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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

Email: mstark@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MStark17

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  1. Five ideas for almonds: Almond cake, almond-herb sauce, almond-crusted fish

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    It's important to take cooking inspiration where you can find it. It's easy for me to get into a rut, cook the same old stuff for dinner each night and leave my creative cooking muscles to languish. So when I stumble on something that really inspires me, I usually take a deep dive.

    So it is with Molly Yeh's cookbook Molly on the Range, from which I've made a handful of recipes now, from breakfast to dinner to dessert. The first recipe in this collection of ideas for how to use almonds is inspired by one of the recipes Yeh published on her blog in 2016, and is sort of the epitome of almond usage. It uses almost every variation there is: almond paste, almond meal, almond extract, actual almonds....

    Almond cake with whipped cream frosting.
  2. From the food editor: Making ricotta gnocchi is the easiest path to homemade pasta

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    Usually, there comes a point at which something goes terribly wrong.

    Okay, maybe not terribly, but bad enough that I begin to question everything and briefly wonder why I'm not a person who eats more frozen pizzas.

    That's just how it goes when you're experimenting with new recipes. Or at least it is when I, a chronic recipe skimmer, experiment with new recipes. I am slowly learning my lesson, trying with each new ingredient and instruction list to read carefully, lest I miss a crucial step like, "Let this mixture you just combined sit for 48 hours, thereby ensuring it will definitely not be suitable for tonight's dinner."...

    Ricotta Gnocchi. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  3. From the food editor: Making bao, the steamed Asian buns, at home

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    First of all, you need a proper steamer.

    I did not have one when I set out to make bao, a steamed bun popular in Asian cuisines, but I realized it too late in the game.

    Using the cookbook Molly on the Range by food blogger Molly Yeh as my guide, I took on the task of making the buns from scratch. Yeh's dad is Chinese, and she grew up eating the buns.

    The formula didn't seem too out of my wheelhouse. I've made various breads, bagels, pizza dough, even crackers in my kitchen, using some combination of yeast, flour, fat and sugar. Bao did not require anything more exotic than that. ...

    Schnitzel Bao with Sesame Pickles. [Photo by Molly Yeh.]
  4. Valentine's Day recipes to cook up for your sweetheart at home

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    Ah, the day of love. What to do when it falls on a Tuesday, the least romantic day of the week? Get in the kitchen.

    Say you went out for small plates this past weekend, or are headed to your favorite restaurant on Saturday. That makes Tuesday the perfect night to stay home, get cozy, and cook up something delicious. I'll let you decide how to tackle the meal. Maybe one person cooks while the other cleans. Maybe one of you forgot about Valentine's Day altogether, and this is your grand please-don't-be-mad gesture. ...

    Ricotta gnocchi with parsley pesto, topped with pistachios and cheese. (Photo by the New  York Times)
  5. From the food editor: For Valentine's Day, I tried making macarons at home

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    There are a couple of different ways to approach your Valentine's Day food plan.

    You can keep things low-key, even pointedly cheap. (For 50 of the best affordable spots in Tampa Bay, check out tampabay.com/top50restaurants.) Or the holiday of love (or eye-rolling, depending on how cynical you are) can be a time to think about extravagant foods, items you wouldn't normally eat or cook but that can help woo a special someone. ...

    French macarons. (TNS)
  6. Family-owned Pinellas Chocolate Company makes chocolate from scratch in Largo

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    LARGO

    Pulverized composite, aerohydraulic cylinder, stirred ball mill. These are not terms we think of when we're standing in the candy aisle, staring down a line of heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate.

    And yet here is Addam Vessa, 36, standing in the Largo kitchen and retail shop he runs with his brother, Cody, 29. He's walking me through the process of turning cacao beans into chocolate bars. ...

    A map pinpoints the origins of the raw cacao beans that are used at Pinellas Chocolate Company: Honduras, Venezuela and West Africa.
  7. Chicken wing recipes to try on Super Bowl Sunday

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    If your Super Bowl traditions involve time in the kitchen, here are three chicken wing recipes to try on Sunday. This is also a good way to keep things lighter but still sort of indulgent on game day, as homemade grub tends to be healthier even if you load up dark meat and creamy dressings.

    This is my go-to wing recipe. It's simple, it's relatively healthy, and it's very delicious. We're not depriving ourselves of any crispy wing goodness here. It's there, thanks to the olive oil and the hot oven. Of course, you can serve it with any creamy dressing you want, but I love the freshness of this ranch recipe. Also, it has come in handy in a pinch when I don't have a bottle already in my fridge. ...

    bbq chicken buffalo wings on a black baking plate
  8. From the food editor: Slider recipes for your Super Bowl Sunday smorgasbord

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    For many of us, the Super Bowl is just one more reason to eat something we normally wouldn't.

    So on Sunday, when the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Houston (why, yes, I did have to Google all of those facts), my attention will be turned to a super smorgasbord.

