June 27, 2014 at 1:00 am


Use blossoming herbs to flavor vinegar for sauces

Put chicken wire around harmful plants like azaleas to keep pets from chewing on them. (Suzanne DeChillo / New York Times)

Q. My herb plants are producing an abundance of blossoms at the moment. How can I put them to use?

A. Infuse distilled white vinegar with various herb blossoms, such as elderflower, chive and Thai basil, to make vinaigrettes and sauces. First, fill a glass container halfway with washed, cut blossoms, then pour white vinegar to the top. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for three days. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the blossoms and pour the vinegar back into the bottle. It will have taken on the delicate taste of the herb, plus a blush color. Garnish with leftover herbs if you plan to serve immediately, but be sure to remove them before storing in a cool, dark place for up to a month.

Q. Its grilling season. Can the Martha Stewart Living test kitchen recommend some of their favorite hot dogs?

A. The food editors at Martha Stewart Living are always on the lookout for the tastiest varieties. Here are a few of their top picks:

Brooklyn Hot Dogs Classic Beef Dog: These dense dogs are 100 percent beef and have a long, skinny shape. $38 for 18, deandeluca.com.

Pearl Beef Frankfurt Sliders: Youll only need one kind of bun for your cookout with these hearty hot dog patties. $8.25 for 12, pearlmeat.com.

Nathans Original Recipe With Natural Casings: The casings on these traditional New York dogs have a satisfying snap. $15 for 18, nathansfamous.com.

Q. How do I keep my pets safe from backyard poisons?

A. Summer is the perfect time for pets to play in the backyard, but before you let your pet loose, check for hazards. First, get to know the names of the plants in your yard to determine if they are safe, says Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. If your pet ingests something poisonous, you should inform your vet immediately. Other common toxins include compost, mushrooms, insecticides, snail and slug bait, and cocoa-bean mulch. For a comprehensive list, visit aspca.org.

Plants: Puppies have a tendency to chew on everything they find. Place chicken wire around harmful plants, such as azaleas, to keep your pet away.

Mushrooms: Pick any mushrooms in your yard and toss them right away many poisonous varieties resemble safe ones. For example, toxic Gyromitra esculenta looks similar to edible morels.

Compost: Although compost benefits your garden, the bacteria and spoiled food inside can make pets sick. Keep compost and lawn-care products covered and out of your pets reach.

Q. When I make muffins, how can I prevent berries from sinking to the bottom of the batter?

A. Simply coat them in a teaspoons worth of flour, reserved from the recipe, before mixing them into the batter.

Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also email questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

Hot dogs are the taste of summer. (Richard Perry / New York Times)