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TIP OF THE DAY: Spices For Meat

Recipes for simply-cooked meat or poultry—roasted, grilled, sautéed—typically advise: season with salt and pepper.

You can do better than that! Chef Sarah Russo of Pre Brands beef suggests additional seasonings that work for almost all meat and poultry.

Her technique for maximum flavor is to use at least three spices plus salt. For example:

  • Chile powder + Caraway + Garlic
  • Cumin + Chipotle + Chile powder
  • Parsley + Basil + Oregano
  • White Pepper + Fennel + Cinnamon
    Try these combinations; then, if you particularly like another spice, experiment with your own combination.


    Spices For Beef

    In addition to salting before cooking, try these trios of spices (photo courtesy Pre Brand).




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Grass-Fed Beef From Pre Brand

    Grass Fed Beef
    [1] Check out the marbling on this grass-fed beef (all photos courtesy PRE).

    Thai Steak Salad Recipe
    [2] How about a stir-fry?

    Pre Brand Ribeye
    [3] A ribeye steak.

    Steak Salad
    [4] Filet mignon salad (here’s the recipe).


    We don’t eat a lot of beef because we don’t like cleaning up after it. But when we befriended new neighbors, serious carnivores, we received ongoing dinner invitations and began to eat much more of it.

    They cook only grass-fed beef. Grass-fed cattle are those whose diet after weaning consists only of fresh of stored grasses. Before modern mass production led to grain-fed diets, cattle ate only grass and silage (compacted grass, stored in a silo for the winter months).

    While you’d think the lower fat levels would mean less flavor, the steaks and ground beef we’ve had were, simply, luscious—juicy and tender.

    With grain fed beef, the flavor comes predominantly from fat. Grass fed beef has a more nuanced flavor and leaner taste (in a good way).

    Here are the reasons people prefer grass-fed beef:

    Compared to USDA Choice beef, grass-fed has:

  • Up to 38% fewer calories.
  • Up to 63% less fat.
  • Higher heart-healthy omega 3s.
  • Higher CLA*, which may have additional health benefits.
  • 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
    As a bonus, grass fed cooks quicker!

    Our neighbors get their beef delivered from Pre, a Chicago-based company that sells 100% grass-fed steaks and ground beef under the Pre label.

    The Pre team is dedicated to selling the kind of beef that they want to eat. They use 15 quality checkpoints to ensure the flavor, tenderness and juiciness they want, along with a well-balanced marbling.

    The 15 points quality including breed, class, marbling, tenderness, size, weight, and of course, no added hormones, no added antibiotics and no feelots.

    Pre beef represents the top 10% in grass-fed beef. We attest: We were impressed.

    The line includes ground beef with different levels of leanness: 80%, 85%, 92% and 95%. Plus:

  • Chuck roasts
  • Filet mignon
  • New York strip steaks
  • Ribeye
    (Check out the different cuts of beef.)

    Currently, Pre is sourced from select regions in Australia and New Zealand that offer ideal environmental conditions (rainfall & variety of grasses) for year-round pasture raising. These countries also have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. The animals never given antibiotics or growth hormones.

    Why not the U.S.? According to the company, the climate in the U.S. is not ideal for the high-quality, grass fed beef raised on pasture year-round.

    Note that imported beef does not receive USDA grading: Only cattle raised in the U.S. can be USDA graded.

    When you buy the packaged beef, you can tell it’s grass-fed at a glance: The raw beef actually has a purple-red color, from more myoglobin, a protein found in animal muscles.

    Once the package is opened and the beef is exposed to air, the color will change to a brighter red.


    PRE beef cattle are fed fresh grass year-round. This is not true about all beef that is labeled grass fed.

