The mandolin is music to the ears of the many cooks who take pride in custom cutting fruits and vegetables for a beautiful presentation. The smooth sweep of a food item into the sharp blades of this slicing device makes the most evenly julienned, sliced or latticed cuts. It's not magic or a special trick; this old-time, French-origin tool does it all for you.
Once you've mastered the mandolin, you may prefer it over a food processor for its evenness in cutting spuds for French fries and slicing nice rounds of firm foods such as sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, apples, turnips and beets.
Manufactured in West Germany, the Boerner V-Slicer is the type of mandolin that never fails to capture a crowd and hold their attention when demonstrated. The product always gets "oohs" and "aahs" for swooshing pretty lattice slices, long, thin shreds of carrots and perfect potato matchsticks. Everyone wonders at the super thinness of sliced tomatoes, sweet peppers, potatoes, mushrooms, leeks, daikon radish and whatever fruit or vegetable is on hand at the moment. What amazes people isn't just the uniformity of the results but the swiftness and smoothness of the whole operation.
Practice Makes Perfect
Can the inexperienced perform as well as the professional demonstrators? With just a little practice, yes; in fact, we found it rather easy after several tries.
"You have to go home and actually do it," says John Duncan, sales representative for Marjorie Duncan & Associates. "The trick is not to strain or push but do it in a relaxed way, applying light pressure." One of Duncan's favorite applications is creating fine shreds of apples to sprinkle over his bowl of cereal.
When using the tool, it is important that you follow directions carefully and use the safety holder or protector to keep fingers safely away from blade injury when processing the food. The holder guides the item to be sliced across the blade, pressing it in place with steel prongs. A small knob pushes the food down as it is processed. Long vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber and daikon , when sliced crosswise, may not require the holder until the produce reaches an unsafe, shorter size.
Molded of sturdy plastic with sharp metal blade inserts, the Boerner blade system features extra attachments that offer other garnishing cuts.
The most popular set according to Duncan, is the V-Slicer ($24.95), which consists of the rectangular frame fitted with the V-shaped blade and two reversible inserts that slide into the frame: a thin and thick slicer and a thin and thick julienne cutter. (Chopping or dicing may also be accomplished by prescoring an onion, for instance, with a knife and then sliding it through the slicer.) The set also includes the safety holder and storage container called Multibox.
The Wave and Waffle Cutter ($10.95) consists of a single frame with the blade, the safety holder and an insert that can be adjusted to make lattice or wave cuts. The Garnishing Set ($24.95) has the Roko vegetable shredder that makes the thinnest, longest possible shreds for unusual garnishes, the Wave and Waffle Cutter, a multifunction peeler, a hash-brown grater and the safety protector.
Small Knobs and Sharp Points
Also quite popular for its versatility, sharp blades and decorative capabilities is the little Five-Function Peeler ($2.95). It has small knobs and sharp points that can score cucumbers or carrots to create a floral effect when sliced, dig out dark potato spots and unsightly fruit stem ends and make red radish designs.
Another brand of mandolin slicer comes from Leifheit in West Germany. Well designed, the product is made from a very durable plastic material fitted with a blade that never needs sharpening. The Vario-Slicer ($24.95) is easy to use and stores conveniently. Aside from slicing tomatoes, fruit, cheese and cold meats, it will also shred cabbage for coleslaw and cut potatoes for chips.
The unit consists of a ridged frame with handle, a stainless steel blade with scalloped edge, a slide adjustment for regulating thick and thin slices, liquid draining slots and a safety food holder. On the underside of the frame is a wave-form base that sits securely on the rim of a bowl for ease in slicing.
Leifheit also carries the 4-in-1 Grater/Slicer ($24.95). Similar in frame design to the Boerner, it has four interchangeable steel blades for slicing, for pureeing and for shredding ranging from coarse to fine size. Dishwasher safe, the blades are rust-proof. The set also comes with a safety protector.
The Boerner cutting products are available at Gelson's (Jerry Knoll from Germany will be demonstrating the products on March 19, from 12 to 5 p.m., at the new Gelson's store in Marina Del Rey), Cookin Stuff (La Habra and Palos Verdes) and Cook's Corner (Glendale).
The Leifheit slicers are available at San Marino Hardware (San Marino), CA Cutlery (Thousand Oaks) and Alan Ladd Hardware (Palm Springs).