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I Started Baking on a Cedar Plank, and It's True Flavor Magic

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The longer I live in New York City, the less I cook. Not that I don’t enjoy making kugel or curry, but my energy is needed elsewhere right now. Most of my time is spent schlepping, sleeping, doomscrolling, boozing, and adding that essential 652nd item to my Etsy favorites list. It’s something I’ve come to accept warmly, like a pad of butter in the sun.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll settle for a bleh rotation of the few homemade meals that fill up my week. If I’m making what my Midwestern mother calls my “tofu thing,” I’ll use a really nice Sichuan chile crisp; if I’m frying eggs, I’ll sprinkle some gourmet Maldon salt on top. So, when the Instagram algorithm blessed me with this enticing recipe of beets baked on cedar planks, I fell in love with vegetables all over again.

The recipe is by @gabbriette, who deserves to be showered in rubies and oysters for all the joy and 90s eyebrow inspiration she brings to my feed. As delish as the zesty crème fraîche and goat cheese sauce in her video looked, I was most intrigued by the cedar planks she used to give her beets a subtle, smoky flavor from the oven.

As a grill-less, patio-less, very lazy person, I imagined the road to Flavortown that these planks could pave for me. So, I smashed that order button on one of the most highly rated plank sets on Amazon, and pulled out my wilting fridge veggies for a smoky swan song.

First impressions

The packaging on these planks is very Liver-King-core, and each set of the Primal Grilling cedar planks bundle presents your five slabs of wood in a burlap-ish package that would make a sick housewarming gift, White Elephant item, or present for your parents or food-obsessed pal.

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Photo by Author

These Primal planks have a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,200 ratings on Amazon, which is hella impressive, given the unhinged nature of many *chef’s kiss* Amazon reviews. They didn’t smell at all chemical-y when I unwrapped them, either. Instead, I got a whiff of a woodsy scent that gave me a comforting, nostalgic feeling for the Canadian lumberjack past I never had. I think the Germans call that Fernweh?

What was rad

I had high expectations for these planks, and imagined them saving my beets and carrots from the notorious crisper-drawer-to-trash-can pipeline. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown out barely used bundles of herbs, veggies, and boxed spring salad mix from the fridge. So, I lined up the following from my kitchen for an easy oven bake:

  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh thyme
  • Beets
  • Carrots 
  • Garlic clove
  • Goat Cheese 
  • Avocado 
  • Garlic 
  • Tahini
  • Maldon salt

A few other tools and tasties I used included a mandoline for slicing my beets, because Gabbriette and my plant-based recipe queen Sophia Roe told me to; my trusty eight-inch iMarku blade, which is one of the best fancy chef’s knives under $50 that your clams can buy; a big-ass baking sheet with a lip; and my Nicolas Alziari French olive oil, which brings a buttery, slightly nutty flavor to everything.

Before you do anything, remember: You must soak your planks in water. The recommended time is one hour, but I did two just to be safe. Then, I lightly oiled up my planks, tossed on my seasoned veggies, and roasted them for about an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. During the last ten minutes, I turned down the heat a bit, tossed on my herbs, and absolutely gobsmacked my nose with a newfound aroma of veggies and cedar. It was mouthwateringly woodsy and smoky, but not in an overwhelming way—more in a “my vegetables have been at a Finnish sauna” way. And amazingly, my planks—which I had convinced myself would combust in the oven—were not even charred.

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Photo by Author

I spread some tahini on my plate, positioned my veggies and avocado like a serial killer, and then garnished it all with Maldon salt, more olive oil, goat cheese, and some chili flakes. I also recommend enjoying this refined meal with a cold glass of Grüner Veltliner, which pairs nicely with the delicate, tingly pine of the planks.

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Photo by Author

Not one beet was left behind. My planks were unscathed, easy to clean, and still give me that tingly mouth feeling just thinking about them—they’re just that bomb. Not only that, but they made me feel like a hot granny hedgehog, sprinkling my herbs over planks of wood.

What was tricky

These MOFOs float! That’s tricky, when you need to soak them. So I weighed mine down with a cast-iron skillet, but you could also just ask your sub to sit on them for an hour. The possibilities are endless.

