When I talk about playing a mandolin, I mean a food slicer. While I have strummed a mandolin, I can’t competently play one. Since mandoline (slicer) can be spelled mandolin and mandolin (instrument) can be spelled mandoline, it seemed like a good idea to begin by specifying. Now, on to the playing…
My assignment for a 4th of July BBQ was to bring a salad from my garden. This year’s weather combined with a last-minute change in seeds has resulted in a haphazard, untidy selection of growth. My salad harvest no longer includes lettuce, spinach, or squash. Instead, I have baby bok choy, arugula, and a limited amount of Swiss chard.
I decided to shred bok choy for the base. To that I added shredded chard and lightly chopped arugula. This year’s arugula is milder in flavor than last year’s, but if not kept in check it can quickly overpower other greens. I used a ratio of about 4 to 1 bok choy to arugula.
To balance the bitterness of the greens, I chose Gala apples, fresh mozzarella, and honey roasted pecan pieces. Some salads are delicious deconstructed. This one was dependent on the flavor combination in each bite, so I wanted to make sure the apples were distributed throughout.
I decided julienned strips would be the best option. Of course, the day before I managed to melt the handle of the knife I needed to cut the apples. I know that sounds odd. Somehow, it fell out of the silverware basket of my dishwasher and lodged against the heating element without me noticing. Well, until there was weird blue smoke in the air. But that’s another story for another day.
In this narrative, it meant I needed another option to julienne the apple. Off I went to my dining room closet where I store the mandoline I use for scalloped potatoes. My thinking was that if I used the mandoline to make thin, uniform slices, it wouldn’t be that hard to cut those into strips.
What I had forgotten was that the mandoline came with several interchangeable blades I’d never tried. I gave them a look and did a test swipe using a grater looking blade. Apparently, it’s a julienne blade because it made the most perfect strips I’ve ever seen. Whoo-hoo!!! My job just got a whole lot easier. I played that mandoline for all it was worth.
Once I had the greens assembled, I tossed in the apple, and added the cheese and pecans. Earlier I had made a balsamic vinaigrette sweetened with molasses and a little honey. It was thick and rich and poured like a balsamic drizzle. It was just the top-off the salad needed. It was a big hit!
I left the party feeling grateful for the mandoline with its functional simplicity and changeable blades. It shortened the work in my holiday and created a professional looking cut with the swipe of a hand.
I’m not big on small kitchen appliances and I try to keep the gadgets at a minimum, but the right tool at the right time can change cooking from drudgery to pleasure. That’s one big reason to learn to play a mandoline!