Good buys for foodies
What's new, what's in season and more, from Erica Marcus.
Gluten-free gravy(Credit: McCormick’s)
Need gluten-free gravy this holiday season? McCormick's new Gluten-Free Brown Gravy Mix and Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy Mix should help. Both use cornstarch for thickening power and are easily prepared with water, on the stove or in the microwave. Each had its requisite beef or poultry flavor, though both were a bit salty for our taste. Packages suggest twists on the basic mixes; cooks may want to go beyond those with their own enhancements (fresh herbs, spices, sauteed onions or mushrooms, etc.). Suggested retail price: 99 cents for beef; $1.29 for turkey. At major supermarkets.
Veggetti spiral slicer(Credit: Veggetti)
Zucchini pasta -- that is, zucchini cut into thin ribbons resembling noodles -- is all the rage with the no-carb set, and Veggetti spiral slicer is a nifty little gadget that allows you to make it at home. The hourglass-shaped device is equipped with two sets of sharp little teeth, one for "spaghetti" and one for "fettucine." Just twist your zucchini against the blades to make long, luxuriant ribbons. Then simmer or saute the ribbons, top with sauce, and pretend it's pasta. (Harder vegetables such as carrots and parsnips require more force to spiral-cut and don't come out quite so ribbonlike.) Available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $14.99 or online at amazon.com. For more information, go to buyveggetti.com.
'How to cook Everything Fast'(Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" (1998) is as close to a culinary bible as any contemporary cookbook. His newest volume, "How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35) is destined for the same status. In it, Bittman provides 2,000 recipes written in an innovative format that embeds the prep within the flow of the recipe (i.e. prepare the sauce while the pasta water boils) to use time more efficiently. With scores of sidebars offering general advice on shopping, ingredients and cooking methods.
Joseph Joseph Twin-Cut Compact 2-in-1 Scissors(Credit: Joseph Joseph)
Even if drawer space is at a premium in your kitchen, you'll have room for the Joseph Joseph Twin-Cut Compact 2-in-1 Scissors ($13), a tool that functions both as shears and, by locking the spring-loaded pivot in place, as a box cutter. Use the shears to open plastic bags, trim parchment and snip herbs; use the box cutter to neatly penetrate cartons and boxes. Get more information, watch a video or order at josephjoseph.com. Also available at Bloomingdale's in Roosevelt Field and amazon.com.
Trader Joe's Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Trader Joe's Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil is just the thing for autumnal salads. It has a surprisingly dark color and a rich, mellow flavor that indeed tastes like pumpkin seeds. I use it — and a little sherry vinegar — to dress a salad of Boston lettuce, roasted beets, goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. An 8.45-ounce can is $9.99 at Trader Joe's in Lake Grove, Commack, Plainview, Merrick, Oceanside and Hewlett.
Fairway High Road Craft Ice Cream(Credit: High Road Craft Ice Cream / Kelvin De la Cruz)
Sayville native Keith Schroeder has been producing High Road Craft Ice Cream since 2010, and since then the Atlanta-based company has been collecting accolades from all over the country. Now Schroeder has teamed up with Fairway Market to launch four flavors, using Fairway's own artisanal products: Fairway to Heaven Coffee, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Fig & Saba (with Calabrian figs in a grape syrup) and Fruitti di Bosco Stracciatella (berries and chocolate chips). Four of High Road's signature flavors — Pistachio Honey Ricotta, Vanilla Fleur de Sel, Bourbon Burned Sugar and Brown Butter Praline — also are available. Pints are $5.99 at Fairway Markets in Plainview and Westbury.
Grandpa Witmer's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer(Credit: Newsday / Rebecca Cooney)
The main drawback of natural peanut butter — made with only peanuts and salt — is that, without stabilizers, the oil separates and floats to the top. Storing the peanut butter upside down or in the refrigerator are two ways to deal with the problem. Here's an ingenious third way: Grandpa Witmer's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer. This simple contraption consists of a curved metal stirring rod embedded in a screw cap that replaces the peanut butter jar's original one. Of the eight models, 100 is the most popular, fitting a 16-ounce jar of Smucker's; model 300 fits most Trader Joe's nut butters. You can order directly from witmerproducts.com and pay $9.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling, or order from amazon.com, where, depending on the seller, it may cost more but may qualify for free shipping.
'Olives, Lemons & Za'atar'(Credit: Kyle Books)
In "Olives, Lemons & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking" (Kyle Books, $29.95), Rawia Bishara shares her refined, cosmopolitan recipes for specialties such as fattoush salad, chicken fetti (layered with bread), okra stew with lamb and pomegranate molasses and the exquisite cheese-filled pastry knafeh, as well as her recollections of growing up in Nazareth, Israel. To taste her food, you can go to Bishara's restaurant, Tanoreen, in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.
