Just when I believed every kitchen gadget (like the Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler) or food (Heinz's purple and green ketchups) had been invented, a new food or gadget pops up.
Here are three new things that I've recently tested in the Lean and lovin' it kitchen.
Ronco Chip-Tastic: You can almost hear Ron Popeil's signature late-night pitch "But wait, there's more," when you first see his newest kitchen gadget, the Ronco Chip-Tastic no-guilt, microwave potato chip maker ($19.95 for two).
What it is: The chip-maker comes with a ring that holds 36 potato slices, a mini mandoline (called a "Slice-O-Matic), a recipe book (eight recipe pages) and three Chip-Tastic seasonings (barbecue, sour cream and onion and salt and vinegar).
How it works: Using the Slice-O-Matic, slice a baking or sweet potato, or an apple or pear, blot the slices dry with a paper towel, add seasoning (or perhaps a light dusting of popcorn salt), insert 36 slices into the Chip-Tastic ring and (depending on its power) microwave for 3-6 minutes.
Does it work? Although it tested my patience waiting for 5-plus minutes for an underpowered microwave, I made three dozen nicely browned, warm and crunchy organic potato chips. Everyone who sampled them thought they were as good as store-bought, higher fat chips. You could taste the potato and not the oil usually associated with fried chips. It's a good thing you get two in an order since 36 chips disappear lightning fast.
Baking steel: Check out the Modernist Cuisine's website (modernistcuisine.com) and you'll notice its newest kitchen tool: a Special Edition Baking Steel ($99, free shipping).
What it is: A 3⁄8-inch thick, 16-by-14-inch pre-seasoned 22-pound steel sheet.
How it works: The Baking Steel is similar to a baking stone. Place it on the highest oven rack position and heat the oven to 500-plus degrees for at least 30 minutes. Then, (timing is critical) turn on the broiler and when the steel glows put your fresh pizza on the steel and bake it for 1½ to 2 minutes with the oven door open. Voila, pizza as crisp as one baked in a wood-fired oven.
Even free-form bread and pies (in a pan for a better bottom brown), can be baked on the steel at normal oven temperatures. The steel can also be used on an induction cook surface or a grill.
About the steel, Cook's Illustrated wrote: " ... if you're an avid pizza baker seeking to emulate the violent heat of a professional pizza oven, the Baking Steel is a worthwhile splurge." Agreed.
Laura Santtini's Taste #5 Umami: If you've been wondering how to use the "new" fifth flavor -- umami -- look no further than Laura Santtini's Taste #5 Umami's in the original Mediterranean (umami spiced tomato puree) recipe or Far Eastern Vegetarian recipe ($5.99).
What it is: the Mediterranean version combines tomato paste, garlic, anchovy paste, black olives, balsamic vinegar, dehydrated porcini mushrooms, parmesan cheese, wine vinegar, sugar and salt; while the Far Eastern variety combines miso, garlic, soy sauce, sunflower oil, yuzu (citrus) juice, mirin, shiitake mushrooms, lemon juice, matcha (green tea), ginger and salt.
How it works: Add small dabs (½ teaspoon) of either paste to any dish (such as spaghetti sauce with the Mediterranean or a stir-fry with the Far Eastern) during preparation and amplify multiple flavor nuances. Flavors seemed more intense and complex with Taste #5 Umami Paste.
Try this recipe: I love paging through Southern Living's "Farmers Market Cookbook" (2010) and came across a broccoli salad recipe that was just way too high in fat and calories for me. I trimmed the fat, slashed the calories and came up with summery salad that still tastes delicious. Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.