Archive: June 2007

Extra Helping of Meat-Free Assistance

Yesterday's vegetarian edition of What's Cooking covered a lot of ground, from dairy-free fats to a veggie-omnivore sex appeal debate. In response to one reader's query about meatless cooking classes in the Washington area, I mentioned Mimi Clark, of Fairfax, Va., who's been offering her Veggie Gourmet vegan cooking classes for the past 18 years. In a note that arrived after the chat, Mimi shared a few extra tidbits to add the conversation. Below, some of her thoughts: To the person who has a gluten sensitivity, tofu is not the only sub. There is also TVP, a defatted soy product that comes dehydrated (Bob's Red Mill is one of the manufacturers), and tempeh which you mentioned earlier. Tempeh is more of a whole food than tofu because it is made from whole soybeans, unlike tofu which is made from cracked, coagulated soybeans. In addition, tempeh is a fermented food which...

By Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2007; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Fresh: Snap Beans

Green, yellow, purple. French, Romano, Dragon Tongue. These are just some of the names you might come across this summer wherever snap (aka string) beans are being sold. Regardless of variety, which vary in texture and flavor, they're all young forms of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) picked before their seeds develop (at which point, they become shell beans). Young beans should be sweet as well as snappy, and if you've got a bunch of flabby, mealy pods, well, add them to the compost pile. Snap to it: yellow wax beans. (Kim O'Donnel) I love snap beans, particularly at this time of year. As a teenager, I used to eat them raw, right out of the bag, and share them with Larry the house painter, when he'd break for lunch. These days, I like to cook them, just for a few minutes, and let the muse inspire me on how...

By Kim ODonnel | June 28, 2007; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Indie Cookware/Cookbookery

Open House was the name of a cookware/houseware store on Bala Avenue, one of the few main drags in my hometown of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., a stone's throw from Philadelphia. Open House was a locally owned shop with untreated hardwood floors much like an old-time hardware store. It stood on a corner, with storefront windows, about six blocks from our house on Penarth Road. I remember going in with my mother, and we'd poke around at all the cool stuff -- placemats and pottery, platters and glassware, pots and utensils. I remember classical music filling the room. Maybe my mother can fill in the dots, but it was a magical place for me. A taste of the Kitchen Witch in New Orleans. (Kim O'Donnel) Flash forward 30-some years, and I've still got a yen for independently owned cookware and cookbook shops. They're a dying breed, I know, as are small...

By Kim ODonnel | June 27, 2007; 12:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

Getting to Know Charleston

Two years ago, I breezed through Charleston, S.C., in the course of an afternoon, just enough time for lunch and a stroll through the historic City Market. Little did I know how much I was missing, that Charleston deserved my time and attention, and that I was just skimming the surface that seemed a tad too touristy. As I discovered last week during my return trip, I was all wrong. Charleston is a terrific little town, worth several days of your time -- because there really is so much to do and see. This ain't no blip on the map, it's a serious contender on the vacation to-do list. Here's what I now know about Charleston: * It is a great walking city. Stumble out of your hotel and just put one foot in front of the other. The streets are flat, often narrow, tree-lined and romantic, occasionally feeling a...

By Kim ODonnel | June 26, 2007; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Foodways of Charleston

For the better part of two and a half days, I did little else but eat and drink my way through Charleston, S.C., with 120 other like-minded gluttons from across the country. We gathered for the seventh annual "field trip" of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group dedicated to the documentation and celebration of the culinary traditions and foodways of the south. At the table with cookbook author Nathalie Dupree. (Bill Addison) As part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., SFA is 800 members strong, under the devoted leadership of John T. Edge (who is better known as "John T."), a food writer, commentator, cookbook author and impassioned whirling dervish. The membership reflects a variety of food-and-drink connections and interests, including chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, historians, academics, food writers as well as passionate food hobbyists. On this trip, for instance,...

By Kim ODonnel | June 25, 2007; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kim in Charleston

Greetings from Charleston, S.C.! I am here for the next few days attending a food and drink extravaganza with the Southern Foodways Alliance. For the past eight years, food writers, academics, historians and chefs have been gathering in a different part of the south to learn about the culinary traditions and foodways that make it unique. I just got in last night, already with a wonderful dinner under my belt at F.I.G. and am on my way out the door for a day of adventures with my colleagues. Stay tuned for a report on Monday. One last note: Half my flight down here was filled with firefighters who are in town to pay their respects to the nine firefighters killed in a massive blaze earlier this week. The funeral and city-wide procession begin in just a few hours. Have a mindful and delicious weekend....

