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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Octopus

Raw Octopus

Ceviche With Octopus

Grilled Octopus

Octopus Salad With Beans

Fancy Grilled Octopus

Octopus Tostadas

[1] Cleaned, frozen, thawed and ready to cook (photo courtesy EuroUSA). [2] Ceviche with marinated (not grilled) octopus (photo courtesy Lola | Denver). [3] Seared and ready to plate (photo courtesy Scarpetta | NYC). [4] A classic first course or luncheon salad: grilled octopus and fancy greens atop a bean salad vinaigrette (photo courtesy l’Amico | NYC). [5] An easy yet fancy main (photo courtesy Gardenia | NYC). [6] Octopus tostadas (photo courtesy


Over the past 10 years, charred/seared or grilled octopus has become de rigueur at just about every restaurant we patronize.

That’s great news, because we love grilled octopus with a drizzle of olive oil. It doesn’t get more delicious than that.

Yet, simple as it is to grill seafood, we never tried it at home. One reason: We typically don’t see mature octopus at fish markets (in mainstream markets, it’s often a special order); and we personally don’t like the miniature size (not as meaty, not as tender, etc.).

So this past weekend, we happened upon frozen octopus at a Latin American grocer. It was tentacles only, which means we didn’t have to remove the head and beak. What could we do but buy it and give it a shot?

It turns out that frozen octopus is actually more tender than fresh. Freezing and then thawing the tentacles helps to tenderize the meat. White wine, often used as a braising liquid to slow-cook the tentacles, is a second tenderizer.

Octopus, first braised/poached and then charred/seared or grilled, is incredibly versatile and can take on any aromatics. The classic Mediterranean preparation is poached in white wine with garlic and oregano, served with gigante beans and/or some combination of capers, lemon, olives and tomatoes.

But you can make anything from octopus tostadas to tandoori octopus; or go beyond the popular octopus and bean salad with a salad of fennel, mint, orange slices and red onion in a sherry vinaigrette.

You can cut the cooked octopus into kabob chunks, serve it thinly sliced on a flatbread pizza. We made a hero sandwich with sliced octopus, roasted red peppers and giardiniera.

Perhaps the most difficult step with octopus is he first step: deciding how you want to serve it, with so many delectable options. Some of our favorites are shown in the photos—at least, the ones we’re capable of making. Also take a look at pulpo a la gallega, an octopus and potato torta from Spain; and octopus terrine, which can be turned into octopus pastrami.


Here’s an important note before you start: As with bacon, onions and other foods, what looks like a lot of cooks down to far less. Estimate 3/4 to 1 pound per person as a first course.

Ingredients For 6 First Courses

  • 1/4 cup plus extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds octopus, thawed overnight in the fridge
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, oregano, or both
  • 1 bottle dry white wine (e.g. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt

    1. REMOVE the beak from the octopus. Place a plastic cutting board in the sink, slice off the head, and flip the octopus to remove the beak, which is in the middle of the tentacles. With a paring knife, slice around the beak and pushing it through, as if coring a pear or tomato. It will to pop out the other side.

    2. HEAT 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole or dutch oven. Add the octopus and cook over moderately high heat, turning until lightly browned (2 to 3 minutes). Transfer the octopus to a plate or bowl. Add the garlic cloves to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds.

    3. ADD the white wine gently, and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Here’s a tip from every Italian nonna: When slow-cooking in wine, put the actual wine cork in the braising liquid to cook along with the octopus. It’s one of those tricks that no one can explain. But simple slow cooking (braising) also creates tender tentacles, so don’t go crazy looking for “the secret.” There is one tip we’ll pass along from Bon Appetit: If you want the tentacles to curl, dip them in the hot poaching broth three times before submerging.

    4. RETURN the octopus to the casserole, add up to 1 cup of water or broth if necessary, to cover the octopus. Cover the casserole and braise over moderately low heat until very tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the octopus completely in the braising liquid, another technique that keeps the flesh tender.”

    5. REMOVE the red skin by rubbing it with a paper towel, taking care to leave the on suckers, which are the parts that get crispy when grilled. Plus, removing them will dry out the cooked octopus. If the suckers start to come off when rubbing, it means the octopus has been cooked it too long. It isn’t ruined, but do your best to keep the remainder intact for the aforementioned reasons.

    6. FINISH the octopus by searing in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, creating a deep char on the outside. We prefer to sear the tentacles whole, about 8 minutes per side (we like ours very crispy). The flesh and suckers will caramelize nicely; (you can also thinly slice the tentacles and grill cut side down over moderately high heat, for about 1 minute; then and cook for 20 seconds. We cook the octopus in long lengths, and prefer to serve it two meaty 6-inch or four 3-inch pieces. Cut the head into 1-1/2-inch pieces. We use them in green salads or as a garnish for fish.

    7. PLACE on a platter lined with paper towels to absorb any excess olive oil. Season lightly with salt. Transfer the octopus to plates. Fill the radicchio leaves with the Italian salad and set beside the octopus. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve.
    Variation: You can also roast the octopus, but we haven’t tried it.

    The octopus (plural octopuses, octopodes or octopi) is a cephalopod mollusc in the phylum Mollusca (class Cephalopoda, order Octopoda, family Octopodidae, genus Octopus, species vulgarism, plus more than 100 total species, representing one-third of all cephalopods.

