Archive: March 2007

Weekend Macarooning

In yesterday's vegetarian chat, I promised to offer up a foolish dessert today, just in time for April Fool's Day, which is this Sunday. Alas, I was unable to find rhubarb, a key component of my fool, so stay tuned in the coming weeks when it parades its lovely fuchsia stalks at market. Instead of a fool, I offer you macaroons, a rather unfoolish treat that resonates for many during Passover as well as Easter. Coconut macaroons studded with chocolate. (Kim O'Donnel) In "The World of Jewish Desserts," Gil Marks writes that the word macaroon comes from the Italian word, maccarone, which means paste, and that Italian Jews were the ones responsible for introducing this flourless cookie to Ashkenazi Jews in other parts of Europe. A combination of ground nuts, sugar and egg whites is the formula for a macaroon, with almonds usually representing the nutty quotient. I am still...

By Kim ODonnel | March 30, 2007; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (16)

Sunday Night Food Fight

This Sunday is April Fool's Day, and I can think of no better reason to start a food fight -- or at the very least, watch one. After a day of foolin', pranksters can head over to Jaleo Crystal City Sunday night for the really big show on the really big screen. If you haven't already heard, the commotion in question is Iron Chef America, the Food Network series which brings celebrity chefs into the Kitchen Stadium to duke it out. In Sunday night's episode, Iron Chef Bobby Flay goes to battle with D.C.'s own Jose Andres, Jaleo maestro chef and a culinary rock star in his own right. Fight night kicks off at 8 p.m, with complimentary samples of paella and Spanish jamon. Admission is free, but reservations are required (703/ 413 8181). As this piece was being written, all tables had been claimed, but SRO space remains. By...

By Kim ODonnel | March 29, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Glam Lamb

I was an adult before I had my first bite of lamb. I had no idea what I had been missing. When exactly lamb entered my life is a blur, but I remember it was a lamb chop -- tender, petite and rich on the tongue. For years, I played it safe, nibbling only on chops over and again, while ignoring the tasting possibilities from the leg, the shank and the shoulder. Leg of lamb, stuffed with tapenade. (Kim O'Donnel) For years, the idea of cooking lamb was way off my radar, and then cooking school hit me over the head and sent me down some kind of yellow brick road full of adventure, just like Dorothy. I did have a bit of Scarecrow in me, but on my way to see the Wizard, I learned how to braise lamb shanks and grill chops and serve them with a redolent...

By Kim ODonnel | March 28, 2007; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Passover Cake That Works

The Jewish holiday of Pesach (aka Passover) begins at sundown this coming Monday, April 2. The home cooks I've talked to over the years brag about their passed-down recipes for brisket, tzimmes or their own version of charoset, but it is rare to hear a veteran Seder chef boast about dessert. Not just for Passover: An apple-flavored almond cake. (Kim O'Donnel) The key to pulling off a successful Seder is the omission of chametz -- any food that's leavened and/or allowed to ferment or rise. That means the obvious like no yeast, baking soda or powder, but also stuff made of wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley, such as pasta, cereal and beer (unless, of course, it's matzoh), and lots of other foodstuffs we take for granted in our daily lives. Translated in the dessert world, that means lots of eggs to overcompensate for the lack of leavening and the...

By Kim ODonnel | March 27, 2007; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Case of the Kitchen Barrel Nuts

Saturday afternoon, cloudy and cool. The television was on mute, set to a NASCAR race, and the future of my newly launched marriage hung in the balance over seven barrel nuts. Several hours and seven barrel nuts later, a beautiful kitchen cabinet. (Kim O'Donnel) In most every partnership, there's an Alpha persona of the handyman variety; in this relationship, there is no such superhero. We both lack the handy-man gene. The Case of The Seven Barrel Nuts involves one newly arrived "assembly-required" kitchen cabinet from Crate & Barrel. After assessing the dreary state of a slowly collapsing cookbook-jammed bookcase and acknowledging the lack of space for any of the lovely kitchen-esque wedding gifts parked under the dining table, I knew I had to act. In the midst of the excitement over my purchase, however, I ignored the fact that we newlyweds solved everything like a crossword puzzle - and that...

