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Jun. 30 2010 — 2:17 pm | 348 views | 1 recommendations | 0 comments

Garlic Scape Pesto Pizza: My Secret Lover

I’m in Year 5 of my love affair with the garlic scape, the curlicued shoot of the garlic bulb that shows up at this time of year for just a few short weeks.  It’s a relationship that reminds me of the 1978 movie, Same Time Next Year, the story of Doris and George, married to other people, who have a tryst the same weekend for 26 years.

Photo: Flickr/Chiot's Run

As tantalized as I am by the lipstick-red sweetness of strawberries and the earthy wholesomeness of freshly dug-up asparagus,  I am completely smitten with the garlic scape, and tune out the rest of the produce world in mid-to-late June for private time with my pistachio-hued paramour. Although it slices like a scallion and adds a mildly garlic kick to salads, stir fries and omelets, the allure of the scape is its ability to be pureed and transformed into pesto.  Unlike basil pesto, its famous (and overrated) Italian cousin, garlic scape pesto is thicker — more like a spread –  and is so full-flavored that the traditional add-on of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is dare I say it, unnecessary.

In the first few years of our romance, GSP and I have had many blissed-out moments together – tossed into short pasta (with a handful of cherry tomatoes), slathered on grilled slabs of crusty bread, and perhaps the most intimate way of all, slurped from a spoon over the sink.

As we grow older together, my beloved curlicue and I are exploring new ways to make the most of our time together every June.  This year, we’ve taken our relationship to new levels, and I do believe I’m still flush with excitement.  We’ve swapped out the pasta for pizza dough, and we’ve topped the grass-green pizza shell with thinly sliced potatoes.

The spuds are a tribute to gnocchi, the dumpling of Italy, often made with potatoes. I’ll never forget the night I ate my first bowlful of potato gnocchi, wading in a pool of basil pesto, at a trattoria in Cinque Terre, a cluster of five villages along the Ligurian coast.

In this case, I boiled a whole unpeeled Yukon gold potato in salted water for about 18 minutes, enough time for partial cooking but not too soft for thin slices.

My pizza dough shaped and at the ready, I arranged my par-boiled potato thins atop a layer of garlic scape astro turf, followed by mini-dollops of pesto, topped off with a wisp of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil.

I could say that the results are delicious, but that would be too easy and tawdry, like basil pesto.  You know how some folks talk about toe-curling sex?  That’s my lover, garlic scape pesto pizza.

Garlic scape pesto potato pizza. Same time next year. Photo: Kim O'Donnel

Garlic Scape Pesto-Potato Pizza
Ingredients
1-2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed thoroughly
1 12-inch round of your favorite pizza dough
Medium grind cornmeal, for dusting pan
1 batch of garlic scape pesto (recipe follows)
Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s What You Do
In a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt, boil potatoes for 18 minutes. Remove from pot and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Remove skin and slice potatoes into ¼-inch rounds.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Roll out pizza dough into desired shape, about 12 inches across.  Dust an inverted cookie/baking sheet with cornmeal. Place dough atop cornmeal.

With an icing spreader or flat-edged rubber spatula, spread about 1/3 cup of pesto, covering entire surface of dough.  Place potatoes on top in a single layer, followed by Parmigiano-Reggiano, if using, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, rotating tray from front to back at the 8-minute mark.  Transfer pizza to cutting surface and slice into wedges.

Note: 1 batch of pesto is enough for 2 pizzas, and then some.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Ingredients
1 cup garlic scapes (8-10 scapes), flowery tendril removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated, or more to taste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Here’s What You Do
Place scapes and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl.

Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste (if using), then  add salt and pepper.
Makes about ¾ cup of pesto.
Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.



Jun. 29 2010 — 4:57 am | 136 views | 1 recommendations | 3 comments

Edible Briefs: The Month in Food News

Going Loopy

Image by terren in Virginia via Flickr

Life has been getting in the way of regular dispatches in this space. Despite my absence, I’ve been busy keeping tabs on the many developing stories in the world of food, including politics, media, safety, nutrition, seafood and agriculture. What follows is a mere sliver of the buffet of headlines I’ve been following this month alone.  Chew on these, and weigh in, if you please.

Shopping Bags
California is poised to become the first state with a ban on plastic and paper shopping bags. With approval in the state assembly and the support of Gov. Schwarzenegger, AB 1998 awaits review in the state senate.