    The octopus has two eyes and four pairs of arms (tentacles) and a beak mouth at the center underside of its tentacles. An invertebrate, it has no vertebral column [backbone or spine) and no other skeleton. It most intelligent of the invertebrates.



    TIP OF THE DAY: A Hard Cider Party For Halloween

    Still looking for a Halloween activity?

    How about a hard cider party? It’s adult, it’s fun, and it’s an opportunity to taste and compare more hard ciders than most of us get to do.

    While in the U.S. and parts of Canada, the term “apple cider” is interchangeable with apple juice, in Europe a glass of cider is not kid stuff. It’s an alcoholic drink that that many prefer to beer—and if you look at the explosive sales figures, Americans are also discovering its charms: It’s the fastest-growing alcohol category.

    When apples are pressed and bottled, you have apple juice—also called apple cider in the U.S., although in other countries apple cider refers to hard cider.

    Hard cider is made from fermented apple juice; over a few months, the sugars in the juice turn into alcohol. As with craft beer, each brand has a distinct flavor profile and alcoholic content, generally from 3% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less to 8.5% or more.

  • Hard cider uses a different blend of apples than apple juice. In fact, many more apple varieties are used to create a fine cider. The import Magners Irish Cider is made from 17 varieties of apples!
  • Pears are also turned into cider, called perry in the U.K.
  • The juice ferments for eight weeks after the apples are pressed. The cider then matures or several months, and afterward is blended, filtered and carbonated. The result is a drink with the carbonation and alcohol of beer and the flavor of apples.
  • Many cider apples are sour, and can’t substitute for eating apples.
  • Like wine, cider it has a relatively high concentration of antioxidants; it’s naturally gluten-free and is less filling than beer.

    Beyond Halloween, you can also have a cider tasting during Thanksgiving cocktail hour, for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other celebrations.

    1. INVITE friends today: Halloween is eight days away.

    2. PLAN the number of ciders based on the number of people. If you’re serving 8 or more different ciders, estimate one bottle per four proper.

    3. PARE the list. There are many different styles of cider, and ciders from different countries (England, France, Ireland, Spain and others). Each country has its own preferred style, as you’ll see in the Top Artisan Ciders section below. You can’t try them all in one night—but you can have subsequent tastings to try the rest.

  • We recommend sticking with American cider brands for the first event. You want to try a good representation of artisan ciders. There are so many different types of local cider: dry , sweet, barrel-aged, At the next event, you can taste the winners against the Europeans.
  • Similarly, save the barrel-aged, flavored ciders (apple pie, cherry, honey, raspberry, orange, etc.), ice cider (like ice wine, it’s pressed from naturally frozen fruit), perry and spiced ciders for next time.
  • Look for Angry Orchard, Crispin, Strongbow and Woodchuck, for starters; they’re national brands. You can create an entire tasting just by gathering up the different expressions of each brand. For example, Angry Orchard features Apple Ginger, Crisp Apple, Green Apple, Hop’n Mad Apple, Stone Dry, plus a fall seasonal cider, Cinn-Full Apple.
  • Artisan ciders tend to be distributed in the limited area where they are produced—not just because small companies lack sales and marketing heft, but because each brand needs to go through approval of each state liquor authority. It’s daunting, but we’ve listed some highly-rated ciders below.
  • Do not mistakenly pick up a flavored apple beer, like Redd’s Apple Cider. These beverages are artificially flavored, and don’t belong on the same table as cider, an all-natural drink.
  • Do have some apple cider (apple juice) for designated drivers. If you buy a few different kinds, they can have their own “tasting.”
    4. PLAN the eats. You can serve hard cider with any snack or food you’d serve with beer, but the sweetness of cider allows you to serve it with desserts, too.

  • For snacks: charcuterie and hearty cheeses.

    Angry Orchard Cider

    Crispin Cider

    Woodchuck Hard Cider

    Strongbow Cider

    [1] Angry Orchard, owned by Boston Brewing Company (parent of Samuel Adams beer), is the nation’s #1 cider brand (photo courtesy Boston Brewing). [2] Crispin makes a variety of styles, as well as perry (pear cider) under the Fox Barrel brand (photo courtesy Crispin Hard Cider Co.). [3] Woodchuck, another popular national brand (photo courtesy Fletcher6 | Wikipedia). [4] Strongbow cider is produced by Heineken (photo courtesy Heineken USA).

  • For main courses: chicken, pork, sausages, soups, stews, fondue (you can substitute hard cider for wine in most recipes and drink rest of the cider along with the meal).
  • For dessert: Apple desserts pair beautifully. We like bread pudding, cobbler or crisp (the difference), pie and apple-topped cheesecake.

    Here are some of the nation’s top-rated artisan ciders: Brand, variety and style. “Crisp/Dry” is the most common style. “Funky” refers to a style popular in France, with [what we really enjoy] barnardy aromas. They can also be crisp and dry. Off Dry/Semi-Dry is the classic English style: sweetness of fruit followed by a dry finish.

    Dessert ciders are sweet, like dessert wine; although off dry/semi-dry and crisp ciders can also be paired with desserts.

