Q Eating local is fine, but rutabaga and turnips might do us in. They are not lovable, but we have no choice. How do you dress them up for a dinner party? Roast lamb is the main dish.


A When turnips and rutabaga brown, then cook in a garlicky broth and finally are glazed with a little cream and nutmeg, they actually take on some lovable qualities. And they pair with lamb beautifully. See today's recipe.

Definitely for the birds

Q Our favorite Chinese restaurant is doing a New Year banquet for us. Communication isn't easy; we think they are telling us we must have bird's-nest soup. Is this poetic license for something that is not made from a nest, or is it fact?

PATRICK in New Jersey

A Bird's-nest soup is what it sounds like, and is held as a great delicacy and status symbol in China. It's believed the soup promotes health and retards aging, so eating it on the New Year seems logical. Nests cost well into three figures and a bowl of the soup can sell for startling amounts.

Actual nests go into the soup, with those of swallows being prime. As the birds build their nests, they bind together fibers of grass and other materials with a gelatinous saliva that hardens into a solid shell that looks like an unglazed clay pot.

Classic bird's-nest soup calls for soaking the nests, picking away feathers and droppings, washing and, finally, cooking the nest in rich stock and wine. That gelatinous saliva gives the soup its characteristic (and treasured) viscous consistency.

Finally, chicken or crab or shrimp and slivers of ham are added. From memories of tasting it 30 years ago, for me, bird's-nest soup is more about reputation than flavor.

Most important is that bird's-nest soup led to endangered bird populations throughout China and Southeast Asia. Tell the restaurant you'll pass on the soup, and that it shouldn't be serving the dish. With China's amazingly varied cuisines, there's no challenge in coming up with another soup.

Use fresh marinades

Q You can reuse a meat marinade, right? Doesn't wine or vinegar make a marinade safe to reuse because any bad bacteria is knocked off by the alcohol or acid? I hate wasting food.

GRILL MAN in Manchester

A The short answer: No.

The longer answer is that to "purify" your marinade, you need a lot of high-acid or high-proof alcohol in it. These high concentrations make for poor-tasting marinades, so scotch the idea of saving them for economy's sake.

Besides, nothing is worth getting sick over; in a short time, nasty microorganisms can develop from those animal protein juices lurking in a reused marinade. Start with a fresh marinade each time you cook. And always marinate in the refrigerator because bacteria flourishes at temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper hosts "The Splendid Table," Minnesota Public Radio's weekly show, www.splendidtable.org. Send questions to table@mpr.org.