By Kim ODonnel | June 22, 2007; 8:04 AM ET | Comments (3)

Ten Reasons to Love Summer

At 1:06 p.m. ET, summer officially begins according to astronomers in high places. The solstice is an auspicious occasion for this summer baby, who is much happier in sandals than boots, seeking the rays of the sun than the force of an icy wind (see accompanying pic for proof positive). Yours truly, around the age of five, preparing for a career in the circus. (Family photo) Just saying that summer is here makes me smile. There's an old James Taylor tune, "Summer's Here" from his album "Dad Loves His Work" that takes the words right out of my mouth: Summer's here, I'm for that I got my rubber sandals, got my straw hat, I got my cold beer, I'm just glad that it's here... Summer's here, that suits me fine, it may rain today cuz I don't mind It's my favorite time of the year and I'm glad that it's...

By Kim ODonnel | June 21, 2007; 9:19 AM ET | Comments (9)

Chat Leftovers Make Good Lunch

A bunch of questions from yesterday's What's Cooking chat was left remaining at the bottom of the pot, begging for attention. Below, a few to whet your appetite for leftovers. Silver Spring, Md.: I have two different friends who recently had babies, and I'd like to bring them a dish they can eat now or freeze and have later. It's not really lasagna weather, so I'm a little stumped. I'm looking for something without red meat or (lots of) mushrooms. Upon reading this question, I immediately wondered, "How would the Fonzes respond?" Aka Sarah and Alfonso, the Fonzes are our former neighbors who became parents for the first time in February. True warriors though they are, they were grateful for any crumbs I sent their way during the first few months, when baby Aaron woke up at all hours of the night (We know first hand; the walls are that...

By Kim ODonnel | June 20, 2007; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (16)

Dishing Up Juneteenth

On this day in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger showed up with his boys in Galveston, Tex., kicked out the lingering Confederates and informed the nation's remaining slaves that they were free. Two-plus years earlier, in 1862, Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it took that long for the word to get to Texas, the final frontier for emancipation. Red rice: the risotto of the south. (Kim O'Donnel) This day of independence, known as Juneteenth, is an official paid state holiday in Texas (since 1980, under Gov. "Bill" Clements) and officially observed in more than 20 other states, including Virginia (not without its controversies, of course), plus the District. (Efforts to create a state holiday in Maryland have been squelched in the past.) Freedom is an interesting and complex notion; when you have it, you forget; when you don't, you yearn, and the inequities affect us all. We...

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (7)

Got Mushed Raspberries? Make Lemonade.

When the weather turns from spring to summer, we all turn to a cold beverage, an elixir of sorts to help restore the heat-induced balance. For some, it's iced tea. For me, it's lemonade. The freshly squeezed juice of several lemons sweetened and poured over ice is a tonic unlike no other; lemonade revives me, gives me a chance to momentarily pause and I love the bio-chemical rush of all that Vitamin C. Raspberry lemonade -- what the weather doctor ordered. (Kim O'Donnel) At this time of year, I keep tabs (and give props to) restaurants that take the extra time to squeeze lemons for ade-freaks like me. Recently, I've had stellar lemonade at Rasika and 2Amys, as well as ade-standbys such as Colorado Kitchen and Pizzeria Paradiso. On Friday, I treated myself to lunch at Equinox, where I perched myself at the bar. When I made my lemonade inquiry,...

By Kim ODonnel | June 18, 2007; 9:45 AM ET | Comments (8)

An Unexpected Lunch With Dad

Father's Day came a little early for me this year, yet I haven't celebrated Father's Day in 24 years. There are no coincidences. My father, John O'Donnel, all decked out for grilling, circa 1968. In 1982, my father died way too soon, at the age of 37. It happened so fast. Before bed, he was debriefing me on my first date, an evening at the Bala movie theater ("The Wall" -- the Pink Floyd movie) with local boy Jimmy Bramson; by the next morning he was already gone, just a shell of the man I adored, my confidant, my teacher, my debate partner. It was truly painful to say goodbye, and at the age of 16, it felt terribly unfair and cruel, yes. Over the past two decades, I've wondered what things would be like if he were still around to witness important events like graduation, marriage and heartbreak or...

