Tools of the soup maker's trade: Microplane® graters
Sometimes, it's one final flourish that takes a soup from good to great. A bit of chopped cilantro or parsley, a few pepitas, a dollop of creme fraiche -- all make an ordinary soup extraordinary. One indispensable tool for creating the wow comes from the hardware store: a Microplane® grater. Or, in my kitchen, two graters, one for each of my favorite soup finishers: lemon zest, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
A Microplane is nothing more than a rasp, the exact same kind your dad might keep in his toolbox to use in woodworking. It's a thin strip of metal with a sharp, perforated surface.
I don't know who was the first chef to discover that rasps make ideal tools for grating cheese or lemon zest, but that person was a genius. Microplane already manufactured rasps, so it was a short hop from the woodshop to the kitchen. They added some cook-friendly handles, and offered rasps in three different perforation sizes, perfect for everything from chocolate to Cheddar. Smaller perforations create a fluffy grating, and the largest holes yield small shards -- lovely for a topping of cheese on a bowl of soup.
Most good cookware stores sell Microplane graters now, for $11-14. They're a bit less expensive in the hardware store, but it's worth an extra dollar or two to get a grater with a comfortable handle. I'm sure that we all grated things before Microplanes came along, but I can't remember how we did it.
Do you have a Microplane (or more than one)? Do you love it?