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  • Fun fair foods: elephant ears, corn dogs, and tortas?

    There are two quintessential kinds of summer foods: street food and fair food. Both are forms of fun food, but fair food is the most fun because it is consciously exuberant and overstated, and the carnival barker names of midway specialties read like midsummer poetry. In the Midwest the poem is all about funnel cakes, elephant ears, and the one essential meal: corn dogs for your main course and cream puffs for dessert (piled high with clouds of real Wisconsin cream, instead of those insipid snowballs of faux, vaporous cream that signify a soulless puff, the kind that just deflates).

    The basic fair meal, though, varies around the country. Some fair oddities formidable enough to stand up to Wisconsin cheese curds: the kronski in Wyoming; fried pickles with horseradish sauce, sometimes dished up at the New York Dutchess County Fair; alligator-on-a-stick and the inevitable spaghetti-on-a-stick at the Minnesota State Fair. I'm not sure what the top fair foods are in other areas of

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  • 10 Perfect pie recipes

    Nothing beats the taste of homemade pie. And, because you can vary the fillings and toppings, there truly is a pie for every season and occasion. Once you've decided what kind of pie you'd like, all you need to do is master a few simple techniques. Click here for a complete guide to pie making, from creating the perfect crust, to constructing a lattice top, plus information on essential equipment and ten great recipes. Soon, making a hot crusty one won't be, well, pie in the sky.

    Pies Versus Tarts

    There's an almost endless variety of pies, including those filled with fruit, custard, or nuts, and those that have a bottom crust, a double crust, a lattice top, a streusel top, or a meringue topping. But two characteristics all pies have are a filling and a flaky pastry crust. Some are filled then baked, while others are baked empty, then filled-this is called blind baking and is explained in the baking section. Most pies are baked in a round, shallow, slope-sided pan, but a

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  • 12 Terrific ways to do tomatoes

    Plump, juicy tomatoes are one of summer's sweetest gifts. Right now they are crowding out the cucumbers and filling up baskets at farmers' markets everywhere. You'll find endless ways to dress up (or down) a tomato. And you can start here.

    Recipe Tips:

    Ripen at Room Temperature
    Don't even think about the word "refrigerator"; let your tomatoes ripen at room temperature so that none of the wonderful flavor is lost. In a hurry? A tomato will ripen faster when you pair it with an apple in a covered bowl.

    Peel Easily
    If a recipe calls for peeling, plunge tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for a few seconds and remove. Place in a bowl of ice water until cool. The skin will come right off.


    Starters and Sides
    Summer Tomatoes

    Gazpacho Chopped Salad

    Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes Wth Feta Sauce

    Vodka-spiked Cherry Tomatoes with Pepper Salt

    Main Courses
    Fusilli with Fresh Tomato and Olive Sauce

    Tomato and

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  • Wines to drink in July: more than just white

    For red-wine lovers like me, July can be the cruelest month. The long, hot summer ahead usually brings with it oceans of insipid Pinot Grigios and overoaked Chardonnays at barbecues, parties, and other gatherings. But that doesn't have to be the case. My advice is to ignore conventional wisdom and continue to drink wines you like, even if they're red. Just give them the best opportunity to shine by pairing them with chicken or lamb off the grill, pasta dishes, even a roast beef sandwich. And don't forget to serve them when they're cool to the touch. That'll help mask the excessive alcohol and make even the most robust Shiraz or Sangiovese at least somewhat refreshing. The wines might not show as much bouquet at first-but they'll warm up in the glass soon enough.

    I have little use for white wines with the mouthfeel of reds. They remind me of people who say, "You'll love my cat. It's just like a dog." Instead, I want my whites to be racy and zingy, all crispness and acidity. I'm

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  • Jalapeno peppers the new suspect in salmonella outbreak

    The FDA is warning Americans not to eat fresh jalapeno peppers or products containing fresh jalapenos, including many kinds of salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole. They're now the prime suspect in the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, which has sickened 1,251 people in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada from April on.

    A single jalapeno was found to be contaminated with the salmonella strain in a produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas, called Agricola Zaragoza. Though the pepper was grown in Mexico, the FDA warns that it could have picked up salmonella anywhere along the way. Agricola Zaragoza is voluntarily recalling jalapenos distributed since June 30, 2008.

    But there are still almost certainly salmonella-carrying peppers out there, so the FDA is asking people to avoid all raw jalapenos until further notice. Cooked and pickled peppers should be fine. The elderly, infants, and those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw serrano peppers as well.


