Archive: November 2006

A Little Tuna With My Mercury

All week, I've been dissecting the debate over eating seafood, including the latest health and environmental reports and the issues at play. Today, I look at mercury, a naturally occurring substance that has found its way into the oceans and into the fish we eat. There's been a lot of discussion lately over the risks of mercury, with fervent arguments coming from both sides. Even two of the most recently published scientific papers vary in their assessment of the mercury issue. The recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report concludes that the risks of mercury are outweighed by the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids obtained from eating fish. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report is less strident, arguing that "considerable uncertainties are associated with estimates of the health risks to the general population from exposures to methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants at levels present in commercially-obtained seafood." Known since...

By Kim ODonnel | November 30, 2006; 4:42 PM ET | Comments (8)

No More Shrimp Cocktail?

As I wrote yesterday, environmentalists have warned that we are on a fast track to wiping out our seafood supply if we're not careful. The writing has been on the wall, say experts, but we keep eating anyway. In fact, we're eating more. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service of the Department of Commerce (NMFS), US annual per capita consumption of seafood in 2004 was 16.6 pounds per person, up from 14.8 pounds in 2001. Short of giving up seafood altogether, how do we do our part to help save the oceans? Part of the problem is not how much fish we eat, but what kinds of fish we eat, according to one expert. When it comes to seafood, Americans are narrow minded. According to NMFS, we love shrimp, canned tuna and salmon, in that order. Unfortunately, these national seafood faves also happen to be environmental troublemakers. "As they're...

By Kim ODonnel | November 29, 2006; 2:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Fishing for Clarity

All autumn long, seafood lovers have been subjected to a tug of war that won't quit. While one side is praising its health benefits and putting your fork to your mouth, another is pulling the other way, warning about contaminants and environmental impact. In mid-October, two prominent reports were released, focusing on weighing the health benefits and risks of eating seafood. On one hand, there are the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to consider; on the other, there are the toxins, particularly mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Depending on the source, advice for seafood lovers has been all over the map, creating mass confusion over what to eat, how much or to even eat it at all. In fact, both reports -- one from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the other released by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) --...

By Kim ODonnel | November 28, 2006; 1:09 PM ET | Comments (4)

A Last-Minute Sweet Thought

Just when I thought I had my Thanskgiving dessert detail covered, with pies of both lard-laden and vegan varieties, I got swept away by an upside down cake. I couldn't resist. Upside-down pumpkin cake topped with cranberries and pecans. (Kim O'Donnel) Check out this beauty! I found her in pastry chef Emily Luchetti's "A Passion for Desserts." It's hard to find pumpkin-y desserts that are just a little bit different, which is why I got all fired up over Luchetti's recipe for a pumpkin upside down cake. So, if you're fretting over pie dough at the last minute, drop it now. Make this cake instead. You can be done, start to finish, in under two hours. All stirring is done by hand. All the ingredients are simple and scream autumn. Wait til you see how the cranberry-pecan topping, when cake is inverted, shimmers like a Christmas tree. I'll bring some...

By Kim ODonnel | November 22, 2006; 9:44 AM ET | Comments (9)

Weird Things People Do on Thanksgiving

As a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. The experience was colorful, festive and I was allowed to drink Coca-Cola. For about eight years during the 1970s, the routine was exactly the same. We'd gather at Aunt Ginny and Uncle Clinton's house late in the afternoon and all the women would be bumping into one another in the kitchen. At that time in the history of the family, there were about 20 of us and we three O'Donnel kids, greatly outnumbered by adults, were spoiled by our many doting aunts and uncles. I remember the teal-colored double-level refrigerator (so '60s!) from which I'd gather ice cubes for glasses of Coke. I can still hear the fizz of the soda as it made contact with the ice in my glass, which felt glamorous and very grownup. Out of the matching oven would emerge the biggest turkey my eyes ever saw and it was...

