In an ideal world, I’d set aside a few hours every Sunday for an elaborate meal prep routine. Tunes would be blasting as I seamlessly chopped veggies, roasted chicken, and steamed rice. After putting in a couple of hours’ work, I’d stock my fridge with pre-portioned meals and snacks, do all the dishes right away instead of leaving them in the sink, and get ready to eat nourishing food for the whole week ahead.
In reality, this almost never happens. I work from home and continually delude myself that there’s no need to prep, because I’ll find the time to cook myself meals “as I go.” Spoiler alert: That doesn’t happen. Instead, I only start thinking about food when I get ravenously hungry, stumble to the fridge, and stare blankly at my latest farmers market haul while willing my produce to assemble itself into a meal right away with little to no effort on my part.
There’s a kitchen tool that actually helps with this: the mandoline slicer.
A few years ago I Googled “faster way to chop veggies” in the run-up to hosting a Friendsgiving dinner. My search introduced me to the mandoline, which slices produce and other foods super thinly, and I haven’t looked back since. I got even more ambitious and purchased this OXO set, which goes for $ 29.95 and includes different attachments that allow me to slice, grate, and julienne all manner of fruits, crunchy veggies, and hard cheeses in just a couple of minutes. When I need to eat ASAP before extreme hanger sets in, or throw together something quick before heading to a meeting or a workout, this handy little tool does all the finicky chopping work in no time at all.
It can take a little while to get used to having your hands so close to the blade (I was sure I was going to slice one of my fingers off the first couple of times I used mine), but many slicers come with safety options like a grippy food guard you can use to protect your fingers. You can also use a fork to hold whatever you are slicing, keeping your digits safe.
There are tons of different mandoline slicers and slicer/grater sets out there (here are a bunch on Amazon). Most are pretty affordable and very easy to clean by hand. Some models allow you to take out the blades to sharpen them, so they can last a long time if you treat them well. The one I have takes up very little space, which is very important in my small apartment kitchen, and it can also go in the dishwasher. (Score!) Generally, mandolines don’t have tricky instructions or come with alarming warning labels saying that something might explode if you make a mistake. You don’t have to plug them in, and they don’t generate heat—making them especially useful on those humid summer days where the idea of using your stove is unbearable.
Some great mandoline-friendly produce to keep around includes apples, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas. Basically, if you love crunchy vegetables but do not love to spend hours each week chopping, the mandoline slicer is a very worthwhile purchase good for more than just quick salads. The tool is also perfect for dishes with sweet potatoes, eggplant, or zucchini. And, it’s useful when you want to try your hand at homemade veggie chips, ratatouille, quick pickling, fancy-looking fruit tarts, creating a huge pile of sliced red onion for that bagel brunch you’re hosting…the list goes on.
Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:
- Homemade Veggie Chips With Ranch Dressing
- Grilled Zucchini Roll Ups with Feta
- Vegan Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Tortilla
- Spiced Sweet Potato Quesadilla
- Potato Tart With Chevre, Tomato, And Quinoa Crust
- Autumn Tabbouleh with Cauliflower, Carrots, and Golden Beets
- Caesar Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons
Ultimately, a mandoline slicer is a must-have for salad fans, lazy meal preppers, and anyone who loves a good snack of raw veggies.
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