Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A microplane is worth a little space in your kitchen drawer

Years ago, Martha Stewart convinced me that a microplane was the best thing around for zesting lemons, so when I saw one in the hardware store, I spent the $10. Getting the zest off of lemons (or limes or oranges) was hard, so I was willing to give it a try.

The problem was, how could I justify having this thing hogging precious drawer space? I mean, really, how often do I zest lemons? It's not very big, but I don't clutter up my kitchen drawers with gadgets that only get used once every month or two.

Since then, I've figured out multiple uses for my microplane, and it truly is one of my favorite kitchen tools. I love it so much that I got another one that does medium-sized grating (mostly for fancy cheese). This pair of microplanes makes me SO happy because I got to throw out my old box grater!

Let me digress for a second and tell you why I HATE box graters. First of all, I can't use one without grating my knuckles and fingernails. This is reason enough, as far as I'm concerned. But then there's the problem that the food collects on the backside of whichever surface you're using, and then you have to cram your hand inside there to scrape it off. And cleaning inside that small space is a HUGE pain. I've gotten by just fine without mine for the last 8 or 10 years. (Plus, I usually buy my cheese already shredded. It costs practically the same as non-shredded.)

Now, let me get back to how useful the microplane is.

This is the backside, where all the yummy ginger has collected!
It turns out that a microplane is the BEST for grating ginger. I cook with a fair amount of ginger because I love Thai and Indian, both of which use lots of ginger. Plus, it turns out that ginger is really good for you (bonus!). It's a powerful anti-inflammatory, and inflammation contributes to all kinds of nasty things like heart disease and cancer. I've decided there are two basic things you do to ginger when you're cooking with it: either you grate it on a microplane, or you slice it into little matchsticks (there's no trick for this, you just have to use your knife skills; the good part is that you generally only need a tablespoon or two).

Even if you don't need a microplane for ginger, it's also good for lots of other stuff. I already mentioned citrus zest. It's also perfect for grating hard cheeses (like parmesan)—it makes light, thin curls. Same goes for chocolate. I have a cake recipe that calls for a bar of German chocolate grated, and the microplane is the best thing I've found for that job. It also works for grating fresh nutmeg right off the nutmeg nut or cinnamon off a cinnamon stick (but, personally, I'm happy with the stuff in the jar).

If you decide to get a microplane, you have know which kind to buy. There are two styles—there’s one that's more of a paddle style and one that's long and narrow, kind of like a stick.

I've owned both, and I can tell you that the paddle is definitely the way to go.

Here's the problem with the stick-ish one. The side edges curve around toward the back, and it creates this narrow channel where your food collects. So when you're done zesting or grating, it's really hard to scrape your food bits off the back. And it's hard to get it clean too. These are two problems I want to AVOID.

The paddle, on the other hand, has a nice wide backside and the sides are covered with a smooth plastic edge. Easy to collect your grated goodies, and easy to clean and wipe dry.

Easy is one of my favorite words!

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