Archive: April 2007

A Spring Risotto

This time last week, I was celebrating the contents of my fridge, which were overwhelmingly green -- chard, leeks, buttery lettuce, green garlic -- and locally grown. It's such a pleasure to welcome spring vegetables back to the farmer's market scene, a parade of greenery that is crisp, bright and full of promise. Risotto gets a spring makeover, with leeks and green garlic. (Kim O'Donnel) And the show just keeps getting better and more beautiful. Joining the gorgeous green lineup this weekend were local asparagus, spinach and all kinds of herbs, such as tarragon, chervil, chives, dill and thyme. Risotto, as I mentioned last week, is a great way to experiment with spring's new arrivals. Taking a cue from "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison, I spring-a-fied a pot of risotto, with leeks and green garlic, a zesty pair from the allium family. Lest you worry about having onion or garlic...

By Kim ODonnel | April 30, 2007; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Yankee Girl Fries Fish

I can't be there, but I thought I'd join them, anyway. I'm talking about Rep. Jim Clyburn's annual fish fry that takes place tonight in Columbia, S.C. After interviewing Clyburn's appointed fish fry guy Lucius Moultrie, I was inspired to fry up some fish in my own kitchen. To get started, I consulted a few cookbooks, including "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by the late Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock as well as the newer "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Moultrie, who's been at this for 10 years, told me that his winning dredge is a combination of cornmeal and its pulverized, finer-textured sister, corn flour, which I thought would make an interesting mix of textures. I also followed Moutrie's advice on omitting a liquid binder, such as buttermilk or beaten egg, which he believes takes away from the flavor of the fish. Instead,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 27, 2007; 1:43 PM ET | Comments (0)

Let's Go to the Fish Fry

The place to eat tonight is Columbia, S.C., where some 4,000 people will queue up in a parking garage for fried fish. The fish in question is fillet of whiting, a favorite of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and the mastermind/host of this annual fish fry since 1992. He's also partial to the culinary stylings of Lucius Moultrie, who's been Clyburn's fish fry master for the past eight years. After retiring from the Columbia Fire Department 10 years ago, Moultrie switched careers and took over Palmetto Seafood, a fish market/kitchen that he runs with his wife and two sons. Tonight's shindig, which Moultrie calls "the after party," follows the more formal Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, a major Democratic fundraiser. Every year, he's watched the event grow; "Last year, it was an off-election year, and we still had nearly 3,000 people," he says, with a laugh. With expectations of at least 4,000...

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

The Veggie Blogosphere

It's that time of the month, which means you, me and other assorted veg-heads gather together 'round the online countertop today at 1 ET and talk about meat-free cooking, eating and shopping. The idea to offer a vegetarian-only chat spawned six years ago as an experiment, but it immediately became clear that there was a hunger for this kind of information and conversation. But what about the other days of the month? How do vegetarians and vegans learn to be better cooks in our online universe? Six years ago, the pickings were slim. Now, the Web is more veg-friendly than ever, particularly with the explosion of food blogs in the past few years. To wit, if you go to blog search engine technorati.com and search for "vegetarian cooking" in its blog directory, you get a search return of 223 blog destinations. So, with such an overgrown garden, how does one...

By Kim ODonnel | April 26, 2007; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (15)

The Crunch of Spring

Many of you have been asking what's on offer at local farm market these days. Due to the extremely cold weather earlier this month, local farmers are dealing with spring crop delays and potential backlash from budding summer crops. As daunting as the news may sound, there's still plenty to choose from in these early weeks of the new season, as I discovered this Sunday at Freshfarm Market at Dupont Circle. Carrots don't get much better than these. (Kim O'Donnel) Below, a sampler of current produce highlights, which, of course, is subject to Mother Nature. P.S.: You'll want to get your hands on the updated farm market lists in today's Food section: Maryland Virginia DC Carrots These were the belles of this week's ball, laying in their glorious pale orange wonder, at the Next Step Produce stand operated by Heinz Thomet. Although sweet enough to crunch on their own, I...

By Kim ODonnel | April 25, 2007; 10:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C.'s Supper Girls

The Supper Girls are a group of 10 young, accomplished women. They all live and work in the Washington area, but hail from a mix of home bases -- from Nigeria to Sonoma, Calif., Nashville to western Maryland. They are single and married, omnivorous and vegetarian and fit somewhere in the 25-40 age demographic. D.C.'s Supper Clubbers taking a break between courses. (Kim O'Donnel) The smorgasbord of backgrounds and personalities is fitting for a group that meets once a month to cook supper together. Since June, 2005, these women, who call themselves The Gourmet Girls, have gathered in each other's homes for a long evening of kitchen prep, recipe exchange, high drama (they all met through a theater group at Georgetown University Law School) and feasting on each other's culinary contributions. No Gourmet Girls feast would be complete without the addition of wine -- and this group has two resident...

