Good buys for foodies
What's new, what's in season and more, from Erica Marcus.
Petite cookies from Carla Hall(Credit: Carla Hall)
Carla Hall, co-host of ABC's "The Chew" (and one of the all-time favorite contestants on "Top Chef") has introduced a line of baked goods. We particularly liked the "petite cookies," bite-sized morsels of almond-ginger-cherry shortbread, Black Forest crinkle, chocolate-hazelnut praline, lemon-black-pepper shortbread, Mexican chocolate chip, oatmeal-cranberry-white-chocolate and pecan shortbread with vanilla salt. Clear plastic 6-ounce canisters are $6.50 to $8.50 at Fairway Markets in Plainview, Westbury and Lake Grove and online at carlahall.com. Exclusive to the website are gift-box samplers, large (six 3-ounce canisters) for $25, and small (three 3-ounce canisters) for $12.50.
European butter dish(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
European and European-style butters have been gaining ground in U.S. markets. Because the cream is cultured before it's churned, these butters have a richer taste and a higher fat content (usually 83 to 86 percent butterfat, compared with 81 to 83 percent for most American butters). I'm partial to Kerrygold from Ireland and Plugrá, made here in the French style (plus gras means "more fat"). These 8-ounce blocks don't fit into the standard American butter dish, so I was inspired to buy this European-size butter dish at Target. The sturdy, glass-covered dish is $7.99 and fits easily into my refrigerator's butter compartment.
'Clodagh's Irish Kitchen'(Credit: Kyle Books)
In her new book, "Clodagh's Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors" (Kyle Books, $29.95), Dublin restaurateur Clodagh McKenna attributes the Irish culinary renaissance to an infusion of new "inspirational ideas" from "Irish people that have lived abroad (including myself)" as well as to the recent recession, which has led Irish people to "become more aware of the importance of supporting local farms, fisherman and food producers." In this beautifully photographed volume, the 150 recipes range from "Irish soul food" (such as lamb stew with pearl barley), to modern interpretations (lobster with dill gnocchi, sea beans and brown butter), to items that don't seem terribly Irish at all (breakfast tortilla with potatoes, tomatoes, sausage and bacon) but sound delicious all the same. McKenna is best known in the United States as the host of "Clodagh's Irish Food Trails," which has aired on PBS and CreateTV.
Dave's Killer Bread(Credit: Dave's Killer Breads)
A West Coast favorite, Dave's Killer Bread is making its way eastward. The Portland-based bakery specializes in organic, multigrain breads that are aggressively seeded — covered on all six sides and shot through with ¼ cup of flax, sunflower, poppy and pumpkin seeds — and filled with almost every grain you've heard of: whole wheat, oats, millet, rye, amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, corn, kaumut and/or quinoa, depending on the bread. Fairway Markets (in Lake Grove, Westbury, Plainview) are now carrying five Killer loaves, 21 Whole Grains and Seeds, Good Seed and Blues Bread, Seeded Honey Wheat and 100% Whole Wheat. Each 27-ounce loaf is $5.99 and can be found in the open, refrigerated bread case.
'The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book'(Credit: Potter)
In "The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book" (Potter, $25), veteran cookbook authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough aim to bring that kitchen warhorse into the 21st century with recipes that blend old-fashioned ease with modern flavors. The book dispels any fear of explosions that prevent "Nervous Nellies" from cooking with pressure, then presents 500 recipes for every meal and ingredient. Since traditional stovetop models cook differently from the newfangled electric pressure cookers, each recipe gives instructions for both types of machines.
Ordigno(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
A little heat is always appreciated in the dead of winter, and this Calabrian condiment supplies plenty of it. Ordigno, Italian for "explosive device," is packaged to resemble a small, old-fashioned bomb. What causes the detonation in this melange of olive oil, eggplant, wild mushrooms, artichokes and tomatoes is a lavish dose of spicy red peperoni Calabrese. A 6.7-ounce jar is $9.99 at Iavarone Bros. in Woodbury, Wantagh and New Hyde Park.
Walkers Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies(Credit: Walkers Shortbread)
Walkers, the Hauppauge-based shortbread specialist, has introduced a line of gluten-free shortbread cookies that are slightly grittier than the originals, but very acceptable. Walkers has swapped out the wheat flour in favor of a blend made from rice and corn flours, potato starch and stabilizer, but other than that, the cookies are just butter, sugar and salt — like the originals. The three flavors — plain, ginger-lemon and chocolate chip, come in 4.9-ounce boxes (9 cookies) and cost $4.99. Available at most supermarkets and at us.walkersshortbread.com.
Fireworks chocolate bar(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
For Valentine's Day, Trader Joe's has introduced the Fireworks chocolate bar, made with dark chocolate, crunchy "popping candy" morsels and chipotle, pasilla and cayenne chilies. If it doesn't follow through on the stated intent to "ignite your senses," it is appealingly rich with just the right amount of spice. The 2.8-ounce Fireworks is $1.99 at Trader Joe's in Lake Grove, Commack, Plainview, Garden City, Merrick, Oceanside and Hewlett.