By Kim ODonnel | March 26, 2007; 1:58 PM ET | Comments (12)

Artichoke-Asparagus Faceoff

In the spring vegetable world, the two big showstoppers are both green and begin with the letter "A." For many cooks, the arrival of artichokes and asparagus mean that winter is finally a wrap and it's time to kiss those turnips goodbye. In the produce aisles and at market, these two very different species (the 'choke's a member of the thistle family; the 'gus is a member of the lily guild) are like two beauty pageant contestants, vying for attention and accolades. They create excitement and fanfare as well as emotions that run high on both sides of the culinary fence. It is hard to find someone who loves both vegetables equally. And if you're a member of that club, speak up! We want to hear from you. Generally, though, based on highly unscientific data, I find that nearly everyone loves asparagus yet when it comes to the artichoke, well,...

By Kim ODonnel | March 23, 2007; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (65)

Eureka! Homemade English Muffins

In this week's What's Cooking chat, a reader from Honolulu asked for a recipe for homemade English muffins To the muffin-y rescue came a reader from Oakland, Calif., who shared a tried-and-true recipe from Winos and Foodies, a New Zealand-based blog. Oakland was kind enough to convert the measurements for us non-metric cooks. Details are below. English muffins getting griddled. (Kim O'Donnel) Also an English muffin virgin, I took this recipe as a cue. It was my turn as well to get griddlin' and see what the fuss was all about. I've always been impressed by restaurants turning out their own English muffins, but for some reason never thought I should recreate the experience myself. I kept thinking I'd never get that nooks and crannies thing down like our old pal Thomas. I studied the recipe several times and kept thinking, what's the catch? This seems so easy. I even...

By Kim ODonnel | March 22, 2007; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (29)

Lemon Love

I love my salt and pepper. My oil, too. But if I had to dash away with only one ingredient to help me cook, it would be, hands down, the lemon. The little ol' lemon, that staple of the household cleaning world found in soaps, detergents and furniture polish that we all take for granted, is also a culinary powerhouse. It is modest yet strong, assertive yet understated, and a hero when you really need one in the kitchen. The mighty all-purpose lemon. (Kim O'Donnel) I always have at least one lemon on hand -- and not just for an impending cold. Below, 36 ways I love the lemon -- and I'm sure I'm missing something. Please add to the list in the comments area. Oh, and if you don't already own a zester (a mere five bucks), do yourself a favor and pick one up, zest up a lemon...

By Kim ODonnel | March 21, 2007; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (43)

Of Daffodils and Omelettes

Happy vernal equinox! Astronomically speaking, that means equal parts night and day (give or take eight minutes); here on the ground level of the Northern Hemisphere, it also means spring is kicking winter to the curb (fingers crossed). Eggs and herbs: A fitting way to say hello to spring. (Kim O'Donnel) The changing of the seasonal guard officially takes place this evening at 8:07 ET, and I for one can't wait. Seven years ago at this time of year, I was enrolled at a cooking school in the Piedmont region of Italy. I remember the mornings best, as they were crisp and slow to start, but eventually the sluggish sun did rise to remind us that "primavera" had arrived. Broken down, the Italian word is translated as "first" -- and then some combination of look (from the verb "vedere"), view (from "vista) and true ("vera"). A first true look/view. Yeah,...

By Kim ODonnel | March 20, 2007; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (7)

Banana Muffins for a Good Cause

Today's post is for banana lovers only; if you're not a yellow-peeled fan, I apologize in advance (plus, I come without ideas for substitutions). However, the recipe in question, which comes from Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking," asks us to re-evaluate our pantries in the spirit of more wholesome, healthful eating. Swanson goes the extra mile to source out more wholesome ingredients for her recipes, which, in some cases, bear some explanation. Banana-walnut muffins flavored with a jolt of espresso. (Kim O'Donnel) To wit, the Espresso Banana Muffins that I tried out over the weekend call for natural cane sugar rather than regular ole white granulated stuff and white whole-wheat flour rather than all-purpose. Although I'm a regular user of natural cane sugar (sugar from sugarcane -- not from beets -- with a natural brown color), it was my first time working with white whole-wheat flour, and for that I...

