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clumsycook

Mezzalunas

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I saw mezzaluna's mentioned in some other topics by figured I'd focus on them: Are they worth the money (and drawer space?) Anyone use one often?

I've seen a lot of them come with cutting board with center depressions---is that needed to get all you can out of the mezz?

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I saw mezzaluna's mentioned in some other topics by figured I'd focus on them:  Are they worth the money (and drawer space?)  Anyone use one often? 

I've seen a lot of them come with cutting board with center depressions---is that needed to get all you can out of the mezz?

I shouldn't really answer this as I don't have one nor have I ever used one, but it seems to me a uni-tasker, especially with the special cutting board.

If you were going to hack up 100lbs of parsley, I would go for it. Otherwise, ever hear of a chef's knife?

Just my $.02 :biggrin:

Bill

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I saw mezzaluna's mentioned in some other topics by figured I'd focus on them:  Are they worth the money (and drawer space?)  Anyone use one often? 

I've seen a lot of them come with cutting board with center depressions---is that needed to get all you can out of the mezz?

I've got an ulu and I love it -- same thing, crescent knife. It's different enough from the others that it gets used every week. You don't need a dimpled cutting board. Cut pizza, chop herbs, scrape pelt, whatever. It's an important tool in the kitchen.

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An ulu is significantly different from a mezzaluna. Most significantly, the ulu has a single handle in the center of the crescent, whereas a mezzaluna has separate handles at each point of the crescent. A mezzaluna is often implemented with two or three blades (which an ulu never is) and, as a general rule of thumb I'd say that a mezzaluna is larger than an ulu (most ulus are around 6 inches, which is the size of only the smallest and least useful mezzalune).

As for both knifes... almost anyone can fall in love with almost any style of knife, but I don't find either one particularly useful and believe that they are among the most commonly unused kitchen tools. I was gifted an ulu several years ago, and despite the fact that it's sitting right there next to my other 20 or so knives, I've never once used it. I've just never had a single kitchen task where I thought to myself, "the best knife I have for this is the ulu." Then again, I don't find myself scraping the skin off seal blubber all that often. As for the mezzaluna... I suppose it might be handy if you want to make large quantities of very traditional pesto. But it's pretty rare in my experience that you'd want to chop that many herbs -- and when you do need to chop that many herbs, you're usually going to break out the food processor.

The ulu and mezzaluna share a similar problem with the santoku: people see them and think, "that looks cool! I want one." Then they get them home and discover that they don't really like using them very often. Of course, some people love their santoku and Peter loves his ulu... but this seems like a minority to me.

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Peter loves his ulu... but this seems like a minority to me.

Samuel, yes he does -- and he's proud to be a minority.

My crescent knife is large, as in two hands are required. It's a Dene tool from Sombe K'e, the Dogrib word for Yellowknife - the main city of the Northwest Territories.

When it comes to slicing a crispy flat bread . . . it's the cat's ass.

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Peter: How long is the blade? And, does it still have a single handle in the middle? Any online pointers to something similar in size?

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Have one, lusted after one, begged all my friends to gift me with one (Ohhhhh, its the best EVER, I'll use it EVERY time I need to chop something, its SOOO much better than a knife-------you get the drift--------)

Ummmm, can't honestly remember the last time I used it. For *SURE* more than 2 or 3 years ago. For sure. The most I can remember it for is being careful not to cut myself on it when I'm trying to get my garlic press or muddler out of the drawer where it lives.

Time for Mr. Mezzaluna to go to my charity 'o' choice.

I think I used it, like, maybe, twice. Once with the friend who gave it to me being an audience, so I'm not sure that counts....

Trust me.........don't go there. Your chef's knife is a much better tool and a much better friend.

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I can see using a mezzaluna for piles of parsley ... but that's it. It's a poor choice for other herbs. Most are damaged by any cutting action that crushes them against a cutting board. Everything you've read that says to use herbs immediately after cutting, or else! is a an attempt to compensate for poor tools and techniques.

In the rare cases where you actually want to demolish the herbs (like pesto) there are more brutal tools that do the job better. Like a mortar and pestle, a processor, or a blender.