By Kim ODonnel | April 24, 2007; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (5)

Ode to an Edible Poet

Last week, I received an e-mail from Seattle community gardener Deb Rock, a fireball who keeps me in the loop on edible garden goings-on in the Emerald City. Attached to her note was a poem recited at a Seattle local food movement fundraiser held earlier in the week; the poem, entitled "Food Warrior," was written by Michael Seliga, a young gardener passionate in both word and deed. His poem, posted below, encapsulates many themes that are dear to me -- local and seasonal food when possible -- but he takes it a huge step further by actually getting in the dirt and teaching others to do the same. Originally from California's San Fernando Valley, 25-year-old Seliga is the garden coordinator at Seattle Youth Garden Works, a hands-on education and employment program for homeless and at-risk young adults (ranging in age from 15 to 22). Since he began working with SYGW...

By Kim ODonnel | April 23, 2007; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (2)

Eating Green

In honor of Earth Day, which takes place this Sunday, April 22, I offer an updated list of area farms that still have CSA shares available for the upcoming season. But first, let's break down this acronym: CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. Translated, that means a relationship between you, the consumer/eater and a farmer who grows all the stuff. The commitment from you is cash money upfront, in the range of $300 or $400, a financial guarantee to the farmer. This money pays for your subscription and entitles you to a "share" of the land. In return, the farmer delivers a weekly box of just-harvested produce, for up to 20 weeks in succession (depending on the farm). Every grower I talked to this morning delivers to a variety of drop-off points in the Washington area, and the key for the would-be subscriber is to find a CSA with...

By Kim ODonnel | April 20, 2007; 11:46 AM ET | Comments (5)

Adventures of a Cupcake Fairy

In Tuesday's blog space and in this week's chat, I suggested looking to the kitchen as a place of comfort and solace as we, as a nation, mourn and try to make sense of the massacre this week at Virginia Tech. In the chat, I mentioned my search for a cozy companion to a pot of tea, particularly with the recent wintry weather. Immediately afterwards, I pored through a bunch of trusted cookbooks, my stream of consciousness mumbling scone...biscotti...biscuit...nah...coffee cake?...cupcakes...Yes! The recipe that stopped me in my tracks -- "Lemon Cupcakes With Milk Chocolate Frosting" - comes from "Perfect Light Desserts," a book by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim that I've come to rely on since its release last fall. I liked the idea of yin-yang-ing a citrus flavor batter with a cloak of chocolate, particularly with the tangy additions of buttermilk and sour cream (which I replaced with an...

By Kim ODonnel | April 19, 2007; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (17)

Key West 'Pinks' in a Bag

In this week's Food section, Walter Nicholls profiles a shrimp farm in Hurlock, Md. that is using state-of-the-art, sustainable indoor aquaculture. I was unable to join the Food staff for its blind taste test of frozen shrimp available at Washington supermarket fish counters. The objective: To see how they stacked up against the fresh indoor-farmed shrimp from Marvesta Shrimp Farms, which I hope to taste sooner rather than later, based on the results. Key West "pinks" that come from the frozen section. (Kim O'Donnel) Among the frozen shrimp contestants, I noticed the absence of "Wild Key West Pink Shrimp" from Whole Catch, a private label of Whole Foods Market. Sold in the frozen section rather than at the seafood counter, the Whole Catch one-pound bag contains 16-20 wild-caught shrimp, which means large, three inches of crustacean. I was immediately drawn to three words on the package -- Key, West and...

By Kim ODonnel | April 18, 2007; 12:52 AM ET | Comments (9)

A Recipe for Loss

"Is it just me, or is it difficult to write about celebs and food considering the shoooting?" wrote my fellow washingtonpost.com blogger Liz Kelly, in an e-mail early this morning. She of course was referring to the mass shooting that left 33 people dead (including the gunman) on the campus of Virginia Tech yesterday. When just one person dies at the hand of another, it is undoubtedly tragic and senseless, an unbearable loss for those who survive the departed, but nonetheless contained. With our information superhighway, we hear about someone getting killed every hour, every day, everywhere, and so we've become conditioned, almost numb to the news of a garden-variety homicide. But something happens when we learn of multiple casualties -- be it an accident or an act of terror, war or God. Death in numbers is horrific and unfathomable, and the mourning and sense of loss goes beyond the...

