Many cooks feel inspired by the fresh produce that is so plentiful at this time of year, and a growing number are taking it a step further and eating “inspiralized.” That’s the premise of a series of best-selling cookbooks by Ali Maffucci, who started a trend with “Inspiralized,” a cookbook detailing what to do with the popular gadget, the Spiralizer.

The Spiralizer was a relatively simple, non- motorized apparatus best known for turning zucchini into noodle-like strands that could be substituted for pasta. It spawned many similar creations, ranging from hand-held shredders to pricey spiraling attachments for KitchenAid mixers.

Now it’s possible to be part of the spiral squad without any device at all, because packages of pre-spiraled vegetables have begun to be regular fixtures in the produce department. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, and broccoli in long, spaghetti-like strands are prepackaged and found near the bagged salads, ready to be stir-fried, baked in casseroles or served raw.

For many people, veggie noodles were a way to cut carbs but still enjoy pasta sauce. For others, swapping pasta for vegetables has been a way to adhere to special diets such as gluten-free or Paleo. Ali Maffucci saw the noodles as a timesaver as well. “Spiralized cooking is family-friendly because it’s fast,” she writes. “It only takes about 30 seconds to spiralize a zucchini, and only 2 to 3 minutes to cook the noodles to al dente, versus 15 or 20 minutes to boil water and cook wheat pasta.”

Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to spiralize, and requires little or no cooking, making it perfect for hot-weather meals. Zucchini was the vegetable that has launched Maffucci’s passion for spiralizing. “Growing up in an Italian-American family, I was accustomed to eating heaping portions of spaghetti and dipping crusty slices of white bread into the pool of leftover sauce at the bottom of the bowl. How could sliced zucchini hold a candle to those meals?” she writes. Not only did the taste convert her, but finding that she was able to drop a few pounds without changing anything but her carb intake sealed the deal.

Beyond zucchini, however, Maffucci makes a case for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Spiral-sliced apples retain their crunch, and roasted carrot noodles develop the sweetness typical of roasted root vegetables in a fraction of the time. Maffucci lays out the guidelines for spiralizing as being any fruit or vegetable without a tough pit or large, tough seeds, at least 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches in length.

Surprisingly, even firm vegetables like potatoes, broccoli and butternut squash are easy to spiralize (though, given how hard butternut squash is to peel, which is still necessary, it’s great to find it in the pre-spiralized packages in the produce section).

For gardeners who find themselves overrun by zucchini every summer, the spiralizer has been a handy tool, and Maffucci makes it clear that it’s usefulness extends throughout the year, whatever is in season.

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