Archive: October 2006

Brittle Love Don't Come Easy

For the love of candy, I earned a blister on my thumb. I wish I could tell you that my injury is due to a wrestling match over a Clark bar or something equally brutish and street-corner scrappy. Pumpkin seed brittle.(Kim O'Donnel) But no, my thumb is sore for a far more maniacal reason: I was stirring sugar nonstop with a wooden spoon for about 30 minutes. (Who says making candy isn't good exercise?) On my mountain, recipes typically fall into two categories. The first is those that come easy; they're imprintable on the brain, requiring only a brief visual reminder of how the dish comes together. Who doesn't love an easy sail through a recipe? Then then are "the beasts," the dishes that need coaxing with extra time, energy -- and in this case -- muscle. Pumpkin seed brittle falls into this more challenging category....

By Kim ODonnel | October 30, 2006; 11:04 PM ET | Comments (1)

Halloween Candy Confessions

Today is not just the eve of Halloween. It's National Candy Corn Day! I'll admit that I'm a fan of the waxy, tri-colored triangles that every kid in America sticks up his nose at some point during childhood. I love to bite off its white tip and ponder its decidedly unnatural shade of comic-strip orange. I love its cloying sweetness and that it tastes nothing like corn or anything remotely from a farm. Apples get a caramel cloak just in time for Halloween. (Kim O'Donnel) Remember the good old days, when Halloween was a time to reap the ultimate in candy creations? I thought I had died and gone to heaven when my plastic pumpkin contained a pair of wax lips, a pack of chalky "cigarettes" and a store receipt-like strip of paper dotted with edible pastel buttons that you scraped off with your teeth. Oh, and the candy necklaces!...

By Kim ODonnel | October 29, 2006; 11:10 PM ET | Comments (14)

Happy Halloween, Pumpkin Muffin

Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite things in the world. It's one of the few reasons I tolerate autumn (the other being the almighty apple). In my book, things get even better when raisins are thrown into the mix, but I know not everyone shares my love for the teeny dried fruit. (Those mini boxes of Sun-Maid raisins have been a thread in my life since grade school.) Pumpkin muffins studded with raisins and pepitas (Kim O'Donnel) I like how pumpkin bread settles in with a cup of coffee, be it breakfast or late-afternoon snack time. I take comfort in its golden harvest color, its spicy perfume and its earthy crumb. With Halloween just a few days away and the doorstep jack-o-lantern de rigeur (at least for this weekend), a pumpkin-y treat is undoubtedly in order. In keeping with a festive theme, I upped the pumpkin ante and made...

By Kim ODonnel | October 27, 2006; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (30)

Teaching Tim Meat Sauce

For the past week, I've been away from this blog, turning my energy to my kid brother, Tim, who's fighting for his life in a Miami hospital. The situation is very critical and that's all I'm going to say. The reason I even mention him and what my family has been through is to share the link between cooking and the alleviation of sorrow and emotional distress that we all experience to varying degrees throughout our lifetimes. Right now, while back in town temporarily, cooking is my salve, a healer, a soother, a tranquilizer. On a kitchen stool, I've placed a photo of we two and when time to prepare last night's dinner, I lit a candle by his side. Then I announced out loud that I would be teaching him how to make a proper meat sauce for spaghetti....

By Kim ODonnel | October 26, 2006; 9:51 AM ET | Comments (39)

Wanna Bite of My 'Twin' Burger?

With the news that the Food and Drug Administration is getting closer to approving the sale of meat and milk made from cloned livestock, the Jetson Age officially may have arrived. Does anyone else think that the state of the food chain is getting weirder by the day?...

By Kim ODonnel | October 18, 2006; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Curry Sweet Goodbye

As soon as I filed yesterday's post on hosting a Monday night dinner party, I donned a bandanna, buttoned up one of my old scruffy chef's coats and spun into action. Chilled vanilla custard went into the freezer bowl of my ice cream maker and churned for about 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of churning, I added about 3 ounces of chopped dark chocolate for an extra dimension and a contrast in texture. As I mentioned yesterday, I cooked the soaked dried chickpeas in an infused "tea" of fresh ginger, garlic and a star anise pod, which worked beautifully. Just as I had hoped, the chickpeas picked up the flavors of the aromatics and were off to a savory start. So much flavor already and not a drop of salt used yet! "Dry" chickpeas make their debut over rice. (Kim O'Donnel) For the next step, I pulled together...