Seafood
Wild-caught salmon from California and Oregon are now a red-light menu item, according to one sustainable seafood source. In its latest Seafood Watch Pocket Guide, the Monterey Aquarium has issued an “avoid” recommendation “due to declining populations of Chinook salmon in these states and concerns about bycatch of threatened and endangered salmon species in these fisheries.”  This was unwelcome news in Oregon, where commercial salmon fishing opened for the first time in three years.

After 134 years in business,  P&J Oyster Co., a New Orleans institution,  closed for good due to the conditions caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans chef Susan Spicer filed a class-action suit against British Petroleum on behalf of restaurants and seafood suppliers whose livelihoods have been directly impacted by the April 20  rig explosion and resulting catastrophic spill.  Spicer talked to New York Times reporter Kim Severson.

Food Safety
Yesterday, cereal giant Kellogg Company recalled 28 million boxes of sweetened cereals “due to an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell” from the boxes’ plastic liners. Froot Loops and Apple Jacks are among the casualties.

In southern California, the South Gate Meat Company recalled  35, 000 pounds of ground beef and hamburger patties last week for being tainted with E. coli 0157:H7.

In possibly one of the most massive recall uh-ohs in recent memory, Campbell Soup Company recalled 15 million pounds of Spaghetti-Os with meatballs “due to possible underprocessing” which paves the way for botulism.

Nutrition
Every five years, the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA issue their Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The latest recommendations have been released as a precursor to the 2010 Guidelines, which help set the standards for all federal food programs, including the National School Lunch Program.  Among the recommendations, the advisory committee is calling for less salt, saturated fat and sweetened beverages, with a new emphasis on less meat, more plant-centered meals.  The public is invited to submit written comments  until July 15 or oral testimony at a public hearing on July 8.

This Thursday, July 1, the House Committee on Education and Labor will hold a hearing for the Improving Nutrition for Children’s Act (HR 5504), the house version of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.  Introduced by committee chair George Miller (D-CA) earlier this month, the legislation calls for $8 billion in additional funds over 10 years for child nutrition programs.
The Senate version, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S. 3307),  was unanimously passed out of the Senate committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, chaired by Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).  This just in: Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio and retired Army general Paul D. Monroe, of Mission: Readiness, will testify.

In Massachusetts this summer, doctors at three health centers will “prescribe” $20,000 in fruit and veggie prescription vouchers to be used at local farmer’s markets.

Media

There were two online births: To CNN, which spawned Eatocracy, a blog with a huge appetite for food news and kitchen stories;  and to Grace Foundation (The Meatrix, Eat Well Guide, Sustainable Table), which welcomed its newest blog baby, Eco Centric,  to the world last week.

Agriculture
Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended new limits on antibiotics administered to livestock that would be permitted for disease prevention and treatment but no longer for growth.  Details and debate likely to emerge in the coming weeks.

In the case Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, the Supreme Court sided with Monsanto Co., in overturning a ban on the company’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds. Alfalfa is an important animal feed crop; farmers opposed to the GMO alfalfa have long expressed a concern for the risk of cross-pollination and contamination of other seeds.   The ruling is subject to the results of a USDA environmental study.  It is the first Supreme Court ruling in a GMO case.

On Wednesday, June 30, Senator Lincoln will host the first of many anticipated hearings about the Farm Bill, an omnibus piece of legislation surely to knit some eyebrows in the coming months.

Whole Foods Market is embarking on a community garden project at its store in the  Richmond, Va., area, with the goal of growing food for the store. This is a pilot project for the Austin, Tex.-based grocery chain.



Jun. 7 2010 — 12:38 pm | 848 views | 2 recommendations | 7 comments

Adventures in a Chef’s Coat at the White House

It’s Tuesday night in Seattle.  I’ve just arrived at my neighborhood yoga studio for class. We are a cozy group of four, unrolling our mats onto the floor and preparing for practice.

Joel, the teacher, greets us, and then announces, “Hey everyone, Kim’s going to the White House.”

KOD, on the south lawn of the White House. Photo: Virginia Willis.

All heads turn in my direction.

I explain that in the morning,  I’m flying to DC to be part of an IACP delegation that will attend the kick-off event for a first lady initiative called Chefs Move to Schools. That it’s the latest piece of Let’s Move!, Mrs. Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity, and that she’d like to have several hundred of us culinary types over on the south lawn to share her vision for us to each adopt a school to help overhaul the sorry state of school food.