By Kim ODonnel | June 15, 2007; 8:44 AM ET | Comments (14)

Getting Fresh: Cherry Wonderful

Local cherries are here, which means that stone fruit season has begun -- and I have a date with some red flesh and a pit collection bowl this weekend. As much as I love eating them out of hand, cherries are stellar in desserts. Now's the time to indulge your sweet tooth because these ruby-red gems are here for just a few weeks. The cutest treats ever: cherry-almond tea cakes. (Kim O'Donnel) Of all cherry desserts, pie tops the list, but I'm also a sucker for cherries and almonds, a marriage of mysterious and wonderful proportions. The two just love each other, and I love them. As I'm wont to do while flying, I had a stack of magazines in my lap earlier this week and put the brakes on when I spotted a recipe for cherry and almond tea cakes in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living. Better...

By Kim ODonnel | June 14, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Seat-of-the-Pants Noodles

A welcomed rainstorm arrived late yesterday afternoon, casting a gentle gray pallor on the skies. It was moody weather appropriate for reflection. Earlier in the day, I told Mister Mighty Appetite I'd cook dinner, but forgot about the part that the fridge was bereft of fresh veggies. With my bags still unpacked and a house in newly-moved chaos, I was stumped on what I'd fix for dinner, a little low in the kitchen inspiration department. Improv noodles to a last-minute supper rescue. (Kim O'Donnel) A quiet moment of meditation took me back to the Emergency Communities kitchen, where my CulinaryCorps colleagues and I were tasked with cooking four meals for 300 people with limited ingredients and under challenging rustic conditions. Dinner on the first night was prepared by Kelli, who teaches kid's cooking classes in North Jersey, Grace, a culinary student in Buffalo, N.Y., while moonlighting at UPS, and Sandy,...

By Kim ODonnel | June 13, 2007; 11:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Stew of Hope and Despair

My plane touched down at National Airport just last night, and I'm still digesting all that I experienced during my 10-day stay in New Orleans. For many years, I have been traveling outside of the country, particularly to Africa, so as to better understand how others live and make sense of the world. The awakening tore through me like a bolt of lightning during my first trip to South Africa in 1992, a period of strange and historic transition towards a democratic election. Doorway of despair in the Lower Ninth Ward. (Kim O'Donnel) The poverty and the squalor that I saw first-hand in the black townships was nothing short of astounding and life-changing. It was a call to action. I vowed to continue visiting places and meeting people whose lives were compromised by lack of food and shelter. In my own way, I have told their stories and kept them...

By Kim ODonnel | June 12, 2007; 11:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

What's Cooking Web Chat Today At Noon ET

Kim is back in town and eager to catch up with you on all things culinary, in this week's installment of What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel, today at Noon ET. For the past week, Kim has been blogging from New Orleans, sharing her experiences as a volunteer chef with CulinaryCorps....

By Kim ODonnel | June 12, 2007; 8:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

New Orleans Little Black Book

New Orleans, 7 a.m, 77 degrees. It was a full but easy-going weekend, a chance to catch up on sleep and spend some money to help boost the local economy. After a week of intense physical labor in the kitchen, I treated myself to a massage at Balance Hair and Body Studio (536 Bienville St., 504-522-3318), where Mary worked out the kinks and restored my aching back. I'll definitely be returning. We parked ourselves at the Dauphine Orleans, a reasonably-priced hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, with a swimming pool, complimentary breakfast and a neat old bar. From there, we played tourists and ventured through the Quarter and as well into other neighborhoods. All breadcrumbs led me to the Kitchen Witch (631 Toulouse St., 504-528-8382), a cookbook shop unlike no other. An eye-candy feast of kitsch, old and rare cookbooks, tchotkes, amazing music and a few cats and...

By Kim ODonnel | June 11, 2007; 9:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bites of New Orleans

The Culinary Corps part of my trip is over; our group parted ways early this morning, and instead of flying back to Washington toute de suite, I'm continuing my stay through the weekend, with Mr. Mighty Appetite in tow. Below, a few spots our group hit along the way to restore our spirits and recharge for the next day. This is just the beginning; stay tuned on Monday for more nibbles. Earlier this week, we had lunch in the French Quarter at the Creole cottage that is Bayona, domain of chef Susan Spicer since 1990. We took advantage of the $20 lunch special that included three small plates, sweet or savory, from at least 20 different dishes. The food here combines traditional Creole dishes with global twists. You'll see Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Moroccan notes, to name a few. A most romantic spot, particularly in the enclosed courtyard. Wednesday evening, we...

