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Archive for February, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Get An Olive Pitter (And A Cherry Pitter As A Bonus)

A year ago we wrote about kitchen gadgets to avoid. Some, like the mango pitter, turned out to be a waste of space and money—they work only on perfectly-shaped mangoes.

Others, like a garlic press, an egg separator, a mandoline, an egg slicer and a cherry- or olive-pitter make difficult jobs easy.

With olives and cherries, you get a two-for-one gadget: The same pitter works with each. (Food fact: when used for cherries, it’s called a stoner, since cherries have stones, not pits.*)

If you’ve ever bitten into a plump olive in a salad, sauté or stew—only to crunch down on the pit—you’ll recognize why you need one of these gadgets.

A few olives add lots of flavor to dishes—at least, the really good olives, which usually are not pitted by the manufacturer, do. The pitted, canned variety are very bland, adding color but not flavor. With all due respect to the people who enjoy mild olives, we choose olives for their bite.


A Cherry/Olive Pitter from Cuisipro.


Get an olive pitter and you’ll find new ways to use olives: sliced into scrambled eggs and omelets, in the nongreen salad group (chicken, egg, macaroni and potato salads, plus others), in pasta and on pizza, with baked fish, roasted vegetables, polenta….just about anything. (There‘s a treasure trove of olive-based recipes at

Try them in an avocado and grapefruit salad or a blood orange and arugula salad.

You can also have fun stuffing the centers of the olives with something unexpected—like pineapple slivers, or an olive-chive garnish (with the ends of the chives sticking out of each end of the olive).

Get an olive pitter/cherry pitter online.

And plan ahead for cherry season (May to July for U.S. cherries).

*Why? Blame it on the evolution of the English language: who used what term and what caught on. Stone derives from the Greek stion, pebble. Pit derives from the Dutch word for kernel, which is related to the Old English pitha, meaning core or heart.


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COOKING VIDEO: Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, A Healthy Mashed Sweet Potato Recipe


February is National Sweet Potato Month. Yet how many of us only think of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner?

We enjoy them year-round, baked or sliced and steamed in the microwave for a tasty side or snack. But there’s a lot more to enjoying sweet potatoes.

Join Alton Brown as he demonstrates Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, a couldn’t-be-easier recipe that mashes diced, steamed sweet potatoes with canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (a piquant sauce made with tomato paste, garlic, paprika and other spices, vinegar, and salt).

Steaming maintains the vitamins and flavor nuances of the sweet potatoes, and chipotle adds smoky flavor and heat.

Food Fact: Sweet potatoes are not yams, just as buffalo is not bison. Check out the difference.

How many types of potatoes have you had? Check out our Potato Glossary.



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RECIPE: Pizza, The New Sandwich & Salad?

Pizza has come a long way from what we think of as its origins: crust, tomato sauce and cheese. There are cheeseless pizzas, dessert pizzas, duck confit pizzas, tuna sashimi wasabi pizzas and just about anything you can put on a piece of flatbread.

In fact, food historians agree that the origin of pizza was not Italy, but Greece.

While flatbread was topped with other foods since it was first grilled on a hot rock in prehistoric times, ancient Greeks turned the process into an art. They topped a round flatbread (plankuntos) with stew, thick broth, meat, vegetables and/or fruit.

The result was a thrifty, convenient and tasty meal for the working man and his family, requiring no additional plates or utensils. (Injera, the Ethiopian flatbread, is still used for this purpose and is a mainstay of Ethiopian cuisine. More on the history of pizza).


Topped with romaine lettuce and Parmesan cheese, this grilled pizza is a fun take on a favorite main course salad, the Chicken Caesar.


Recipes like Chicken Caesar Pizza allow you to sneak salad atop a pizza, in a way that pleases those who typically avoid salad greens. Suddenly, pizza becomes a main-dish salad with the side of bread as the base.

Make a Grilled Chicken Caesar Pizza; then see how many different ways you can combine proteins and veggies on a pizza.

Look to your favorite sandwich and salad combinations. Instead of conventional sandwich bread, use the ingredients to top a pizza. You can use tomato sauce or barbecue sauce as a base, or any other sauce topping. We’ve used wasabi mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing and thousand island dressing with canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs and roast meat leftovers. Try a chef salad or spinach salad pizza.

Add romaine or other lettuce and some cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got a pizza salad-and-sandwich.