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Peter:  How long is the blade? And, does it still have a single handle in the middle?  Any online pointers to something similar in size?

I've got two curvy knives, both from Northern Canada. The smaller one is a "Komatik" from Nunavut and it looks just like an Alaskan ulu -- a quarter circle of metal with a wood knob that fits the palm.

The bigger one is a 10" curved blade with an antler handle connecting the two ends, so you can hold it with a horizontal fist or with a hand on each end. I don't know what its correct name is, but I know it's Dene from Yellowknife.

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Loving this input. :biggrin:

I now remember where I first took notice of the mezzaluna---in the Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper cookbook. Rossetto Kasper was touting it for it's use with pestos.

I'm wondering if there is any comparable difference between a mezzaluna'd pesto and a food processor's. I'm sure there is if you don't chop as much---don't know if that would *taste* better. Anyone tried both ways?

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I'm wondering if there is any comparable difference between a mezzaluna'd pesto and a food processor's.  I'm sure there is if you don't chop as much---don't know if that would *taste* better.  Anyone tried both ways?

I don't know about "better," but I'm sure it would be different. Usually, herbs are used as a source of infused flavors, like tea; they're intended to release their flavors over time into a stock or sauce, which acts as a solvent. When you're preparing herbs for this kind of use, the goal is to damage the cells of the leaf as little as possible. Cuting exposes more surface area to speed extraction, and allows the herbs to be a less obtrusive presence in the food (if they won't be strained out). But generally you want to do the cutting carefully, to minimize oxidation, enzyme reactions, and the evaporation of aromatic compounds, all of which deaden the flavor if the herbs won't be used immediately. Careful, skilled cutting with a very sharp knife allows you to prep a pile of herbs for your mise en place and use them later. Brutish cutting, where herbs are squeezed between a blade and the cutting board, causes crushing and tearing, and forces you to use the herbs instantly (or to get disappointing resluts). This is the only kind of cutting possible with a mezzaluna.

But it is not as brutal as the total the crushing of the herbs that you get from a mortar or processor. This treatment has an advantage when you're making a sauce like pesto, which is an unconventional use of herbs. In a pesto the herb IS the sauce. Pesto has a structure more like tomato sauce (where the body of the sauce is actually cellulose from the pureed ingredient) than like a typical herb infusion, where the presence of the herb isn't even important in the end. Some of the flavor in a pesto gets infused into the olive oil, but since the bulk of the pesto is actually made of chopped or ground leaves, most of the flavor remains there. The intensity of that flavor will depend on how easily the aromatic compounds can escape during the brief time that you're chewing your pasta. So in this case, thoroughly crushed or pureed herbs will deliver a greater intensity and immediacy of flavor than ones that are cut carefully.

A mezzaluna will do a job that lies somewhere between the extremes of careful cutting and total crushing or pureeing. You probably won't get the intensity of flavor that you'd get from a processor or mortar and pestle pesto. The texture will likely be different too. Which you like better, or which one is more "authentic" probably depends on who you ask.

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I'm wondering if there is any comparable difference between a mezzaluna'd pesto and a food processor's.

paulraphael's explanation above makes sense to me.

Food processors are easy to use and can handle big amounts of herbs, but I'd rather make pesto with a M&P for the same reason burr grinders are better for coffee beans than blade grinders: consistent particle size.

It appears I don't have a real mezzaluna. I can get my curvy native knives almost as sharpe as my fancy chef's knife and therefore do a comparable job on herbs. For a delicate chiffonade I like the straight French knife, but something like rosemary for the roast lamb gets a flurry of rocking action.


Edited by Peter the eater (log)

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clumsycook:

I opine that a Mezzaluna is a waste of money. Instead, I simply bought a 12-inch Chef's knife, which can be used for cutting many more things than simply herbs.

A Mezzaluna has two handles, usually two curved blades, sometimes only one, in order to increase the surface area, to chop the herbs.

