Vegging Out

Kitchen gadgets nirvana: Yes, you must eat your veggies — but do it with cool tools

Kitchen gadgets nirvana: Yes, you must eat your veggies — but do it with cool tools

You need to eat more fruits and vegetables. You do. You know it, but still insist on neglecting this centuries-old foodie wisdom.

Instead, you are probably concerned with the amount of carbs in the evil banana, the sugar content in the sinful apple, or the monounsaturated fat in the sexily-alluring avocado.

Seriously?

I have not heard of anyone getting fat because they munched on fruit, or that vegging out will cause cancer, heart disease, or worse, erectile dysfunction. It’s 2010 and Atkins is so out. Sensibility is back in.

Don’t believe me? I understand.

Then listen to Mark Bittman in his TED talk: "You eat more plants. You eat less other stuff. You live longer. Not bad."

And for those that justify getting their daily quota through supplements, Bittman explains that "it's not the ingredients in plants. It's the plants. It's not the beta carotene. It's the carrot." 

Excuses are plentiful. Preparation takes too long. I don’t have time to cook. I am afraid I am going to chop my fingers off with the knife. Yes, perhaps it is not always convenient to veg out, but the alternatives are not terribly attractive in the long term.

Going on a field trip

The solution? A trip to scan the shelves of Sur La Table on West Gray to meet  Culinary Program Manager  Carlos Meltzer and find time saving tools to fulfill our daily fruit and veggie quota.

I have culinary bi-polar disorder. I am a die-hard believer in the powers of Cleo, my cleaver, and Bambi, the bamboo cutting board. Most kitchen tasks can be successfully executed, with flair, with a good sharp knife on a clean and safe surface.

The rest are capricious additions. But I still must have them especially if they speed up prep, come in pretty colors and make a remedial task that I do while grooving to my awesome collection of 70s tunes more enjoyable. Somehow, pitting a cherry while listening to “I will Survive” seems so right.

"The demand for quality cooking tools has increased beyond a classic chef's knife as people are taking the initiative to cook at home for their friends and family," Meltzer explains. "People are becoming more more aware of what they eat and trying a wider variety of fruits and vegetables everyday. They come to us looking for tools like serrated and ceramic peelers to make quick work of the waxy skins on local eggplants, tomatoes and peaches.

"As they learn about how great fresh food tastes, they are looking for tools like the rasp grater, which is perfect for zesting a lemon in seconds or shredding fresh ginger right into a stir-fry."

Need a helping hand? Meltzer will be leading a summer vegetarian cooking class  on June 22 at Sur La Table where you can append your chef skills and learn to make quinoa salad with pickled radish and feta, fritters with strawberry-rhubarb compote and other veggie yummies. If you are vegan, Meltzer can show you easy dairy-free substitutions.

Roaming through Sur la Table can prove financially dangerous for a kitchen-gizmo-obsessed veggie like me. But assembling a list of must have, fabulous, cute, and helpful accessories that will give you creative foodie freedom and won’t break the bank, isn’t a difficult task.

My favorite five in no particular order:

1. Ceramic Peeler by Kyocera - $10
Yes, the same people that brought you printers and wireless phones also bring you a trendy line of ceramic cutlery. Why ceramic?

An almost ever-lasting ultra-sharp blade, ceramic will not rust or chip. However, it will break if handled roughly. So do not be attempting any flashy over the head tosses or behind-the-back peeler summersaults.

Yes, peelers peel (duh) both fruits and veggies. Mangos, kiwis, apples, pears — although eating the latter two without the peel is committing nutritional blasphemy — you can also use it to create artful shaved veggies, chocolate, and hard cheese, if you must eat dairy.

2. Progressive Fruit Scoops - $12.95
Ever wanted a giant hollow melon baller? Most likely the answer is no as you probably would not know what to do with one other than engage in some skewed version of hoops. These colorful nylon hollow spoon-like tools are fantastic for scooping out melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, and papaya, as well as seeding peppers and tomatoes.

Think of the possibilities. A beautiful melon bowl, a cucumber boat, stuffed red peppers, and cute kiwi cups would be incredibly easy to produce.

3. Chef’n Garlic Zoom - $9.95
Could I imagine a world without garlic? No. I up the amount called for in almost every recipe. But I could do away with the stinky fingers that come out of smashing, peeling and chopping it. Enter Chef’n Garlic Zoom, possibly coupled with this garlic peeler.

This adorable robot-like handy little guy is so darn cute, I would excuse its one-hit wonder personality. It does only one thing, but it's a thing I need to do almost all the time. Pop in the peeled garlic, roll back and forth and do a funny dance.

4. Collapsible Salad Spinner - $29.95
Salad spinners have been around the block. They come in different colors and have an almost space age look and feel. I find them indispensable as the naughty experience of biting into a crisp fresh green can be thoroughly ruined by a little dirt, sand or even worse, an unwelcome friend.

I am at odds with mine as it occupies a large amount of real estate in my cabinets. This one is special. It implodes into a third of its size and plays nicely with my other gadgets.

5. Vertical Spiral Slicer - $54.95
Because all things Japanese are cool, you have to try this handy tool. Although it may take a little bit to get the hang of it, this vertical slicer has the ability to create picture perfect strands out of most hard vegetables.

You can create gorgeous carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and radish ribbons. Raw foodies love this to make zucchini and pepper noodles resembling spaghetti. Unlike many tools with a myriad of parts, this one is easy to clean.

It doesn’t really have an instructional booklet, so it will mostly be a little trial and error and creativity.

Experiment and the veggie Gods will reward you. 

News_Sur la Table_interior_brighter
Sur La Table is a dangerous place for the kitchen-gadget obsessed. Courtesy of Sur la Table
Mark Bittman
TED speaker Mark Bittman knows you need to eat the actual plant — supplements won't do. Photo by Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart
News_Sur la Table_Vertical Spiral Slicer
Sur la Table's Vertical Spiro Slicer is Japanese gadget cool. Courtesy of Sur la Table