By Kim ODonnel | October 17, 2006; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Monday Night Dinner Party

Monday night is usually reserved for getting caught up on reading, attempting the Sunday crossword or simply taking a deep breath from weekend activities. (Oh right; there's televised football, too.) But tonight, I'm breaking all of my rules and hosting a dinner party. There will be eight this evening at casa Kim and already the preparations have begun. Dinner is a mostly Indian affair, at the request of the guests of honor, who also happen to be from Bangalore and Bombay. My friends for several years, they are about to leave the D.C. area and relocate to New Zealand at the end of the month. Tonight's feast is my send-off, my farewell to Ravi and his wife, Sangeeta. After reading about my favorite cilantro-based chicken curry from Madhur Jaffrey, Ravi asked if we could dine on curry for our last supper. How could I refuse?...

By Kim ODonnel | October 16, 2006; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (8)

Spirit of Fall Is in Gingerbread

Yesterday morning, my pal Nancy called me from Chicago with some startling news: It was snowing and 21 degrees, making it the earliest measurable snowfall on record for Chicago. Gingerbread topped with homemade, moron-proof applesauce. (Kim O'Donnel) The sultry Indian summer weather smiling down on Washington was paradise in comparison, and then, as if I spoke too soon while basking in the sun like a kitty, the skies went gray, the wind got fierce and the temperature dropped about 25 degrees in a matter of hours. Although sunny, this Friday the 13th is downright crisp, a day of classic autumnal proportions. In fact, I have a bit of déjà vu; it was day like today that I invited my friends for a hayride to celebrate my 13th birthday and it was a day like today that my father died 24 years ago. Beautiful, melancholic, set to the sound of crunching...

By Kim ODonnel | October 13, 2006; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (9)

Weeknight Soup Improv

The workday had been long, and still at 6:30 last night, dinner remained a remote concept. As I worked my way through the produce bin of the fridge, I was greeted by a few sweet potatoes purchased over the weekend at the farmer's market. Sweet potatoes put to good use at the last minute. (Kim O'Donnel) What could I pull together with these, I wondered, in about an hour? I needed something that would feel like a meal, rather than just a part of a whole, so roasted sweets were out of the question. A soup, however, might do the trick....

By Kim ODonnel | October 12, 2006; 10:37 AM ET | Comments (5)

Sweet on Ramadan

Having spent the past few weeks delving into the dishes of Ramadan (which continues until Oct. 23), I earnestly wish I could speak Arabic. (Maybe it's time for some lessons.) Instead, I turn to Pierre, a dear friend who's studying the language. In the process, I've learned that written English translations vary, depending on the country. For example, Tamr, tamur and tamer are all the same word for date. A mountain of date fingers. (Kim O'Donnel) The date is the fruit of the date palm tree, an ancient desert plant native to the Middle East. It's oblong in shape and contains a slender, woody pit. The flesh is thick and sweet. The word "date" is thought to have come from the Latin word for "dactylus, " which literally means "finger." High in potassium, the date offers a decent amount of fiber and, with a 55 percent sugar content, is literally...

By Kim ODonnel | October 11, 2006; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (13)

Gourmet TV

Gourmet Magazine, the 65-year-old monthly glossy devoted to all things epicurean, now has a TV show. The 10-episode series, "Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie," launched last week on public television stations around the country; locally, it rolls out this Saturday, Oct. 14, on PBS affiliate WETA (Channel 26) at 4 p.m. An early look at the show's first three episodes has me in viewer limbo-land. According to an official press release, the idea behind the show is to "look at the world food first," which I guess is a way of saying it's a food-travel show. The debut episode travels to China, from remote villages where dumplings are made by hand, to the fancy kitchen of a big-city restaurant serving up pan-Asian plates. The photography is stunning; in fact, it's likely the first time I've seen food treated like a movie star -- and that's a good thing. If the...

By Kim ODonnel | October 10, 2006; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (13)

Weekend Spinach and Wine

Local spinach is here! I was thrilled to feast my eyes on the leafy greens Saturday morning at Arlington Courthouse farm market. I picked up a bag at the stand operated by Gardener's Gourmet of Westminster, Md., and quickly drove home to whip up a spinach-cheddar omelette, served on a slice of thick country white bread from Baltimore, Md.-based Atwater's Bakery. After the recent E.coli spinach scare that swept the nation's supermarkets, it was reassuring to buy spinach as Mother Nature ordered: locally AND seasonally. Join me in a bowl of Maryland spinach salad! Help. I've fallen in love with a wine and I'm hopelessly smitten. The trouble started when I was in Portland, Ore., this summer while checking out Vino Paradiso wine bar one night before dinner. On the wine list by the glass was Aglianico (pronounced "AHL-YAHN-EE-KOH"), a red wine from southern Italy that I had yet to...

