The Spiralizer: Why Your Next Bowl of Pasta Just Might Not Be Pasta at AllPosted: June 2, 2015
Credit: Nick Hopper
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From Bon Appetit
MARCH 2, 2015 /
WRITTEN BY ROCHELLE BILOW
We love traditional pasta, but lately we’ve noticed a new breed of noodles. We’re not talking about rice, corn, or quinoa spaghetti—we’re talking about spiralized vegetables. The spiralizer is an inexpensive tool (one of the most popular brands retails for $39.95) that turns fresh veggies into faux-noodles (zoodles, if you will, but we won’t). It isn’t just for the carb-averse; everyone from home cooks to restaurant chefs are spiralizing.
Most models are about the size of a large toaster and function like a giant pencil sharpener. A firm, peeled veggie is held in place with a clamp over the grinder, and as the vegetable disappears into the hold, the cook uses a hand crank to make the gears work. The result is a pile of extra-long, gently curled ribbons. Interesting, but what makes this tool so great?
The Spiralizer Is a Chef’s Best Friend
Restaurant chefs, who have mountains of chopping and slicing to slog through, have a lot to love in the spiralizer. Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of the vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in New York City, first encountered the tool when working at an all-raw restaurant. “It made some boring jobs a lot easier,” she explains. Dirt Candy now frequently serves spiralized vegetables (using the Benriner and Kaiten models). Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene‘s in Portland, first began using aTsumakirikun spiralizer because, “I wanted a way to make perfect consistent cuts of pumpkin for a salad.” The more commonplace mandoline slicer performs the same task, but the spiralizer produces prettier results.
Jonah Miller, chef and owner of Huertas, also in NYC, just may be the tool’s biggest fan. “I think we use it more than any other restaurant in the city,” he says, adding that they used their spiralizer so much, they added a drill function to cut down on the manual cranking.
But it’s not just about the functionality. Says Cohen: ”People are conditioned to be dismissive about vegetables so you kind of have to sneak up on them and surprise them…in ways they aren’t anticipating.” For a culture of eaters who grew up with meat as the star of the show and vegetables playing second fiddle, eating a veggie-forward meal can be a radical change.
The most spiralized vegetable at Huertas is the potato in huevos rotos, a dish that’s typically prepared with hunks of potato fried in olive oil. It’s delicious but, according to Miller, too greasy to be texturally great. Instead, at Huertas, long strands of potato get flash-fried for 8 to 10 seconds. They have the texture of al dente pasta with no excessive grease. Also, Miller explains, “The experience of twirling a vegetable around your fork, and taking a big bite is so much more enjoyable than a small mouthful.”
Produce ‘Pasta’ Is Gluten-Free, Carb-Free, and Grain-Free (But Not Flavor-Free)
If you don’t eat grains you’re inevitably going to run into a frustrating dilemma: What to cook when you miss pasta? Ali Maffucci, the author of the blog Inspiralized and the cookbook Inspiralized, began sharing spiralized recipes on her blog in June 2013. Her Italian-American heritage and love of pasta clashed with her quest for a healthier, slimmer lifestyle. She began by substituting spiralized vegetables for noodles, and now uses them for salads, casseroles, and even “rice” (she uses a food processor to pulverize the spiralized veggies).
Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, of the UK-based blog and clean-eating lifestyle brand Hemsley + Hemsley avoid all grains. Bored with the texture of peeled vegetables, they purchased a spiralizer and began experimenting. It’s now a main feature of their blog and cookbook.
It’s a Sneaky Way to Eat More Veggies
Spiralizing advocates argue that the technique makes it easier to get your daily fill of vegetables. But if you’re going to eat a sweet potato, why spiralize it when you could just as easily chop it? In an email toBA, Melissa Hemsley explains, “It’s a way to eat some vegetables…that you may not have tried beforehand.”
Maffucci likes her spiralizer because it creates volume seemingly out of thin air. One carrot can turn out cups of spiralized ribbons, tricking the eater into thinking they’re consuming more without the penalty of added calories. Says Maffucci, “You’re like ‘I’m eating something pretty and twirly, and there’s so much of it!‘” She adds that veggie noodles don’t feel like diet food. “[Eating spiralized vegetables] is a better experience than saying, ‘I have to eat a salad.’”
…Okay, But How Does It Taste?
“I still love pasta,” says Maffucci, who doesn’t keep grain-based noodles in the house. And, “No, [spiralized vegetables] don’t taste ‘the same’ as pasta.” But, she continues, a bowl of plain pasta is nothing spectacular on its own, either: What makes it shine are the toppings: Add meat, cheese, and a sauce to anything, and you’ve got a tasty dinner. Delicious as they are, vegetables are so texturally different from grains that you’ll never really trick yourself into thinking they’re pasta.
But maybe, suggest the Hemsley sisters, that’s not the point: Because they don’t eat any grains, they’re not trying to replace or mimic them. “For us, noodle and pasta dishes are all about the sauces, and spiralized vegetables provide a tasty, nourishing base.”
Says Maffucci, “Look, nothing will ever be as delicious as a buttery bowl of pasta. But this is pretty great.”