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Vegetables with a twist

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

The latest food craze has cooks’ creativity spinning. Thanks to a nifty tool called the spiralizer, people who love pasta but don’t love the carbs and the calories are turning to an affordable gadget that produces spiral cuts, shoestrings, rice shapes and vegetable “noodles.”

The novelty of this tool is that it uses different blade settings along with a pronged handle to crank fruits and veggies into curly, ribbon-like strands.

When the spiralizer first came to my attention, I immediately dismissed it — in our household, the zucchini doesn’t get a lot of respect. I figured the first time I served zucchini “noodles” instead of pasta that I’d never hear the end of it. Plus, I certainly didn’t need another tool in my cooking arsenal to gather dust (I’m thinking of my pasta maker that makes real flour noodles which hasn’t been utilized in years.)

But now that I’ve learned that I can make beautiful salads and other vegetable dishes that taste as good as they look, I’ve changed my tune.

There are no shortage of cookbooks and online recipes geared to the spiralizer, but a most recent publication, “The Spiralized Kitchen,” by Leslie Bilderback, really shows off all the assets of this cutter and inspires creativity. For instance, at my house, we love risotto but honestly, standing and stirring for 30 minutes to create a creamy rice dish doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. However, butternut squash, even sweet potatoes, parsnips or rutabaga, when spiral cut into thin shreds are transformed into a beautiful risotto topped with pine nuts and pecorino with much fewer calories. Viola!

Potatoes become terrific curly fries but also make an unusual crispy crust for pizza and ribbons of cucumber and radish combine for a crispy salad.

And then there are desserts that benefit from a twist of the wrist when using fruits such as apples or pears. The spiralizer ensures even-sized pieces so that they all bake in concert whether in a pie or crisp.

Now that spring has arrived, and with it, the promise of fresh, locally grown produce, I don’t think the spiralizer will be gathering any dust.

There are many of these tools on the market ranging in quality and price from tabletop, hand-cranked models such as the $40 Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable with interchangeable blades available in kitchen shops such as Willams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel or online through Amazon. Smaller, hand-held, one-blade spiralizers range about $12 can be found in discount stores and Bed, Bath & Beyond. And, if you’re really concerned about space and/or funds, check out a regular julienne peeler. Certainly without all the bells and whistles, the nifty peeler still creates those fun “zoodles” that everyone is talking about.

Since I’m sure there are a lot of people who either own a spiralizer already but may not know what to do with it, or people who are considering buying one but aren't sure if it would be worth it, here are some ideas for creations that you can make.

Butternut Squash and Pecorino Risotto

Butternut squash is not inclined to hold a long “noodle” shape. This rebellious winter squash might start out long, but it slowly breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces the more it is handled. This phenomenon, as it turns out, makes it perfect to replace rice. This same recipe can be made with any number of root vegetables. Try it with sweet potatoes, celery root, yucca, or rutabaga. The harder ones, like parsnips or carrots, will get “rice-ier” if you pulse the spiralized strings briefly in a food processor. Recipe from “The Spiralized Kitchen”

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 large butternut squash

2 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin or regular

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1 cup vegetable stock or water

3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pine nuts onto a baking sheet and bake until toasted and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Spiralize butternut squash into thin shreds using the smallest holes. Break the strands into pieces about 1 inch long, either by hand, or with a knife. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic, thyme, Herbes de Provence, and cook until garlic is translucent. Add squash and toss to coat. Add stock and simmer, stirring, until squash is tender and liquid is evaporated, about 3–5 minutes.

Stir in 1/2cup of pecorino, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot topped with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and the remaining 1/4 cup of pecorino cheese.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 285 calories; 20 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 20 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 16 mg cholesterol; 478 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Potato Pizza

Be warned that white potatoes pack a lot of carbs, so if it’s the carbs you are avoiding, consider making this recipe with sweet potatoes, which have more nutrients, and a lower glycemic index. Recipe from “The Spiralized Kitchen.”

2 large russet potatoes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2–4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup pesto sauce (homemade or jarred)

1 large heirloom or vine-ripened tomato, sliced

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

2–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Spiralize potatoes into thin shreds using the smallest holes. Toss with salt and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Gather the potato noodles and place them all in the hot oiled pan. (Be careful, the oil might splatter.)

Press them into a flat cake, and cook on high heat for 1–2 minutes. Shake pan occasionally to keep from sticking.

