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Clever dishes contain savory veggies

The folks at Country Crock are doing what they can to stop the flood of consumers from switching from margarine or other butterlike spread to traditional butter — butter sales are up more than 2 percent in the past year, while margarine and butter blends are down more than 6 percent, according to SymphonyIRI — including putting together a fun little online recipe booklet called "A Very Veggie World" that features some pretty impressive food styling by cookbook author Clare Crespo.

Whether you use butter or margarine is up to you, of course, but this pizza is a savory alternative to that strawberry-and-blueberry flag dessert so many of us make every Independence Day.

You can find this flag pizza, as well as a strip of polenta with red, yellow and green bell peppers that looks like a stoplight and two kinds of squash assembled to look like a hippopotamus at www.thecrockcountry?chronicle.com/recipebook.

Pizza flag

6 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese slices

1 Tbsp. Country Crock Spread or butter

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1 frozen pizza dough, thawed

1 cup prepared pizza sauce

2 plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into slices or 1 sliced red bell pepper or a mixture of the two

Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Take two slices of mozzarella cheese and stack together. Use kitchen scissors or small knife to cut a few star shapes out of the cheese. Slice remaining cheese slices into 1-inch strips.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter or margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stretch pizza dough to fit a rectangular pan. Spread pizza sauce evenly over dough. Sprinkle spinach over top left corner of dough. Place stars on the spinach. Lay tomatoes (or peppers) and cheese strips in alternating strips on rest of the pizza.

Bake 10 to 20 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to turn golden and crust is starting to brown. Remove from oven and serve with crushed red pepper flakes (if using). Serves 8.

— Adapted from a recipe from Country Crock

Food Trailer Tuesdays offer diverse sampling

Even though Austin has one of the most vibrant food truck scenes in the country, it doesn't have a regular mobile food meet-ups like Off the Grid in San Francisco, First Fridays at the Brig in Los Angeles or StrEATS in Las Vegas.

Truck owners Eric Silverstein (Peached Tortilla and Yume Burger) and Kristen Stacy (her Royal Fig Catering opened the Seedling Truck last year) teamed up with "Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook" author Tiffany Harelik to create Trailer Food Tuesdays, a free monthly event featuring 10 food trailers at the terrace on the north side of the Long Center for the Performing Arts. It starts July 31.

"We've always had this idea of doing something similar to what other cities have done successfully on a weekly or monthly basis," Silverstein says. "It doesn't make any sense that Austin doesn't have it."

The Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival, a large-scale C3 Presents event last fall featuring more than two dozen trailers, took place at Auditorium Shores just across Riverside Drive from the Long Center, but a spokesperson with C3 confirmed that it "is on hiatus for 2012 due to conflicts in park's availability and C3's current event schedule."

Silverstein says they plan to have 10 trucks at each Trailer Food Tuesday, which will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month at least through November. Food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) will be available for purchase, and Silverstein says they plan to have live music and other activities for entertainment. They'll announce which trailers will be participating sometime next week on their Facebook page, facebook.com/TrailerFoodTuesdays and on Twitter (@trailerfoodtues).

"We don't know how Austin will respond on July 31, but we hope it grows over time," Silverstein says. "We have a long-term goal in mind, not just one and done."

Watermelon glaze adds twist to grilled poultry

Elizabeth Karmel, a New York-based grilling and barbecue expert, came up with a really cool way to use up some of that giant watermelon you just picked up for a July 4 get-together this week. Inspired by a trip to Central Texas for the Austin Food & Wine Festival in April, she made this spicy watermelon glaze that adds just the right sweet heat to grilled chicken or duck. You can add as much or as little red pepper flake or hot sauce as you'd like, and if you don't want any heat, omit them altogether.

Karmel butterflies either a duck or a chicken by removing the backbone of the bird with poultry scissors and flattening it "like a book." Coat the bird with a thin layer of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a hint of cayenne. Grill, skin-side up, over medium-low until the meat is mostly cooked, which could take about two hours. Brush on glaze and continue grilling for another 20 minutes or so, brushing with additional glaze as needed. Let rest and serve with more watermelon, perhaps even slices of grilled watermelon or a watermelon and feta salad. You can find more watermelon ideas and recipes at austin360.com/food.

Spicy Watermelon Glaze

1 cup seedless watermelon flesh

1/2 cup apple jelly

Zest and juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. jalapeño hot sauce

Pinch of salt

In a blender, puree the watermelon flesh until smooth. Set aside.

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium, heat the apple jelly, stirring constantly, until it is melted. Add the watermelon juice and stir to combine. Stir in the lime zest and juice, red pepper flakes, jalapeño hot sauce and salt. Mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning if desired. The glaze can be used warm or cooled. It can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed jar for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup glaze.

— Elizabeth Karmel for the Associated Press

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