By Kim ODonnel | April 17, 2007; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (6)

Cooking Up a New Life

In the mid-1980s, the only thing that Jeff Henderson knew how to cook was crack cocaine. As a young drug dealer in San Diego, Henderson was making up to $35,000 a week. In 1988, the lush life came to a crashing halt, when Henderson was arrested and ultimately indicted on federal drug trafficking charges. Henderson, who's now the executive chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas, tells the story of how he cooked his way through -- and out of -- prison in his recently released book, "Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras." Two years into his originally mandated sentence of 19 1/2 years, Henderson started working in a prison kitchen. For me, the following passage, which describes Henderson's initial trepidation in the kitchen, is one of the strongest in the book: Cooking took me back to the Motel 6 in San Diego. I...

By Kim ODonnel | April 16, 2007; 11:23 AM ET | Comments (3)

E-Z Meals? Depends Who's Talking

In this week's chat, a reader asked about a new cookbook on the market, "A Twist of the Wrist" by Nancy Silverton that's getting some attention. It's important to mention the subtitle here: "Quick Flavorful Meals With Ingredients from Jars, Cans, Bags and Boxes." When you read that, what comes to mind? Balsamic vinegar, fennel pollen and mostardo, by chance? I know what you're thinking, I must have some of that easy-to-find burrata cheese to make my crostini sing. All of the above-mentioned ingredients are highlighted in orange and listed in Silverton's "Twist Essentials," a detailed glossary at the book at the book. Now, when I first heard about this book (and its premise), I thought of basics for the average home cook in need of inspiration and a few shortcuts. Even when I read Silverton's introduction: The goal of my so-called mission is to show people a way to...

By Kim ODonnel | April 13, 2007; 8:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Noblest Beans

"You can tell where someone is from by their attitude about beans," argues Steve Sando, owner/founder of Napa, Calif.-based Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. "Californians and Southwesterners understand that you have a pot of beans like any other veg," Sando explains. "Eastcoasters are freaked out by beans and need a recipe. And if you're from the Midwest, there's zero bean culture." A work of art: Rancho Gordo's Rio Zape beans before cooking. (Kim O'Donnel) Generalizations aside, Sando knows of what he speaks; his life has been nothing but beans for the past 10 years. To be specific, Sando's business is heirloom beans; according to the USDA, the term heirloom plants refers to a) those planted from seeds that have been passed down for more than 50 years and b) open-pollinating, meaning that in addition to sowing seeds of a previous generation, they disperse naturally, by wind, rain and insects,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 12, 2007; 11:57 AM ET | Comments (13)

Honey, There's Beer in My Batter

As home cooks, we're told to cook with the same wine we like to drink. Why not apply the same argument to beer? In the spirit of beer-food pairing in today's Food section, I set out to put this theory to the test. Beer-battered veggies, with a glass of red rice ale to wash it all down. (Kim O'Donnel) Earlier this year, I shared my love for the line of Hitachino Nest beers, particularly the Red Rice Ale, one of the few things I've found to marry well with spicy noodles and curries. But I wondered: Would my favorite pinky-rose ale work as well in my mixing bowl as it does on my tongue? When Food section editor Joe Yonan challenged me to think about how I'd cook with my favorite beer, I immediately leaped to the idea of onion rings. The free association quickly followed: Beer batter. Red rice....

By Kim ODonnel | April 11, 2007; 9:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Delicious -- And Vegetarian

It was Friday afternoon, and I was in the mood to play hostess. However, as I e-mailed a small group of close pals for Saturday supper, I realized I was inviting them on short notice. The reason for the rush: I was in the midst of a round of recipe testing, and I needed a bunch of mouths to feed. Of primary concern was a a beer-batter veggie tempura (stay tuned for those details in tomorrow's blog space) that I was tinkering with, yet if I was inviting friends for the evening, I needed to expand the menu -- and perhaps solicit culinary contributions. In addition to battered veggies, I was thinking about simmering a pot of heirloom beans (more on those in Thursday's blog space!), and since one couple was strictly vegetarian, I thought, what the heck, let's keep this dish free of meat, too. The menu was going...

By Kim ODonnel | April 10, 2007; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (9)

Fooling With Rhubarb

If you ever want to try eating vegetables for breakfast, you can do it with rhubarb. I just did -- and it's making me swoon. Actually, I hadn't planned on eating rhubarb for breakfast; I was layering the rhube with strawberries and whipped cream for a photo of a "fool," a sublime parfait type of dessert that you must try at least once in your lifetime. A fool's paradise: Rhubarb, strawberries and whipped cream. (Kim O'Donnel) As I spooned my way through the pillowy cream to get to the satiny mauve puree, it occurred to me that yogurt would be lovely in place of the cream, particularly at 8 o'clock in the morning. And then -- oh yes! -- maybe I had a seasonal topper for the dreaded morning cholesterol-lowering oatmeal I'm supposed to be eating. It was last year at this time that I feasted on rhubarb, and already...