    If you like drilling down to the details, here they are:

  • All grass fed cattle eat freshly grazed or stored grasses until the finishing period—the time before harvesting when conventional, grain-fed cattle are shipped to feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter (more about it).
  • The same can happen with grass-fed beef. Not all grass fed beef are grain-free. Finishing can be on grass or grain; a “grass fed” label may not mean it was finished on grass alone.
  • To ensure 100% grass-fed beef, you need to look on the label for “grass fed and finished.”
    PRE grass-fed cattle do not go to feedlots; they continue to eat their regular grass-based diet. They are 100% “grass fed and finished.”

    What Is Pasture-Raised Beef?

    Another term heard in accordance with “grass fed” is “pasture raised.”

    This latter term has more to do with environment than diet. Cattle are not confined and are free to graze on open pasture.

    At a minimum, pasture raised animals must have continuous access to the outdoors for 120 days per year. At Pre, cattle are raised outdoors on pasture for their lifespan.

    Here’s a store locator.

    Order online at

    There are also gift cards. To our friends and family who are reading this: put us on the gift list!


    *CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in meat and dairy products. It may help reduce body fat deposits and improve immune function. Our beef has up to 3 times the amount of CLA as USDA choice beef of the same cut.Here are the health benefits of CLA.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Potato Peels (Save Potato Peels For A Snack Or Garnish)

    Yesterday we featured murasaki, Japanese purple sweet potatoes.

    Today, it’s a completely different view of potatoes: Fried or roasted peels!

    We knew that we could freeze potato peels (and all vegetable peels) to make stock. We never thought to cook them as a standalone food.

    But, in that time-honored tradition of letting nothing go to waste, the Idaho Potato Commission has turned what would have been tossed, into a crunchy garnish [photo #1] or snack [photo #2].

    So serve the fried/roasted peels with dipping sauces; or use them as a garnish on lunch or dinner plates, salads and soups.

    While this recipe uses just the peels, you can cook the flesh separately and make mashed potatoes, or use them in another recipe.

    You can also roast the peels instead of frying. The recipe is below.

    Note that the raw peels will discolor if not cooked promptly.

  • 10 large Idaho baking potatoes (7.5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black cracked pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • Optional seasonings: blue cheese, chopped scallions, parmesan, etc.
  • Optional dipping sauces (recipes follow)
    Scallion Dipping Sauce

  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
    Avocado Dipping Sauce

  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    Grilled Tomato Aïoli Sauce

  • 2 plum tomatoes, grilled, seeds and skin removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups homemade or good quality mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt

    [1] Potato peels as a garnish; here, on top of a bed of mashed potatoes and sliced steak (photo courtesy Idaho Potato.

    Fried Potato Peels
    [2] Enjoy fried peels as a snack. Here’s a recipe using an air fryer, from Cadry’s Kitchen.

    Russet Potatoes
    [3] Russet potatoes. Idaho potatoes are a variety of branded russets grown in Idaho (photo courtesy Potato Goodness).


    1. SCRUB and wash the potatoes. Peel in long strips, and keep the peeled potatoes for another recipe uses).

    2. FRY the potato skins in a sauté pan until crispy, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the skins. Or, place in a basket and fry at 365°F for 2-3 minutes. Take the potatoes from the pan or fryer while hot and season with kosher salt and black cracked pepper.

    3. MAKE dipping sauce(s).

  • For scallion dipping sauce: Whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • For avocado dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, wiping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Taste and adjust seasonings; tamp plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • For the grilled tomato aïoli: Place all ingredients except salt and pepper in a food processor; blend until smooth. Season with cayenne pepper and salt.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat for easier clean-up.

    2. TOSS the peels until thoroughly coated with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Consider using a flavored salt.

    3. ROAST for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir halfway through roasting.

    4. REMOVE from the oven and sprinkle with your choice of toppings: chopped scallions, crumbled bacon, grated cheese, etc. Serve immediately with ketchup, one of the dips above, or sour cream.

    Russet potatoes are a particular breed that is grown in many states, a large, oblong shape. However, only those russet potatoes that are grown in Idaho can be called Idaho® potatoes; the name is trademarked.