TL;DR

Are you a hot, lazy person who likes to cook but doesn’t have the bandwidth right now? Do you want an easy way to make the vegetables, fish, and meats in your life more interesting than most of the people you hang out with? Consider cedar planks your new summer accomplice for impressing everyone with food that tastes like you actually know what you’re doing. From the grill to the oven, they can give everything a subtle smoky flavor (think, the ghost of wood, or wood if it was from a Miyazaki movie) that isn’t overbearing in a mezcal-smoke way, but mouthwatering in a more more of a playful, camphoraceous way that just adds more layers and complexity to your ingredients. See? We’re sounding fancy already.

In other words, as someone whose summertime food groups are usually Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and stuff I did not bake myself, these trusty cedar planks have me hooked. I can’t imagine popping anything in the oven without them.

You can find the Primal Grilling cedar planks on Amazon.


The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.



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Chris Rock and Danny DeVito almost played George Constanza on Seinfeld, says Jason Alexander

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The Howard Stern Show just posted this clip of an interview with Jason Alexander with the two discussing the incredible list of people who almost played George Costanza on Seinfeld. Steve Buscemi and Paul Shaffer apparently auditioned while Chris Rock and Danny DeVito were actually offered the role!

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Beck wishes he had let "Weird Al" Yankovic parody "Loser"

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Even a long, fulfilling career is bound to have its share of regrets. For Beck, one such misstep has haunted him for well over two decades: not allowing “Weird Al” Yankovic to parody his 1994 breakout hit “Loser.”

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A new Supreme Court case is the biggest threat to US democracy since January 6

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The so-called “QAnon Shaman” on the day of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. | Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Moore v. Harper is a grave threat to US democracy, and the fate of that democracy probably comes down to Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court’s announcement on Thursday that it will hear Moore v. Harper, a case that could concentrate an unprecedented amount of power in gerrymandered state legislatures, should alarm anyone who cares about democracy.

The case is perhaps the gravest threat to American democracy since the January 6 attack. It seeks to reinstate gerrymandered congressional maps that were struck down by North Carolina’s highest court because they “subordinated traditional neutral redistricting criteria in favor of extreme partisan advantage” for the Republican Party.

The plaintiffs argue that the state supreme court didn’t have the authority to strike down these maps, and rest their claim on legal arguments that would fundamentally alter how congressional and presidential elections are conducted.

Moore involves the “independent state legislature doctrine,” a theory that the Supreme Court has rejected many times over the course of more than a century — but that started to gain steam after Republican appointees gained a supermajority on the Supreme Court at the end of the Trump administration.

Under the strongest form of this doctrine, all state constitutional provisions that constrain state lawmakers’ ability to skew federal elections would cease to function. State courts would lose their power to strike down anti-democratic state laws, such as a gerrymander that violates the state constitution or a law that tosses out ballots for arbitrary reasons. And state governors, who ordinarily have the power to veto new state election laws, would lose that power.

As Justice Neil Gorsuch described this approach in a 2020 concurring opinion in a case concerning the deadline for casting mail-in ballots in Wisconsin, “the Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.”

Four justices — Gorsuch, plus Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh — have all endorsed some version of this independent state legislature doctrine. Meanwhile, four other justices, the three liberal justices plus Chief Justice John Roberts, have signaled that they will not overrule the Court’s many precedents rejecting this doctrine.

That most likely leaves the fate of American democracy in the hands of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee who typically votes with Republicans in election cases.

This said, it is unclear whether this Supreme Court would implement the most extreme version of this doctrine — with a rigid rule that a state supreme court can never strike down a state election law, or that a state governor can never veto an election bill — or a less extreme one.

Last March, the Moore case appeared on the Court’s “shadow docket.” Although a majority of the Court voted to temporarily turn the case away — with Kavanaugh explaining that he voted to do so because the case arrived at the Court at the wrong time — Alito wrote a dissenting opinion saying that he would have immediately reinstated North Carolina’s gerrymandered maps. His opinion also suggests that he wants to give himself and his fellow justices maximal flexibility to overrule state court decisions that he does not like.

