This week's look at what's new, bountiful or mysterious in the produce aisles.

They look like stubby little fingers. Why this seems cute, instead of gruesome, I'm not really sure, but fingerling potatoes are the new cuties du jour of the vegetable world. Chefs love them. So do cookbook authors. And so do consumers, because fingerlings are small, packed with flavor and easy to cook. They're potatoes, after all; how hard can they be?

There are French, Russian, Austrian and American fingerlings. There are red-skinned, tan-skinned and purple-skinned varieties. They are all known for their rich, buttery flavor (similar to Yukon Gold) and waxy, rather than starchy, texture.

They're not grown in large quantities and have to be packed carefully, so they're more expensive than the big ol' Idaho baking potatoes or even the season's new potatoes, but that's often the rule with specialty produce: The smaller the size, the bigger the price.

Hey, what can I tell you? Cute costs.

HOW TO SELECT: Fingerlings often come in a plastic bag but, bagged or loose, the advice is still the same: Look for potatoes that are firm, not wrinkled, and without bruises, dark spots or a greenish cast to the skin that indicates overly long storage. They should be about one to two inches in diameter and two to three inches long.

HOW TO STORE: Like all potatoes, store fingerlings in a cool, dry place away from light.

HOW TO PREPARE: No need to peel them; the skin is thin and flavorful. Fingerlings are also low in starch, which means they hold their shape well during cooking. This makes them perfect for just about any type of cooking -- boiling, pan-frying, roasting or grilling.

-- Candy Sagon