By Kim ODonnel | October 9, 2006; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (2)

Rain-Go-Away Curry

Early morning here in Washington, and the word of the day may have to be "galoshes." Rain has been falling for nearly 12 hours, and conditions are soggier than an Oreo cookie marinating in a glass of milk. The idea of staying under the covers, hunkered down until the weather passes, sounds positively idyllic, but who am I kidding on a busy work day? I don't think a pot of tea will do the trick, either. Gloomy conditions call for stronger measures: After a day of dodging puddles, a steaming pot of chicken curry may be the answer. Although I can't take credit for the recipe -- it comes from Indian culinary diva Madhur Jaffrey -- I feel like it's mine, as it's become one of my good-ole-reliables, dishes that I prepare over and again and which never fail me. I practically know the recipe by heart. Unlike many curries...

By Kim ODonnel | October 6, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (18)

Always Hungry to Meet "Johnny" Apple

I was sitting at the bar at Kinkead's Restaurant one autumn evening in 1997, when my barstool mate whispered, "Hey, there's "Johnny" Apple, sitting over there having dinner!" I remember replying with a big quizzical, "Who?" It didn't take long for this new online food journalist in town to begin following the byline of the veteran war correspondent and esteemed food and travel writer for the New York Times. Apple, who died yesterday at the age of 71, lived a life of culinary adventure that I yearned to experience, and his writing became (and has continued to be) my guide to delicious, exotic places I had hoped to explore one day, too. As recently as this past Sunday, I traveled to Apple's Singapore, yet another destination on the to-do list. When he wasn't trotting the globe with his wife, Betsey, Apple lived here in Washington, a stroke of geographic luck...

By Kim ODonnel | October 5, 2006; 12:27 PM ET | Comments (0)

Is This Cake Good Enough for Lunch?

A cake is baking in the oven as I type this post. I'm waiting to see if the health-minded tweaks I implemented will work. Even the time of day and state of mind are part of the experiment as I wanted to gauge the difficulty level of baking a Bundt-style cake in a pre-coffee coma, while juggling other morning chores. The cake in question is one I've talked about over the years: a chocolate zucchini cake, an oldie but goodie in my recipe file that I like to bake this time of year when late-season zucchinis are begging to be used. See those specks of zucchini peeking out among the chocolate? (Kim O'Donnel) In the past I've waxed on about this cake's nutritional virtues -- or perhaps, lesser evils -- as it contains a heaping 1-2 cups of shredded zucchini (which means Vitamins A and C, potassium, small amounts of...

By Kim ODonnel | October 4, 2006; 11:37 AM ET | Comments (16)

A Fool for a Kitchen Tool

According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, a gadget is "an often small mechanical or electronic device with a practical use but often thought of as a novelty" whereas a tool is "a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task." With these dictionary distinctions in mind, can you answer the following question: In the kitchen, are you a tool or a gadget person? My food mill making hand-cranked magic with tomatoes. (Kim O'Donnel) Humor me and do a mental inventory of the drawer that contains cooking-related items other than flatware. Whatcha got in there? Anything from the Nixon era, by chance? I've got a few rubber spatulas that have seen better days, and a mini funnel that I've never used, but I digress. As I scan the shelves and cabinets, I would describe my baterie de cuisine (the tools and equipment that help me cook) as minimalist. (Some would argue...

By Kim ODonnel | October 3, 2006; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kneading Khubz

In Arabic, the word for bread is "khubz," a general term to encompass all kinds of bread baked in the many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Similarly, the Italians have "pane," but when it's time to get more specific, they've got words such as foccacia, ciabatta, grissini and piadina. Arab flatbread. (Kim O'Donnel) Americans may be more familiar with the word "pita," a pocket of slightly leavened dough that is filled with falafel and chicken shwarma at Middle Eastern restaurants or torn for dipping into a mound of hummus or baba ghanoush. No matter what you call it, Arab bread is flatbread or a lot flatter than the loaf-style breads of the Americas and Europe. I recently tried making khubz for the first time and the experience was eye-opening. First, I was surprised at how easy it was to make. The dough was clean and unsticky when...

By Kim ODonnel | October 2, 2006; 11:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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