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  • Does Garlic Promote Peace and Happiness?

    The French gastronome Marcel Boulestin once opined: "It is no exaggeration to say that peace and happiness start, geographically, where garlic is being used in preparation of food." My response to that is: "Marcel, you are a genius!"

    Before realizing how essential garlic is, I knew it best in its powder form. I could never eat a slice of cheese pizza without drenching it with this beautiful palate stinker. I must thank my older brother for my introduction to garlic. It explains why, as a child, I never had one bite of bad pizza. I have since made it a point to try all foods that work well it: garlic shrimp, garlic bread, garlic mashed potatoes. And most recently I have read about the aged black garlic.

    Clearly, I am not alone: TheGarlic Festival (and garlic ice cream) remind us of its universal appeal. But there's one caveat: Though it tastes good, garlic also stinks, and it can be annoying to cut, puree, mince....

    All of this background brings me to my

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  • Organic, Free-Range, Factory: All Chickens Taste the Same

    Why not just go plastic?

    Do you prefer your chickens to be organic, free-range or straight from the factory? According to the Australian consumer advocacy center Choice, it doesn't make a whit of difference, at least taste-wise.

    Tasting eight different brands of chooks, including two organic, two free-range, two corn-fed and three of your factory-variety Perdue-style yardbirds, the Aussie tasters formed a general consensus that the way your chicken dinner was raised had little or no effect on how it goes down. In fact, one of the organic and one of the corn-fed varieties each raised a minor ruckus, with some tasters saying they hated them (one questioned whether a corn-fed bird had been "pumped up" while another said it had "no real chicken flavor") and others preferring them.

    Choice's recommendation for finding the most flavorful bird: Go to a smaller producer with traditional breeds and buy longer-lived chickens (say, 81 days old or more). That or buy the largest

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  • Is the Democrats' convention menu anti-south?

    Is there an anti-Southern bias to the Democrats' planned menu at the convention in Denver late August?

    According to one Denver councilman who was born in North Carolina, there is, foisted on convention-goers by Democratic "food zealots."

    The convention host committee denies that there's a ban on fried foods. But obtained a copy of the catering proposals, including an odd one that specifies how many and which colors of food are supposed to appear on a plate.

    Here are some of the requirements:

    - No items are to be fried.
    - Preference is to be given to vendors with "green" practices.
    - At least half the meal must consist of fruits and/or vegetables.'
    - Meals be colorful, including at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white. (Garnishes don't count.)
    - Seventy percent or more of ingredients must be certified organic and/or grown in Colorado, by precooked weight.
    - Seventy percent or more of

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  • Election Wines

    A Michigan winery is putting out special election-year bottles with tongue-in-cheek political affiliations, one white and one red for the Democrats, and one white and one red for the Republicans.

    Of course, I'll jump at any opportunity to conduct a blind taste test in which I get to make my friends imbibe secret substances, so I got samples of the wines and invited equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, and a fair number of independents, to come and see which wine they liked better. Do people's political leanings actually reflect their taste in wines?

    All was on track except that, in a situation that turns the stereotypes on their heads, all the registered Republicans ended up flaking, while all the Democrats who'd promised to come showed up. Or maybe it does play to some sort of gross stereotype of "uptight" Republicans all having jobs and responsibilities to attend to, while "hippie" Dems are always eager for their next free fix of

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  • Cool Cocktails

    Our favorite summer drinks

    Hot, sweaty days can be tough, but when you've got an icy cocktail in hand, summer's a breeze. From frozen drinks to spritzers, sweet punches to tart Margaritas, we've chosen our favorite ways to cool off with a kick.

    Summer Coolers

    Earl Grey Rum Punch

    Fizzy Sour Cherry Lemonade

    Fresh Lime Margarita

    Frozen Melon Colada

    Lemon Shandy

    Mai Tai

    Mojito with Basil

    Passion Fruit Mimosas

    Peach and Mango Daiquiri

    Pink Gin Spritzer

    Strawberry White Wine Cooler

    Vodka and Watermelon Cooler

    White Wine and Peach Sangria

    Entertaining Tip

    Throwing a party? Having a "house drink" makes it quick and easy to slake guests' thirsts. Choose from the list at right-you can pick anything except a blended frozen drink. Mix up a batch in a pitcher or-for a crowd-a two-gallon cooler with a spigot. Omit the ice and any bubbly ingredients such as beer or Champagne, then tape a sign to the front

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