Bossa Nova and Knives - the New Thing and the Standards

One was steady, reliable, felt solid in my hands. Unthreatening. Comforting, maybe a little traditional, but in a good way.

The other had the new, fresh look that makes you think you're young again. Kind of light in your hands, sexy. Shapely. Different.

I'm talking, of course, about knives.

And, I'm listening to bossa nova which is about 50 years old. Bossa Nova (think Girl from Ipanema) literally means "new thing" and it's a fitting coincidence that I'm writing tonight about knives, old and new, listening to this music which has a beautiful freshness to it. It was itself the new sexy thing when Jobim, Getz, Gilberto all broke on the music scene with this amazing, intoxicating music. (Here's an intro courtesy of NPR.) Some of the best knives are centuries old, and innovation continues. Much like a musical evolution.

Books books books...

One of the books in this pile TO BE REVIEWED which still stares at me and whispers rather loudly to me even though I've moved it off the desk, is Knives Cooks Love by Sarah Jay published by Andrews McMeel for Sur La Table. 

I reviewed the book in Suite column, here: Buying Kitchen Cutlery Just Got Easier. And in the Examiner, I shared links to local knife skills classes both in Boston and Cambridge. What I found was another great book, by Peter Hertzmann called Knife Skills Illustrated - as well as several video links, including a Top Chef. Fun, fun, fun.

So how did the Henckels feel about my several year affair with Globals? Let's just say the make-up cooking is always sweet. Read Caring for your Knives. (And listen to Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz with Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias who released a Bill Evans tribute album that comes full circle back to what she was entranced by as a child listening to Evans and transcribing his music from the radio. Telling her family confidently that she was going to New York to be a jazz pianist. It's a beautiful show and the stories can make you well up, they are so beautiful.)

  • So jazz or bossa nova or - what ? - do you listen to while you're cooking? And, what knives to do you favor and why?

Here is Something for You (Elias' song for Bill Evans and a recipe for you)

Here is a recipe courtesy of McMeel/Sur la Table, and an illustration from the media kit. What you can see is the way the book lays out the steps with easy illustrations. Each of the twenty recipes in the second half of the book all reference basic techniques and the first half covers how to select various knives for function.

Mango-Cucumber Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 small, ripe mangos
  • 1/2 seedless cucumbers (about 6") peeled
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 2 TBSP minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 green onion, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice, + more as needed
  • pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper 

Peel and pit the mango and cut the flesh into 1/" dice (see pages 144-145). Cut the cucumber into 1/4" dice (see page 109). Cut the bell pepper into 1/4" dice (p. 116.)

Put the mangoes, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, green onion, and jalapeño in a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Add the lime juice, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with cilantro stem if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 12 hours. 

Why not serve this at your superbowl party?

For more about mangoes, see How to Cut a Mango and More on the Delicious Drupe.


Both books, Knives Cooks Love and Knife Skills Illustrated, can be found on my Powell's Bookshelf: