Friday, May 11, 2012

Foodie Faves: Microplane Rasp Graters

I’m adding a new feature to this blog – call it a bloguette. An amuse-bouche for your kitchen. Whatever. But I occasionally come across a tool – maybe a new one, maybe an old one. Maybe not so much a tool as a thing I do in the kitchen that I find really useful that I discover isn’t as widely known as I had thought. And I intend that these bloguettes will be weekly. Note the part about intend.

So today’s bloguette is about my Microplane rasp graters.

According to The New York Times, the spark of imagination that moved the rasp from the workshop (where it was used to smooth wood) to the kitchen took place in 1994. A homemaker in Ottawa, Canada, was making an Armenian orange cake, but she was getting frustrated at being unable to get good orange zest using her old grater. She picked up a new rasp her husband had brought home from their hardware store, to see if it would work any better. The lacy bits of orange rind that resulted convinced her to start marketing the tool to both carpenters and cooks. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I use the large one for a long list of foods. It grates Parmesan or other hard cheese in a way that’s lighter and wispier than any other way of grating. It produces a fine zest of lemon or lime or orange rind with hardly any effort. And I don’t know of another instrument that gives me such nice grated onion or garlic or fresh ginger, with a minimum of trouble or mess.

I keep the smaller one for grating whole nutmeg, and any other hard spice like cinnamon. In fact, freshly grated nutmeg is so far superior to the jar of already grated stuff that once you try it, you’ll never go back. Moreover, the actual nutmeg keeps almost forever, so in the end, it’s also cheaper.

These days, you can find a fairly wide variety of styles for rasp graters, including some that have a measuring device attached. You’d probably want one with larger holes for shaving chocolate or coconut, like the ones in this picture from Crate and Barrel. You can also find them at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, or a host of online suppliers of kitchen gear.

The way I know I like my rasp so much is that I was cooking in my daughter-in-law’s house not long ago, and I noticed she had two rasps in her tool drawer. “I see you have two of these,” I said. “Yes,” she said. “You gave me both of them.” And the way I know what a great person she is is that she had never said anything about it.

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