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Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor

Michelle Stark

Michelle Stark is the Food Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, overseeing the food content online and in print, including cooking and restaurants. She also manages social media accounts for the Entertainment department, including food. Previously, she was part of the Things to Do crew and co-host of Play Tampa Bay. She has designed and edited the Times' daily entertainment page, and wrote weekly about television at The Feed blog. Stark joined the Times after graduating from the University of South Florida in 2010 with degrees in mass communications and international relations.

Phone: (727) 893-8829


Twitter: @MStark17

  1. Five ideas for grilled pizza toppings


    Snowflakes, fingerprints, grilled pizzas: No two are ever the same. • If you can embrace the imperfect outcomes and improvisational spirit, grilling pizzas can be a lot of fun. You start with the same essentials you'd use for oven-made pizza — dough, sauce, toppings — but cook the pizza directly on the grill grates instead. Here's a tutorial for grilling pizza, which you cook on one side first then flip over before adding the toppings, and five ideas for ways to top it. • Each recipe makes a pizza to serve 4; ingredients are listed in the order in which you should put them on the pizza. ...

    When the crust goes on the grill, the heat should be medium. Have a spray bottle handy in case you need to tame any flames.
  2. #CookHack: Tips for getting your charcoal grill started


    If you have a charcoal grill but you don't have a chimney starter — a metal cylinder that is used to light the charcoal — it's worth getting your hands on one. But if you need to light a fire on the grill without it, here's a tip for doing it in a pinch. Crumple up about 10 pieces of newspaper and place them beneath the grate where the charcoal goes. Then pile your charcoal on the grate and light the paper. (Make sure the grill's bottom air vent is open.) About 20 minutes later, the coals should be ready for cooking. If your fire starts to die before things get going, try this: If you have an outlet outside near the grill, plug in a hair dryer, turn it on high and point it toward the base of the coals. It should help revive the fire in a few minutes. ...

  3. Recipes for unexpected grilled sides: avocado, peach panzanella, fruit kebabs


    Add some sparkle to your traditional barbecue fare this Fourth of July with unexpected grillables.

    It's easy to get into a grilling rut. Pork chops, burgers, chicken wings — not much effort required to rub these proteins with spices and slap them on a hot grate. They're simple and fast, which is why you're apt to pull out the standards this weekend. So let's shake up the sides.

    Fruit and veggies take on a whole different flavor when they start to sweat, the heat from the grill caramelizing the sugars in stone fruit especially — plums, peaches and the like. We know that a lightly wilted stalk of romaine lettuce makes for the bones of a killer Caesar salad. But have you ever tasted the ooey, gooey delight of a melty, slightly charred avocado? ...

    Grilled Fruit Kebabs, with a dusting of shredded coconut and a drizzle of honey, bring big taste to the picnic table.
  4. #CookClub: Grilled Pork Chops With Grilled Honey Carrots for Fourth of July


    A couple of weeks ago, our cover story told you how to make the perfect burger, tips that will surely come in handy this Fourth of July weekend. And for this week's #CookClub recipe, I've chosen another grilling standby: pork chops. They come together so easily, I'm wondering why I don't make them more often for a quick, no-fuss dinner.

    But we wanted to go beyond just the classics in this issue and offer ideas for unexpected things to break out at Fourth of July barbecues this weekend. Things like fruit kebabs, avocado halves and shishito peppers — produce that holds up well to heat and, in fact, takes on a whole new life after a few minutes over some charcoal. ...

    Give the burgers a rest and try Grilled Pork Chops With Grilled Honey Carrots.
  5. Mid-week sales roundup: The Limited, Old Navy, Kohl's


    Yes, it's only Wednesday. Sorry! To get you over the mid-week hump, here's a roundup of sales happening in the next few days:

    Old Navy has its swing tank dresses (pictured above) for $8 through Monday. And today only in stores and online, you can get these linen pants for $12. Both seem perfect for casual summer lounging, especially the dresses, which are screaming to be thrown over a bathing suit or belted and paired with some flip-flops. I'm dubious of the light blue pants, which look suspiciously like a lesser version of this fashion trend Lisa blogged about. Plus, today only, you can take an extra 15 percent off everything on

    Swing tank dress
  6. Cook Hack: Tips for salvaging overripe bananas


    How to salvage overripe bananas: Inevitably, I don't get to the entire bunch of bananas before one or two starts to go bad, getting soft on the inside. When that happens, I have a few go-to tricks for salvaging them in their less-than-ideal state. First, smoothies. Frozen bananas are a boon to blended drinks, because they can act like ice so you don't need to add any (or as much). Plus, they have a creamy, dreamy taste. Make sure to pop a banana out of its peel before freezing in a zip-top bag, then use as needed for smoothies. Overripe bananas are also great in baked goods, especially banana nut bread, any kind of fruit muffin and even chocolate chip cookies. Most recipes call for the banana to be mashed before it's added to the batter; here's a trick for that (which works even if the banana isn't yet soft). To save a bowl, keep the banana in the peel and gently smoosh the whole thing a few times, then roll it back and forth on the counter for a few seconds, pressing down until the peel splits. Open the peel where it split, and inside you'll find a mashed banana. ...