By Kim ODonnel | November 22, 2006; 9:18 AM ET | Comments (12)

Stuffing vs. Mashed

Mashed potatoes are great, really. But if I have to choose between Thanksgiving sides, it's all about the stuffing. A mountain of mashed is undoubtedly comforting, particularly as it nuzzles up against the turkey and other veggies on the holiday plate, but it's ordinary, no sparks. Stuffing, on the other hand, screams Thanksgiving. Although nothing more than seasoned bread cubes that are reconstituted and baked, stuffing always feels festive. Perhaps it's the act of deconstructing a loaf of stale bread into puny dried cubes and transforming it into a baked bread salad, if you will, flavored according to mood and whimsy....

By Kim ODonnel | November 21, 2006; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (20)

Learning to Love Lard

Sunday was a big day. I pulled the wheeled cart out of the closet and hoofed it over to Columbia Pike farm market, where I'd pick up many of my Thanksgiving dinner items. In went the turkey, the greens, broccoli, onions, sausage, apples and a new addition, a tub of lard. Lard-crusted pecan and sweet potato pies. (Kim O'Donnel) For years, I've been a butter-crust gal, learning from the pages of pie dough maven Rose Levy Beranbaum. I had always been curious to try lard, but honestly, I was a bit squeamish. Those blocks sold in the supermarket looked less than appetizing, and I didn't know where else to source the stuff. It wasn't until cooking school in Italy that I began to learn the role of lardo in Italian cooking as well as its subtle, delicate, far-from-hammy flavor. The lard of a pig feasting on apples and nuts on...

By Kim ODonnel | November 20, 2006; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (29)

An Extra Thanksgiving Helping

So many questions, too little time. That's always the case when I host my annual Thanksgiving chat. Below is a handful of questions left in the queue, that cover the gamut of Thanskgiving preparation. Feel free to weigh in on any of the topics in the comments area below. Have a great weekend and remember to breathe! I am tasked with bringing an appetizer for a Thanksgiving potluck and I would like to use sweet potatoes as a main ingredient, since no one else is bringing a sweet potato dish for the main meal. What do you suggest? Oooh, I've got it! Last year at Christmas time, I experimented with a fun recipe for sweet potato dip, a puree of roasted sweet potatoes and onions that get a extra layer of richness with tahini paste. It's surprising and interesting and low cal to boot. I served it with pita chips...

By Kim ODonnel | November 17, 2006; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Giving Thanks to Tatsoi

My pal Ms. B. and her two kinder just stopped by for an early morning coffee and oatmeal cookie snack. In between feeding the baby and wrestling with Zoe, the little minx, over the magic markers, B. asked me what I had in mind for Thanksgiving. Tatsoi, a produce beauty queen and my muse for Thanksgiving. (Kim O'Donnel) Aside from my locally-raised turkey (due for pickup from Smith Meadows this Sunday at Columbia Pike Market) and a batch of apple sauce (or will it be cranberries?), I told her I was unsure about the rest of the feast. "I need to get inspired," I said. "Perhaps when I go to market this weekend." And then I remembered the stunning rosettes of tatsoi I bought yesterday at Clarendon farm market, from Sunnyside Farms, in Washington, Va....

By Kim ODonnel | November 16, 2006; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (5)

Turkey University

Wake up and smell the giblets! Thanksgiving is just eight days away! Today's Food section is a great place to get inspired and spring into action. It's bursting at the seams with 15 recipes, for starters. Thanksgiving feast, as featured in today's Food section. (Renee Comet/FTWP) First order of business is to make turkey arrangements, if a bird is part of your plans. The Washington area is stuffed with places to buy a locally raised turkey, a few of which were included in a blind turkey taste test, an eating adventure I was fortunate to be a part of. The local angle doesn't have to stop with the turkey, by the way. A long growing season and an ever-evolving community of places to shop for local food makes a 100-Mile Thanksgiving an accessible, easy affair to pull off....

By Kim ODonnel | November 15, 2006; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Oatmeal-Raisin Philosophy

When it comes to homemade cookies, Americans usually fall into one of two camps: Chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. Now, before going further, let me make clear that cookie persuasion does not in any way preclude one from enjoying the crumb of another. That is to say, despite one's undying love for a chocolate chip cookie at any hour of the day, every once in a while, a hankering for an oatmeal raisin surfaces and it must be satisfied. After all, it's important to experience life from a different angle and taste what another camp has to offer. Oatmeal raisin cookies waiting to be dunked. (Kim O'Donnel) Recently, I dipped my toes into the oatmeal-raisin pool, and I must admit, the water was lovely. It all got started during my Saturday morning shop at Arlington Courthouse farm market. While paying for a loaf of country white from the stand at...

