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TOOL DEPARTMENT

For this swivel peeler, no skin is too thin

August 06, 2003|Leslie Brenner | Special to The Times

It's not often that a kitchen gadget comes along that will change your life. But recently Messermeister, an American company with a factory in Germany, introduced its serrated swivel peeler -- an amazing little tool that can easily peel a ripe tomato. Or a juicy peach. Or a slippery bell pepper. Or a tough-skinned mango.

The swivel peeler, with a cushy black rubber grip and the swivel blade held in place by a sickle-shaped housing, looks much like one made by Oxo. But instead of a regular blade, this is a very sharp, serrated one.

The best thing about using the tool on tomatoes is that it eliminates the necessity of boiling water, submerging tomatoes in it, fishing them out and plunging them in cold water to remove the peel. And if you're one of these overachievers who can rub the tomato with the back of a knife and simply pull off the peel, this is still much easier.

With a normal swivel peeler you use an away-from-the-body flicking motion. But with the Messermeister version you place the swivel blade on the tomato or peach and pull the peeler toward you, letting the peel fall away in a long strip. (Not that you really need instructions -- when you have one in hand, you intuitively know what to do.) The strips of peel come off so nicely you might be moved to twirl them into rose shapes for a garnish.

Messermeister designed the gadget to solve the problem of traditional peelers slipping on the skin of waxy vegetables such as cucumbers. The serrated blade, explained Micah Jensen, sales manager for the Ojai-based company, "will tend to grab it and put a slight groove in it. Our purchasing agent got a hold of it, peeled a tomato with it, and said, 'I can't believe it!' "

Although a handful of chefs contacted hadn't heard about the peeler, the gadgets have flown off the shelves at cookware stores such as Sur La Table, which has sold out of them at its Santa Monica and Pasadena stores (more are on the way). The peeler is also available at Surfas in Culver City and at Cookin' Stuff in Torrance.

It retails for about $5. Be sure to pick up the one marked product No. 800-59; a non-serrated version looks almost identical.

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