© St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2002
A weekly serving of food news and views
explanations from the inside out
That red thing in your olive? It's a pimento, and before it ended up in your martini, it was part of a plant. A pimento plant.
A pimento, which comes from the Spanish word for pepper, pimiento, is a variety of chili pepper. The pimento strips that you buy in bottles are roasted red peppers but not the same roasted red peppers that we see so frequently on salads, sandwiches and pizza. Those are bell peppers. Different pepper, different size, different shape.
There are several varieties of the heart-shaped pimento pepper, from sweet to hot. The hottest pimentos are dried, ground finely and become paprika. (Some paprika makers add cayenne for even more heat.)
The pimento plant is a member of the nightshade family, and the flesh of the peppers produced by the mildest varieties is sweeter and more aromatic than red bell pepper.
You can sometimes find pimento plants in nurseries or grow them from seed, packets of which can be purchased at nurseries or online at Web sites such as www.johnnypepperseed.com.
Make your own pimento cheese with fresh pimentos by grating extra sharp cheddar, New York or white, then adding hand-grated pimento. Fold together and use as a spread for sandwiches.
"The most dangerous food is wedding cake." -- American proverb
Despite the resurgence of low-carb, high-fat diets such as the Dr. Atkins diet, there still are plenty of people watching their fat intake. And many of them are vegetarians. This Web site caters to them with more than 4,500 recipes. There are no flashy graphics here and it's a shame that nutritional information isn't provided but many of the recipes seem worth a try. The breakfast ideas, especially Banana French Toast and Apricot Granola, look the most tempting.
Intensely flavorful oils pressed from nuts, such as walnut, should be stored in the refrigerator to keep them from turning rancid. Oils flavored with herbs should also be refrigerated.
Lovers of seafood of all kinds may wish to check out a couple of paperbacks:
Off the Hook: Reflections and Recipes from an Old Salt by Roger Fitzgerald (Ten Speed Press, $16.95). Anecdotal and not too formal, Fitzgerald writes about travels, fishing, eating out and cooking at home in the Pacific Northwest.
The Ultimate Shrimp Book by Bruce Weinstein (Morrow, $16.95). The subtitle promises more than 650 recipes "for everyone's favorite seafood prepared every way imaginable." Entries range from Shrimp a la King to XO Shrimp. XO is the spicy sauce made famous on TV's Iron Chef.
If green and purple ketchup weren't enough fun for you, hang on. Later this month, three new colors will be hitting store shelves, thanks to the marketing geniuses at Heinz. The bottles of Heinz EZ Squirt Mystery Color ketchup will be white with a rainbow label. To find out which color -- Passion Pink, Awesome Orange or Totally Teal -- is inside the bottle, consumers will have to buy it, open and squeeze. Suggested retail price is $1.79 for a 19-ounce bottle.
Ziploc's new line of TableTops plates, bowls and cups is a clever merger of inexpensive storage containers and serving pieces. The sturdy plates and bowls come with domed, spill-proof lids that snap on, so you can eat from them and also freeze, refrigerate, microwave and transport food. The suggested retail price is $5.99 each per package of three or four plates, cups or bowls.
- Compiled by Janet K. Keeler, from staff and wire reports