By Kim ODonnel | June 8, 2007; 5:27 PM ET | Comments (0)

Waiting for Oysters in Pass Christian

"Katrina isn't just about New Orleans." This is a statement I heard repeatedly yesterday during a visit to Pass Christian, Miss., a Gulf coast town that was nearly wiped out by the storm. Pre-Katrina, some 6,000 people called Pass Christian (pronounced kris-chee-ANN) home, but a storm surge of at least 30 feet, leveled most of the town's buildings and homes up to half a mile inland. Aboard the Mississippi DMR conservation boat (Kim O'Donnel) The debris is gone, but remnants of the storm are everywhere. Lots where homes once stood are now empty, save a few bricks indicating someone's front steps; the surreal empty space continues for blocks, indicated by strips of paved road. Nearly two years later, the once-thriving beachfront town is still without a supermarket or its own fire department. It destroyed the Bay St. Louis bridge, which connected Pass Christian to the neighboring town of Bay St....

By Kim ODonnel | June 7, 2007; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cookin' at the Goin' Home Cafe

Thirteen cooks. Three hundred hungry people, give or take a few. Four meals in just under 36 hours. These were the known parameters of our assignment at the Emergency Communities relief site in the Lower Ninth Ward. Yours truly in the EC kitchen (Courtney Knapp) What we didn't know is what we'd find in the way of ingredients, so our fearless leader Christine suggested that we think of the experience as an Iron Chef competition of sorts. What we didn't expect is a malfunctioning refrigerator/freezer truck and enormous amounts of expired meat and rotting perishables. Collectively, we agreed that we would completely disinfect the kitchen and washing areas before any cooking would commence, and that we'd have to cough up the bucks to replace the vast majority of the ingredients we'd need for dinner, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Clearly, the state of the facility put a wrench into menu planning...

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2007; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (7)

The Forgotten Lower Ninth

A block of ravaged deserted homes in the Lower Ninth Ward taken by Katrina, still a common sight 22 months later. (Kim O'Donnel) We had been forewarned: It will be dirty and dilapidated at our next destination. But nothing could have prepared us for the conditions we were about to witness in the Lower Ninth Ward, arguably the poorest neighborhood in New Orleans and the hardest hit by the storm. Over the past 15 years, I've traveled to four different countries in Africa, and the concentration of poverty and despair I've observed in the Lower Ninth over the past few days is either equal to or worse than anything I've every seen in Africa. As the second anniversary of Katrina approaches, there are few signs of rebuilding in this bedraggled neighborhood, where FEMA trailers and desolate, empty houses waiting for their owners to return are more the norm than...

By Kim ODonnel | June 5, 2007; 9:29 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cooking With Holy Angels

A cancelled Northwest Airlines flight kept me marooned in Memphis airport for several hours on Friday; there was more than enough time to walk the airport from end to end and to discover that there are at least four places for travelers to get a pulled pork sandwich and not one but two places to listen to live music. Now that was a first -- live music in the airport. Residents of the Upper Ninth ward enjoying brunch at Holy Angels Convent. (Kim O'Donnel) After a rerouting to Houston, I finally arrived in New Orleans at midnight, weary but relieved to be on the ground. As tired as I was, though, I couldn't help but notice the smell of mold as I entered the terminal, an inevitable lingering remnant of the storm that turned this city on its head 22 months ago. There was enough time to catch about fours...

By Kim ODonnel | June 4, 2007; 9:55 AM ET | Comments (2)

Kim's Excellent Adventure to NOLA

There's a big suitcase nearly filled to the gills causing traffic in my bedroom. Instead of cute outfits and light reading about my intended destination, my bags are packed with kitchen garb and gear -- chef's coats and baggy pants, clogs, do-rags, a heap of crusty T-shirts, a knife kit, plenty of Vitamin C, and if there's room, a portable burner. This morning, I am headed for New Orleans, where I will be joining 15 other cooks whose luggage contents will be nearly identical to mine. We are flying in from all points around the country to cook for others in need and to cook up awareness for a city still recovering and rebuilding, nearly two years since Hurricane Katrina. For the next week, we will collaborate as members of Culinary Corps, a new organization dedicated to bringing culinary professionals into the fold of community service. It is the brainchild...

By Kim ODonnel | June 1, 2007; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (6)

 

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