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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. For National Lasagna Day, here are some lasagna recipes


    Today is a day for celebration, for bubbling cheese and tangy tomatoes, for thick noodles and meat sauce. Today is National Lasagna Day.

    When we think of lasagna, we think of cooler temperatures, sweaters and comfort food. But, hey, we don't make the rules, and the rules say July 29 is the nation's chance to shine a light on this Italian casserole.

    Dinner is a no-brainer tonight: Whip up a lasagna and serve it with a spinach salad on the side. You could keep it simple and go with the classic lasagna recipe we've included below, made with homemade meat sauce, ricotta and mozarella cheeses and plenty of Italian seasonings. But lasagna is nothing if not a canvas for experimentation, so we've also included some out-of-the-box options, like Brussels Sprouts Lasagna and White Seafood Lasagna. Scroll down to see them all. ...

    Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Lasagna  is a vegetarian dish that can also be served as a side with a meat dish.
  2. Best places to grab a salad on the go in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    We've assembled a great interactive to help you build a hearty salad without greens, but if you're on the hunt for a more traditional salad on the go, here are some restaurants worthy of a pop-in. Michelle Stark, Times food editor

    Nature's Food Patch...

    Grilled Chicken Salad is $5.95 on the PDQ menu.
  3. Five ideas for avocado: Popsicles, toast, baked eggs


    Rich and creamy, healthy and hearty — I always have an avocado sitting on my counter to use in any number of dishes. Avocados are full of healthy fats and fiber, making them an essential part of a vegetarian diet plus a good source of vitamin C and folate for everyone. Because of its unique texture, avocados can be used not just in savory dishes but in baked goods and sweet treats like popsicles. Here are five ideas for my favorite ways to cook with avocado. ...

    Avocado popsicles.
  4. Cook Hack: How to keep avocados green


    How to keep avocados green: There's nothing wrong with a bit of brown on the fleshy part of a halved avocado (just scoop that browned part off!), but we have a trick for keeping them on the green side as long as possible. Right after you cut whichever half (or third or fourth) of the avocado you're not going to use, place it flesh side down in a bowl of water. Add a bit of lemon juice to the bowl, then refrigerate it. The avocado should stay relatively green for at least a few days. ...

  5. Drink of the week: Red wines to sip this summer

    Bars & Spirits

    We all know about rose and prosecco — those light, refreshing varietals perfect for these summer months. But what about the red wine lovers? What's their best bet for kicking back with a seasonally appropriate glass? Wine expert Kirk Benton at Total Wine in St. Petersburg suggests wine made from a little-used grape grown in the Sierra Nevada Foothills region of California called barbera. The lighter-style red grape is ideal for warmer months because it produces a fresh, fruity wine. It contains notes of cherry — "almost like a cherry cola," Benton says — and slight spice flavors. "It has a lot of flavor but is not very heavy on the palate." Try Total Wine's Sobon Estate Barbera Amador ($14.99). For another summer red option, you can't go wrong with something from the Cotes du Rhone valley of France, typically a blend of three grapes: grenache, shiraz and mourvedre. These are lighter-colored reds similar to pinot noir but with more flavor. ...

  6. Build a heartier summer salad with bases other than lettuce


    Summer is the season for salads. But a hearty, filling bowl can be hard to find when the primary bed is romaine or iceberg lettuce. In-vogue greens like kale and arugula are better at satiating, but we often find ourselves getting more excited about what's on top of the salad than what's underneath. So let's forget the greens. We came up with nine salads that rely on different bases — grains, spiralized vegetables and hearty root vegetables like potatoes and beets — and pile on nutrition-packed toppings that will keep you full longer. ...

    , mozarella, toasted walnuts, and a bit of arugula and basil. [Photo by Gabrielle Yablonski]
  7. #CookClub recipe: Homemade Pizza With Tomato and Prosciutto



    Homemade Pizza With Tomato and Prosciutto

    Homemade Pizza With Tomato and Prosciutto


    • For the pizza dough:
    • 2 ¾ cups bread flour
    • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
    • 2 teaspoons sea salt
    • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 or 3 tablespoons medium or coarse cornmeal
    • For the toppings:
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 clove thinly sliced garlic
    • 1 cup thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
    • 8 to 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced, depending on how cheesy you want the pizza
    • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
    • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano and Italian seasoning
    • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


    1. Make the dough: Put the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor or stand mixer. With the machine running, add the oil, then add the water in a slow, steady stream. Continue to process for 2 to 3 minutes (the dough should form a rough ball). The finished dough should be soft, slightly sticky and elastic. If too dry, add a bit more water; if too wet, a bit more flour. (You can also do this without a processor. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add wet ingredients slowly. Then, with the spoon or your hand, stir or knead the ball of dough for another 2-3 minutes.)
    2. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on a clean work surface. Work the dough into a rectangle on the plastic, about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Press your fingers into the top of the dough all over, making indentations. Fold the left third of the dough over (as you would a letter) and repeat the indentations. Fold the right third over and make the indentations again. Cover the folded dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes. Note: This makes enough for two pizza doughs.
    3. Working with the dough in your hands, gently begin to stretch the dough into a circular shape, pressing your fist into the center of the dough and pulling at the edges with your other hand. With both hands, stretch the dough, being careful not to tear it. Working in a circular motion, pull the thicker edges of the dough outward, letting gravity help you. Continue to stretch the dough until it's relatively even in thickness and you have the size you want. Lay it on a baking sheet.
    4. Assemble the pizza: Brush olive oil over the dough, then scatter garlic slices on top. Add tomatoes and mozzarella, then top the whole thing with prosciutto, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and oregano. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to finish it off. Note: These are enough toppings for one pizza.
    5. Cook the pizza for 6 to 10 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.
    Source: Adapted from the New York Times

    Homemade Pizza with Mozzarella and Prosciutto [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  8. From the editor: Making your own pizza crust is not hard and worth it


    I know what you're thinking. It's the same thing most people think when I tell them I make my own pizza crust. First, the "Oh, you fancy" look, followed by a list of all the reasons why they don't have enough time or interest to craft their own crust, and an "I'll just order Domino's" smirk. And to that I always have the same response: You don't know what you're missing.