By Kim ODonnel | November 14, 2006; 8:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Meatloaf Rivalry

"I bet your meatloaf will be different from mine," my mother pronounced over the phone last night. "Why do you say THAT?" I asked, a little indignant, wondering how linguistics expert Deborah Tannen would comment on the exchange, which suddenly felt fraught with a competitive edge. Earlier this year, Tannen published her latest work, "You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation," a book that I devoured in a just a few days. Given my line of work, it's a rare occurrence that my mother and I would be preparing the same dish for supper, but yesterday's dreary weather felt like a meatloaf Sunday. (Besides, the beloved co-habitant was hankering for comfort food.) "So, how do you make yours?" she barked. Was that a challenge I was hearing? This coming from the same woman who used to make meatloaf cement when I was growing up. I think she cooked...

By Kim ODonnel | November 13, 2006; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (38)

Saved by a Cuban Coffee and Sandwich

"Café con leche, sin azucar. Un cubano, sin mayonesa. Si, caldo." That's Spanish for a kick-in-the-pants coffee with steamed evaporated milk, hold the sugar, and a Cuban sandwich, without mayonnaise, heated under a sandwich press (called a plancha). It's also become my standing order at La Carreta, a local Cuban restaurant chain that has a corner location in Concourse D of Miami International Airport. Upon arriving in Miami, I grab my bag at baggage claim, check in at the car rental counter and return upstairs to the La Carreta for my usual. In weak Spanish, I place my order with one of the guayabera-outfitted women behind the counter and take in the flurry of activity. The customers are a mix of travelers and airport employees, speaking both Spanish and English, and they're all there, returning over and again for the strong coffee and the tasty array of Cuban treats, from...

By Kim ODonnel | November 10, 2006; 11:36 AM ET | Comments (12)

A Vote for Election Cake

With mid-term elections four days away, the heat is on not only in the House and the Senate, but right where it needs to be -- the kitchen. Step back into voting history, with a piece of Election cake. (Kim O'Donnel) If we rewind the tape a few hundred years, Election Day was a time for cake. Back when Connecticut was still a colony, Election Day was an important holiday. Voters would take the day off from work and travel to Hartford, cast votes and then party into the night with booze -- and cake. The cake in question appears to have been adapted from English yeast breads or fruit cakes. Although some historic documents point to its appearance in the early 1700s, the first published evidence of an "Election Cake" recipe surfaced in 1796, when Amelia Simmons wrote "American Cookery, " the first known cookbook by an American. Simmons's...

By Kim ODonnel | November 3, 2006; 11:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Bowlful of Broccoli

And now, for Part Two of the Brassica vegetable love fest! (Yesterday, I shared my newfound love for cauliflower.) Today, broccoli is on the menu, served in a soup bowl. Broccoli soup, without the cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) In addition to broccoli and cauliflower, the Brassica family includes cruciferous siblings such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. If you want to keep the doc away, get cozy with these antioxidant champions. I'm predicting that just a few years down the road scientists will discover that the Brassica family is the golden key to age prevention. Just a hunch......

By Kim ODonnel | November 2, 2006; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (20)

Tales of a Cauliflower Convert

I blame it all on the crudites platter. For years, I eschewed cauliflower. I found it odd smelling, awkward in my mouth and too big to store in my fridge. I tried to like it, really I did, particularly after learning of its all-powerful, cancer-resistant antioxidants. Cauliflower: A produce beauty queen. (Kim O'Donnel) But its regular appearance on party platters, served as a companion for a bowlful of dip, threw me over the edge. Who decided that raw bulbous hunks of funky-smelling cauliflower tasted good? Yuck. Still, even when I ate it cooked, it never wowed me. Boiled white florets topped with a nondescript cheese sauce just didn't move this palate. Once I realized that the cooking method, not the vegetable itself, was responsible for my cauli-aversion, I changed my tune. Through roasting, I have learned to love cauliflower, particularly now, when it's in season and locally available. (I got...

By Kim ODonnel | November 1, 2006; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (22)

 

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