Reduce heat and cook until the bottom is golden brown and set. Flip and repeat on the other side. Add another tablespoon or two of oil if necessary. When golden on both sides, transfer from sauté pan to a lightly oiled baking sheet. This is your pizza “crust.”

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread pesto sauce evenly across the top of the potato crust. Arrange tomato slices, evenly across the pesto, and repeat with the mozzarella. Sprinkle sliced garlic all over, then drizzle the surface with olive oil.

Bake pizza for 10–20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are bubbling. Remove from oven and

top with basil. Slice in wedges and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Pizza Jardiniere:

For a fresh, garden-style pizza, top the potatoes with an assortment of fresh greens, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Bake until the greens begin to wilt.

Per serving: 1,268 calories; 95 g fat (24 g saturated fat; 67 percent calories from fat); 69 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 90 mg cholesterol; 1,104 mg sodium; 32 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Zucchini with Sweet Roasted Kale and Red Onions

There are two kinds of kale generally available in the market. One is curly, which is generally too fibrous for salads, and the other is Tuscan or dinosaur kale, which is preferable for this recipe. Baby kale is also perfect for this. Recipe from “The Spiralized Kitchen.”

6–8 large kale leaves, stems removed

1 red onion

3–4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced almonds

3 large zucchini squash

1 clove garlic

Grated zest and juice of

1 orange

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon or more red chile flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roughly chop the kale, spiralize the onion into thin shreds using the smallest holes, and combine them in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until well-coated. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast until the leaves are charred and the onions begin to brown.

Spread almonds onto a second baking pan and toast in the same oven until fragrant and golden, about 5–10 minutes. Spiralize zucchini into thin shreds using the smallest holes. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until softened. Stir in orange zest and juice, honey, vinegar, salt, pepper and chile flakes. Add zucchini and cook, tossing to coat, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Toss in kale and onion just before serving with a garnish of toasted almonds. Serves 2.

Per serving: 738 calories; 53 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 54 g carbohydrates; 28 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 516 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 14 g fiber.

Apple Rhubarb Crisps

Recipe from inspiralized com.

3 rhubarb stalks

3 apples

4 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup granola of choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spiralize apples into medium-thin noodles.

Slice rhubarb lengthwise down the stalk. Then, cube. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with the apple noodles.

Butter 4 ramekins, pack in the apple-rhubarb mixture 3/4 of the way full (leave room at the top for the granola).

Lightly drizzle the tops of each ramekin with 1 tablespoons honey and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the ramekins, place 2 tablespoons of granola on top per ramekin and bake for 5 more minutes. Serves 4.

Per serving: 224 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 16 percent calories from fat); 48 g carbohydrates; 40 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 6 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Parsnip Noodles with Lemon Basil Cashew Cream and Garlic Shrimp

Recipe from

Olive oil cooking spray

1 small garlic clove

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large parsnips, peeled

Salt and pepper, to taste

12 medium shrimps, defrosted, deshelled, deviened

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 half lemon, for spritzing

1 tablespoon chopped parsley, to garnish

For the sauce:

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in water

6 tablespoons chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 large basil leaf

Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon

Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat lightly with cooking spray. Once heated, add in the garlic and shallot and cook for 2 minutes or until shallots soften. Pour the mixture into a food processor or high-speed small blender, along with the pre-soaked cashews, chicken broth, salt and pepper, basil and lemon zest and juice. Pulse until creamy and set aside.

Place the large skillet back over medium heat and add in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Once oil heats, add in the parsnip noodles and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes or until cooked to al dente. Once done, pour over the cashew sauce and let cook for 1-2 minutes or until warmed.

Meanwhile, on another burner, set over another large skillet and add in the rest of the olive oil. Once oil heats, add in the shrimp and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, tossing to coat both sides. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, flip and then cook another 2 minutes or until shrimp is opaque. Once done, spritz with lemon and remove from heat.

Assemble the pasta: divide the parsnip noodles into two bowls, top with shrimp and garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Per serving: 446 calories; 27 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 54 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 80 mg cholesterol; 522 mg sodium; 17 g protein; 8 g fiber.

Common Spiralizable Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z

Apple, Beet, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Chayote, Cucumber, Daikon Radish, Jicama, Kohlrabi, Onion, Parsnip, Pear, Plantain, Radish, black, Rutabaga, Sweet Potato, Taro Root, Turnip, White Potato and Zucchini + Summer Squash