I prefer, instead, the Chinese method of chopping herbs, with two Chinese Cleavers simultaneously.:cool:


Edited by TheUnknownCook (log)

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I bought a mezzaluna about 5 years ago while browsing at Williams Sonoma. Thought it looked really cool. However, it is still brand new in the drawer; I've never used it. I use a chef's knife instead. Maybe I'll put it out when the holiday guests get here so they think I must be an accomplished cook because I have some cool stuff. :biggrin:

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I bought one recently, at an antique store, because I've been haunted by the image of a friend's kitchen for a very long time. She has a wall of antique mezzalunas and they are beautiful, beautiful.

It makes a decent bench knife for pastry.

Sometimes art is what you are after, rather than efficiency.

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I acquired a ulu (an ulu?) recently when a friend returned from a visit to Alaska. I find it very useful for chopping herbs. Hadn't thought about cutting pizza, but it'd work for that, too.

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I acquired a ulu (an ulu?) recently when a friend returned from a visit to Alaska. I find it very useful for chopping herbs. Hadn't thought about cutting pizza, but it'd work for that, too.

Mine is in storage and has never been used. I thought it was just a pretty souvenir someone brought me. I will try it. As for pizza- kitchen scissors rule.

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I have one, and this thread reminds me I should add it to the 'most useless kitchen items I have bought' thread...

I bought a Nigella Lawson branded one on sale a few years ago and have used it precisely once. Maybe if I had a different kitchen set up I'd use it more, but I generally find that if I'm chopping herbs I've got the knife out and being used already, so why get another thing dirty? The only good thing is that I've kept it in its box, so it doesn't bite me everytime I rummage around in the drawer looking for some other little-used gadget.... Might be time to eBay it away!

Although on second thought, the nature of the blade might reduce my finger injury incident rate (I have yet to learn to reliable curl my fingers when using a knife).

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I have "a few" and here are some that were easy to reach so I could dust them off and take photos.

There are more, higher on the wall than I can reach and I'm not taking a picture of them because I really don't want to show the "collection" of cobwebs that currently embellish the others. These are the largest, although I do have one that is much larger but it is currently on loan to a friend who is chopping herbs for dyes.

I use the larger ones for chopping dried herbs for potpourri and etc. I don't want to damage the blades on my good knives on tough, dried herb stems.

HPIM2813.JPG

HPIM2816.JPG

I quite often do use the one with the offset blade in a wooden bowl for chopping nuts when I want them coarsely chopped. It's made in France and was my grandmother's.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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A couple years ago my sis needed the food processor for a holiday dish and the bowl was MIA.  I sorted my mezzaluna out of a buried storage box with the help ofthe kids and she enjoyed using it. Back into the back of a rarely used drawer until I unearthed it couple weeks ago. My hands were having problems with finer motor and this old soldier did the trick chopping piles of herbs and greens for Ash Reshteh. It is now in the front of an accessible drawer :)   Looks alot like one of Andie's above.

IMG_0588.JPG

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I will admit that I’m also one that has used mine only once.

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I’ve never understood the smaller curved blades like the ulu, even for things like herbs. I was gifted an ulu and used it once. And then I went back to my actual knives. Maybe if you’re scraping pelts...

 

Mezzalunas at least seem useful for cutting pizza.

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2 hours ago, btbyrd said:

I’ve never understood the smaller curved blades like the ulu, even for things like herbs. I was gifted an ulu and used it once. And then I went back to my actual knives. Maybe if you’re scraping pelts...

 

Mezzalunas at least seem useful for cutting pizza.

 If I still had my eyeteeth I would willingly swap them for my grandmother’s “ulu” with which she made the world’s best mint sauce.  Mezzaluna—meh. 

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2 hours ago, Anna N said:

 If I still had my eyeteeth I would willingly swap them for my grandmother’s “ulu” with which she made the world’s best mint sauce.  Mezzaluna—meh. 

 

A friend brought me an ulu from an Alaska trip. It is, indeed, a fine, fine thing for herb-chopping. It lives on my counter for that very purpose.

 

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Mine, alas (a gift from a former in-law) is strictly of the souvenir variety. It's as sharp as the edge of a spoon, and patently not worth the trouble of attempting to sharpen it. 

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