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The Minimalist Cook: Why You Need a Mandoline

The Minimalist Cook: Why You Need a Mandoline

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Getting straight to the point: if you are serious about cooking, you should own a kitchen mandoline. This wonder tool has been around a long time and is a favorite of everyone in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen. We use our mandolines all the time, saving ourselves the frustration and time it takes to get the same results with a kitchen knife.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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If you don't know what a mandoline is, imagine a small guillotine with a stationary blade for fruits and vegetables. The oft scary tool is usually wielded by professionals operating at break-neck speeds, instilling the fear of slicing off finger tips in the less initiated. In reality, they are no more dangerous than a chef knife. Both cutting with a chef knife and a mandolin require concentration with deliberate motions to avoid injuring yourself.

Most mandolines come with lots of attachments and safety guards, which are usually intimidating and cumbersome. My favorite mandoline (as well as the entire Test Kitchen's) is the Japanese-style Benriner mandoline. This is my favorite because the blade is sharp (safer to use), big enough for most vegetables, has minimal attachments, is easy to clean, stores away quickly, and is only $25.57 on Amazon!

With a mandoline, you can create paper thin slices of vegetables that make for a very quick and elegant salad. A mandolin can turn cabbage into thinly sliced slaw for fish tacos and can make raw fennel bulb and red onion slices delicious and less "bitey" when eaten raw. Cutting potatoes on a mandoline is the trick to making beautiful Potatoes Anna and was key to making White Sea bass with Orange Fennel Relish in 20 minutes.

3 tips on using a mandoline that I have learned:

1) Watery vegetables like cucumber and zucchini are easy to cut on a mandoline and keep your hands away from the blade; practice slicing these first.

2) Pushing the food across the blade with your palm or guard is safer and easier than pulling.

3) Trimming off only one end of your food will leave more to hold onto when slicing, keeping your hand safer.

If you are looking for a great gift for your foodie friend or a treat for yourself, the mandoline is it.

Mark Bittman's Minimalist Thanksgiving

Ed Levine founded Serious Eats in 2006. He has also written seven books and in 2016 he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Mark Bittman, aka "The Minimalist," has just come out with a revised and expanded edition of his now classic cookbook, How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition).

We asked Mark for a minimalist Thanksgiving menu, and here it is.

I love the idea of a turkey that only takes 45 minutes to cook.

Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything' Thanksgiving Menu

Forty-Five Minute Roast Turkey "It's almost a given that time and oven space are at a premium on Thanksgiving Day, and this method of roasting turkey, unorthodox as it is, addresses both. Split, flattened, and roasted at 450 degrees (lowering the heat if the bird browns too fast), a 10-pound bird will be done in about 40 minutes. Really. It will also be more evenly browned (all of the skin is exposed to the heat), more evenly cooked (the legs are more exposed the wings shield the breasts), and moister than birds cooked conventionally. But it works only for relatively small turkeys."

Turkey Gravy " 'Gravy' is little more than thickened stock--essentially a reduction sauce--and when that stock comes out of a roasted turkey, it's pretty good stuff. It's no wonder people love it. Double or triple (or quadruple, if it comes to that) this recipe as needed."

Favorite Bread Stuffing "This classic dressing is based on a wonderful recipe by James Beard it's amazing with butter, but check out the variations if you prefer olive oil. Also, feel free to use whole grain bread for more flavor."

Cranberry Relish with Orange and Ginger "Quite tart and even better on turkey sandwiches. Stir in 1/2 cup of raisins and/or chopped walnuts or pecans at the end if you like."

Potato Gratin "Based on raw potatoes (or other vegetables), cream, and cheese, this can be assembled and even baked up to 2 days in advance and either baked or reheated before serving. A mandoline makes slicing a breeze and gives you slices of consistent thickness with little work, which is the key to even cooking."