So under Alito’s approach, pro-democracy state constitutional provisions might not cease to function altogether, they would only cease to function when Alito and four of his fellow Republican colleagues wish to suspend them.

Needless to say, the stakes in Moore are exceedingly high. The Court’s decision in Moore could potentially neutralize many states’ efforts to combat partisan gerrymandering. And in key swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — where Republicans control the state legislature and Democrats control either the governor’s mansion, the state supreme court, or both — Moore could give the Republican Party unlimited control over how federal elections are conducted.

The independent state legislature doctrine, briefly explained

The independent state legislature doctrine derives from a deceptively simple reading of the Constitution, which states that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” A separate provision says that presidential elections shall also be conducted in a way determined by the state “Legislature.”

One way to read these provisions — the way that Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh have suggested it should be read — is to say that only the body of representatives that is often described as a state’s “legislative branch” can set election rules. And that the executive branch (including the governor) and the judicial branch (including the state supreme court) may be cut out of this process entirely.

But the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected this theory. The issue first arose in Davis v. Hildebrant (1916), which upheld a provision of the Ohio constitution permitting the people of the state to veto state election laws via a popular referendum.

Davis reasoned that the word “legislature,” as it is used by the relevant provisions of the Constitution, does not refer exclusively to the elected body of representatives who make up the state’s legislative branch. Instead, it refers more broadly to any individual or body that possesses some part of the power to make laws within a state — what the Court referred to as the “legislative power.”

Davis explained that, under Ohio’s constitution, “the referendum was treated as part of the legislative power,” and thus “should be held and treated to be the state legislative power for the purpose of creating congressional districts by law.”

This is the only reading of the relevant US constitutional provisions that makes sense because, as legal scholars (and brothers) Vikram David Amar and Akhil Reed Amar explain in a recent paper, “state people and state constitutions are masters of state legislatures,” and not the other way around.

That is, each state has the power to define, through its constitution, which body or group of bodies possesses the “legislative power” — the power to make laws. A state constitution can assign that power entirely to a body of elected representatives, but it can also give part of that power to the state governor, the state courts, to a redistricting commission, or to the people themselves through ballot initiatives and referendums.

Indeed, this is exactly how most state governments work. State constitutions — like the federal Constitution — typically permit the state’s chief executive to veto election laws. And they typically give state courts the power to resolve conflicts about how to interpret the state constitution and existing state election laws.

As the Amars write, “since the Revolution, every state legislature has been defined and circumscribed, both procedurally (e.g., What counts as a quorum? Is the governor involved in legislation?) and substantively (e.g., What rights must the legislature respect?) by its state constitution.”

The Court’s holding in Davis has been upheld many times since that decision was handed down. Most recently, in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2015), the Court upheld Arizona’s decision to use a bipartisan commission to draw congressional maps. In that case, the Court explained that “our precedent teaches that redistricting is a legislative function, to be performed in accordance with the State’s prescriptions for lawmaking, which may include the referendum and the Governor’s veto.”

The Court’s decision to hear the Moore case is very odd

Since four justices have already called for cases like Davis and Arizona State Legislature to be overruled or significantly altered, it’s not surprising that the Court decided to hear a case that could potentially do so — under the Supreme Court’s rules, four votes are needed to place a case on the Court’s docket of cases that receive full briefing and oral argument.

But it is surprising that the Court thought Moore was an appropriate vehicle to hear an independent state legislature doctrine case. That’s because, even if you accept Gorsuch’s theory that the state legislature and not the state judiciary bears “primary responsibility for setting election rules,” the North Carolina legislature explicitly authorized its state’s courts to hear gerrymandering lawsuits.

In other words, even if the independent state legislature doctrine is valid, North Carolina’s courts are still allowed to decide gerrymandering cases because the state legislature told them to do so.

North Carolina law provides that lawsuits challenging “any act of the General Assembly that apportions or redistricts State legislative or congressional districts” may be filed “in the Superior Court of Wake County and shall be heard and determined by a three‑judge panel.” This court’s decision may then be appealed to the state supreme court.

