Though there are many varieties of vegetables in the world, there are a few that routinely show up in recipes or in the average refrigerator. This limited list of favourite vegetables includes onions, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and potatoes. When processing vegetables, you have many approaches you can take.
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Handheld tools can be used to cut some vegetables. If you are looking to slice a mushroom -- as an addition to a salad, for example -- you can use a small mushroom slicer. The device is typically about 2 inches square and has a hollow centre for the mushroom. A collection of metal wires, fastened to a frame, are pulled down, cutting the mushroom into slices.
Another handheld option is a device called a mandolin, which is either manual or electric. The mandolin is a tool that makes slices or juliennes -- small strips -- and is operated much like a typical cheese grater. A single large blade rests in a solid frame and can be adjusted to create slices of differing thickness. When the ideal setting is reached, the user repeatedly slides the vegetable, typically a carrot or onion, across the blade. A pile of identical slices or juliennes should result, depending on the blade used.
If you are cutting dense vegetables, or if you are processing large amounts of vegetables, you may want to use an upright tool. One option is a guillotine-like device that has a large lever to pull down on. Fruits or vegetables can be placed, one at a time, into a small well in the centre. When the lever is pulled, the item will be sliced or julienne, depending upon the attachment used. The processed vegetables fall into a container placed beneath the device.
Another option is an upright threader, which will slice firm vegetables into long ribbons. The vegetable is speared on a centre spike, and the pronged handle is forced into the top of the vegetable. The handle is rotated, and the spinning vegetable is pressed against a stationary blade, producing a thin ribbon.
Attachments can also be used with standard kitchen mixers. Typically, a vegetable is forced against a blade, which is spun by the force from the electric mixer motor. Depending on the attachment used, you can slice or shred vegetables in this way.
Of course, the most basic tool for cutting vegetables is a knife. Common kitchen knives can be purchased at any grocery store or kitchen supply outlet and can range from very cheap --- just a few dollars --- to quite expensive. Some high-end kitchen knife sets can cost hundreds of dollars. Knives are the most useful cutting tool as a good set will contain a knife for almost any task, and they can be used to cut more than just vegetables.
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