Wheat Berries with Walnuts "This starter recipe for wheat berries is open to variation and will work with about a dozen other grains. Even better, you can serve it at room temperature."

Raw Beet Salad "Beets, like carrots, can be eaten raw. And they're delicious that way, crunchy and sweet. So sweet, in fact, that they need a strongly acidic dressing like this one for balance."

Braised and Glazed Brussel Sprouts "Sometimes I like to brown Brussels sprouts a bit, which is why this braise-and-glaze technique is a little different and deserves a special recipe. Leave the Brussels sprouts whole--they'll look beautiful and be less likely to overcook."

How to Make the Best Homemade Falafel

Bake it, don’t fry it. I say this because frying requires a lot of sizzling hot oil, and that scares me. I also don’t have a good vent over my oven to take the fried food smell far, far away. Plus, you can use a reasonably amount of heart-healthy olive oil in the baked version.

Coat your rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. That way, you get a fried effect in the oven, and you don’t have to brush the little falafels individually with olive oil. Winning!

Use dried chickpeas, not canned. Canned chickpeas do not work for falafel. They’re far too wet. If you try to use canned chickpeas instead of dried and soaked chickpeas, you’ll end up with sad falafel pancakes. Some recipes try to counteract the wetness by adding flour, which significantly dulls the flavor and makes the texture more doughy.

Soak the dried chickpeas for at least four hours. If your chickpeas aren’t sufficiently softened, you’ll have unpalatably tough pieces of chickpea in your falafel. There’s just no workaround here.

Choose your dried chickpeas wisely. Try to buy your dried chickpeas from a store with high turnover, because old chickpeas need longer to soften. If you have options, pick the chickpeas that are the smallest, since they’ll soften faster.

Watch How to Make Crispy Falafel

In this dish, you need a good quality plant-based milk that has a creamy, neutral taste. This is why unsweetened soy works best. This is also great for those that have a nut allergy.

If you can’t have soy or choose not to use it, you can also try oat or almond. Again, look for one that is unsweetened and has no additives. Or simply make your own!

The other crucial component for a gratin is the cream. In place of dairy cream, we have picked to use unsweetened 100% pure coconut cream.

The coconut cream created a creamy, smooth and rich consistency that we want in the sauce. If you have issues with coconut, you can use a cashew cream instead.

A Bench Scraper

A bench scraper is one of those tools whose advantages aren't obvious until you start using it regularly. I keep one on my cutting board whenever I'm doing prep work. It quickly transfers chopped mirepoix to my saucepot or carrot peels to the trash. I use it to divide up dough when making pizzas, or ground beef when making burgers.

When it's time to clean up, a bench scraper makes short work of dough scraps that have dried onto the work surface, and efficiently picks up tiny bits of chopped herbs and other debris. Removing stickers from glass bottles or labels from plastic containers is also a snap.

With its comfortable handle, sturdy construction, convenient built-in six-inch ruler, and an edge sharp enough to rough-chop vegetables, the OXO bench scraper is our go-to for home kitchens.

1. With a Spiralizer

The Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer is far and away my favorite tool. It creates curls of your favorite vegetables, literally in seconds. It’s the fastest tool of the bunch and requires the least amount of strength or effort (with suction cup feet to keep it in place). You simply cut off the ends of a zucchini, place it next to the blade and spin. In less than 8 seconds you’ll have spiral sliced the entire zucchini.

Now, I know these reviews are for zucchini noodles, but keep in mind other vegetables you may want to slice up. Carrots, sweet potato, apples, pears…the list is endless!

With this spiralizer, you can create your favorite carrot pasta, curly sweet potato fries or apple chips with easy to swap out blades. Yes, it’s bigger than some of the other options, but considering how I often I use it the pros far outweigh the cons – so it’s still my #1 favorite.

PROS: requires little effort/strength, performs the fastest, reasonably priced, sturdy and offers different blades/slicing options.

CONS: will require more storage space than other options.