  • CALIFORNIA: Bonny Doon, Querry (sweet)
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Bantam, Wunderkind (off dry/semi-dry)
  • MICHIGAN: Virtue Cider, Lapinette (funky style)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Farnum Hill, Extra Dry (crisp/dry style)
  • NEW YORK: Bellwether Hard Cider, King Baldwin (crisp/dry style), Doc’s Draft, Original Hard Apple Cider (off dry/semi-dry), Eve’s Cidery, Darling Creek (off dry/semi-dry), Redbyrd Orchard, Starblossom (funky style), Wölffer Estate, 139 Dry Rosé Cider (off dry/semi-dry)(
  • OREGON: E.Z. Orchards, Cidre Dry (funky style), Reverend Nat’s, Revival Hard Apple (crisp/dry), Traditions Ciderworks, Riverwood (off dry/semi-dry)
  • TEXAS: Argus Cidery, 2013 Perennial (funky style), Austin Eastciders, Gold Top (funky style)
  • VERMONT: Eden, Sparkling Cider, Dry (off dry/semi-dry
  • VIRGINIA: Foggy Ridge Cider, First Fruit (crisp/dry style)
  • WASHINGTON: Snowdrift Cider Co., Orchard Select (crisp/dry style)
  • WISCONSIN: AeppelTreow, Appely Brut; Bellwether Hard Cider, King Baldwin (crisp/dry style)


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Sorbet With Fruit Juice

    If you’re switching your menus to fall vegetables and fruits, you can still a variety of seasonal ice creams and sorbets.

    In this easy recipe, you don’t even need fruit: You use the bottled juice. Apple, blood orange, grapefruit, pear and pomegranate are delicious fall sorbet flavors.

    You can set out different garnishes and let everyone style their own dessert or snack.

    This sorbet recipe comes to us from US Apple, which has many recipes and apple-cooking and -baking tips.


  • 2 cups fresh apple cider (or other juice)
  • 1-1/4 cup pomegranate juice (or other juice)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Optional garnish: dried apple chips, fresh apple slices*, pickled apple slices (recipe below), pomegranate arils

    1. STIR together the juices, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes; then transfer to a large bowl, stir in the lemon juice, add the cinnamon stick, cover and chill in the fridge until cold.

    2. FREEZE the mixture in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
    *Leave the skin on—it’s more attractive. Be sure to dip the sliced apples in acidulated water to prevent browning: 2 tablespoons lemon juice, lime juice or wine per quart of water.
    in our Ice Cream & Sorbet Glossary.



    Apple Pomegranate Sorbet

    Natalie's Pumpkin Apple Juice

    [1] Easy apple-pomegranate sorbet, served with a fresh apple slice (photo and recipe courtesy [2] Use your favorite juice. Two of our fall favorites from Natalie’s: Pumpkin Apple and Orange Cranberry (photo courtesy


    Make your own pickled apples. In addition to a sorbet garnish, you can use them on sandwiches, slaws, sides with grilled meats and seafood, baked ham and any fat-laden recipe that needs a slightly tart counterpoint.

    This recipe makes a quart or more, depending on the apple size. If you want to test the recipe, halve it, taste and adjust accordingly. If you make the recipe but have more than you’ll use in a month, you can send some home with guests.

    Note that these are not sterilized, shelf-stable pickles. You can keep them in the fridge for up to a month. The flavors will intensify for a week.

    If you don’t like the “pumpkin pie spices,” substitute black peppercorns, cardamom, coriander seeds or other favorite.

    Make extra for gifting!


    Pomegranate Arils

    Pickled Apple Slices Recipe

    [3] Pomegranate arils are colorful and easy garnish (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF). We buy the arils-only in plastic bags. [4] Pickled apple slices, featured in the Apple Lovers Cookbook by Amy Traverse. Here’s her recipe.




  • 1/2 cup tap water
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 cup cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 6 apples
  • Optional: 1/8 cup liqueur (apple or elderflower liqueur, schnaps [the difference])

  • 1-2 one-quart jars or other containers.

    1. PLACE the tap water, vinegar, sugar and spices into a small pan (for convenience, you can put the spices in a spice ball or cheesecloth). Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then add the ice water to cool the brine. Meanwhile…

    2. PEEL, core and slice them 1/2- or 3/4-inch-thick (we used a mandoline for even slices). Immediately place into the pickling containers and cover with the brine.

    3. KEEP the open jars on the counter until cool. Then cover with the lid and place in the refrigerator. Let infuse for at least 60 minutes. For the first week, the apples will continue to pick up flavor from the brine.

    Quick Pickling Variation

    We use this recipe to pickle fruits and vegetables when we have only an hour or so.

    For cooking or baking, here’s an apple conversion guide from Kercher’s Orchard:

  • 1 large apple (3″ to 3-3/4″ diameter) yields 2 cups sliced
  • 1 medium apple (2-3/4″) yields 1-1/3 cups
  • 1 small apple (2-1/4″) yields 3/4 cup


    TIP OF THE DAY: Caramel Apple Dip With Apples & More

    Caramel Apple Dip

    Rainbow Baby Carrots

    [1] Caramel apple dip (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Rainbow baby carrots (photo Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE).


    If you’ll be home on Halloween—either dispensing candy or hunkering down—you need a Halloween treat that isn’t candy.

    Thanks to our friends at for this recipe.

