Well, really, it's good tomato gravy. Local chef Chris Mazzotti is selling jars of his Madd Mazz tomato gravy, made from a recipe from his great-aunt in Puglia, Italy. It's all local, made from Lincolnton tomatoes, Laughing Owl Farm garlic and herbs from Pete Vinci's Rosemary Pete. What's the difference between tomato sauce and tomato gravy? Gravy is chunkier, they told us, and it's good both as a pasta sauce and a baking sauce. Quart jars are $7, available Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Charlotte Tailgate Farmers Market on Camden Road in SouthEnd and Saturdays at the Charlotte Regional Farmers' Market on Yorkmont Road.
A Smokin' Smoker
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Chicago Tribune testers had great results with the Orion Cooker, which uses convection and steam (and smoke, if you wish) to prepare meats in less time and with very little hassle. A large pork butt took 23/4 hours; a roast chicken about 11/4 hours – both emerged moist and beautifully cooked. The stainless-steel unit is easy to assemble and clean; its light weight makes it portable. Three rib hangers can cook six racks of ribs, three cooking grates have 398 square inches of cooking surface, and a poultry stand and lifting handle hold up to a 24-pound turkey. The unit does require a lot of charcoal (they used one small bag each time). It's $150 at Home Depot stores, or by mail: Visit orionoutdoors.com.
Home can smell like Paula's kitchen
Paula Deen has signed a deal for a line of food-scented candles to be sold at Wal-Mart. They'll be based on the Food Network chef's most popular recipes, though no one is saying what those are. Paula sells candles under her name at Linens 'n Things with scents like Coconut Cake. But we're wondering if a macaroni & cheese candle is an option? The new candles are expected in Wal-Mart stores this fall.
Fire up for Tabasco contest
It's time for the Tabasco Community Cookbook contest. In its 19th year, this contest is for nonprofits only: It puts the spotlight on fundraising cookbooks. Deadline for entries is Sept. 26. The McIlhenny Company contributes $2,500 to the winner's charity of choice.
Keen on Kettle Cooked
Testers loved Miss Vickie's Kettle Cooked potato chips for their thick, crisp crunch as much as for their great flavor. Four varieties are available, including two new ones: country onion with three cheeses and buttermilk ranch. A 5-ounce bag is $2.50 at various grocers.
Trader Joe's has tzatziki ready to go
Tzatziki sauce is easy enough to make: Yogurt, garlic and cucumber and you have the makings for a cool, refreshing drizzle for a flatbread sandwich or a summer salad. Still, if you're looking for a shortcut, there's no beating the convenience of Trader Joe's Tzatziki Dip. It's thick enough to spoon onto a pita wrap without too much dribbling, and it's nicely seasoned. Use it with leftover pork roast or lamb. A 12-ounce container is $2.99.
KFC adds not-so-spicy chipotle chicken
Sizzling summer, spicy chicken. Most chicken chains have a peppery offering, and now so does KFC, which added Smoky Chipotle Crispy just in time for hot weather. Trouble is, you'd have to be told it was spicy. You'd never know from eating it. Mild and with a barely noticeable hint of pepper, this is spicy chicken for people who don't like spice. And the smoky, rich flavor of chipotle was nowhere to be found, just a hint of heat that could have come from cayenne. The chicken itself? Cooked just right, with deliciously crispy skin. But if you're looking for spicy chicken, better try Popeye's or Bojangles' instead.