and yellow.
The last gadget is a new avocado knife called Avo-Carvo from P.C.R. Corporation in La Jolla. Unique in the sense that it has a handle shaped, colored and textured like a small avocado, the Avo-Carvo loosens seeds, slices and peels fruit. To loosen the seed, insert the blade into the fat end of the avocado and push it firmly into the seed, then gently rock or twist the seed loose. The fruit may then be sliced in half by dragging the blade through the fruit, around the seed. To peel, insert the blade between the fruit and skin and rotate underneath the whole fruit until completely separated.
I think the Avo-Carvo works efficiently in loosening the seed, which has always been a problem with avocados, but slicing the fruit in half and peeling can be done well with an ordinary knife. The gadget also works better with firmer fruit.
The Saladacco may be found in a few Japanese stores or can be ordered directly by sending $21.00 to Ryan Company, 2188 Latimer Lane, Los Angeles, 90077, or by calling: (213) 474-4175. The Zyliss pineapple-peeler has a retail price of $3.95 and is available at Gelson's. The Avo-Carvo has a suggested retail price of $3.99 and is available at Gelson's, Arden-Mayfair stores, Ralphs and Safeway.