    It’s easy to make with purchased caramel sauce (or if you’re hard core, your homemade sauce).

    The caramel dip is a bit indulgent, but you can:

  • Substitute plain or vanilla Greek yogurt for the cream and cream cheese.
  • Serve the lowest-calorie dippers: apple slices, carrots, celery and pretzel sticks.

    You can use this as a dip or a spread, a snack or a dessert.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup prepared caramel sauce
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • Lemon juice

  • Apple slices or dried apple chips
  • Carrot and celery; sticks
  • Ginger snaps or graham crackers
  • Potato chips or pretzels

    1. BEAT the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks begin to form (about 2-3 minutes).

    2. ADD the apple pie spice, vanilla extract, salt and caramel sauce. Mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

    3. ADD the cream cheese and mix until just incorporated. Add the diced apple and mix until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve with fruit and/or graham crackers, gingersnaps or other cookies. When ready to serve…

    4. TOSS the diced apple in lemon juice to prevent browning. Here are other ways to prevent browning.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pour-Over Coffee At Home

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    New Chemex Brewer

    [1] The 1941 Chemex design, represented at the Museum of Modern Art and other museums (this photo is from the Brooklyn Museum Of Art). It’s $49.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. [2] A freshly-dripped carafe of coffee (photo courtesy [3] The latest Chemex design, which adds a handle for easier pouring, was actually one of the original designs before the streamlined design was chosen. It’s $43.50 at Williams-Sonoma.


    Waiting at a coffee bar recently, we overheard a customer watching her pour-over dripping into the cup. She said to the barista: “I wish I could do this at home!”

    You can, it’s easy, and a lot less expensive than the pour-over, which took four passes from the barista.

    In fact, in our youth…
    …there were no specialty coffee bars (your take-out choice was Dunkin Donuts or a deli or diner),
    …coffee at home was limited to a percolator or instant coffee, and
    …people chose either Folgers or Maxwell House, but
    …coffee aficionados made their coffee in a Chemex carafe with their favorite ground beans, usually from the supermarket although the real connoisseurs got mail-order beans from specialty shops.

    If they were lucky, they lived in a town with a specialty coffee and tea shop, with loose beans and packaged coffee from around the world.

    We were lucky: We lived in New York City, which had McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, established in 1895 and still located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village (and still not open on Sundays).

    A visit to McNulty’s was a trip back to another age. Today, the journey is accented with modern coffee makers and gadgets that didn’t exist at the time.

    But the aroma is still the same: an exotic mingling of the many aromas of coffees and teas from around the world, kept in large glass canisters. There were burlap sacks of beans and chests of tea with stenciled markings from far away lands. The brass scale was also from the 19th century.

    Amid the tea and coffee was one ultra-modern brewing apparatus: the Chemex drip coffee maker.


    Pour over, also called manual drip brewing or the drip method, is a fashionable new term for an old, low-tech method of coffee brewing.

    Ground coffee is added to a ceramic or plastic cone that sits in a paper filter atop a glass carafe, ceramic pot, coffee cup or other receptacle. The Chemex system eliminates the need for a cone by creating a carafe with a narrow neck that holds the filter.
    Melitta, The First Pour-Over

    The pour-over technique was invented by a German housewife, Melitta Benz, in 1908. Displeased with the grittiness and murkiness of coffee as it was then prepared, she devised a paper filter from a sheet of her son’s notebook paper, and set the filter into a brass cup into which she punched holes for the coffee to drip through.

    The commercial version was made in ceramic (today available in ceramic or plastic). As anyone who has used a Melitta drip brewer knows, it became a great success for its superior brew.

    Fast-forward a few decades, to inventor Peter Schlumbohm, a Ph.D chemist who had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He developed and sold his patents focused on heating and cooling systems, the thermos bottle and dry ice manufacturing among them.

    In 1941, he released the Chemex drip coffee system with the coffee filter placed in a glass carafe.

    Like the Melitta, the filter was filled with ground coffee and hot water, which drip-drip-dripped into the carafe.

    Like the Melitta, it wasn’t the fastest cup of coffee around, but people with palates applauded the superior flavor. If you liked good black coffee, drip coffee was the way to go.

    Its Bauhaus style design, elegant in thermal glass from Corning, received a big endorsement from the design community and was featured on the cover of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Useful Objects in Wartime” bulletin, making it “the official poster-child of [the] new emphasis on undecorated, functional simplicity [source]. It is included in the design collection of the Museum.


    The Next Revolution In Home Coffee Brewing

    In 1971, the first electric drip coffee maker to hit the consumer market, Mr. Coffee, revolutionized how many Americans brewed their coffee. Adios, percolator; bienvenidos, Mr. Coffee.

    Mr. Coffee engendered shelves full of electric drip brands, which remained paramount until the Keurig single-serve beverage brewing system and the proliferation of K-Cup options too hold. In 2002, some 10,000 units were sold to offices, replacing the Bunn system and the need to clean the coffee pots and drink coffee that had been sitting on the burner for too long.

    Consumers loved the Keurig system, and by 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters had acquired a stake, signed up leading coffee brands for the K-Cups

    Gosh, has it only been ten years?

    While the Melitta, Chemex and other pour-over apparatuses remained a niche product, our first experience with the modern pour-over took place in 2006 in San Francisco, where the line of customers stretched around the block to get a cup from Blue Bottle Coffee.