America's Test Kitchen Radio(Credit: Steve Klise)
Lately, I've been binge-listening to podcasts from America's Test Kitchen Radio. The hourlong shows have the same producers as the public television show America's Test Kitchen as well as Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines. In all media, their focus is demystifying cooking and providing rigorously tested recommendations for equipment, food products and techniques. Each show is centered around an interview conducted by Christopher Kimball, and recurring segments include kitchen gadgets, product tastings and Kimball and "culinary expert" Bridget Lancaster answering callers' questions, which, for some reason, I find wildly entertaining. Listen online at atkradio.com or download the free podcast (America's Test Kitchen Radio) from iTunes.
Long Island Iced Tea(Credit: Long Island Iced Tea)
To drinkers of a certain generation, "Long Island iced tea" calls to mind unbridled revelry, but Long Beach-based Long Island Iced Tea is nothing more than flavored tea, and is suitable for children and teetotalers. The brand's founder, Phil Thomas, was raised in New Hyde Park and named his beverage line with a wink. The teas come in eight flavors: (lemon, peach, raspberry, unsweetened lemon, half and half (iced tea and lemonade), diet peach, diet lemon and green tea and honey. They contain no high-fructose corn syrup. The 20-ounce bottles cost about $2 at Stop & Shop, ShopRite and King Kullen. For more information, go to longislandicedtea.com.
Nanny's Gourmet Vegetarian Chopped Liver(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Nanny's Gourmet is a new, Great Neck-based producer of healthy vegetarian spreads. Founder Jonathan Witt named it after his grandmother, Dora Witt, and his first product both honors and transforms one of her signature dishes. Nanny's Gourmet Vegetarian Chopped Liver is made from organic lentils, peas, onion, walnuts, canola oil and seasonings, and it is well used when slathered on crackers or even eaten, surreptitiously, with a spoon. The company's second product, Cannellini Truffle Spread, is a deluxe crowd-pleaser. Both spreads come in 8-ounce tubs and cost between $7 and $9 at North Shore Farms in Mineola, Great Neck and Commack; Whole Foods in Manhasset and Jericho. For a complete list of retailers, go to nannysgourmet.com.
Alter Eco's dark salted brown butter chocolate bar(Credit: Zero to Sixty Communications)
The dark salted brown butter organic chocolate bar by Alter Eco is worth seeking out. The fair trade 70 percent cacao dark chocolate, made with sweet browned butter and fleur de sel, unfolds slowly on the palate, hitting notes both deep and fruity. Find the 12-ounce bar at Whole Foods or order online at alterecofoods.com; $3.99.
Hamptons Lane gourmet picnic box(Credit: Hamptons Lane)
Each month, the culinary curators at Hamptons Lane put together a box filled with themed seasonal items. Members get a heads-up email and the opportunity to either buy the box for $45 (shipping included) or pass on it. June's "gourmet picnic" box contains a starred-and-striped wine tote, an olivewood-handled fruit-and-cheese knife from Spain, Pommery Meaux mustard from France, fig and onion jam from Brooklyn's Anarchy in a Jar, Sweet Heat Pickles from Backyard Brine in Northport, a "stink chart" and summer wine-and-cheese pairing tips from Murray's Cheese Shop in Manhattan, and a 15-percent discount at murrayscheese.com For more information, or to sign up, go to hamptonslane.com.
'American Catch'(Credit: The Penguin Press)
I was a big fan of "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food," Paul Greenberg's 2010 book about sustainabilty. Now he's back with "American Catch" (Penguin, $26.95), a cogent exploration of our irrational approach to fish: We import farmed salmon from Chile while exporting wild Alaskan salmon to Japan; we import farmed shrimp from Asia while destroying the Gulf of Mexico's wild shrimp habitat (and its shrimping industry). And don't get Greenberg started on New York City's oysters, once world famous, now illegal to consume.
Bertolli olive oil sprays(Credit: Bertolli)
Spritz it on the grill, the pan, even directly on your veggies or pasta. Any way you use it, Bertolli's three new pure olive oil sprays are super convenient and come in propellant-free 5-ounce containers. I even keep some in my desk drawer at work to moisten the salad greens I bring for lunch. Zero calories per spritz, three flavors: extra virgin, classico, light. Available at Waldbaum's for $3.99.
'Fried & True'(Credit: Clarkson Potter)
If fried chicken is your favorite guilty pleasure, your obsession will be heartily fed with "Fried & True," out this week from Clarkson Potter, $22.50. With photography so vivid you'll want to grab a leg or wing off the page, the book highlights 50 recipes from chefs and restaurants gleaned on a road trip by Lee Brian Schrager, founder of the New York City Wine & Food Festival. There are Southern inspirations, such as Hattie B's Hot Chicken from Nashville, and yogurt-marinated chicken thighs from Atlanta. And there are recipes for sides, such as collard greens, smothered cabbage and cheesy garlic grits. Forward by Whoopi Goldberg, who says of fried chicken: "Nothing makes me or my mouth happier.''
Simply 7 Quinoa Chips(Credit: Simply 7)
Poor potato, victim of another chip at its exalted space on the snack shelf, this time from Simply 7's Quinoa Chips. With their nutty undertones and nutrient-rich star power, the quinoa snacks, which come in sea salt, Cheddar, barbecue and sour cream and chives, are rippled and crunchy and feel like a cloud on the tongue. The sea salt ones are 140 calories a serving and cost $3.39 at Whole Foods. Eating them is like taking a low-guilt chip trip, if you care to buy into the quinoa hype and abandon your spuds.
