SMORGASBORD: Live simply ... Exploring taste ... A fresh catch

Live simply Simply Suzanne's already tweaked classic granolas by adding a savory element (black pepper) to the munchable oat mixes. Now, the company is giving its fruit-and-oat trail mixes a twist with Live Simply combos: cranberry, pepita and da...

grilling basket
Fish can be tough to get right on a barbecue but a new grilling basket helps. (Eric Boyd/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Live simply

Simply Suzanne's already tweaked classic granolas by adding a savory element (black pepper) to the munchable oat mixes.

Now, the company is giving its fruit-and-oat trail mixes a twist with Live Simply combos: cranberry, pepita and dark chocolate (yummy) and apple, rosemary and pecan (herb lovers liked rosemary's piney accent). An 8-ounce bag is $6.

To buy, go to:

Exploring taste


Taste is more than just biting, chewing, swallowing. In "Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good" (Free Press, $26), author Barb Stuckey, examines taste from all the angles -- physical, emotional, creative and even the illusory.

Stuckey, who leads the marketing, food trend tracking and consumer research functions at Mattson, a Foster City, Calif.-based food and beverages development company, offers simple-to-do exercises using basic food products to train yourself to be a better taster.

There are some geeky moments of science here where your head might seem ready to start spinning, but stick to it, the moment will pass quickly. Stuckey has a knack for serving up information in digestible bites liberally larded with a lively sense of fun and common sense. She tackles each of the five senses used in eating and the various tastes we experience. Her section on umami, the elusive and often misunderstood fifth taste that evokes a sense of rich savoriness, is one of the clearest explanations you will ever see.

Taste is elusive, especially in the most concrete sense of that word. How many of us just mindlessly chow down on something, be it a ripe apple, stale popcorn or a just-right sirloin steak, and never give it another thought? How many of us can't remember what we had for dinner last night? Or lunch today?

Stuckey thinks about what's she's eating while she's eating it, breaking down the various components of taste and checking for balance and a proper start, middle and finish. One of her chapters, aptly, is titled "Fifteen Ways to Get More from Every Bite." Try following even a handful of these pointers and your enjoyment of food will increase markedly.

A fresh catch

Fish can be finicky on the barbecue, what with its delicate meat and sticky skin that stubbornly refuses to release from the rack once it's cooking. A grilling basket simplifies everything.

Nestle the fish in the basket -- depending on its size and shape, a basket can hold up to several fish, as well as fillets and steaks -- and throw the basket on the grill, then flip the fish as desired. Because the fish is in the basket, it won't stick to the grill, and you'll still get all the benefits of cooking over an open flame.


And while the name might make it sound like this is a single-use tool, a basket can be handy for a variety of grilling needs. Depending on its size and shape, baskets can also hold burgers and chicken, as well as vegetables and mushrooms, even fruit. (Do keep in mind that you'll want to clean the basket between uses so flavors don't carry from one food to another.)

Fish grilling baskets are available at cooking supply stores as well as online, and a basic one should set you back no more than $10 to $20.

Berry good

Minnesota strawberries are ripening early, as much as two to three weeks ahead of normal, and most growers are reporting an excellent crop. Some pick-your-own strawberry farms in the Twin Cities area and southern Minnesota are already open.

Jessica Rovie of the Minnesota Grown Program says picking conditions can vary from farm to farm and can fluctuate from day to day depending on the weather, so calling ahead or checking a farm's website is always a good idea.

Growers say they expect blueberries and summer raspberries to ripen ahead of schedule as well. While those crops typically ripen at the very end of the strawberry season, it's possible that summer raspberries may overlap strawberries earlier than usual.

Online: .

Local foods directory


People interested in buying locally grown foods can find dozens of sources in the latest edition of the North Dakota Local Foods Directory.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says the 54-page directory lists more than 160 farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own gardens and home delivery produce operations.

The directory also has a harvest calendar to help consumers determine the best times of the year to buy vegetables, fruits and bedding plants.

Goehring says the local foods movement continues to grow across the state and country.

The directory is available online and in free hard copies. More information can be found at .

Room to roam

In a boost to animal welfare activists looking to get livestock out of cramped cages, Burger King will be the first major U.S. fast-food chain to give all of its chickens and pigs some room to roam.

Recently, the world's second-biggest burger chain pledged that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017, hoping to satisfy rising consumer demand for humanely produced fare and increase its sales in the process.


Other companies have made similar but less broad announcements this year, part of an industrywide shift to consider animal welfare when buying food supplies.

Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in "battery cages," which give them roughly the same space as a sheet of standard notebook paper. Most pork comes from sows confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.

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