    As our job is to know what’s new and wonderful in the world of food and drink, we waited for some 25 minutes. Sure, it was a good cup of coffer, but we didn’t do it again.

    And we didn’t have to: The trend proliferated, and soon there was enough drip coffee in our own neighborhood to eliminate the line wait.

    Which brings us to the present: pour-overs at home.

    You can still buy a Melitta, and an improvement on it, the Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank Good Grips.

    The water stays hot in the mini-tank instead of in an open filter. All you need is add ground coffee and hot water—no paper filter.

    The set (photo at right) is just $15.99 at
    Drip Tips

    Drip coffee requires a particular technique to ensure that your brew is as good as Blue Bottle’s.

    Here are Blue Bottle’s drip coffee-making tips.


    Pour Over Coffee Oxo

    Melitta Ceramic Coffee Maker

    [4] It’s easy to make pour-over coffee at home with this $15.99 system from Oxo. [5] The modern Melitta system is $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can also buy a $3.99 plastic cone to brew a cup atop your own cup or mug.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Spices & Dried Herbs As Plate Garnishes

    Pork & Cabbage Salad

    Round Squash Ravioli

    Dessert Plate Garnish

    Spice Cocktail Rim

    [1] Chef Eric Levine adds a ring of flavorful spices around a circle of salad. [2] At Obicà, a Neapolitan-focused restaurant, Chef Erind Halilaj adds a dramatic spice stripe over butternut squash ravioli. [3] They’re not spices, but crumbs, used here by Chef Daniel Eddy of Rebelle, are lovely garnishes. [4] Spice blends make tasty rimmers for cocktails, too (photo courtesy Pompeian).


    For festive occasions—or simply to dress up an everyday meal—make your plates sing with a scatter of spice.

    Once upon a time, professional chefs and the home cooks who copied would use a piece of parsley or other green herb to garnish the plate. Since most foods fell into the brown-beige color family, the plate garnish would “give it some color.” Few people actually considered eating the parsley.

    Today’s chefs are much more innovative. The paltry parsley has evolved into colored swaths of sauce, brushed onto plates; polka dots of sauce; drizzles of coulis; swirls of olive oil; condiments splattered like Jackson Pollack.

    But the easiest way—no steady hand required—is to scatter herbs and spices onto the plate.

    All you need to do is select flavors and colors that complement the food on the plate.


    This is not a comprehensive list; we went mostly for textured items rather than finely-ground powders. But you can use the latter if they work with your plate decorating concept.
    Savory Dried Herbs & Spices

  • Black: black lava salt, nigella seeds, peppercorns (crushed/cracked), poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds
  • Brown: allspice, caraway seeds, grains of paradise, nutmeg (crushed/cracked), smoked sea salt and other flavored gormat salts, urfa biber
  • Green (pale): aniseed, fennel seeds, garam masala, green peppercorns, herbes de provence, lime peel, matcha salt, oregano, rosemary, za’atar
  • Green (deep): basil, chervil, cilantro, dill weed, epazote, fenugreek, fines herbs, matcha, parsley, tarragon
  • Orange: orange zest, shichimi togarashi (Japanese Seven-Spice)
  • Pink/Purple: Himalayan pink sea salt, lavender buds, Merlot sea salt, pink peppercorns, rose petals
  • Red: achiote, alaea red lava salt, aleppo or other chile flakes, annato seeds, gochu garu (Korean chile flakes), piment d’espelette, sriracha salt and other red gourmet salts
  • Tan: celery seeds, Old Bay seasoning,
  • Yellow: aji amarillo powder, curry salt and other yellow flavored salts, fennel pollen, grapefruit zest, lemon zest, mustard seeds, turmeric
  • White: coarse sea salt (especially flake salt like Maldon or Cypress), flavored coarse white salt (garlic, lemon, lime) sesame seeds
    More Savory Options
    You may also have some of these in the cupboard:

  • Crumbs: bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, pretzel crumbs
  • Savory drink rimmers
  • Spice blends, from Italian herbs to shichimi togarashi, Japanese Seven Spice (don’t overlook Mrs. Dash)
  • Meat rubs
  • Smoked and flavored salts (for ideas see
    Sweet Dried Herbs & Spices

    For desserts and other sweet dishes, consider:

  • Colored sugars: coarse sugar, decorating sugar, decorative sugar (shapes), sanding sugar, sparkling sugar
  • Conventional sugars: dark brown, demerara, light brown, muscovado, turbinado
  • Crumbs: cake crumbs, cookie crumbs
  • Flavored sugars: blueberry, cinnamon, espresso, green chile, raspberry, etc. (here’s the selection at, plus how to make your own)
  • Sweet herbs: basil, chervil, lemon thyme, garam masala, marjoram, mint, pink peppercorns, sage, sweet cicely, tarragon
  • Sweet spice blends: apple pie spice, chai spice, mulling spice, pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweet spices:
  • +Black, brown and tan: allspice, anise seed, brown sugar (dark, light, raw, turbinado, cacao nibs, cardamom, cassia buds, chia seeds, cinnamon (crushed sticks), coffee beans (crushed), cloves (whole or crushed), nutmeg (freshly ground), poppy seed, vanilla bean pod (crushed)
    +Green: lime peel or zest, matcha powder
    +Pink and purple: dried rose petals (crumbled), lavender buds
    +Yellow and gold: bee pollen, ginger (crystallized or cracked), granulated honey, peel or zest (grapefruit, lemon, orange)
    +White: sesame seeds


  • Don’t toss “end of the bottle” spices and herbs to make room for new bottles. Instead, combine them in an empty bottle to create your own “garnishing blend.”
  • If an herb or spice has lost its flavor, you can still use it for garnish. In fact, it’s a great use for past-their-prime seasonings.
  • If you don’t like a spice you’re purchased, use it for a plate garnish. Some people don’t even attempt to taste the spices; and those who do dip a fork in it may like it.