Gale, who’s seated right in front of me, can hardly contain her excitement. Her eyes get big and she sits up tall. “I’m a teacher,” she says. “I teach at SUCHANDSUCH ELEMENTARY in HARD-KNOCKS LOW INCOME NEIGHBORHOOD and nearly all the kids get free or reduced lunch which is so bad that many of them don’t eat and throw in the trash.  This is such amazing news. I can’t wait to share this with my colleagues.”

Until this moment, I had been feeling a bit like a puppet character in The Neighborhood of Make-Believe on the public television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Surely, I thought,  I’ll wake up from this wild dream and get back to the regularly scheduled programming.  But there was Gale, her chest now visibly puffed and filled with hope, a kind of  ‘You had me at hello, chef’ kind of look that spoke volumes as we prepared for our first downward facing dog.

Midair, I carry Gale and her students in my mind, the possibilities swirling, as if we already belonged to one another.

Friday, the big day, arrives in no time.  It begins with a breakfast hosted by anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength (SOS).  I arrive with Philadelphia cookbook author Tara Mataraza Desmond. It’s just minutes before 8. We enter an enormous hotel banquet room, which is packed with hundreds of people, most of whom are wearing chef’s coats.

I survey the room. I’ve never seen so many white jackets in one place, and  neither has anyone else, I reckon. It is truly a sight to behold, literally a breakfast of champions.  The speakers think so, too.

SOS Executive Director Bill Shore, greets the room with “Today there will be the greatest concentration of culinary power seen anywhere in the world.”

Hanging out by the chard in the White House garden. Photo: Christine Carroll.

Professor Janet Poppendieck, author of “Free For All: Fixing School Food in America,” pumps up the crowd with “This is your moment in American history.”

And as he steps up to the podium, White House assistant chef Sam Kass looks genuinely awestruck: “Today is truly a historic day in food.”

The breakfast is a prelude/pep rally leading up to Mrs. Obama’s speech on the south lawn, the moment we’ve all been waiting for  — and traveled from around the country to experience.   We hear from chef-volunteers in Denver, New Orleans and New York, who share lessons learned and success stories from their respective adopted schools.   From Ellen Teller of the Food Research and Action Center, we get an update on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, now known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. (Sponsored by Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the Act will provide $4.5 billion over 10 years for school meals, which includes an extra 6 cents per meal per student. Presently, 31 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program. Supporters are hoping the bill will go to the full Senate for a vote before summer recess.)

The room fills with applause and feels electric. I’ve got a tingle in my heart. These folks have succeeded in inspiring me and my colleagues, but at this moment, we are a group of 500, a sliver of what it will take to place one chef in all 95,000 public schools nationwide.  There’s a call to action but no tangible blueprint, but I’m told it’s in the works.

The chefs stand up, and once again, the room is a beehive of white-jacketed activity. The hotel’s multi-storied escalators become a train of white, and I am once again mesmerized by the symbolic solidarity.  The pedestrian convoy makes its way to the southeast side of the White House, where it forms a queue a few blocks long and strong.  It is a broiling hot day, and nobody seems to mind.  The chefs take photos, exchange hugs and kisses and revel in the moments that await.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressing chefs on the south lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Once past various security checkpoints, we find ourselves at the White House garden, where broccoli, leeks, chard, peas, radishes, lettuces are front, center and bursting with color. I smile at the placard that reads “peas” and say out loud, “Presidential peas.”

We are led to the seating area that faces the south side of the White House. We sit, we wait in anticipation and we do everything to ignore the heat of the blazing sun.

White Assistant chef Sam Kass goes first, followed by DC chef Todd Gray and the principal of a DC elementary school. And then it’s the first lady’s turn. I listen to everything she says, but what will forever stick in my mind are these remarks:

You know the joy of cooking for others, that passion that you get, the sense of camaraderie, the understanding and fulfillment that comes with seeing folks gathering around a dinner table, not just enjoying a meal, but enjoying fellowship. That is power.

You know the central role that food plays in the moments that make us happiest. Food is always there, whether it’s at a birthday party, or Thanksgiving dinner, or quiet moments with friends. Food is at the core of what makes life wonderful.

There’s more to tell, but I’ll stop for now and compile my thoughts on other pieces of the day in another post. One thing’s for sure: I can’t wait to catch up with Gale and figure out a way — to move to her school.