    Our cover story is a fascinating look at chicken wings, which Americans consume billions of each year, none more so than on Super Bowl Sunday. ...

    Beer steamed cheese and mushroom beef sliders. (Photo by Associated Press)
  9. From the food editor: What you should be doing now to prepare for Thanksgiving

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    Let's face it: Most people don't wait until the week of to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Many cooks, especially those who are hosting a lot of people, are planning/dreading/anticipating the year's largest meal weeks before. I know I am, as I prepare to host about a dozen people at my house on Nov. 24.

    Here are some key things to start thinking about in the coming weeks if you also have turkey on the brain. ...

    Order a turkey early if you're buying fresh.[Times files]
  10. Pie primer: Tips for perfecting pie, plus terms and savory recipes

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    It's time to start getting reacquainted with that buttery seasonal mainstay: pie. • Not just sweet pies, but savory ones, like shepherd's or chicken pot or — arguably the most popular category of savory pie — quiche. Really, it hardly matters what the filling consists of. The crust makes the pie. Pretty much anything can be dumped into that flaky shell, and it will taste like comfort. • A pie is everything we want a dish to be during the final two months of the year: warm, gooey, fattening and relatively simple to put together. It's worth mastering the art of the pie, not only for those beloved sweet ones we trot out at Thanksgiving, but for the following savory examples that can be an exciting counterpoint to the one-dish casserole. • Consider this your pie cheat sheet, a way to pump up your tart game. We've got tips for basic crust, recipe ideas and a glossary of pie terms you can throw around at your holiday party when you really want to impress people. Actually, your cooking can do that for you....

    Root Vegetable Tarte Tartin is chock-full of good-for-you goodies, including sweet potato, carrots and parsnip.
  11. From the food editor: an easy weeknight recipe for chicken, plus food ideas to get in the Halloween spirit

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    In this week's Taste section, we take you inside a sausage factory in Tampa called Uncle John's Pride. They put out almost 8 million pounds of sausage a year. That's not a lot compared to giant national brands, but Uncle John's Pride has steadily expanded over the past four decades, all the while retaining longtime employees, family values and a keen eye for sausagemaking. Read Laura Reiley's cover story to find out more. ...

    Celebrate the flavors of fall with Chicken Breast With Cider and Caramelized Apples
  12. Five ideas for how to use up leftover Halloween candy

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    Well, you know what they say: If you're drowning in leftover Halloween candy, add more sugar and butter and turn it into even more fattening treats for you and your loved ones. Okay, maybe not, but if you're sick of eating Laffy Taffy from the wrapper and are looking for ways to either rid that candy from your pantry (Pumpkin Snickers Bars make for a great hostess gift) or jazz it up a bit, here are five recipes to peruse Nov. 1. ...

    Pumpkin Snickers Bars are soft and seasonally appropriate.
  13. Five candy and craft beer pairings

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    Want to wash down that leftover Halloween candy with something spirited? Matthew Stock, a beer expert from the Brass Tap, says craft beer can complement our candy cravings. • "I always tell people pairing beer is easier than even pairing wine," he said, "because there is such a variety of natural flavors in beer, and lots of interesting specialty ingredients." • We threw out a few candy suggestions to see if Stock could identify the right beer for the job. Here are his picks....

    Yes, there is a beer out there that will play well with candy.
  14. From the food editor: Six things you need to know about Ina Garten

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    Poised, composed and classy, she is a celebrity chef in a way many celebrity chefs are not. She doesn't do a ton of publicity, she doesn't have eight different shows on the Food Network — heck, she reportedly doesn't even watch her own show.

    And she cooks for the people.

    She is Ina Garten, whose cookbooks and cooking show The Barefoot Contessa have helped maintain a decadeslong career in the culinary world. In the celeb chef realm, Garten is the undisputed queen of entertaining, a warm presence who invites viewers into her home and is always willing to share her cooking with others, particularly her husband, Jeffrey. Her food is simple but stellar, homey but elegant — an inspiration to home cooks and professional chefs alike. Everyone loves the Barefoot Contessa. ...

    The recipe for Roasted Italian Meatballs is from “Cooking for Jeffrey,” Ina Garten’s new cookbook.
  15. From the food editor: Expand your view of food with this discussion, and this recipe

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    I hope you are ready to expand your mind with this week's Taste section.

    One burning question drove the content on the following pages, inspired by a recently opened exhibit at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg: Can food be considered art?

    The exhibit, "Ferran Adria: The Invention of Food," features the work of Ferran Adria, a Spanish chef considered one of the best in the world. At the helm of elBulli, a restaurant in Spain that closed in 2011, Adria was famous for his avant-garde cooking style that changed the way the world thought about food. Many of the techniques he pioneered are copied in high-end restaurants everywhere. ...

    This New England Clam Chowder was inspired by a recipe by Jos? Andr?s.