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As any semi-serious cook (or Food Network junkie) knows, the foundation of cooking is the ability to dice and pare with the best of them. While classes at the Culinary Institute might not be in your future, the recent "Knife Skills Illustrated" is a worthy alternative, collecting extensive methods and techniques for cutting fruits, vegetables and meats into one handy volume.

With over 800 illustrations, the book explains the basic (dicing onions, slicing tomatoes) to the complex and exotic (cutting a pineapple, shaving fennel, leek strings), all with instructions for both right- and left-handed chefs.

The exhaustive resource will improve the repertoire of novice and advanced choppers alike, rounded out by a knife directory, advice about maintenance and other useful tips. As I experienced when I had my own personal epiphany after learning how to properly dice an onion at my first high school job in food prep, good knife skills not only make for better food, but for more fun cooking.

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Order "Knife Skills Illustrated" from Amazon or Cooking.com.

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