No matter how many times you chant “Watch the fingers!” while shaving vegetables with a mandoline, the very useful tool seems to be more interested in your digits than your vegetables. Or at least mine does.
If the mandoline’s taunts are too much for you to handle sometimes, the good news is there are four other ways to get wispy, weightless shaved or shredded vegetables for a summer of salads. Read on, and consider this your timeout, mandoline.
This option will give you vegetable shapes that most resemble those you’ll get from a mandoline. For long vegetables, like zucchini or asparagus, hold onto one end with your non-dominant hand and peel away from your hand using even, heavy pressure. Once you've finished one side, rest the flat surface you just created on a cutting board for a more stable base.
Use it for: Just about anything! Use a peeler with teeth for thinner ribbons (also known as vegetable noodles).
If using a mandoline to shave raw vegetables seems like excruciating “salad surgery,” as Chez Panisse Chef Cal Peternell calls it in his book Twelve Recipes, follow his lead and instead use a safer option, the cheese planer—“that thing that looks like a little spatula with a slot.” Secure the vegetable in place with a fork, then, with your dominant hand, run the cheese planer down the vegetable.
Use it for: long, skinny vegetables like zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and the like.
If you’re going for matchsticks or a thin shred for slaws, your trusty knife can come in handy—just make sure it’s really sharp, and, as always, watch those fingers. You’ll want to cut the vegetable into planks, then stack them and slice them again for matchsticks. Watch how it’s done right here.
Use if for: Root vegetables, and anything you want to make a slaw or matchstick out of. Also great for odd shaped vegetables, like snap or snow peas and brussels sprouts.
Does your food processor have a slicer attachment? Then you’re a few seconds away from a whole bunch of sliced veg. While you won’t be able to control the thickness of your slices much, the food processor can get fairly thin slices—around a 1/4-inch. If shredded vegetables are what you’re after—for a slaw-like salad—then your food processor might have an attachment for that, too.
Use it for: Slicing or shredding a whole bunch of vegetables, or when you don’t have to have super super thin slices.