    If your plate could still use some filler, match one of these to the food. Note that the oil (or any liquid) should be placed on the plate first, before the food and the garnish.

  • Flavored oils: from basil and blood orange to habanero and wasabi.
  • Colored oils: naturally colored oils include avocado oil (virgin), hot chile oil*, dark sesame oil* and mustard oil*; you also can make your own colored oils).
  • Olive oil—for artistic purposes, the darker the better. You can add green food color—which is what more than a few bottlers [illegally] do.
  • Syrups: agave, dessert syrup, flavored simple syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses.
    *These oils can be very strong, and may have to be diluted with olive oil or plated in droplets.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Carve Some Halloween Cheese

    A few days ago we recommended cheeses to create a beautiful Halloween-themed cheese plate, featuring artisan cheeses.

    But not everybody likes fancy cheeses, or has the budget to purchase them.

    So here’s Plan B: Halloween cheese fun that anyone can afford.

  • Make your favorite cheese ball recipe and turn it into a jack o’lantern by rolling it in crushed Cheetos or orange crackers like Ritz
  • Make the face with cut-up red bell pepper pieces. Press a stem made of broccoli stalk or celery into the top.
  • Here’s the recipe for the cheese ball in the bottom photo.

  • Mini Babybel Gouda snack cheeses have a pumpkin-color wax coating. The Mini Babybel White Cheddar Cheese variety is covered in white wax.
  • Use a chisel-tip Sharpie marker to create jack o’lantern faces. The eight-pack assortment includes black, orange, red, and two shades of green for the stems.

  • For larger parties, you can find wheels of orange cheddar—round with a flat top and bottom—in two-pounds and five pounds.
  • Remove the wax and carve a jack o’lantern face through the flat side.
  • Create a stem top from a piece of broccoli stalk, and affix it with a toothpick.
  • Present the jack o’lantern standing up so you can see through the eyes and nose. To keep it steady, you can trim a small piece from the bottom.
    The next two ideas are from, which has 15 different ways to use cheese at Halloween.

  • The easiest way to serve “Halloween cheese” is to use small (2-inches or smaller) Halloween-themed cookie cutters to cut shapes from orange cheddar or American cheese slices (top photo).
  • Place them on your favorite crackers. It’s that simple.

  • Make a Mummy Brie from an 8-ounce Brie and a sheet of puff pastry (center photo). Here’s the recipe: wrapped in puff pastry.
  • Delish uses black olives and mini pepperoni slices for the eyes, but we substituted slices of pimento-stuffed olives.

    Halloween Crackers & Cheese

    Halloween Brie

    Halloween Cheese Ball

    [1] Cut Halloween shapes with mini cookie cutters. [2] Baked Brie turns into a mummy with a sheet of puff pastry (photos #1 and #2 courtesy [3] A Halloween cheese ball (photo courtesy Snackworks).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Fideo, “Mexican Spaghetti” & Soup Pasta

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    Barilla Fideo

    [1] Sopa de Fideo, a popular Mexican comfort food (photo courtesy [2] A bowl of plain fideo (photo courtesy [3] Barilla makes fideo, as well as Hispanic specialists like Goya (photo courtesy Barilla).


    October is National Pasta Month, an occasion to explore and try different types of pasta. May we suggest fideo?

    What is fideo (fee-DAY-yo)?

    Fideo spaghetti tagliati means fideo-cut spaghetti. Fideo is a Spanish word for noodle, so essentially, the spaghetti is being cut like noodles (i.e., short strands).

    The actual pasta used is short-cut vermicelli: thin strands of pasta available in one- or two-inch lengths, depending on manufacturer. Vermicelli is a round strand pasta slightly thinner than spaghetti but thicker than angel hair.

    Fideo is popular in Mexican cuisine, where it is also called fidelini (and “Mexican spaghetti” by Americans).

    You can also break up your own from spaghetti, vermicelli or other thin strand pasta, including including ribbon (flat) pasta like linguine. Some people prefer the eye appeal of the irregular, hand-broken shapes.

    What makes it extra-special in savory recipes is quickly toasting the noodles in a bit of olive oil. It produces a nutty, toasty extra depth of flavor that’s another reason to enjoy fideo.

    Fideo is a Mexican comfort food that can be served as a starter or a main dish ingredient. It is perhaps best known as a toasted soup pasta, popular in Sopa de Fideo, a classic bowl of comfort.

    As a stand-in for rice, it versatile to be used in anything from fideo “risotto” (recipe below) to fideo “rice pudding.”

    What could be more comforting than tomato soup with fideo? Here’s a recipe from. .

