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Hi, honey

Nothing against clover honey, but there are 300 or so other varieties to be explored, each with a distinct flavor ranging from mild to robust.

Tupelo is lovely in tea; a drizzle of wildflower transforms a slice of pecorino cheese; and buckwheat, like molasses, is best in small amounts in specific recipes.

Clover — Mild and sweet; the most common.

Tupelo — Delicately flavored and pricey.

Orange Blossom — Faint flower flavor.

Wildflower — Intriguing, intense honey flavor.

Buckwheat — Robust and malty in flavor and dark in color. Not suitable as a substitution for other honeys.

Be prepared to barbecue

If you’re planning an outdoor barbecue, don’t forget to take some basic food-safety precautions. Burgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees; chicken needs to be 170 degrees. It’s also important to remember to use separate utensils when handling raw and cooked meats. The American Dietetic Association advises cooks to use color-coded plates, utensils and cutting boards to make it easier to tell them apart.

Tender touch

To clean hard-to-reach spots on mushrooms, use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush. The toothbrush has a comfortable handle and is dishwasher-safe

— From Cook’s Illustrated

Wine of the week

2002 Concannon Petite Syrah ($12)

The ripe, robust red wine from the underappreciated petite syrah grape offers outstanding value. Petite syrah can have rough edges, but this wine is smooth and balanced.

It offers lush blackberry and black-currant flavors with overtones of smoked meat. It’s a big wine that deserves to be paired with substantial red meat and pasta dishes but it’s not one of those alcoholic monsters that defies food pairings.

— Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Get organized

Need help getting your kitchen organized? The Food Network’s new show “Kitchen Accomplished” surprises viewers with kitchen makeovers each week. For those not lucky enough to be selected, here are some tips to do it yourself:

• Go through your kitchen and unclutter. If you haven’t used an item in a year or two, or the expiration date has passed, get rid of it.

• Take seldom-used appliances off your counter and tuck them away in an accessible place.

• Get rid of chipped glasses, cups and plates.

• Store items where you most likely use them — pots, pans, utensils and spices near the cooking areas, dishes near the dishwasher or the table.

• Organize like pantry items together on shelves for quicker access while cooking. For instance, nuts and baked goods on one shelf, a cereal shelf and any canned vegetables such as tomatoes on another.

• Clean out your refrigerator and assess its inventory once a week to keep it clutter-free.

Neon food colors

For colorful creations: Just in time for fall school bake sales — neon food colors from McCormick.

The new shades of electrifying blue, pink, purple and green are available in a four-pack for $3.69. Look for them in the spice aisle of your local grocery.

Sweet competition

Aspiring chefs can win scholarships to the Culinary Institute of America. It’s as easy as pie. Or as easy as creating the winning apple-pie recipe.

This year, 14 finalists will earn a trip to the school in Hyde Park, N.Y., and all will receive $4,000 toward tuition.

Entries must be received by Jan. 15, 2005. For more information, call 800-CULINARY or visit www.ciachef.edu.

Chosen martini

Donna Turner, bartender at Turner’s on East Cross Street in Baltimore, was inspired by her golfing patrons to create a winning recipe in a recent Grey Goose Vodka competition. Her Winter Green Martini is one of 48 recipes featured in an entertainment guide published in this month’s Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Gourmet and other Conde Nast publications.

The recipe calls for 2 parts Grey Goose Le Citron Vodka, 1 part dark creme de menthe, 1 part light creme de cacao and a splash of half-and-half. Just shake the ingredients with ice and serve with a garnish of lime, mint leaf and gooseberries.

Sandwich tip

To prevent the filling of an overstuffed sub sandwich from spilling out, remove some of the interior crumb from the top and bottom halves of the bread. This creates a trough for the fillings and helps to stabilize the sandwich.

— Adapted from “The Best Kitchen Quick Tips” by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

On the label

Those who are concerned about the mercury implications of their canned tuna habit may wish to switch to light tuna.

Recent research indicates that canned light tuna contains significantly less mercury than levels found in canned white or albacore tuna, according to a joint federal advisory issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Light tuna typically comprises yellowfin, bluefin and/or skipjack tunas, which are smaller in size than albacore tuna. Because large fish tend to prey upon smaller fish, the mercury content is compounded as the fish grows. Hence, the larger the fish, the higher the mercury content.

Book report

“CookSmart Chicken, Pasta, Wok Chocolate, Low-Fat or Vegetarian” by Renee Schettler, Silverback, $7.95

These clever combination cookbooks and shopping lists give new meaning to the phrase “convenience cuisine.”

The easy-to-use format frees you from that easy-to-lose handwritten list scribbled on a scrap of paper.

They’re portable enough to toss into your backpack, briefcase or diaper bag, then pull a CookSmart out in the aisle, fan the recipes out like a deck of cards and take your pick.

The dishes are creative but unfussy with a modern twist on classic flavors, such as a non-mayonnaise take on Waldorf salad, chicken and mango spring rolls, and pumpkin, sage and chili risotto.

CookSmart cookbooks are available by mail order from amazon.com.

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