By Kim ODonnel | March 19, 2007; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (16)

A St. Patrick's Taco

With a name like O'Donnel, I must have the luck of the Irish, right? Well, kinda sorta. As an Anglo mutt of varying European stocks, I'm more Irish in name than in genealogical connection. My German mother is hooked up with a proud Irish dude, and so every year at this time, he likes to make a pot of corned beef and cabbage. No thanks. The cabbage is typically cooked way beyond resemblance of a cruciferous vegetable, and the corned beef is just too darn fatty. Salmon tacos -- a lot more fun than corned beef and cabbage. (Kim O'Donnel) When it comes to paying tribute to St. Pat, I think of salmon instead. There's something about the pink, Omega 3-rich flesh that lifts me out of a winter funk (particularly under such dreary Nor'easter conditions), and by the way, salmon swim in the rivers of Ireland. To wit, a...

By Kim ODonnel | March 16, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (8)

A Cookbook Look

A few new cookbooks have come my way, and although I've yet to test their recipes, they seem worth a look-see, with lots of potential for kitchen playtime. I've an avid reader of 101cookbooks.com, the lively blog written by San Francisco-based photographer/designer Heidi Swanson, so I was excited to learn of her new cookbook, "Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients Into Your Cooking, " which was released this month. (She also is the author of "Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen.") What a treat to have a first edition that's paperback! One of my pet peeves about newly released cookbooks is their hardbound stiffness that makes page turning and in-kitchen referral a big pain. Swanson's photos, which are a major ingredient in the book, are so luscious and colorful you'll want to eat the pages. Like a good pantry, the text is...

By Kim ODonnel | March 15, 2007; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Grand Old San Juan

I've passed through the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan a zillion times, but merely to make a connecting flight to other Caribbean islands. The only time I've spent out of the airport has been at the beachfront bar at the Ritz-Carlton in nearby Isla Verde (a pleasant and easy way to kill time during a long layover). So when Mister Groom and I were planning some downtime after entertaining wedding guests, I jumped on the idea of a few days in Old San Juan. A roof-top view of Old San Juan's architecture. (Kim O'Donnel) The trick was finding a hotel without the commotion of a casino or a sprawling pool scene. The solution: El Convento, a 68-room historic hotel with a fascinating past. Its story begins in 1651, when it opened its doors as a Carmelite convent, housing nuns for the next 252 years. I loved the idea of...

By Kim ODonnel | March 14, 2007; 11:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Vieques Eats and Drinks

My recent nuptial trip marked my second visit to Vieques, Puerto Rico; last year, Mister Groom and I discovered this little gem and really connected with its laid-back vibe and natural beauty. Even though the rest of our wedding guests were new to the island, they had no problem getting acquainted and making their own discoveries for food, drink and frivolity. Fruit stand in Vieques. (Leslie Silverman) Below, a decidedly subjective guide to the island, based on my two visits and the experiences of our fellow Vieques sojourners. A few notes: There are two main towns to the island -- Isabel Segunda, which is located on the north (same side as the airport and ferry dock) and Esperanza on the south. Located about 10 minutes from each other by car (and you do need a car while on the island), the two towns are different in look, feel and function....

By Kim ODonnel | March 13, 2007; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Meal Fit for a Marriage

It's been two weeks since I last showed up in this blog space, as I had to step away for a bit and go get married. The pool at Evamer, the morning of the wedding. (Liz Kelly) That's right; I'm now a married lady, with vows, rings and smooches exchanged and a magic carpet ride on Vieques, a small island just due east of the mainland of Puerto Rico. Our journey, which began Sunday, Feb. 25, was off to a wintry start, with enough snow to force delays and a night holed up at the Hyatt Dulles. We resigned ourselves to a snowy afternoon sucking back cocktails at the hotel bar, but as luck would have it, the hotel was undergoing renovations, which meant the bar as well as the restaurant were a makeshift combo deal in a nondescript banquet room. Within 24 hours, I forgot all about our snowed-in...

By Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2007; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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