May. 31 2010 — 1:43 pm | 545 views | 1 recommendations | 1 comment

Mega Meat Eater Reflects on Meatless Week

Last Monday in this space, we met Seattle food writer Lorna Yee, a devout meat lover about to embark on a personal first: a week without meat. Yee, who’s been chronicling her meatless journey in her blog, The Cookbook Chronicles, not only met her challenge; she’s planning another bacon-less stretch later this summer. Our “after” Q/A follows.

Lorna Yee's Curry Udon With Roasted Tofu. Photo: Lorna Yee.

Lorna, it’s seven days later.  How are you doing both physically and emotionally after a week without your beloved meat?
I’ll be honest — the first four days were seriously tough. My energy was low, even though I was paying close attention keeping my caloric intake high since I’m a runner. I normally run about 9 miles a few times a week, and on Day 4, I could only manage 2 miles before I gave up and went home because I felt utterly exhausted. On Day 5, my body somehow adjusted to the lack of meat, and the brain fog cleared. I felt as energetic as always. On Day 6, I breezed through a 9 miler with the same ease as when I was eating meat.

Was there ever a moment you thought you might cave and not make it to the meatless finish line?
We had dinner with a big group of friends at my favorite Thai restaurant, on Wednesday. I had been looking forward to the meal for a long time, and it was a little hard sitting through the meal with only a few permissible items on the table. Still, the food was so incredibly fresh and flavorful that I didn’t feel deprived at all. I thoroughly enjoyed my fried tofu “King of Garlic”, my vegetarian summer noodles and a spicy/sour tofu dish called “Ayyuthya Garden.”

And what about plant-based protein? Any new discoveries?
Well, I’ve discovered that maybe tempeh is not for me. I didn’t quite enjoy the texture of the product I bought as much as I thought I would, though some kind commenters on my blog have suggested that steaming the tempeh first before frying makes it more delicious. I’ve had quinoa before in restaurants, but cooked it for the first time at home this week. (KOD note: Yee needs to take a few tempeh cues from my T&T comrades Bryant Terry, Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Mollie Katzen. See links at the bottom of this page.)

I’ve grown up eating tofu, though it wasn’t until this week that I learned that you could cube up firm tofu, drizzle with oil, and roast it in the oven until crisp. I tossed the roasted tofu in a sauce made with sambal oelek, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), minced garlic, ginger, and scallions, and a bit of sesame oil. I served that over curry udon (recipe details below), and it was one of our favorite meals this week. I also made falafel at home for the first time!

How did your husband manage?
My husband was great and very supportive–I didn’t originally ask him to join me in Meatless Week, since I know he’s a die-hard pork fan! But he joined on his own accord, and went four straight days without meat. On the fifth day, we had dinner at our friend Mardi and Dion’s house and they made smoked chicken, and he had some. (I ate a cheesy kale gratin I bought to share, and our friends did a wonderful platter of smoked butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, and purple potatoes for me. Heaven!) He went meatless again on the 6th day. So in the end, he didn’t do the entire week with me, but he did eat far less meat than he normally does. I am very proud of him.

Has this week-long experiment changed your relationship with meat, and if so, how?
After four days, I began to realize that I didn’t really need to have it for every meal. The dinner at our friend’s house on Day 5, when they made me that plate of smoked squash and potatoes, was the first meal when I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. We all ate salad, and bread, and enjoyed various beers that evening, and the only two items I couldn’t touch were the cured meats on the pre-dinner nibbles platter, and the smoked chicken. (My husband assures me it was delicious, though!) I had such a good time at our friends’ house, laughing and eating and drinking. We finished the night with some Nutella blondies (Recipe is on my blog).

Dare I ask:  Will there be another meatless week in your future anytime soon? Or some variation?
Yes! I have already planned my next meatless week for August 16-22. In the late summer, the farmers’ markets in Seattle are really at their full potential. I am looking forward to heirloom tomato and burrata salads, and baba ghanoush, and roasted veggie pasta salads. It’s my wish to get as many bloggers involved in Meatless Week as possible. Meatless Monday is a very worthy idea, and I plan to continue with that, but Meatless Week does, in theory, even more for the environment, and I really enjoy the challenge of going a full week without meat.

