The fine art of julienning
Patricia Newman, with Dodi Newman
I can vividly remember the first time I mixed julienned root vegetables. The look was striking — an elegant Mikado-style jumble of longish matchsticks — and the texture and feel were so unfamiliar I thought I was tasting something new. When I found out it was carrots and other root vegetables, it was a real revelation, a lesson in the importance of technique.
I didn’t apply that technique much myself, though, until I learned Asian-style julienning, which is quick, easy, and safe: position the vegetable on the cutting board where it least tends to roll; slice it diagonally into ovals, then stack the ovals two or three high and slice them into thin sticks. Google “Asian julienning,” and you’ll find excellent (and entertaining) tutorials on the subject.
Another way to julienne vegetables is with a mandolin. I have used the classic Benriner mandolin (model 64W) for years and appreciate its superior quality, exceedingly sharp blades, and relative affordability.
Here are some of the things you can do with julienned vegetables:
Julienned root vegetables: Julienne any combination of yellow, green, and white root vegetables. Steam them in a small amount of water with a bit of salt, then drain, and swirl in some butter. This is an elegant, light side dish, perfect with white fish or chicken breast.
Carrots, kohlrabi, and herbs with ramen noodles: Set water to boil for the noodles; julienne the vegetables; thinly slice some scallions, and roughly chop some cilantro. While the noodles are soaking, steam the vegetables in water, fish sauce, soy sauce, and ginger until tender-crisp. Add herbs and dark sesame oil; mix with noodles.
Carrot, almond, and sesame seed salad: Julienne the carrots very thinly (use the finest blade if you’re using a mandolin). Make a mild vinaigrette with white vinegar, canola oil, salt, and a tiny bit of sugar or honey. Slice almonds three or four times lengthways into sticks. Toss everything, including sesame seeds. This can sit for hours before serving.
Cut the zucchini into long sticks (4-5 mm wide, 2 mm thick), either Asian-style or with the mandolin; chop parsley, and grate parmesan. Heat olive oil in a pan, add almonds, then stir-fry until light golden and remove from pan. Add frozen peas to pan and cook them until they’re almost done, then add zucchini. Return almonds to pan; add parsley (optionally cream, mmm) and cheese. Also excellent with sage (fried in oil) instead of parsley.