I actually met someone a few weeks ago who did not own a Microplane zester. Imagine, 2016 and there are still people out there rubbing Parmesan to dust on the useless, prickly side of a box grater. I was aghast. "Well, what does it do?" my interlocutor begged to know. "What's all the fuss?" The best response was simply to go out and buy her one.
No kitchen, in my mind, is complete without a Microplane Classic Series Zester, that simple former woodworking rasp that, about 25 years ago, a Canadian woman happened to discover was indispensable in the kitchen (and the rest is history). I reach for mine at least three times a day, whether it's to grate Parmesan, citrus rind, garlic or nutmeg. In all honesty, I don't think I could cook without it. In fact, whenever I'm going to make dinner at someone else's house (as I sometimes do for friends), the rasp always comes with me … and I cannot count the number of times I've had to leave it behind because my hosts were impressed by its performance.
It's the simplest thing: a piece of metal the size of a child's ruler, with very sharp, roughly two-millimetre cuts all over it acting as blades. It makes mush of a garlic clove in about five seconds, which is ideal for salad dressings because you get the flavour without the texture. It feels appropriate for something as small as a clove of nutmeg (who's going to drag out a clunky box grater just for a pinch of powder?).
Many have tried to copy the Microplane, and you'd think that wouldn't be difficult (it's just a zester), but any imposter I've tested has never proved as good, never able to get Parmesan quite so feathery, never able to bald citrus fruits with such fragrant finesse, never so easy to handle. It's a fact: The original rasp rules. And, once it enters your life, there's no going back.
Microplane Classic Series Zester, $17.95 at ca.microplane.com.