2. With a Julienne Peeler

The great thing about a julienne peeler is that you likely already have one in your kitchen. Win! A julienne peeler frequently does double duty with a vegetable peeler. One side juliennes, the other side slices. And that’s perfect for when you want thick, flat slices of zucchini pasta. The single biggest benefit of a julienne peeler is that it’s small. It takes up virtually no space in your kitchen and will most likely reside in your utensil drawer.

When it comes to the actual zucchini noodles, a julienne peeler slices the thinnest, most delicate noodles. Then, you simply pull the strands apart with your fingers. The reason this tool makes #2 on my list is that it takes longer to slice (you rotate the zucchini, creating a rectangular shape), it leaves the largest core and the potential of nicking a finger is high (yep, I’m clumsy).

PROS: cheap and easy to store.

CONS: takes longer to slice and leaves a pretty large core.

3. With a Mandoline

I actually hummed and hawed about making the mandoline #2 on my list (because I love it that much) – but the julienne peeler won for size. I’ve had this mandoline for several years and it gets used a ton in my kitchen.

The mandoline creates julienne noodles that are slightly thicker than a peeler, but does it in half the time. The blades are SUPER sharp on a mandoline, so please please always use the plastic holder or a cut-resistant glove. I’ve sliced a massive divot out of my thumb before – and it’s not fun.

The mandoline creates the best flat zucchini pasta and allows you to vary the thickness. Similar to the Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer, it has several blade options, giving you options for perfectly consistent noodles, slices or rounds (and easily cuts through any “harder to slice” vegetable). Alright, maybe this is actually a tie for #2.

PROS: slicing is easy/fast (due to sharp blade) and consistent sizing/width of output.

CONS: sharp blade (be careful with your fingers) and medium size for storage.

4. With the KitchenAid Spiralizer

If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer then you’re likely aware of the numerous attachments available. While these attachments aren’t cheap, they’re automated by connecting to the power hub on the front of the mixer. And yes, as you guessed it, KitchenAid has a spiralizer attachment.

The Kitchenaid spiralizer comes in a nice storage box (though it’s quite large) and provides the most blade options, with 7 blades (including a peeler). But even with all these blade options I found that I still gravitated toward the 3 basic blades – the same ones which are included with the Paderno Spiralizer.

Another consideration is that because this tool is automated, it also has a fixed width. That means large zucchini need to be cut in half, with each half spiralized separately.

If you already have a KitchenAid and love using attachments, this is a great option. But for everyone else, the cost alone will probably be the biggest deterrent.

PROS: the only automated spiralizer, has the most blade options and comes with a peeler.

CONS: fixed width, requires the most storage space and I found that I could still spiralize a zucchini faster, by hand, with the Paderno Spiralizer.

5. With a Handheld Spiralizer

The handheld spiralizer is the newest kid on the block and the solution for curly noodles in a small contraption. It produces zucchini noodles most similar to the Paderno Spiralizer, though they tend to be flatter and not as consistently sized. I was really hoping to love this little device, but with all the other options on the market, I had to rank it last.

If you’re spiralizing several zucchini your wrist can become sore from all the twisting and it’s hard to keep the zucchini slicing straight. Also, if you plan to spiralize other vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes), this tool will be the most difficult as it requires the most strength and effort. Sure, it’s cheap, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

PROS: cheap and takes up little space.

CONS: inconsistent noodles, requires strength/wrist power and lacks the versatility of the other options.

How To Make Zucchini Lasagna Less Watery

You may recall from my zucchini noodles post that zucchini is 95% water. That means when you cook it, it will naturally become watery. But if you’re looking to have a little less juice in your lasagna, I do have a few tips:

  • Slice your zucchini into thinner slices: thinner slices mean less zucchini, thus less water.
  • Salt your zucchini and let it sit for 15 minutes: salt draws the water out of the zucchini. Then, just blot it dry with a paper towel.
  • Grill it to reduce the moisture: grill the zucchini for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Personally, I don’t mind if my zucchini is a bit more watery. I just scoop it out with a spatula that has holes to allow any water to drain. But feel free to use the method that works best for you.

