Spring Farmers’ Market Shopping with ‘Inspiralized’s’ Ali Maffucci

May 13, 2016

Cookbook author Ali Maffucci shops for groceries at New York City's Union Square Greenmarket. Photos: Clay Williams

Vegetables are important to Ali Maffucci. The author of the wildly-popular 2015 book, Inspiralized, Maffucci is dedicated to turning cooks on to the wonderful world of spiralizing vegetables—a technique of transforming the knobbiest of veggies, such as beets, carrots, jicama, turnips, squash, and even more delicate crops like zucchini—into spaghetti-like strands.

Maffucci didn’t start out as a spiralizer; she was born and raised in an Italian family where pasta was sacrosanct. So she was rather surprised to find her mother making pasta out of zucchini one summer evening in 2013. “I tasted it, and I could not believe how much it tasted like actual pasta. I took her spiralizer home that night and made a dish of “spaghetti” and loved it,” she says. Maffucci was smitten by her spiralizer, but couldn’t find many recipes other than a few raw food ideas. After two months of working in business development by day and developing recipes with her spiralizer by night, she walked into her boss’s office, quit her job, went straight to her local coffee shop, and started blogging. She was 26 years old.

Union Square Greenmarket

The Union Square Greenmarket in full swing.

Four months into blogging, she began getting emails from fans asking for a spiralizer cookbook, and she self-published a small one with just 20 recipes. It did so well that she sold her first book in 2015—Inspiralized—and developed her own Inspiralizer product to go along with it. “After the first month of spiralizing, I noticed things that didn’t work well, and I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable recommending the one I used because I had to MacGyver things together to make it work the way I wanted,” she says. “I wanted something beautiful that would go on the countertop that you would be proud of. I knew that I would have to come up with my own product.”

Maffucci, who joked that the only other business she’s started was her lemonade stand as a child, says she was confident that her new product would be a success. “This was a passion project,” she says. “I never knew exactly where it would take me, but I knew it would be successful, and I knew it would work. My father is an entrepreneur, my grandfather is, my husband is; I never thought I wouldn’t have my own business. It was ingrained in me.”

Next up for Maffucci is the August release of her new cookbook, Inspiralize Everything, an A-Z guide with 120 new recipes.

Celery root

Look for small, firm celery root with few knobs for spiralizing.

Given her passion for produce, we strolled through the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City on a sunny day under a canopy of just-popped cherry blossoms. Maffucci was on the hunt for spiralizable spring vegetables like carrots, new potatoes, kohlrabi, beets, celery root, and parsnips. She was also keen on asparagus (she shaves them into salads), artichokes (roasted and tossed into pasta), spinach, new spring lettuces, and frisee. As we shopped, she shared some essential shopping tips.

Bring Your Own Bags
Sure, you should bring a big canvas bag (or three), but Maffucci also cleverly suggests packing smaller, reusable mesh bags for delicate produce like lettuces and fruit. This step means you don’t have to use those rolled up plastic bags from the market and your produce stays cushioned on the trip home.

Do a Full Sweep Before You Buy
Maffucci advises taking a complete tour of the market first to check out inventory and pricing. “You can take everything in, and compare prices at different stands,” she said. “Shop at the cheaper location!”

Potatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket

New potatoes should be used within a few days of buying, so plan accordingly.

Only Buy What You’ll Cook in the Next 3 Days
Maffucci suggests planning out your meals for the next three days and shopping accordingly. She likens shopping for produce to buying jeans. “You may look at a pair of jeans that don’t quite fit and say, ‘I’ll get these now and I’ll fit into them next month,’ but let’s be honest, you won’t,” she said. “The same thing goes for your produce. You may think you will get to cooking all of what you’ve shopped for, but if you won’t be cooking it within the next three days, it will spoil.”

Have a List, But Allow Two Extras
Maffucci suggests making a list in advance, but she likes to leave a little something to chance. “Bring a list, but be open-minded,” she said. “Allow yourself two new things—something you’ve never seen before like fiddlehead ferns—but no more. You don’t want to waste food or be intimidated.”

Ali Maffucci selecting greens

Stock up on versatile greens such as frisee and spring lettuce.

Always Buy Fruit, Greens, Herbs, and a Loaf of Bread
There are some things you will always need at home. “Fruit can always be enjoyed as a snack,” she said. “Greens are so versatile—you can use them in salads, or blend them into smoothies. And I love to have fresh herbs on hand like basil, parsley, and mint. They make great pesto. And I have bread with every meal. You need something to sop up the sauce.”

Take advantage of spring produce with the following recipes from Ali’s cookbooks.

Get the recipe: Watermelon Radish Nourish Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette and Vegan Parmesan

Get the recipe: Za’atar Chickpeas over Radicchio and Carrot Salad

Get the recipe: Beet Pasta with Blood Orange, Honey Walnuts, and Crispy Kale

Watermelon Radish Nourish Salad and Za’atar Chickpeas recipes reprinted from Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing. Copyright © 2016 by Alissandra Maffucci. Photos copyright © 2016 by Evan Sung. To be published on August 16, 2016 by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Beet Pasta recipe reprinted from Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals. Copyright © 2015 by Alissandra Maffucci. Photos copyright © 2015 by Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Andrea Strong’s writing chronicles the world of food—from farm to fork, and all the stops along the way. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York Magazine, and a host of other publications, including The Strong Buzz, her blog devoted to New York City’s food scene. She lives in Queens with her husband, her two kids, and her big appetite.

Ali MaffucciCookbooks of 2016Farmer's MarketsHealthyInspiralize EverythingInspiralizedRecipeTipsVegetables

A New York Times BestsellerThe definitive cookbook for using a spiralizer: the kitchen gadget that turns vegetables and fruits into imaginative, low-carb dishes.   On her… Read more »

Inspiralize Everything

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERFrom the author of Inspiralized comes the ultimate guide on spiralizing, with clean meals that fit into any diet, from paleo to vegan to… Read more »

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