Cooking Tips
In a Salad Rut? Shave Your Vegetables.
This simple technique will take your salads from blah to beautiful.
09-13-2021
Kate Bernot

If there are certain vegetables you struggle to get excited about, reach for your vegetable peeler. Shaving vegetables into ribbons changes their texture so dramatically that you’ll likely find a new affection for foods you previously ignored: zucchini, carrots, fennel, beets, brussels sprouts, radishes, the list goes on.

For me, shaving zucchini has helped use up more of these bountiful squash that dominate my summer garden. Sure, I like grilled or sauteed zucchini, but I grow weary of eating them the same way day in and day out. Now, I switch it up by making shaved zucchini and carrot salads, which—as a bonus—don’t require me to turn on a stove. I use my vegetable peeler to scrape down the vegetables horizontally, creating long ribbons of zucchini and carrot. Asparagus can be peeled into ribbons as well, but they’re not in season this late in the summer.

Texturally, these vegetables retain their crunch, which is a win if you’ve been turned off by mushy squash. Plus, the long ribbons look elegant in a salad bowl. I dress them with a bit of vinaigrette, maybe some torn herbs and crumbly, salty cheese like feta or flakes of a hard cheese like Parmesan, and I have a summer side salad that came together in less than 5 minutes.

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The shaving technique works for other vegetables, too, including fennel, beets, brussels sprouts, and radishes. For those smaller vegetables, however, you’ll need to use a mandoline or a food processor fitted with its slicer attachment, unless you’re brave enough to slice them thinly with a chef’s knife. (An aside for fellow cooks who use food processors to shave brussels sprouts: How satisfying is the whirring and slicing sound as you push the sprouts through the tube and into the blade? So satisfying.) Whichever tool you use, slicing these vegetables creates a mound of slaw-like slivers that are delicious raw or briefly sauteed.

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Shaving vegetables transitions into fall, too. Shaved brussels sprouts with a warm bacon vinaigrette are a fantastic side with pork chops or roasted chicken—and they’re a novel alternative to the caramelized versions you’ve had before. Shaved fennel and apple salad is also a refreshing, crunchy fall side that lightens up a heavier main course; shaved beets are a nice diversion from the heartier, roasted version. And if you slice the fennel or beets thin enough on a mandoline, you don’t even need to cook them. (I eat beet salads so much more frequently when I don’t need to roast them in the oven for an hour.)

There are certainly other vegetables not named here that could benefit from shaving or shredding. Bottom line: If there’s a vegetable you’ve been neglecting because of its texture, shaving will boost its a-peel.