'Food Lovers' Guide to Long Island'(Credit: Morris Book Publishing)
Make room in your glove compartment for "Food Lovers' Guide to Long Island" (Globe Pequot Press, $16.95 paperback), and no matter where you go in Nassau or Suffolk, you'll find something good to eat. This definitive guide, by Newsday restaurant critic Peter M. Gianotti, divides the Island into 13 chapters by town or city, recommending the best eateries and food shops in each, along with special sections on wineries, breweries, farm stands and even favorite recipes (clam chowder, clam pie). Gianotti also highlights where to get such L.I. mainstays as pizza, Parmigiana, steak, bagels and ice cream. It's all presented with intelligence and wit, in a breezily readable style.
Matzolah(Credit: Foodman, LLC)
It's granola made with matzo: It's "Matzolah, the trail mix of the Exodus!" Foodman founder Wayne Silverman combined matzo, almonds, raisins, maple syrup, coconut, walnuts and pecans to make this nosh, which is pareve, kosher for Passover and certified kosher by KOF-K. This year, regular Matzolah has been joined by a whole-wheat version and Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Matzolah which is also nut-free. A 10-ounce canister sells for about $6 at most Stop & Shops, ShopRites and kosher markets. Silverman will offer free tastings Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Gourmet Glatt Emporium in Cedarhurst. For information, or to order online, go to foodmannosh.com.
'Haute Dogs'(Credit: Quirk Publishing)
So the hot dog is coming into season, and aficionado Russell Van Kraayenburg believes his new book, "Haute Dogs, Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns, and Condiments" (Quirk Books, $18.95) should be close at hand to every grill and pan. With over 7 billion of these classic franks consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Kraayenburg urges dog lovers to get creative, with unusual toppings such as pineapple relish, arugula pesto, fried potato wedges and pulled pork. Also, learn to make your own buns. Corn dog batter, anyone?
Cookie Dough Oreos(Credit: Nabisco)
In this week's meta-food news, Nabisco is introducing two limited-edition Oreos, each stuffed with another confection. In Cookie Dough Oreos, the familiar chocolate-flavored wafers sandwich a chocolate-punctuated filling. Marshmallow Crispy Oreos use the vanilla-flavored wafers from Golden Oreos and a filling containing crisped rice — calling to mind Rice Krispies Treats. The new Oreos will hit supermarket shelves Monday and, according to Nabisco, will be sold "while supplies last." Each $4.49 package contains 24 cookies.
'Done.'(Credit: Chronicle Books)
James Peterson, one of the best cookbook authors out there, now turns his attention to a critical but little-explored concept. In "Done. A Cook's Guide to Knowing When Food Is Perfectly Cooked" (Chronicle Books, $27.50), he explains how to determine doneness for every cooking method, and then for nearly 100 foods, among them hard-boiled eggs, roasted beets, grilled tuna, fried chicken, roast turkey, caramel and whipped cream. I didn't know, for example, that whereas steamed clams are done when they pop open ("usually within 10 minutes"), steamed mussels pop open almost immediately and aren't fully cooked for another 5 minutes, when "the meat pulls away from one shell." I've always wondered why some steamed mussels tear when you pry them out of the shell. Now I know: They are not done. With color photographs by the author.
Zyliss pizza wheel(Credit: Zyliss)
I shun the bagel cutter, the salad chopper and other tools whose single task can be performed perfectly well with ... a knife. But the best tool for cutting pizza is a proper pizza wheel. I particularly like this one from Zyliss, which fits snugly into your palm for good control and leverage. The blade is removable for easy cleaning. Available at Sur la Table in Manhasset, Roosevelt Field and Smith Haven Mall for $11.95 (surlatable.com).
'The Italian Vegetable Cookbook'(Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
As bookstores' shelves are increasingly dominated by gastro-hip volumes ghostwritten for TV stars, it's a relief to come upon Michele Scicolone's "The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes and Desserts" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). These appealing, straightforward and dependable recipes have been culled from Italian households and restaurants (on two continents) and from the author's own family collection. Great for vegetarians or anyone looking to eat more from the plant kingdom. (The cipollini agrodolce — sweet and sour onions that I made with frozen pearl onions — were a hit at a recent dinner party.)
Chocolate salami(Credit: David Cook)
They had us at the name: How could you not love something called "chocolate salami"? This latest confection from Cook's Scratch Kitchen & Bakery pastry chef Stacey McDevitt looks like the real (meat) thing at first glance, but closer inspection reveals a rich chocolate interior studded with biscotti bits, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, dates, figs and dried cherries. The log is tied up, dusted with confectioners' sugar, then rolled in parchment. A fun, not-too-sweet dessert or snack. A whole salami is $20, slices are 50 cents apiece. Cook's is at 1014 Fort Salonga Rd., Northport, 631-651-5480, cookskitchenny.com.