Lorna Yee’s Curry Udon With Roasted Tofu
Ingredients: Curry Udon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup peas
2 blocks of Japanese curry, like Vermont Curry (KOD note: No Japanese curry available? Use 2-3 tablespoons of Indian-style garam masala.)
1/2 cup hot water
2 packages frozen udon noodles (KOD note: available in frozen noodle section of Asian markets; dried udon noodles not as chewy or thick, but will work in a pinch)

Method
In a skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown and softened, about 7 minutes. Add the peas. Add the curry and the water, stirring until the curry has dissolved into a thick sauce. Set aside.

Cook the udon according to package directions. Add the udon to the curry sauce, and toss with tongs until well coated.

Ingredients: Asian Roasted Tofu
1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tablespoons scallions, finely minced
few thin slices of jalapeno or your favorite pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 teaspoons Asian chili oil or hot sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Method
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the tofu in the oil, and spread out the pieces on the parchment. Roast for 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to a bowl, and whisk to combine. When the tofu is cooked, toss the tofu in the sauce, and serve over curry udon. Top with additional hot sauce if desired.

Makes 2-3 entree-size servings.



May. 27 2010 — 1:02 pm | 207 views | 1 recommendations | 0 comments

Playing With Fire: Al Fresco Feasting Tip Sheet

GRILL SEASON

Image by Dan4th via Flickr

Do you have ants in your woolies, too?  With a three-day weekend around the corner, I’m champing at the bit to shed the socks, bury my pasty-white feet into the sand and get this summer party started.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, the breezes are hardly sultry at the moment, but that won’t stop my neighbors from firing up their grills and wishfully thinking the sun is gonna come out.

So get out dem white shoes; the unofficial beginning of summer is so close I can almost taste the charcoal.  Since it’s been a while since we fired up those grills and moved our kitchens outdoors, I sought out tips and tricks from some of the savviest edible-minded folks I know.  Feast your eyes on their greatest hits – and let’s get cooking!

Random, but it’ll help set the mood: A taste of “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters and “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

Getting a Grip on the Grill
First thing’s first: Let’s clean up the grill, no matter the menu. This little, often-forgotten step is the secret to “superior grilling,” according to Seattle-based culinary minx Nicole Aloni.

“Heat the empty grill to very hot and let it burn off the residue from previous Q’s.,” advises Aloni. “Brush with a stiff brush to loosen the charred remains. Voila, you’re ready to grill.”

If meat’s on the menu, says Aloni, bring up to room temperature while you’re cleaning the grill. “If it goes on the grill directly from the fridge, particularly a thick steak or roast, it will often burn on the outside before the center is cooked.”

Are you planning to show off this weekend? Aloni’s tips for getting beautiful grill marks:
Place room temperature steaks or chops on a very hot grill. Let the steak rest in that position for at least 4 to 5 minutes before flipping. Do not move the meat around while the grill marks are being set. If it must be flipped back onto the first side to finish cooking, use your grill tongs to place the steak so that the lines of the grill are at right angles to the original marks. This way you can create an attractive windowpane grill mark.

She’s got thoughts on skewered goodies too:
For a brochette of large chunks (like a lamb and vegetable kebab), use two skewers side by side (parallel) through the entire kebab. This will give you a secure lock on the food and ensure that it won’t spin around when lifted from the grill. You can pick up the ends of both skewers and use them to flip the skewer like a solid piece of meat.

Grilling: The Flip Side
Over in Toronto, Carrie Oliver, an impassioned advocate of artisan beef, suggests not worrying yourself over the details:
Five years ago, I discovered that I had been grilling meat with all the wrong techniques for the past 30 years (or more). So I tried the chefs’ technique (e.g. for beef start on very high heat, create cross marks by shifting xyz angle after abc minutes, flip… you get the picture…) and I failed every time.
So my two cents would be to just do your best, learn the basics and not obsess over it. Most people who are new to grilling will be very successful if they actually stand by the grill while they cook. Do not worry about presentation, grilling is about creating a fun, meaningful experience with your family and friends.

From Boston, food writer Jacqueline Church shares a trick that bears repeating:
I like to marinate things to keep them tastier during grilling. You can do inexpensive cuts, then wrap sliced meat into rice paper wrappers with lots of great julienned veg. You can do all the julienning ahead, and guests can take a rice paper sheet, dip in bowl of warm water then wrap their own veg or with meat as it’s done.