Lastly, note that this recipe also uses more zucchini than other zucchini lasagnas, as the slices are layered on top of each other. So it will come out a bit more watery than expected. I personally love biting into the chunks of zucchini, so my motto is the more the better!

    1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the potatoes into a bowl and immediately toss them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden brown — about 12-15 minutes. Season again lightly with salt and pepper when they come out of the oven. Transfer to a rack to cool for maximum crispness.
    1. If you want to be a little more daring, don't limit yourself to salt and pepper — you can season with ancho chile powder, ground cumin, minced herbs, toasted sesame seeds, ground nori (toasted black seaweed sheets used to roll sushi) — really anything you like. Just be sure to season immediately after the chips come out of the oven, while there is still some residual oil for the spices to adhere to.

    It was really delicious and my family loved it.

    Wait can i take them out a little early then soak then put em back in?

    Hello! I love salt and vinegar so can I toss them in oil then soak in vinegar

    loved it, though i let it marinate in the oil for 20-30 mins with salt and pepper as well as thyme and onion powder, and had it in the oven on 200c or 400f for 12-15 min

    I'm going to try this with soft corn tortillas! Wish me luck!☺

    Great recipe! I used a Fiesta spice blend for extra flavor. Only thing is I had to bake them for twice as long to get them completely done. Usually I use the mandolin to slice the potatoes, but this time I did them by hand at exactly 1/8 inch and it took longer. Totally worth the extra time!

    Why are mine sticking to the cookie sheet?

    Just a question. How is the oil going to spatter when you are only using a couple of tablespoons? This recipe is for the oven not deep frying.

    This is a pretty basic recipe, but a good guide for making fried potato chips. I second @justinic about patting the potatoes dry. If they're wet, the oil will spatter and they'll burn, or reach a dark brown faster. Used up a lot of paper towels just trying to drain them. Other tips?

    I love this ! I do in fact have to slice my own potatoes therefore some are larger than others - It is a good idea after the first 10 min to watch closely, I took the thinner ones out while cooking the larger ones a little longer - But they turned out GREAT !

    not bad at all. try sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning.

    I love this recipe. I use parchment paper and they don't stick at all. Also, after about 15 minutes, I start taking out the ones that are cooked and leaving the others that need more time to cook for a few moments. That way the chips are all perfect. Great with hamburgers!

    The chips turned out just OK. They were a bit too greasy.

    This was very simple! The taste was good, but did have to cook them much longer then noted. I think it was almost 20 minutes, but they are a nice side item or snack.

    Sounded like a great idea, but the little chips baked onto my pan like gum on blacktop. Hard to get off. Maybe I need new pans.

    This is a great-tasting recipe that is fairly quick to prepare. A great way to change up your potato side for a weeknight. I like to make these as a side for a gourmet sandwich, but is also flexible enough to be used as a side for pork chops. Here are a few tips. make sure you cover each slice with oil. otherwise some chips turn out perfect and others are burned to a dark brown. I use a drying rack to bake these on. you will use less oil than you would on a baking sheet and they come off the rack better. I sprinkled these with salt/pepper before and after baking. I also used smoked paprika after baking. tasted great. These also seemed better tating when they were cooled to room temperature! This is a great fact so you could make them earlier than the main or side.

    One thing that you should always do before you make these, is after you've sliced them, PAT THEM DRY. This is essential anytime you want something to have a nice crisp to it.

    How to slice the potatoes

    It&rsquos important to slice the potatoes very thinly and uniformly. Luckily, there&rsquos a handy device that will let you do this perfectly in only a couple of minutes!