  • Fideo Con Carne, a beef and potato stew with crunchy fideo noodles
  • Fideo Paella: exchange the rice for toasted fideo and your choice of mix-ins: clams, chorizo, green peas, mussels, sausage, shredded chicken, shrimp, etc. The dish, which originated in Spain, is called fideua (FID-a-wah).
  • Guisado, the Spanish word for stew, can take many forms, including a classic Mexican beef stew of beef and potatoes with fideo.
  • Tomato Soup With Fideo.
  • Crispy Pan-Fried Shrimp and Chorizo Fideo Cakes, a fusion of a Spanish classic with Japanese grilled sticky rice cakes from chef Ilan Hall.
  • Quick casseroles—check out this classic with chickpeas, kale, jalapeños and olives (i.e., toss in anything you like).

    Put together your own fideo recipe with:

  • Base: broth (beef, chicken, vegetable), tomato sauce
  • Herbs and spices: chiles/chili powder/hot sauce, cilantro, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Proteins: chicken, fish/seafood, ground meat, stew meat, tofu
  • Vegetables: bell peppers, capers, carrots, celery, chickpeas, chiles, corn, lima beans, onions, olives, peas, potatoes, squash, tomates
  • Garnish: shredded cheese, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), raisins/dried cherries or cranberries
  • After you pick your ingredients, the recipe cooks quickly:


    1. HEAT cooking oil in a skillet; when the oil shimmers, add the pasta and stir to coat. Sauté, stirring frequently, until toasted and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

    2. ADD the sauce or other base, vegetables, spices and herbs. When all vegetables are cooked to the desired tenderness, add in the cheese.

    3. STIR in the cooked protein (cubed, diced, shredded) or use the cooked fideo as a base for the protein.

    “What’s not to love about toasted noodles infused with a pinch of cumin and a hint of rich tomatoes?” asks Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, who developed this recipe.

    “Typically served dry as a side dish or flooded with broth as a soup, my preference falls somewhere in between; a thick stew of vegetables and pasta that could be eaten either with a spoon or a fork, depending on how long the noodles are cooked.

    “Taking that concept just one step further, you can make a risotto—just without the rice.”

    Fideo takes on a uniquely nutty taste thanks to a quick sauté before cooking. Hannah mingles the flavors of roasted peppers, smoked paprika and cumin “to render a wholly warming, revitalizing bowl full of edible comfort” that she finds even more satisfying than a bowl of risotto.

    Hannah developed this as a vegan recipe, using nutritional yeast instead of cheese. We added the option of grated parmesan cheese.


    Ingredients For 3-4 Main Servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups (1/2 pound) broken or cut spaghetti
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted, seeded, and diced
  • 1 Red or Orange Bell pepper, Roasted, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons tequila
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup corn kernels, canned and drained or frozen and thawed
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: 1/4 cup toasted pepitas, grated parmesan cheese

    1. PLACE half of the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Once shimmering, add in the pasta and stir to coat.

    2. SAUTÉ the noodles, stirring frequently, until toasted and golden brown all over, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the noodles from the pot and set aside.

    3. RETURN the pot to the stove and add the remaining oil. Cook the onions and garlic together until softened and aromatic. Introduce the tomatoes and both roasted peppers next, stirring periodically. Continue to cook until the onions are lightly golden.

    4. ADD the vegetable broth, tequila, lime juice, nutritional yeast, paprika, and cumin. Bring the liquid to a boil before returning the toasted noodles to the pot. Stir well to incorporate, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low.

    5. SIMMER gently until the pasta is tender and the liquid mostly absorbed, 9 to 11 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add the corn and cilantro.

    6. TASTE and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in individual bowls with optional garnish.

    Nutritional yeast is—as the name implies—a form of yeast that can be used on foods and in recipes. It is a vegan product.

    It’s an inactive form of the same yeast strain—Saccharomyces cerevisiae—use to leaven bread. It has also been pasteurized to dry out the yeast and concentrate its nutritional benefits.

  • Find it at health food, natural food and vitamin stores.
  • It can be labeled yeast flakes, yeast seasoning.
    These golden flakes add flavor as nutrition, and are used by people seeking dairy- and cholesterol-free options to conventional cheeses.

    You can add savory, cheesy, nutty flavors by sprinkling nutritional yeast on pasta, salads, vegetables and other foods (popcorn, anyone?).

    Or use it instead of cheese in cooking and baking.


    Fideo Risotto

    Fideo Recipe

    Fideo & Shrimp

    Nutritional Yeast

    [4] Fideo risotto from Bittersweet Blog. [5] Toasting the fideo is a snap (photo courtesy [6] Fusion fideo: Fried shrimp cakes combine Spanish and Japanese concepts, using fideo instead of rice. Here’s the recipe from Chef Ilan Hall on [7] Nutritional yeast. You can buy it locally or online. Bragg’s, is also OU kosher.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Chestnuts, Briefly In Season

    Slicing Chestnuts

    Chestnut Soup

    Chestnuts With Brussels Sprouts

    [1] To roast chestnuts, cut an X on the flat side. [2] Chestnut soup, a don’t-miss seasonal treat. [3] Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts from


    While canned chestnuts, and more recently, ready-to-eat vacuum-bagged chestnuts, can be found year-round, fresh chestnuts season lasts for only about two months.