Indeed, North Carolina’s laws — again, laws that were written by the state legislature — provide detailed instructions on how state courts should behave when they determine that a legislative map is illegal. One statute requires state courts to “find with specificity all facts supporting” its conclusion that a map is illegal. Another provides that, after a state court strikes down a redistricting plan, it may not “impose its own substitute plan unless the court first gives the General Assembly a period of time to remedy any defects identified by the court.”

In its eagerness to hear an independent state legislature doctrine case, in other words, the Supreme Court appears to have taken up a case where there is no legitimate legal conflict. Even if state legislatures have exclusive authority to shape a state’s election law, the North Carolina state legislature used this authority to explicitly empower state courts to strike down gerrymandered maps.

And yet, it’s hard to imagine why the Court would agree to hear this case unless it is at least considering rolling back decisions like Davis and Arizona State Legislature.

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InShaneee
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ReadLots
1 day ago
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It's all about states rights. If the states want to set up a dictatorship or even a literal feudal monarchy, then that is the supreme court has no choice but to let it slide.

Amazon to block UAE search results for LGBT stuff

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Amazon is to hide LGBT-themed goods from search results in the UAE, bowing to government pressure there. No more rainbow flags!

"As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected," an Amazon spokesperson told the BBC.

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Supreme Court Kneecaps Federal Government’s Ability to Fight Climate Change

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The Supreme Court severely limited the federal government’s ability to coordinate and regulate widespread reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on Wednesday in a landmark court ruling that will make achieving any meaningful emissions targets even more difficult. Essentially, the court ruled that Congress needs to enact legislation to specifically regulate greenhouse gas emissions, something unlikely to happen given the Republican party’s fundamental opposition to climate change mitigations. 

The Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions without the expressed approval of Congress, something the Court decided does not exist within the Clean Air Act. “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d). A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

The landmark ruling comes for a case that many environmental law experts Motherboard talked to believe the court never should have heard. It pertains to an Obama–era Environmental Protection Agency rule intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants called the Clean Power Plan. The peculiar thing about this case is the Clean Power Plan is not in effect, was never actually implemented, and the market independently achieved the proposed benchmarks on its own thanks to plummeting renewable energy costs and state-level regulations.

In taking the case, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a grievance from plaintiffs—none of whom, it bears mentioning, are the actual power plants to be regulated by the Clean Power Plan, but rather coal companies and various Republican-dominated states—despite them having no harm to actually point to from the Clean Power Plan. Climate activists and progressive lawyers have largely feared the worst, as the broad assumption was the court never would have taken the case if not for the expressed intent of gutting the federal government’s ability to fight climate change. 

Like all important cases elevated to the Supreme Court, West Virginia v EPA was simultaneously about a narrow legal question and an incredibly broad and massively important societal question. The narrow question, in addition to the question of whether the Supreme Court should be hearing the case at all, has to do with the “fenceline” issue. This is about whether the EPA can implement rules and regulations that affect multiple industries, such as emissions from power generation. The plaintiffs such as the state of West Virginia argued they cannot, and the EPA’s jurisdiction is limited to within the power plant’s “fenceline,” so to speak, and methods to limit emissions the power plant implements on its own property such as increased efficiency in the way it burns coal or sequestering the carbon it emits, a process that is highly controversial and thus far largely ineffective. In the Clean Power Plan, the EPA proposed three carbon-reducing strategies states should plan for, including more renewable energy use across the state and using natural gas plants more to retire coal plants. In the ruling, the Court effectively said the EPA can’t mandate any of this to limit greenhouse cases.

The broader societal question was the grounds under which the federal government can implement rules and regulations at all. Since the court took the case, there have been broad concerns the newly-emboldened conservative majority would use this opportunity to gut what it perceives as an overly burdensome regulatory state that is empowered to enact regulations through the rulemaking process, a core element for how the federal government has gotten anything done for the last several decades as Congress became more and more dysfunctional. The worst case scenario envisioned by legal scholars has been that the court would essentially bar federal agencies from doing that and make Congress pass laws to do those things instead. It will take legal scholars time to figure out how broad this ruling truly is, but from a climate change perspective, the Supreme Court just made progress that much harder.



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