By Kim ODonnel | April 9, 2007; 10:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fresh Ham, Hold the 7-Up

"I don't like those baked hams," barked a colleague, who's known for his rambling, unsolicited opinions about everything. "They taste too much like flesh." I don't know if I'd go that far, but my favorite curmudgeon's argument is well taken: the texture and mouthfeel of cured, cooked hams is less a sure thing and more a crapshoot. There are lots of variables at play -- processing, how the pig was raised, the at-home glaze and extra flavor add-ons and the way it's sliced. Too thick, ham slabs do have a science fiction quality to them, no matter how good that glaze tastes. My brothers John (left) and Tim (right) bookending me for our annual Easter outfit pose-a-rama. (Family photo) (Speaking of intriguing ham glazes, check out the goodie in this week's Food section, zipped up with ginger, mango and chiles.) When I get in the mood to do a ham,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 6, 2007; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (6)

Nature's Easter Egg

Easter egg radishes, just in time for the holiday. (Kim O'Donnel) As Easter preparations get underway for many this weekend, eggs of either the hardboiled or chocolate variety will be part of the equation, particularly if children are involved. How I loved finding a basketful of chocolates, marshmallow chicks and jellybeans nestled amidst a faux bed of grass, magically delivered by the one and only Bunny on Easter Sunday morning. And how I loved a chocolate egg -- hollow, coconut or cream filled or covered with a speckled candy coating. Any one would do the job of sending me into a sugar high. These Easter confections were no match to the ovum from the chicken coop, dyed all pretty, only to be part of a game that failed to intrigue me. I remember wondering why other kids liked to playing hide and seek with Easter eggs that weren't chocolate....

By Kim ODonnel | April 5, 2007; 11:13 AM ET | Comments (8)

Getting a Cholesterol Clue?

I've got elevated cholesterol levels, and the problem runs in my family. My father died of a heart attack, and so did his mother. The word "arteriosclerosis" has been in my vocabulary since I was a teenager. Over the past few years, I've talked with my doctor about my borderline-high risk level -- as defined by the American Heart Association (last year it was 220 mg/dL) -- and we both know that a vigilant diet (for me that means minimal cheese and ice cream) and regular exercise at least 3 times a week brings my level closer to 200. The Clue Bar, oatmeal raisin style. (Kim O'Donnel) Although cheese is my weakness, I have long considered a daily regimen of cholesterol-lowering oatmeal every day, but that heart-healthy idea fizzled out quickly. I am always thinking about how I can amp up my soluble fiber intake to help sweep out the...

By Kim ODonnel | April 4, 2007; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (37)

Raw Bar Bites

A recent e-mail from a food stylist in southern California prompted today's (and tomorrow's) blog post. Her pitch: a snack bar that helps to lower cholesterol. I was intrigued, and a week later, I received two boxes of her goods. The raw bar contenders (and a few cooked ones added to the mix). (Kim O'Donnel) As I worked through a few of her bars (to be featured tomorrow), I got to thinking about the sea of cereal, protein and nutritional bars that are up for grabs in the average grocery store aisle. The choices are overwhelming, and this Clif-Bar veteran had a lot of catching up to do. For folks on the run, these bars, like cell phones and PDAs, have become part of the 21st-century way of life. Don't have time to grab a sandwich before boarding an airplane? No problem -- you've got a bar in your carry-on....

By Kim ODonnel | April 3, 2007; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (12)

Hello, Horseradish

As a kid, I loved dipping oyster-cracker balls into prepared horseradish, offered as a table condiment at old-school seafood restaurants. Not until I was in my 30s did I handle the fresh stuff, a root vegetable with an ugly, hairy face and a powerfully pungent interior that sends you to the moon. Fresh horseradish: Knobby and hairy on the outside, but pungent aromatherapy on the inside. (Kim O'Donnel) One of the "bitter herbs" found this week on many a Passover Seder table, fresh horseradish is a root vegetable worth exploring after the holidays. A little goes a long way from this member of the mustard family, and believe me when I say open up the windows when you get ready to peel and grate. In fact, if you're suffering from pollen allergies, a dab of grated horseradish mixed with a teaspoon of honey will rescue your ailing sinuses or sore...

By Kim ODonnel | April 2, 2007; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (16)

 

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