'1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die'(Credit: Workman)
Even if you have a reflexive distaste for books listing the 1,000 places you have to go or experiences you must have, make an exception for Mimi Sheraton's new "1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List" (Workman, $24.95). Sheraton, a former New York Times restaurant critic, has been dining, cooking and learning at a very high level for more than 40 years; all of that experience seemingly has gone into this engrossing compendium of restaurants and markets to visit, recipes to cook, ingredients to buy and much more.
OXO Good Grips egg beater(Credit: OXO Good Grips)
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the engineers at OXO Good Grips perfected the humble egg beater. This model has the company's signature ergonomic handle and a number of other features that improve on the original: the beaters' action is forceful but smooth and they eject easily for cleaning (in the dishwasher). And it's nice to know that in a power outage you can still whip cream. The OXO Good Grips egg beater is available at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl's, Sur La Table and online at oxo.com for $19.99.
La Florentine chocolate-covered torrone(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Nougat is best known in this country as the stuff in a Three Musketeers bar, but it gets a classier treatment in Italy, where it forms the basis of torrone. Whole Foods sells a prettily wrapped 5.3-ounce bar of La Florentine chocolate-covered torrone studded with hazelnuts, $8.99.
'A Good Food Day'(Credit: Potter)
I'm suspicious of health-themed cookbooks, since the authors tend to hail from the health camp rather than the cook camp. But I took notice when "A Good Food Day" (Potter, $30) crossed my desk because the author, Marco Canora, is chef at Manhattan's Hearth restaurant. "Healthy" to Canora means whole, unprocessed foods, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, whole-milk dairy, grass-fed meats, wild fish and, given his Tuscan ancestry, plenty of olive oil. The 125 recipes here are not chef-y in the least, and include shaved asparagus, avocado and quinoa salad, brown rice risotto with mushrooms, cabbage and thyme, ginger-scallion turkey burgers and olive oil cake.
The Rosengarten Report(Credit: TLAstudio.com / Troy L. Amber)
An award-winning cookbook author and restaurant critic, David Rosengarten is best known for the pioneering Food Network show "Taste," which he hosted from 1994 to 2000. From 2001 to 2010, he published a newsletter, The Rosengarten Report, and now it's back. Each issue features reviews of foods, wines and restaurants, plus articles on culinary destinations and trends. The inaugural issue covers (in depth) the best Italian importers in the United States, the 10 best meals Rosengarten ate in 2014, his picks for the best Champagnes, an exposition on vindaloo, an essay on "The Rupture of Foodie-ism and How to Heal It" and instructions for cooking prime rib. The report is published quarterly in digital and print editions. Subscriptions are $60 for both and $45 for digital only. Get it at drosengarten.com.
'The Big Fat Surprise'(Credit: amazon.com)
In "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet" (Simon & Schuster, $27.99), journalist Nina Teicholz builds on Gary Taubes' work, making a convincing case that red meat and saturated fats are not responsible for America's health woes.
"When the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet was first officially recommended to the public by the American Heart Association (AHA) in 1961, roughly one in seven adult Americans was obese," she writes. "Forty years later, that number was one in three. During these decades ... heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women." Teicholz explains how flawed science was adopted and promoted by the nation's nutrition establishment, and who benefited from the new guidelines.
OXO Good Grips Poultry Lifter(Credit: OXO Good Grips)
More than one Thanksgiving turkey has been damaged on the trip from roasting pan to serving platter. The OXO Good Grips Poultry Lifter is designed to ease this journey. A nonslip handle is attached to a big curved hook ending in two small prongs that secure the bird from within, without puncturing the meat. Made of stainless steel, it will lift birds weighing up to 24 pounds. Available for about $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, their websites and at oxo.com.
The Crab Place crabcakes(Credit: The Crab Place)
The city of Crisfield, on the eastern shore of Maryland, is at the center of the Chesapeake Bay's crab industry. The Crab Place, founded there in 1997, produces cakes that are 88 percent jumbo lump crabmeat from Maryland crabs. They have almost no breading. They are available in sizes from 2-ounce balls to 8-ounce jumbos and can be broiled, grilled, pan-seared or deep fried. A dozen 6-ounce crabcakes is $99.99. Next-day FedEx ground shipping adds $19.99. Go to crabplace.com or call 877-328-2722 for more information or to order.
'Eat More Better'(Credit: Simon and Schuster)
'The unexamined sandwich is not worth eating," writes Dan Pashman, author of the faux-gastronomic textbook "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious" (Simon & Schuster, $24.99). In his Engineering chapter, you'll learn the relative merits of various types of sandwich bread. The Philosophy chapter includes exegeses of reincarnated bagels and resuscitated pizza. "Improving butter proportionality through muffin trifurcation" is explored in Mathematics. The book is hilarious and, if you're of a similarly obsessive ilk, pretty useful. Pashman also is the creator and host of the WNYC podcast The Sporkful (motto: "It's not for foodies, it's for eaters"), which can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store.
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.
'We Make Beer'(Credit: St. Martin's Press)
In the past 40 years, there has been an explosion of American microbreweries -- more than 3,000, according to Sean Lewis, author of "We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America's Craft Brewers" (St. Martin's Press, $24.99). In this engaging volume, the frequent contributor to BeerAdvocate Magazine traces the history of American craft beers through profiles of the breweries themselves, among them Boston's Samuel Adams, California's Sierra Nevada, Portland's Allagash, Nashville's Jackalope and Austin's Black Star Co-op.
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.
'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.