    A mandoline slicer is your best bet for cutting the potatoes. A mandoline is a handy kitchen tool- you can use it to thinly slice potatoes for chips, cucumbers for pickles, carrots, and any number of ingredients.

    And it often comes with attachments for different kinds of slices, such as a grater and a wavy blade that will slice potatoes or cucumbers into ruffles!

    What if I don&rsquot have a mandoline slicer?

    No worries. You can use a sharp chef&rsquos knife to slice the potatoes as thinly and uniformly as you can. Or, you may have a side on your box grater that will do roughly the same thing!

    9 Brussels Sprouts Recipes to Make Anyone a Believer

    The expression “good things come in small packages” certainly applies to Brussels sprouts. They’re the very definition of a superfood, chock-full of vitamin C (a potent antioxidant) and vitamin K (for healthy blood), not to mention a boatload of fiber.

    But it wasn’t too long ago when the kids of the cabbage family were the bane of every child’s dinner plate. And for good reason. Inexplicably, steamed or boiled and served unseasoned was the default preparation for the leafy green orbs and the mushy, foul-smelling results could accurately be summed up in one word: “yuck!”

    Thankfully, nowadays we’re well-versed in how to unlock the veggie’s glorious culinary potential. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spruce up those sprouts.

    Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

    A creamy Caesar dressing provides a nice balance to the vegetal notes of raw Brussels. The salad also doubles as a fresh alternative to your standard slaw which makes it perfect for picnics and BBQs. Get our Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad recipe.

    Mueller Austria Premium Quality V-Pro Multi Blade Adjustable Mandoline Slicer, $34.97 from Amazon

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Pecorino

    A drizzle of olive oil and a high heat blast in the oven ensures these sprouts achieve golden brown glory. Almonds provide layers of toastiness while Pecorino Ginepro, a sheep’s-milk cheese laced with balsamic vinegar and juniper, brings just the right hit of salty goodness (feel free to substitute with manchego if the Spanish standard is more accessible). Get our Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Pecorino recipe.

    Roasted Pear and Cranberry Brussels Sprouts

    Ayesha Curry’s take on roasted Brussels sprouts is the perfect distillation of fall in a bowl. Serve at Thanksgiving and the side is bound to outshine your cousin’s candied yams and your aunt’s green bean casserole. Get the Roasted Pear and Cranberry Brussels Sprouts recipe.

    Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers

    Don’t let the minimalist simplicity of this dish fool you. The fried capers burst with brininess and add crispy texture to the sautéed sprouts. Get our Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers recipe.

    Braised Brussels Sprouts

    A one-two porcine punch elevates these braised Brussels to hog heaven. Along with the addition of cubed pancetta, the sprouts are cooked in the rendered fat ensuring a crisp exterior. The addition of shallots offer a welcome touch of sweetness to the dish. Get our Braised Brussels Sprouts recipe.

    Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi and Bacon

    Momofuku chef David Chang taps into his Korean roots to drop a flavor bomb on roasted Brussels sprouts. Funky fermented kimchi gets the purée treatment, saucing up the sprouts which are tossed with smoky pieces of bacon and topped with sweet grated carrots. Get the Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi and Bacon recipe.

    Brussels Sprouts and Lemon Risotto

    Brussels sprouts aren’t merely for sides and salads. They’re worthy of a main attraction, particularly when featured in a creamy risotto. Dried figs may seem like an unorthodox addition to the rice, but the fruit provides a gentle hint of earthy sweetness that balances the tang of the lemon. Get our Brussels Sprouts and Lemon Risotto recipe.

    Green Monster Stir-Fry

    You don’t have to be a Red Sox fan to enjoy this innovative veggie stir-fry from Boston-based chef and author Joanne Chang. Beyond the Brussels sprouts, a veritable cornucopia of all things verdant (edamame, peas, cucumber, avocado, lemongrass, and pistachio pesto) join forces with chewy farro for a fabulous meatless meal. Get the Green Monster Stir-Fry recipe.

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