    Now is the time to enjoy their beguiling flavor and nutrients to the fullest extent.

    They don’t have to be roasting on an open fire, per our favorite crooner, Nat King Cole. Roast chestnuts (lacking an open fire, we use the oven—here’s how) are a treat, but so are the luscious preparations that follow.

    Long before they found their way onto holiday menus, chestnuts, which are tree nuts, were a dietary staple in the mountainous regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Because grains could not grow in those areas, chestnuts were a valuable source of nutrition.

    In fact, chestnuts are nutritionally more like a grain than a nut. They are low in protein and fat, but high in starch and fiber. Naturally gluten free, they are the only nut that contains vitamin C.

    Add diced, halved or whole chestnuts to:

  • Appetizers (wrap with bacon instead of the classic water chestnuts)
  • Breads, dressings, muffins
  • Cream of chestnut soup (recipe)—a must-have seasonal treat
  • Puréed into dips, pestos, and as a delicious side, especially with chicken, duck, pheasant, pork, turkey, quail and veal
  • Garnishes for mains, soups, salads, vegetables
  • With grains, pilafs, risottos
  • With seasonal vegetables: Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, turnips—also in casseroles, stir-frys and omelet fillings

  • Candied (marrons glacés recipe)
  • Puréed and added to hot chocolate or coffee
  • Puréed and sweetened as a bread spread
  • Chestnut ice cream—puréed, diced or both
  • In a sweetened bread spread Mousse or Mont Blanc, sweetened chestnut purée in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream
  • Cakes, plain and fancy (here’s a chestnut loaf cake)
  • Chestnut soufflé and a multitude of other desserts

    This recipe is from Mary R. Wendt, MD, author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life. She is an expert on making the transition to plant-based nutrition.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ½ pound chestnuts (fresh, approximately 2 cups), wiped clean
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half (approximately 5 cups)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional additions: frizzled ham, sautéed leeks, sautéed wild mushrooms

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Use a paring knife to score an “X” onto the flat side of each chestnut.

    2. ARRANGE the chestnuts in a single layer in a large baking pan, with the X facing up. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the “X” flaps on the shell begin to curl away from the nut. Do not overcook!

    3. REMOVE from the heat and partially cool until it’s comfortable to peel away and discard the shells. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they are warm.

    4. WARM the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and garlic. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.

    5. ADD the chestnuts to the skillet and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the Brussels sprouts are very brown. Stir in the salt and pepper and sauté an additional 2-3 minutes.

    6. GARNISH as desired and serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ginger Pumpkin Pie With Pumpkin Seed Crust

    Pumpkin Seed Crust Recipe

    Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake

    Caramel Cheesecake

    Caramel Apple Cheesecake

    [1] Pumpkin pie with a pumpkin seed-graham cracker crust (photo courtesy Whole Food Matters). [2] Pumpkin mousse cheesecake with pumpkin seed-flour crust (photo courtesy Kenwood World). [3] Cheesecake with walnut-pumpkin seed crust and a caramel sauce ribbon (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Caramel Apple Cheesecake with gingersnap-pumpkinseed crust (photo courtesy iGourmet).


    Go seasonal with pie and cheese cake crusts: Add some pumpkin seeds and add a touch of fall, flavor, crunch and nutrition.

    You can add whole or chopped pumpkin seeds to your regular crusts, be they cookie (chocolate, gingersnap, graham cracker, shortbread), flour (wheat, nut, gluten free), or other recipe.

    Use raw, hulled pumpkin seeds, available in natural food stores and health food stores.

    First up is a graham cracker crust with pumpkin seeds, from Executive Chef Matt Greco of The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California.

    Chef Greco initially made this delicious crust for a Black Out Pie, peanut butter and chocolate. So don’t limit your vista!



  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup crushed pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8-12 ounces unsalted butter, melted

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients except the butter in a bowl. Slowly add enough butter so that the mixture holds its shape when squeezed in your hand.

    3. PRESS 3/4 of a cup of the mixture into a pie pan and bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden.


    This recipe is adapted from one by Florence Fabricant in The New York Times. Prep and cook time is 2 hours.
    Ingredients For 10 Servings

    For The Crust

  • ¾ cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
    For The Filling

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin purée
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, until you hear them start to pop. Remove from the oven.

    2. PLUSE 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Mix with the graham cracker crumbs, ground ginger and granulated sugar. Stir in the melted butter. Pat the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

    3. BAKE the crust for 15 minutes and remove from the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F.

    4. MIX the pumpkin purée, eggs, egg yolks, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the crystallized ginger and mix until smooth. Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake about an hour, until the filling is set.

    5. REMOVE the pie from the oven and the scatter remaining pumpkin seeds on top. Cool to room temperature before serving.

    How about a garnish of candied pumpkin seeds?

    You can sprinkle them on any dessert, or on whipped cream-topped drinks.


  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or spray it with cooking spray.

    2. WHISK the egg white until frothy. Place the pumpkin seeds in a small bowl and add just enough egg white to coat the seeds. Add the salt, sugar and cinnamon and toss well to coat.

    3. SPREAD the seeds on the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they begin to dry and turn golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Garnish just before serving to keep the seeds crisp. If not using that day, store in an airtight jar.



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