Getting Saucy
Atlanta-spiced chef/cookbook author Virginia Willis, whipped out this little ditty from her chef’s coat:
I love this pungent combination of vinegar and aromatics; it’s great for grilling chicken and fish.

Miss Virgina’s Quickie Marinade
Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup peanut, canola, or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Make it and store it in a spray bottle in the fridge and its always good to go!

Drinkies
For Kat Kinsman, editor of the soon-to-be launched Eatocracy, CNN.com’s new food site, an al fresco feast is incomplete without proper liquid nourishment:

Pitcher drinks, pitcher drinks, pitcher drinks! Mix a big batch of your favorite adult (or not) beverage in a freezer-friendly, lidded container and chill as solidly as it will allow (depends on the alcohol content). Tote it in a cooler to your destination. Not only will it help you keep your other dishes cold – it’ll still be deliciously chilly by the time you get around to sipping.

Setting the Table
Cooking doyenne Nathalie Dupree, who’s based in Charleston, S.C. has a picnic on her mind:
When I’m lugging china as to a fancy symphony in the park or something, I pack the china in those plastic-ish zipper cases, with paper towel between each one. Then when it is time to put them away, I have a clean towel to wipe each plate as I put it in the case. I wash the plates etc. when I get home. Or not. Its hidden until the next day (wink). There are also beautiful tin plates out now that look like china, are prettier and easier to handle than paper.

Campfire-side Thoughts
Seattle forager Langdon Cook, who’s gearing up for some time out of the city, reports that he likes “to cut down on the amount of ingredients I haul into the back-country on by making use of whatever wild foods are in season. For instance, this Memorial Day weekend we’ll be holed up somewhere on the east slope of the Cascades (the sunny side!) cooking up camp meals with morels, fiddle heads, and spring porcini, with maybe a side salad of miner’s lettuce. Not a bad way to gussy up the typical fireside plate of franks and beans!”

Nutritionist Julie Negrin has a yen for getting out of the city, too. Her go-to item for the campfire: A cast-iron skillet:
Bring along a large skillet – preferably iron, since it’s heavy enough to not be destroyed by the hot flames and will cook food evenly. You can cook pretty much anything you’d cook at home – but note how much more flavorful it tastes. My friend Elana loves to make fajitas for dinner and then in the morning, prepares breakfast burritos. She scrambles eggs in the pan and then wraps them in tortillas with cheese and tops it with guacamole. That way, they have enough sustenance to go hiking all day with only a light lunch on the trail.

Lagniappe
San Jose, Calif.-based food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule reminds us not to forget dessert:
Grilled apricots are, bar none, the ideal summer dessert. Split them in half, dislodge the pit, rub them with oil, and toss cut side down on a hot grill for a minute or two. Then flip them over and fill the hollows with a square of dark chocolate. Let it melt, and serve with a drizzle of very cold cream. Insanely good.

Last, but certainly not least, Miami based author Diana Abu-Jaber serves up a poem that’s good enough to eat:

Marinade everything in loads of garlic, olive oil, vinegar and rosemary the night before grilling.
Salt and pepper your grillables heartily.
A dusting of turmeric is also nice.
Get the grill as hot as you can.
Better charcoal than gas.
Use a coal chimney to get it going.
Make sangria, load it with fruit, after you make your marinade, and let that steep.
Sprinkle a mix of chopped mint, sugar, and lime juice over your melon salad.
Eat outside as often as possible: it improves the appetite.
If you pick your own corn, it’s always better.
But don’t be shy about the butter.


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    About Me

    You might know me from The Washington Post, where for a dozen years I dished up cooking content, both as Web chat hostess ("What's Cooking") and daily blog minx ("A Mighty Appetite").

    To the table, I offer a stew of journalism (total = 16 years) and cooking smarts (a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education), served with a side of life-long curiosity.

    Home is Seattle for now, but until last year was parked on the east coast, born and raised outside of Philadelphia, where H20 is pronounced "wooder."

    In addition to the Post, I have written for Real Simple, Smithsonian.com and Culinate, where I host "Table Talk," a weekly chat every Thursday (1 pm ET/ 10a PT).

    Send story ideas, questions and crumbs to: writingfoodATgmail.com

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    Coming in September: The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (Da Capo Press). Now available for pre-order on Amazon, BN.com, Indie Bound and Powell’s.

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    T&T Honor Roll: Hats off to Those Who Took the Tempeh & Tofu Challenge.