An interview with blogger Ali Maffucci of Inspiralized, about her new cookbook, plus a recipe for Caprese Zucchini Salad.
I bought my first spiralizer for a photo shoot 15 years ago at a Japanese market. It was green, looked a bit like an pterodactyl and I couldn’t read the instructions on how to use it. But I thought, “What a cool gadget.”
I’m all about the gadgets.
In 15 years, I used it once. I’ve since misplaced the blades to make thinner or thicker spiraled vegetables. It’s stuck on one setting. And now, after receiving Ali Maffucci’s cookbook Inspiralized, it might be time to upgrade.
Spiralizing veggies is all the rage, and I have a feeling that Ali has helped propel it into the mainstream because of her blog by the same name as her cookbook, Inspiralized.
Giving Ali all the credit for popularizing this cooking trend would be a little heavy handed, but since her decision in 2013 to dedicate an entire blog to one single cooking method, she’s garnered a legion of fans who are visiting her blog (over 2 million page views a month) and putting their own spin on healthy eating too.
So maybe more than a little credit should go to this 28 year old entrepreneur.
Hailing from the fine state of New Jersey where she currently lives with her fiance, Lu, this former vegan’s introduction to spiralizing came from where many of us learned our cooking secrets—from her mom. But her mother wasn’t simply trying a new food trend. Instead, she was saving her own life by changing her eating style, then shared this new way to prepare vegetables and fruits with her daughter.
Breakfast, lunches, dinners and yes, even desserts, can be spiralized. Ali’s recipe for Caprese Zucchini Salad is just one of the 80 in her new book and it’s the one I’ll be sharing at the end of this post.
But enough about me blabbering on, let’s hear it from Ali herself. Thank you, thank you Ali for being our FoodieCrush.
And for a fun look at what really goes on, check out the behind the scenes makings of the Inspiralized cookbook in the video below.
Behind the Scenes With Ali of Inspiralized
What did you do professionally before blogging?
When I first graduated, I worked for The Trump Organization for 3 years at one of their private golf courses in Bedminster, NJ called Trump National Golf Club. I was the Director of Hospitality, where I ran a small hotel on property, along with the private member events. After that, I got a job in business development in the airline industry, where I travelled a lot and worked in a sales capacity, in Jersey City, NJ.
What is your culinary background, how did you get into food?
I have no formal culinary training, I’m a total home cook. Most of what I’ve learned has been from YouTube, Google, or calling my grandparents or mother and asking, “How do you do X?” I’m Italian American and cooking and food has always been a huge part of my life, so I’ve always been “into food.” Starting in college, I started learning the basic principles of healthy eating and cooking, especially after spending two years as a vegan.
You’re from Italian heritage and were inspired by your family to get into the kitchen. Tell us more about your culinary roots.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve always grown up having Sunday dinners at my grandparents, eating a LOT of food. My mother cooked a lot and she is a diabetic, so she always had a healthier spin on her cooking. I didn’t cook my first meal until my junior year of college, when I made a pasta dish for a boyfriend of mine – I had to ask my mother how to boil water and open a can of tuna. True story!
Where did your desire to start a food blog come from?
When I first discovered the spiralizer, I was so excited, that I went online to look for a community to talk with other people who were using the spiralizer. I found nothing. Thus, I wanted to start a blog to not only share my recipes but create a community around spiralizing.
Your mom was diagnosed with diabetes. How did this influence you in the kitchen?
It made me more conscious of what I put in my body. I watched how diabetes affected her lifestyle (with insulin, measuring her portions for carb counts, etc), that it made me more aware of food and what it does to your body. It had a positive influence on me! I knew what carbohydrates were and what they did to you at a very early age!
What drove you to write this cookbook and what did you learn?
I wanted to share my recipes with the masses! I wanted a comprehensive guide to spiralizing that you could cuddle up with! I wanted to create a book that had all of my knowledge from spiralizing in one place – tutorials, tips, tricks, and of course, recipes. I also wanted to share my story. In the end, I learned a lot about the publishing industry as a whole, but I also learned cooking tricks!
What was your favorite part of writing the book? And what was the hardest?
My favorite part of writing the book was holing up at coffee shops and writing – whether it was a headnote for a recipe or the recipe itself. I love being part of that culture, the smell of coffee, the sight of other people working on creative projects. I love coffee shop culture and I had fun having that time to myself to work on something I was really passionate about.
The hardest part was deciding (and committing) to the recipes in the book. There were SO many that I wanted to include, but there just wasn’t enough time or space. In the end, I ended up swapping recipes out last minute, because it was hard to commit. It’s a good problem to have!
If you could only choose one recipe to make from the book, which one would it be?