    Idaho’s ideal growing conditions—the rich volcanic soil, climate and irrigation—are what differentiate Idaho potatoes from those grown in other states. It’s the concept of terroir (tur-WAH), a French agricultural term that describes the growing area—the soil, land or terrain.

    The term is used to convey the larger concept “of the land,” i.e., how the specific place where an agricultural product is produced bears the taste of that particular piece of land, its specific soil composition and microclimate.

    While the russet is the most well-known potato grown in Idaho, more than 25 other potato varieties are grown in Idaho including Yukon golds, reds and fingerlings.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Murasaki Japanese Sweet Potatoes

    Murasaki Japanese Sweet Potato
    [1] Murasaki sweet potatoes from Japan, a variety now grown in California (you can buy seeds from Burpee).

    Murasaki Oven Fries
    [2] Murasaki oven fries with wasabi aïoli. Here’s the recipe from Bonjon Gourmet.


    “As sweet as sugar.” That’s what we thought when we first tasted murasaki sweet potatoes.

    The next day we ran out to buy some (at Trader Joe’s).

    With an attractive violet-colored skin (murasaki is Japanese for violet) and a pure white interior [photo #1] we didn’t realize we were eating mashed sweet potatoes (they were peeled) until the first bite.

    If we had been cooking, we’d have added the peel for a new take on skin-on mashed potatoes.

    The murasaki, which is grown in California, has a sweet, nutty, full-bodied flavor.

  • The texture is somewhere between waxy and floury—an all-purpose potato (the different types of potatoes).
  • The soft white flesh is loaded with vitamin C and dietary fiber.
    You can cook murasaki in every way a potato can be cooked:

  • Baked whole
  • Boiled
  • Hash brown
  • Mashed
  • Oven fried [photo #2]
  • Pan-fried
  • Roasted
  • Sautéed
  • Stir-fried

    A medium potato (five inches long) is 120 calories, and is fat and cholesterol free.

    It has 500% DV of vitamin A, 40% vitamin C, 18% of potassium, 16% dietary fiber, 6% iron, 4% calcium and 2% sodium.

    If kept dry and cold, murasaki potatoes will remain fresh in the fridge for three weeks.





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    TIP OF THE DAY: Different Cheeses For Pizza

    September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day.

    Pizza is one of America’s favorite foods, tied at the top with hamburgers. In the U.S., there are more than 70,000 pizzerias.

    A standard visit to a pizzeria will get you a layer of mozzarella on top of the crust, plus toppings of choice.

    But what if your toppings of choice included additional types of cheese? If you’re a real cheese lover, you owe it to yourself to experiment.

    A few years ago, we went to the annual trade show for pizzeria owners (it was pizza paradise!). A large cheese company had set out all of its cheeses, and would top a slice with the cheese(s) of your choice.

    We tried blue cheese, colby, goat cheese and Swiss (and then we had to sit down and rest). It was fun, delicious, and a lament that we couldn’t go into a real pizzeria and do the same.

    For National Cheese Pizza Day, we have numerous cheesy options.

    Let’s take a look, starting with the most popular pizza cheeses, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, ricotta and yes, cheddar.


    Mozzarella, creamy and stretchy, is the basic cheese option for Italian pizza. The classic Margherita pizza is simply red sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil.

    If your pizzaria is high end, you may get bufalo mozzarella—Americans spell it buffalo—a tastier version. If it’s ultra-gourmet, you’ll find burrata on top of the mozzarella.

    Things to know about mozzarella:

  • You can use freshly-made mozzarella, the kind that is handmade and should be used within a day of being made. Because of its high-moisture content, it creates a true soggy-in-the-middle Neapolitan pie that Italians love. You might be tempted to spend more for that ball of mozzarella, but wait until the next bullet.
  • Commercial mozzarella is low-moisture, and is further soured after it’s made, for a longer shelf life. It’s saltier and more flavorful than high-moisture mozzarella, and melts more easily. Most of us use this to make pizza; and the pizzerias buy it in bulk. If you have a choice, go for full-fat mozzarella. It’s much more luxurious than the part-skim or skim versions: The higher the fat, the better the melt.
  • Smoked mozzarella has even less moisture than skim milk mozzarella. It melts, but not as well. Add it sparingly on top of conventional mozzarella, in a proportion of about 25%. If you like the smokiness, you can add more next time.
  • Here’s more about mozzarella.

