Earlier this month, Houlihan’s rolled out three new menu items made with a spiralizer, a kitchen tool that transforms vegetables into “noodles.”
The Leawood-based restaurant chain’s offerings include a pad thai-like salad piled high with curly ribbons of zucchini, flatbread topped with swirls of sweet potato, and lasagna layered with pasta-like strands of butternut squash.
The veggie-centric dishes are available through June at all 72 Houlihan’s locations and were crafted in collaboration with Ali Maffucci, author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Inspiralized” (Clarkson Potter, 2015). So far they’re a hit: The lasagna is currently the restaurant chain’s No. 1 seller, followed closely by the salad.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Jen Gulvik, senior vice president of marketing. “America loves vegetables. What?”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Spiralizers aren’t exactly new – curly fries have been around for years – but they’ve become increasingly common in the kitchens of health-conscious home cooks craving a healthy alternative to pasta.
Maffucci, who lives in New Jersey, is spearheading the spiralized movement with her book, blog, tens of thousands of social media followers, and a gadget of her own design called The Inspiralizer. She got hooked on spiralizing in 2013, when she first tried zucchini noodles. She was amazed that “zoodles” could be just as satisfying as the pasta she ate growing up in a food-loving Italian-American family.
“I always thought healthy food didn’t coincide with delicious food,” Maffucci says. She says spiralizing proved her wrong.
“Inspiralized” includes recipes for parfaits layered with yogurt and spiral-cut pears, chicken soup with curly carrot “noodles” and pesto spaghetti that swaps pasta with zucchini.
Maffucci’s recipes have gained a following among eaters who follow gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian or raw diets – the same consumers who are snapping up spiralizers at kitchen stores.
Operating a table-top spiralizer is a bit like playing with a Play-Doh fun factory. The gadget works by rotating a vegetable (or fruit) across a grating blade. The vegetable emerges out the other side in swirly strands that can be eaten raw in salads, sauteed, roasted or baked in casseroles.
Zucchini and sweet potato are among the easiest to spiralize because they hold their shape well. Other spiralizeable fruits and veggies include beets, bell peppers, apples, cucumbers, onions, and broccoli stems and carrots with diameters larger than 1 1/2 inches. Eggplant and pineapple don’t work because they’re too soft.
For some cooks, spiralizing is too complicated.
“The spiralizer requires more coordination than I have,” admits Lauren Abel, a Kansas City, Mo.,-based healthy cooking instructor.
Instead, Abel uses a $10 julienne peeler to shred zucchini for pasta-like dishes.
“You get these beautiful, perfect strands,” she says. “It’s like poetry.”
Those who want to skip the shredding and spiralizing altogether have another option: grocery stores have started stocking packaged spiralized veggies in their produce sections.
“People are cooking this way at home,” says Gulvik, a devoted spiralizer who bought a Paderno model last year after seeing one of Maffucci’s recipes in a health magazine.
Gulvik says it’s likely that Houlihan’s will add more spiralized menu items this summer. Perhaps they’ll be inspired by recipes in Maffucci’s new cookbook, “Inspiralize Everything,” which comes out in August.
For Maffucci, the spiralizer is more than a trendy gadget. It’s a tool that makes eating your vegetables more of a treat than a chore.
“Once people get spiralizers, they’re hooked,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine not having it in my kitchen.”
Zoodles With Lemon-Garlic Spicy Shrimp
Makes 1 serving
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin, divided
1 medium zucchini, spiralized
1/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 wedge lemon
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add half of the garlic and continue cooking 1 more minute, or until the shrimp is cooked through and opaque. Set aside.
Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil and garlic to the pan and cook 30 seconds. Add the zucchini noodles and cook 1 1/2 minutes. Add the shrimp and tomatoes to the pan. Squeeze lemon juice over the dish. Remove from heat and serve.
Per serving: 224 calories (36 percent from fat), 9 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 172 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 311 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Broccoli, Bacon and Sweet Potato Frittata
Makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons whole milk or full-fat coconut milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Coconut oil, for greasing
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 broccoli stem, spiralized into spaghetti noodles
1 sweet potato, spiralized into spaghetti noodles
8 bacon slices, cooked and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with sea salt and pepper.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and grease with coconut oil. When the skillet is hot, add the onion, broccoli noodles, sweet potato noodles and bacon. Saute briefly for about 4 minutes.
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the egg sets. Turn the oven to broil, then cook the frittata for 2 minutes more, or until cooked through.
Per serving: 172 calories (64 percent from fat), 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 149 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 191 milligrams sodium 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Spiralize It! Creative Spiralizer Recipes (Sonoma Press, 2015)
Chicken Carrot Noodle Soup
Makes 2 to 3 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 large carrot, peeled and spiralized
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the broth, thyme, oregano and parsley. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and carrot noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the noodles soften, and serve.
Per serving: 315 calories (44 percent from fat), 20 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 43 grams protein, 185 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Source: Inspiralized (Clarkson Potter, 2015)
Apple and Pear Ricotta Parfaits With Pistachios
Makes 2 servings
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1 apple, spiralized
1 pear, spiralized
1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted and salted pistachios
In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, honey and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Evenly divide the raspberry jam into two parfait glasses. Layer on the ricotta, and add the apple and pear noodles. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and serve immediately.
Per serving: 558 calories (39 percent from fat), 26 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 78 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 70 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.
Source: Inspiralized (Clarkson Potter, 2015)