Tastings: A couple of products I like

For the first time in several years, I won’t be attending the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this weekend. If I were, I would be heading straight for the Food Should Taste Good booth to get another sample of their terrific tortilla chips flavored with black, green and kalamata olives.

A neighbor brought these chips to a New Year’s Eve party and I’ve been hooked ever since. I took them on a hike with some friends a few days later and they couldn’t stop eating them. The sturdy texture also made them good dippers for hummus.

Now, I’m not a big junk food eater and I generally avoid processed foods, but I make an exception for tortilla chips. Life is too short to pass up all the great flavor and satisfying crunch of good chips. I try not to buy them very often but I’ll rarely turn one down despite all the fat and sodium I know they harbor.

These chips remove a little of the guilt. They’re made with real food, including stone ground corn, sunflower or safflower oil, evaporated cane juice, sea salt and natural seasons – all organic. There isn’t an ingredient listed on the package that I can’t pronounce. Still, their calorie, fat and sodium counts are nearly as high as the big name commercial tortilla chips.

The brand offers a number of unusual flavors, including a chocolate version that I found a little odd but not as strange as I expected. Still, I’m sticking with the olives. It’s an inspired flavor combination.

You can find where to buy them at the Food Should Taste Good web site. In Silicon Valley, many Raley’s, Nob Hill and Whole Foods markets carry them in their natural foods sections. I found them at the New Leaf Markets in Santa Cruz County.

Another product I’ve become addicted to is the Asian Rub from Fire & Flavor. Of all the rubs and seasonings that came across my desk last year, when I was a food writer at the Mercury News, this is the one that I keep going back to. The aromatic blend of whole peppercorns, sesame seeds, onion, garlic and soy sauce works such wonders on usually boring chicken breast that it has become my seasoning of choice for a quick supper.

Usually, I just rub about a tablespoon of the mixture into the chicken breasts and pan roast them in an iron skillet:

Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees, heat a little olive oil in the skillet over a medium flame and add the breasts, skin side down. Cook the chicken, without turning, until the skin turns brown and crisp. Turn the breasts over and slide the pan into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees or the juices run clear when the chicken is pricked with a small, sharp knife.

That’s it. I never cease to be amazed at how good it tastes. The same technique would work with your favorite poultry rub.

The key for me is plump organic chicken still on the bone. I had just about given up on chicken breasts when all we bought was pre-packaged skinless, boneless poultry – the only choice at the local market. They were so dull and dry that I turned to chicken thighs for most dishes.

Now we go to a natural foods store in the next town to buy our chicken from the butcher. It’s free-range and organic and the butcher wraps it in brown paper so there are no foam trays to send to the landfill. It also tastes so much better, but I have to say that even factory farmed chicken would taste better with the skin and bone, which keep the white meat moist.

If you’re watching your fat calories, just remove the skin before you eat it. That’s what my husband does. I, on the other hand, can’t resist at least one bite of the crisp skin seasoned with all those great Asian flavors.

Fire & Flavor sells the rub for $6.95 for 2.5 ounces on its web site, where you’ll also find a store locator.

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