The Best Mortar and Pestle


The BEST reason for owning a mortar and pestle? The fresh pesto you prepare in it will make you famous.

Frieling's Cilio Mortar and Pestle

Well, there are a lot of other reasons, like grinding and mixing spices and even making guacamole. But it will be your pesto that will bring you accolades from miles around.

Frieling’s Cilio Atlas Mortar and Pestle is the best of the best… even Cook’s Illustrated agrees. Nothing bruises the fresh basil leaves and muddles the olive oil like this gadget. And really great pesto is all about freshness and muddling.

The granite mortar (aka the bowl) has a coarse interior to help grind and pulverize, while the extra-tall sides keep roly-poly ingredients, like pine nuts, from escaping all over the kitchen. The wide base gives you great leverage and stability.

The long pestle (the club-shaped tool) is balanced and heavy for easy pounding. It’s also comfortable. See why I say it’s the best mortar and pestle?

What’s cool is that the Cilio’s mortar is cut from one solid piece of natural, uncoated granite or marble. It’s also big… 5-inches tall and holds several cups of whatever you’re making.

And what you’re making had better be pesto! It’s going to make you a star!

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How to Pick The Perfect Potato For A Recipe


Shelly asks: I used regular baking potatoes for my potato salad and they basically turned into mush. Are certain potatoes better for certain recipes?

Most of us learn the hard way (or I should say the mush way?) that you can’t use the same type of potato for every recipe. But you should still use the same criteria when you go about selecting potatoes for whatever you’re making:

1. Potatoes should be smooth and they should all be about the same shape and size so they’ll cook evenly.
2. Pass up potatoes that have bad spots, wrinkled skins, cuts, bruises or green coloring.
3. Store fresh potatoes in a cool, dark place… NOT the refrigerator.

Each variety of potato has a “best way” to cook it. Here’s some guidance on how to pick the perfect potato for your particular recipe:

Bake, mash, French fry, roast

Boil, steam, roast, sauté, soups, salads, scalloped and au gratin 

Boil, steam mash, French fry, roast, soups, salads, au gratin

Mash, steam, bake, boil, roast, French Fry 

Boil, steam, bake 

 Boil, bake, steam

We tend to think of potatoes as villains when it comes to healthy eating. Potatoes aren’t the bad guys, it’s the oil they’re fried in or the sour cream and cheese that they’re topped with… and that has less to do with the potato and more to do with the person eating it!

Potatoes are rich in vitamin C and potassium and loaded with soluble and insoluble fiber (which keeps the digestive tract working and slows down digestion so you feel full longer). A medium baked potato only has 161 calories!

Tomorrow, a yummy delish recipe for your next picnic: All-American Potato Salad (hey, summer’s not over yet!)

(A big shout out to my pals at the United States Potato Board and the Washington State Potato Commission!)

I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: