It was Mexican dinner night the other night. Shrimp tacos. Refried beans. Spanish rice. Tortilla chips. so of course we just had to have pico de gallo to go with it. And because I love cilantro I had some chopping ahead of me. And if you've ever chopped cilantro, like a lot of herbs it can be hard to chop up into small pieces with leaves flying around and all. At the last second I remembered the mezzaluna knife that I had bought last year - and never used. Wow! Could I kick myself now? What was I thinking? The mezzaluna is my new favorite herb cutting tool! So I just had to share it with you.
So, what's a mezzaluna, you ask? It's a cutting tool with a rounded blade (in fact, "mezzaluna" means “half-moon” in Italian) and two often wooden handles on the ends. It looks a little like some medieval torture device. Fun, right?
The one I have is a handy little number from Joseph Joseph. It is strong and solid. But it also folds up on itself (protecting the blade from the drawer and protecting fingers from the blade) into a nice, compact unit. It’s pretty small compared to most. You’ll often see blades of 9” or 10”.
I started wondering, what else could be done with this nifty tool? Turns out, plenty! It can chop up a bunch of herbs in seconds. It can be used to slice up and chop up nuts or chocolate for recipes. It’s also great for cutting greens for chopped salads. It can make fast work of tomatoes, garlic, onions, shallots...just about anything that gets minced. It can also be used to cut size-appropriate pizzas and flatbreads.
The results are not the completely uniform, even cutting you might be used to from say your food processor. And to me that is one of it’s endearing qualities. I like the more natural look of freshly cut herbs that are not perfect.
The best mezzalunas have strong, heavy blades which are sharpened on both sides and comfortable handles. You hold the handles and rock the blade back and forth to cut, chop and mince. Some come with double and even triple blades. If you are going to be using it almost exclusively for herbs, no problem. If you plan to also chop nuts, etc., to be honest, I’d avoid those. Food has a tendency to stick in between the blades requiring you to use another utensil like a chopstick to free it (no, NOT your fingers!). And speaking of digits, one of the nice things about the mezzaluna is that your hands remain on the handles, well away from the sharp blades. It's pretty darn safe.
You can use your mezzaluna on any normal cutting board. They even make special cutting boards (with an indentation in the center) to allow the mezzaluna to rock back and forth in the indentation. The idea is to keep the food in the indentation and so in the path of the blade. Some come with a bowl. But I think I'd skip that. The bowls never seem to fit exactly the right way. And the bowls seem too often to inhibit the natural swing of the mezzaluna.
If you have a bunch of herbs to chop or salad greens to slice or stuff to mince be sure to check out a mezzaluna. It just may become your favorite new tool. I know it has become one of mine!
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