The microplane grater gets my vote as the most transformative low-tech kitchen tool. It’s morphed millions of chefs and serious cooks from zest haters to zest lovers simply by turning an onerous task into one of pure joy.
But why stop with zest? Star chef David Chang of Momofuko Noodle Bar and Ma Peche In New York City keeps his customers in orgasmic bliss over feathery shavings of frozen foie gras from his microplane. I don’t have foie gras hanging out in my freezer, but here are eight other great ingredients for your microplane that will make you a culinary champion among your friends.
- Pepperoni: Grate frozen over steaming hot bowls of pasta and blistering pizzas. It’s a nifty tip from Executive Chef Dan Drohan of Otto in New York City.
- Soft Cheeses: We already know the microplane makes fluff out of hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. But soft cheeses? Freeze them well first, then have fun grating them over everything in a form no one will recognize. Try flecks of gorgonzola on sliced ripe tomatoes. Or cream cheese “snow” over smoked salmon—it’s much classier than a schmear— or wisps of goat cheese on roasted beets.
- Garlic: Forget mincing and mashing garlic to a paste. Simply grate it on a microplane and you’ve got your paste.
- Ginger: Peel—it’s easiest with the edge of a spoon—then grate like garlic into a mash. For ginger juice, gather the mash and squeeze. Try a little juice in salad dressings; it adds a jolt of heat and freshness.
- Chocolate: Whether milk or dark, wispy shavings are far easier than classic chocolate curls and they dress up any dessert. Save the idea for topping steaming mugs of hot cocoa in the winter.
- Butter: Freeze, then grate over freshly steamed asparagus, green beans or corn for starters. Even more awesome, make and freeze a compound (flavored) butter—how about garlic and herb or sun-dried tomato and caper?—and shower shreds of it onto a steak right off the grill.
- Olives: Use green or black or a mix. I love picholine, Kalamata and oil-cured black olives. Drain them well, then freeze. Grate them over grilled fish steaks, flattened chicken breasts or even deviled eggs.
- Pecans or walnuts: Shred frozen over ice cream, a salad, vegetables, you name it. Make your friends guess what the beautiful flakes are!
Download the free Gourmet Live app and stay tuned for this week’s issue so you can check out the list of my eight favorite low-tech kitchen tools that are still worth having and using in a high-tech world.