    Every cheese-eater is familiar with cheddar, which is made in different levels of sharpness, plus orange or white color (the orange color is the addition of annatto.

  • While you may not think of pairing cheddar and pizza, it’s an ingredient in a lot of pizza cheese blends.
  • Cheddar is also commonly used on specialty pies like buffalo chicken, cheeseburger and chicken bacon ranch.
  • Since cheddar has low elasticity, it doesn’t melt as easily as mozzarella. Use it on top of the mozzarella.
  • White cheddar will surprise people who bite into it, not expecting the sharp flavor. Orange cheddar adds color to the pie.
  • You can add whatever you like as a topping. Photo #1 is orange cheddar topped with roasted vegetables; photo #5 is a white cheddar pizza with bacon and walnuts.
  • For fun, make a ham and cheese pizza or a cheeseburger pizza with crumbled cooked ground beef or little meatballs.
  • Here’s more about cheddar.

    Parmesan, or parmigiano-reggiano for the authentic Italian cheese, is a “finishing cheese,” meaning that it’s added when the pie comes out of the oven.

  • This hard grating cheese, and/or other aged Italian hard cheeses like asiago and grana padano, can be shaved or grated atop the pizza.
  • Never blend parmesan into a cheese mix: It’s too dry to melt in the oven, and heat ruins its umami taste.
  • Here’s more about parmigiano-reggiano and how it differs from generic parmesan.

    Provolone is a semi-hard Italian cheese and the cheese that’s most often blended on a pizza with mozzarella. You’ll find it in a shredded mix, although you can shave or shred it on top of the mozzarella or the toppings (provolone doesn’t grate well).

    Provolone can be mild or strong, depending on how long it’s been aged. Start with a younger provolone: It’s sweeter, creamier and less expensive.

  • If you like the result, try it with an aged provolone, which is sharper.
  • Or, buy some of each and use half and half on your pizza.
  • Here’s more about provolone.

    Ricotta is the base cheese used for white pizza, but can also garnish red sauce pizza (photo #2). The ricotta is typically blended with mozzarella, or, for a deeper flavor, with fontina, gorgonzola or gruyère.

  • Some people like their white pizzas topped with standard toppings—sausage and vegetables, for example, or fresh tomatoes and pesto.
  • Go one step further and add caramelized onions; or sliced tomatoes, basil and other herbs, shallots, cracked red pepper plus mozzarella and parmesan cheeses (here’s a recipe).
  • Because the ricotta base is bland, you can add anything to the canvas: chicken, shrimp, smoked salmon, the works. Our favorite is sliced potato, smoked salmon and red caviar (added when after baking).
  • Here’s more about ricotta.

    When we had our first slice of blue cheese pizza, it was made with average-quality cheese and could have been better. When we sprang for pricey roquefort, we used too much and it was way too “blue.” The lesson: Sprinkle rather than slather the pie with it. Try:

  • Buffalo chicken pizza with diced chicken, sliced celery, crumbled blue cheese and a drizzle of ranch dressing or hot sauce.
  • Pear, walnut and gorgonzola is an elegant combination.
  • Try the gorgonzola, potato, caramelized onion and rosemary recipe in photo #6.
  • Here’s more about blue cheese.

    Like Greek salad? Make a Greek pizza (photo #4).

  • Add red onion, bell peppers, cherry tomtatoes and pitted kalamata olives.
  • If you want to add the lettuce component, garnish with some shredded lettuce when the pizza comes out of the oven.
  • Don’t forget the oregano and thyme.
  • Here’s more about feta cheese.