If you’re new to spiralizing, my Bikini Bolognese. It’s such a classic, Inspiralized dish – it’s a classically heavy, indulgent pasta dish made lighter – with the same great flavor! If you’re a spiralizing pro, I’d recommend my paella or the Grape Leaves Casserole – they are my most fun and creative dishes, in my opinion.
What is the main story about spiralizing food that you want to share?
Spiralizing has been around for a long time, but it was never taken to its full potential! Raw vegans loved spiralizing to make tasty raw pastas. Restaurants loved spiralizing for making gorgeous garnishes for their meals. However, spiralizing was never used in the mainstream, but now it is and I’m so happy about that! Not only is it beneficial for special diets (such as Paleo and gluten-free), but it makes eating vegetables more exciting for everyone. Whether you’re trying to slim down and eat more veggies or you’re in a rut with your current diet, spiralizing is for everyone!
What’s in the future for Inspiralized?
So much! Right now, we’re in the midst of the launch of the Inspiralizer, our branded spiralizer. We have so many fun projects we’re working on and I hope you’ll be seeing a lot more of Inspiralized in the future, so follow along!
And now, my list of rapid fire 10 Q’s:
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Fun, creative and healthy.
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Molly Yeh from Mollyyeh.com! I love her story, her quirkiness and her baking talents (I am a horrible baker!) Also, her photography is absolutely stunning and inspiring.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
Isn’t in obvious? The spiralizer!
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
Baked pork chops – I really want to get them right so they’re juicy!
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
We were out all day celebrating after my bridal shower, so when we got home, we just ordered delivery from a local diner. I had a vegetable quesadilla – which is so random, I had never ordered it before. Sometimes you just have a craving (or maybe it was all the champagne!)
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you:
I’m really good at speed walking. No one can speed walk faster than me!
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
I love my mother’s baked garlic chicken with celery and carrots, it’s so simple and so delicious! Her chicken is always the juiciest and most tender.
9. Your recipes all use one tool to create them. What is your biggest challenge in coming up with original ideas?
Not just sticking to Italian dishes! Sometimes, all I want to do is remake classic Italian pastas. It’s easy to default to a carbonara or a bolognese. I try to keep it interesting by incorporating different cuisines.
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
I’ve Been Spiralized
Inspired by Ali’s book Inspiralized, I headed out to Crate and Barrel to purchase a new spiralizer since I’d lost the blades to this one. While Ali will soon have her own brand of the spiralizer, I couldn’t wait so I looked for something similar to the one she used in her book, The Paderno spiralizer.
Unfortunately, the Paderno was out of stock in the store, so I purchased the GEFU Spiralfix instead.
But I took it back.
The Spiralfix did an okay job of spiralizing the zucchini, but at a higher price point than the Paderno, I was expecting perfect spirals. And that’s not what I got. The edges were rough, I ended up wasting a lot of the vegetable because of uneven slicing andand I couldn’t figure out how to change the width of the spirals. Or if I even could, as it didn’t mention different blades or thickness in the directions so far as I could see. Plus, it put a really large hole in the middle of the zucchinis.
I decided I’ll buy some replacement blades for my first spiralizer, a Benriner, or hold out for Ali’s Inspiralize branded version.
If you’re curious about how the spiralizer works, Ali has a You Tube channel dedicated to showing you her tips and tricks with that infectious smile and the best manicure in food blogging.
About the Recipe
The caprese is one of my favorite things to eat, like…ever…and thus I have a plethora of recipes in my recipe index. It’s no wonder that of the 80 recipes in Ali’s book, this is the one that caught my eye. But I’d never tried this classsic with raw zucchini. Unsure as to whether the raw zucchini would taste chalky and dry once it went through the spiralizer, I was more than pleasantly surprised at how deliciously good the raw zucchini was. With the simple balsamic dressing, the zucchini’s texture was silky and smooth and just got better the longer it marinated.
I used a variety of small tomatoes, both in shape and color. I can’t wait to remake it when I have freshies from the garden.
Small mozzarella balls are called for in the recipe but I’m guessing I’ll probably be trying this another time with my favorite burrata the next time this graces my table.
Caprese Zucchini Salad
- 2 medium zucchini spiralized to look like ribbons, then noodles trimmed to 5 inches or less
- 1 cup cherry or cocktail tomatoes halved
- For the marinade
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium garlic clove minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 small mozzarella balls halved
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
- Place the zucchini and tomatoes in a large bowl.
- Make the marinade. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the garlic is smooth.
- Pour the marinade over the zucchini noodles and tomatoes, and toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
- Add the mozzarella and basil to the zucchini noodles, toss to combine, and serve.
- Reprinted from Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci
To see more of Ali and Inspiralized, visit her here.
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