Spears or slices, chips or relish, these recipes are a big dill

For too long, pickles have been relegated to a supporting role - we grab one out of a jar and plop it on a plate next to a sandwich, under a pile of fries.

It's time to bring pickles into the spotlight. The salty, crunchy vegetables and their juice are flavorful enough to merit recipes of their own.

Pickle juice can perk up a boring potato salad, make a flavorful sauce for fish dishes or add an intriguing note to favorite soups, said Jeff Tuttle, marketing officer for the Minnesota-based M.A. Gedney Co., which produces Del Monte and Target's Archer Farms pickles.

Tuttle should know - he comes from a long line of pickle-packers and says he's been a "pickle guy" his whole life. Lately, pickle companies have been moving beyond basic dill and sweet flavors and venturing into spicy and hot variations, Tuttle said. Pickles flavored with chile peppers or jalapenos are among the trendiest offerings, and they work well in lots of recipes.

Tuttle uses pickles in just about everything. He throws diced baby dills into his omelettes and quesadillas. He slices up pickles to use as pizza toppings. And he has a few highbrow takes on everyone's favorite pickle appetizer, the pickle roll up. Instead of sticking with the basic baby dill wrapped in cream cheese and a ham slice, Tuttle uses sweet gherkins with goat cheese, or dill spears with a sun-dried tomato cheese spread.

He even goes so far as to make peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches, one of his childhood favorites, for his kids.

"You just use bread and butter pickles, which have a fresh, sweet cucumber flavor," Tuttle said. "It adds a texture and crunchiness. It's kind of like a peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich."

Did you know?

Don't throw out the juice!

The refrigerated juice from pickles and pickled peppers can be used in anything from marinades to sauces to drinks.

•Pickle and pickled pepper liquids are great in marinades. Combine them with a little olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, or added the juice to bottled Italian salad dressing.

•Doctor up your store-bought barbecue sauce with a little pickle juice. The juice will add a tanginess you can't find in most bottled brands.

•Use leftover pickle juice to "pickle" your own vegetables. Add cut-up raw carrots, celery, broccoli or red pepper strips to an empty jar of pickle juice. Keep them in the refrigerator for quick snacks or appetizers.

•Salty pickle juice is a natural match for a Bloody Mary. Stir some juice into your tomato-juice concoction and garnish with a pickle spear instead of the usual celery stick.

•Skip the lime, and stir an 1⁄8 cup of dill pickle juice into 12 ounces of beer. Garnish with a baby dill.

Source: Pickle Packers International

Pickle, Bean and New Potato Salad

in Mustard Dill Vinaigrette

1 pound small, red-skinned new potatoes, cut into eighths (about 4 cups)

1 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)

2⁄3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons dill pickle liquid

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried

1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup chopped dill pickles

1⁄2 cup sliced black olives

In large pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 4 minutes; add beans and cook 4 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender and potatoes are soft. Meantime, in large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, pickle liquid, dill and black pepper. Drain vegetables and add to bowl. Add pickles and olives and toss lightly until vegetables are covered with dressing.

Source: Pickle Packers International

Ham 'n' Cheese Picklewiches

12 Kosher dill pickles

Sliced American cheese

Sliced boiled ham

Cut each pickle in half lengthwise. Cut 2 pieces ham and 1 piece cheese to size of pickle. Arrange ham and cheese sandwich fashion on half of pickle. Top with remaining pickle half. Chill. Makes 12 picklewiches.

Source: Mt. Olive Pickle

Potato-Pickle Soup

3 medium white potatoes, pared (1 pound)

2 large zucchini

1 large stalk broccoli, stems trimmed

1 medium onion

1⁄3 cup sliced sweet pickles

21⁄2 cups chicken stock or broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Plain low-fat yogurt

Cut potatoes, zucchini, broccoli and onion into small chunks and place in a 3-quart saucepan. Add pickles and chicken stock. Cover; bring to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Puree in food processor or blender in 3 to 4 batches. Return to pan and heat through, or serve cold. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Source: Pickle Packers International

Pickled Salmon Burgers With Homemade

Tartar Sauce

1⁄2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

8 baby dill pickles, chopped

2 teaspoons dill pickle juice

4 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1⁄4 teaspoon paprika

1 can (14 ounces) salmon, drained

1⁄2 to 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten

4 Kaiser rolls

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, pickles, pickle juice, fresh dill, scallions and paprika. In a separate small bowl, flake apart salmon and toss with bread crumbs. Place about 1⁄3 of the mayonnaise mixture into a third, medium-size bowl. Whisk in the egg and stir in the salmon mixture. Form into 4 cakes and brown in non-stick pan, about 1-1⁄2 to 2 minutes on each side. Place cakes on roll and top with a dollop of sauce.

Source: Pickle Packers International