    Goat cheese lovers can enjoy it on top of a red or white pie. Although goat cheese doesn’t melt flat like mozzarella and provolone, it softens up when baked. Cut circles from a log of fresh goat cheese, or use a spoon to pull it into small chunks. Place either option across the pie’s.

  • Pair goat cheese with fresh tomatoes and, when it comes out of the oven, fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
  • For a more gourmet pizza, add caramelized onions and sliced figs.
  • Sundried tomatoes are another favorite.
  • Here’s more about goat cheese.

    This semi-hard Dutch cheese is good complement to pizzas with barbecue chicken, pulled pork or sausage. It’s available in traditional or smoked. Pick the variety that goes best with the toppings (photo #8).

  • Here’s more about gouda cheese.

    Gruyère is a higher form of what American think of as Swiss cheese. It’s a good melter and adds nutty and earthy flavors.

    Almost any topping works with gruyère is great on pizzas with almost any topping. How about:

  • Sliced waxy or fingerling potatoes, cooked (photo #3), with picholine olives and rosemary and/or thyme.
  • Prosciutto, serrano or bayonne ham, for a ham-and-cheese pizza.
  • Caramelized onions or plain mushrooms and sausage.
  • Green veggies: asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, etc.
  • Here’s more about gruyère.

    Cheddar Cheese Pizza
    [1] Cheddar cheese pizza with roasted vegetables. Here’s the recipe from A Latte Food.

    Ricotta Sausage Pizza
    [2] Ricotta is used as the base for white pizza, but can also top a red pizza. Here’s the recipe for this ricotta and sausage pizza from Emily Bites.

    Gruyere Pizza
    [3] Gruyère pizza with new potatoes, caramelized onions and rosemary. Here’s the recipe from Domestic Gothess.

    Greek Pizza With Feta
    [4] Greek pizza, with feta cheese and other Greek salad ingredients. Here’s the recipe from Cooking Classy.

    White Cheddar Pizza Bacon & Walnuts
    [5] White cheddar pizza with bacon and walnuts (photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).

    Gorgonzola Pizza
    [6] We’ve got the blues: gorgonzola, potato, caramelized onions and rosemary. Here’s the recipe from Port And Fin.

    Buffalo Chicken Pizza
    [7] Turn wings into pizza: Buffalo chicken pizza with blue cheese, mozzarella and hot sauce. Add some sliced celery if you like. Here’s the recipe from The Optimalist Kitchen.

    Smoked Gouda Pizza

    [8] Gouda and chorizo pizza. Here’s the recipe from Vikalinka.



    Several Hispanic cheeses that are commonly available in the U.S. are great melters, and can be used on pizza. Look for asadero, queso manchego, queso oaxaco, queso de papa and queso quesadilla.

  • Here’s more about Hispanic melting cheeses.

    Soft-Ripened Cheeses: Cheese board favorites like Brie and Camembert have naturally runny centers. They also have subtle mushroomy notes, so are delicious topped with sautéed mushrooms on pizza or a burger. Soft-ripened cheeses are uncooked, unpressed cheese, which, as a result, are creamy or even runny when fully ripe. They melt very easily. You don’t need to trim off the rind—it’s considered a choice part by cheese connoisseurs.

    Semisoft Cheeses: These cheeses, springy to the touch, melt easily. Some we’ve already mentioned.

    Brick, fontina and port salut are popular examples, as are blue cheeses, butter käse, edam, young gouda, havarti, limburger, some monterey jacks, muenster, young provolone, yeleme and some tilsits.

    More Cheeses To Try

    Colby, edam and emmental, along with cheddar, gruyère, mozzarella and provolone, are recommended based on a scientific study of the perfect combination of cheeses based on each type’s elasticity, free oil, moisture, water activity and baking temperature.

    Here’s the scoop.
    Thanks to Web Restaurant Store for some of these recommendations.


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