Pizza Dough Tips

  • Pizza dough can be found in supermarkets, in the dairy section or prepared deli section. Or, buy it from your your local pizzeria.
  • If the dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the fridge.
  • Let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, to make stretching/rolling easier.
    Find more of our favorite pizza recipes.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cook Some Wild Striped Bass

    Try striped bass for a change. Photo courtesy


    Some fish get more respect than others. The media are filled with recipes for cod, halibut, trout, salmon, sea bass, snapper and tilapia.

    What about the striped bass*, a coastal water denizen that happens to be the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island and South Carolina, and the state saltwater fish of New Hampshire, New York and Virginia?

    Native to the coasts of eastern North America, the bass live as far north as the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the St. Johns River in northern Florida. They are also found throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico.

    Once fished to dangerously low levels, the population has recovered and is now found in record numbers. Right now, an abundance of wild striped bass from Maryland and Virginia are in markets. Plentitude means lower prices, so they’re a great buy.


    *Also called Atlantic striped bass, linesiders, rockfish and stripers, among other names.

    Fish Facts
    Though wild striped bass can grow to six feet in length (and may live up to 30 years!), what’s in the market are fillets cut from smaller, three-to-five-pound whole fish.

    Striped bass are also farmed in a hybrid of striped bass and white bass. But there’s no need to look for farmed fish when the real deal is waiting for you. (See a discussion of the difference between wild and farmed fish.)

    Thanks to Euro USA Fresh Seafood for this ultra-easy recipe. Pair it with a sauvignon blanc or a Chablis.



  • 4 six-ounce wild striped bass fillets, with skin
  • Salt & pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

    1. Take the fish out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before preparing.

    2. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel and season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.

    3. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat.

    4. Coat the bottom of another slightly smaller sauté pan with olive oil (you can use a less expensive oil here—it’s just to keep the pan from burning). Gently place fish fillets skin side down in the larger sauté pan and place the smaller sauté pan directly on top of the fish. This technique creates a lovely crispy fish skin by gently pressing the skin of the bass onto the bottom of the sauté pan.

    5. After a couple of minutes, remove the top sauté pan to allow steam to escape and the skin to become very crispy.

    6. As fish cooks, it turns from translucent to opaque. Cook the fish two-thirds of the way on the skin side and flip it over for the last third of the cooking time. The rule for fish is about 7 to 8 minutes per inch of thickness, a little less if you like your fish more on the rare side (as we do!).
    Serve the bass with your favorite vegetables. We followed the photo and went Asian-style, with steamed snow peas, edamame and water chestnuts tossed with a bit of olive oil and yuzu juice. Include a side of whole grain (barley, brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat pasta tossed in olive oil) and a salad, and you’ve got a delicious, healthful dinner.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Soda

    A few years back, we began to notice a restaurant trend: creative mixologists making their sodas from scratch. Some of it was creative flavoring—fennel-lemongrass soda, for example. Others were the desire of mixologists to make the best-ever cola, root beer and ginger ale. All of it was all-natural.

    Spice Market New York, owned by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, prepares its own sodas for guests who’d prefer something soft—and special. You can do it at home for your guests.

    The Fresh Ginger Lime Soda and Cherry Yuzu Soda are customer favorites at Spice Market. The sodas are mixed from a base to which club soda (soda water) is added.

    Impress family and guests with these homemade soda recipes, courtesy of Spice Market.


    Makes 1 quart.

  • 3/4 cup yuzu juice
  • 3-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4-3/4 cups frozen sour cherry purée*
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: lime wedge, orange slice, gourmet maraschino cherry
    *You can make it by puréeing frozen cherries in the blender.


    Homemade soda is a treat, and fun to make. Photo courtesy Spice Market | New York.

    Preparation Per Drink

    1. Fill a highball glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup cherry yuzu base and 1/2 cup club soda.
    2. Stir, garnish and serve.

    Makes 1 quart.


  • 2 cups fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups fresh lime juice
  • Simple syrup (recipe)
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: lime wheel, lemongrass stalk, strawberry (notched on rim of glass)
    Preparation Per Drink

    1. Fill a highball glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup ginger lime base and 1 tablespoon simple syrup over ice. Top with club soda.
    2. Stir, garnish and serve.
    Find more of our favorite soft drinks.


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