    There is nothing like fresh, homemade baked goods, especially breads. When you make your own bread, you quickly realize the ephemeral quality of its freshness. Delicious one day, stale the next. What must those grocery store loaves have in them to make them suitable for eating weeks, months after they were made? I don't want to know....

     Homemade Pizza with Mozzarella and Prosciutto photographed for #CookClub on Tuesday June 23rd, 2015.
  9. What you need to know on National Hot Dog Day


    These days, there's a national food holiday for practically anything edible. But this is one classically American celebration we can get behind: Today is National Hot Dog Day. (And, also, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!) Here is some history about how the hot dog got started, plus local specials going on today. And in honor of the special day, some essential hot dog reading:...

    Today is National Hot Dog Day.
  10. To prepare for back-to-school time, a round-up of student-only discounts


    We're still about a month away from the start of school, but it's never to early to learn about deals. So here are some of the best deals you can get for being a student (or a parent of a student). And yes, college counts! (H/t Consumer Reports.) Stay tuned for more school-related savings, including a roundup of Tax Free Weekend deals. Florida's week runs Aug. 7 through 16 this year....

  11. Cook Hack: How to make the perfect waffle


    How to make the perfect waffle: On a lazy Sunday morning, one of my favorite things to do is make waffles from scratch. I tend to make a bunch then freeze some for the week; they keep really well and heat up nicely in the toaster. Here are some tips for making sure your waffles come out perfect every time. First, give your waffle iron an adequate amount of time to heat up. A good way to make sure it's ready is to throw a few drops of water on it and see if they sizzle. Then, oil the iron with a spray or oil of your choice, and let that heat up for a bit, too. Now, the batter. A good rule of thumb for batter amount is between a half cup and two-thirds of a cup; make sure to spread it around to fill all the quadrants. Once your waffle is cooking, try not to open the lid until the indicator light goes off, though I often leave mine on for a few extra minutes to get it rather crispy. And remember, the first waffle is usually a throwaway, so plan accordingly....

  12. From the food editor: It's fried chicken season in Tampa Bay


    There is something going on with fried chicken in the Tampa Bay area. Everywhere I turn, there's a new, standout finger-lickin' basket on a restaurant menu.

    Maybe it's a Baader-Meinhof situation: Fried chicken has caught my attention, so I'm noticing it everywhere. Surely the season has something to do with it; a crispy chicken leg screams summer.

    But whatever it is, I've had more than my fair share just this month....

    The Big Bird at South Tampa's Cask Social Kitchen features crispy buttermilk chicken served atop sweet potato waffle pieces and with spicy bourbon maple syrup to pour on top, plus a spiced watermelon salad.
  13. #CookClub recipe: Grilled Jerk Shrimp Kebabs



    Grilled Jerk Shrimp Kebabs

    Grilled Jerk Shrimp Kebabs


    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
    • 2 greean onions
    • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon allspice
    • ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon oil
    • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon dark rum
    • ½ orange, juice and zest
    • 1 lime, juice and zest
    • 1 pound (20-25 or 16-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1 to 2 cups pineapple chunks, fresh or canned
    • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water


    1. Puree all ingredients up until the shrimp in a food processor until combined. That's your marinade.
    2. Marinate the shrimp in half of the marinade for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.
    3. Skewer the shrimp and pineapple, alternating, using about 3 or 4 shrimp per skewer. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with additional marinade. Serves 4.
    Source: Adapted from

     MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  14. M.A.C heard fans' pleas, is releasing a Selena-inspired makeup line in 2016


    Beloved Latin singer Selena Quintanilla, who died 20 years ago this year at the age of 23, was also a noted fashion and beauty icon. Her signature look - dark black eyeliner, bright red lips - has lived on, particularly in popular online makeup tutorials like these. Now, M.A.C Cosmetics is taking things one step further: The cosmetics giant tweeted yesterday morning that it is releasing a Selena-inspired makeup line in the latter part of 2016....

  15. 'Game of Thrones' earns a leading 24 Emmy Award nominations

    The Feed

    The Emmy Awards are like that friend who gets into something five months after everyone else is done with it.

    That explains today's nomination of Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, a nod that people have been hoping and wishing on for so long that it's among the most boring announcements (sorry Brit). Overall, though, the Emmys went for broad appeal, including plenty of old hats but lots of new surprises, too....

    A photo provided by AMC shows Jon Hamm as Don Draper in a scene from "Mad Men," Season 7. "Empire" and "Mad Men" are among the leading contenders for the 67th Emmy Award nominations, to be announced 11:30 a.m. Thursday in West Hollywood, Calif. The Los Angeles ceremony will air Sept. 20 on Fox with host Andy Samberg. [Associated Press]