  7. #CookClub recipe: Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps


    These Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps from the ever-helpful The Chopped Cookbook (truly one of the best Christmas gifts I've ever received) are an example of simple ingredients working their magic to produce a layered and cohesive dish. The ground turkey mixture, the rice, the lettuce wraps — none tastes as good without the other two.

    Fish sauce is mixed with ground turkey and a few other ingredients to make the filling for the wraps, and if you've never worked with fish sauce before, beware that it lends a salty flavor to the meat. In fact, on its own, the meat is a little overly salty. But that's where the lettuce wraps and the plain rice come in; they balance out the fishiness to create a perfect bite....

    Dig into a light, bright Thai Turkey Lettuce Wrap.
  8. Follow our new social media accounts for food

    Food & Dining

    As journalists, we're always looking for more ways to connect with readers, whether that's through an online chat or the pages of this section. That's why we've started two new social media accounts for Tampa Bay Times food content. Starting now, readers and fellow foodies can follow along on Facebook at, and on Twitter at @TBTimesFood. ...

  9. Clothing hack: How to make your old clothes cute again


    Every three months, I get sick of everything in my closet. Natural, yes, but it's especially bad in the summer, probably because in 95-degree Florida heat I don't want to wear anything but a bathing suit.

    These days, I'm constantly looking for ways to repurpose clothes I already have, wear them differently - or, as a last-ditch effort before they end up in the garbage, cut them up and make something "new." Now, I know what you're thinking....

    Bow sleeve shirt
  10. Five ideas for cooking with edamame


    Anyone who has ever had fun sucking an edamame bean out of its pod knows the immature soybeans are fine on their own, steamed and barely seasoned. But the fiber-filled green bean can be made more sumptuous and addicting in the recipes below. Even better, the frozen bags of edamame sold in most grocery stores are a cinch to cook with. Here are five ideas for transforming edamame.

    Blistered Edamame...

    Blistered Edamame brings the heat with dried chiles de arbol and crushed red pepper flakes.
  11. Cook Hack: Other uses for a pair of chopsticks


    Other uses for a pair of chopsticks: Next time you get a pair of those disposable wooden chopsticks with your Chinese take-out order, save them for these other uses: Slide two of the wooden sticks under the lid of a pot if you need to keep the pot partly covered; set a couple of sticks under a hot pot on top on the counter in place of a trivet; use chopsticks to stir cocktails or drinks in tall glasses. They also work great in place of skewers: After soaking the sticks in water, load them up with veggies and meats for kebabs or use to roast marshmallows. ...

  12. Burger recipes for three proteins: beef, turkey, chicken


    Here are some recipes for burgers to make at home using three different kinds of protein: beef, turkey and chicken. For best results, see if your grocery store will freshly grind your chosen cut of meat in the store.

  13. Tampa Bay chefs weigh in on how to craft a perfect burger

    Food & Dining

    What is the secret to a truly great hamburger? When we put the question to local chefs and restaurateurs, they each offered different versions of the same answer: Use quality ingredients.

    That applies to everything, from the inside of the burger outward: ground beef, cheese, bun — not to mention toppings like a fried egg or Sriracha aioli or caramelized onions, all those culinary doodads that accompany patties trying to out-burger all the others these days....

    Locale Market’s Jeffrey Hileman makes the St. Petersburger Deluxe. He says, “A burger to me is something that can encapsulate everything that’s good about food in one bite.”
  14. #CookClub recipe: Rosemary Parmesan Chicken Nuggets


    Growing up, Dad wasn't the primary cook in our household, but he was no slouch, either. In particular, Dad is known for a few signature dishes that no one else in the family dares to replicate. Breakfast is his domain; his creamy, pillowy, buttery eggs are legendary.

    Dad's cooking prowess has increased over the years, but as kids my brother and I were sometimes treated to frozen Tyson chicken nuggets out of the bag when Mom wasn't home. I loved those crispy, salty morsels — until I grew up and realized the questionable spongy filling didn't quite resemble fresh chicken....

    Rosemary Parmesan Chicken Nuggets are a bit more sophisticated than the nuggets we devoured in our youth.
  15. Bath and Body Works is bringing back the fragrances of our youth


    Third period, gym class. You're walking back to the locker room with your gaggle of middle school gal pals, grey Soffe shorts clinging to your sweaty legs. You're wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with your school's logo, in the same charming shade of grey as the shorts, an ideal combo for pretending to get a cramp in the middle of running laps. The locker room smells of teenage musk and dirty socks. But lo, from a few lockers over, a familiar scent wafts through the air: Cucumber Melon. A couple spritzes - including that one a few feet in front of you that you'd walk dramatically into like the queen you were/are - and you're ready for American History. ...