Archive: August 2007

Kim in Seattle

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! The air is cool and a bit autumnal, but the sunsets are as glorious as I remember. It's great to be back in the city I love so dearly and catch up with close friends and do some good eating. I'll be offline for the rest of the week, but promise to share my food-and-drink adventures upon my return home next week. Stay cool, ya hear? And if you've got a Seattle tidbit to share -- a place you suggest or want me to check out -- please share in the comments area below. I'll be checking in periodically....

By Kim ODonnel | August 27, 2007; 9:15 AM ET | Comments (21)

Karla's Figs

For last weekend's soiree at Casa Appetite, I insisted on doing all the food. But when my girl Karla called and told me that her fig tree was bursting with fruit, I immediately relented. How could I say no to an offering of fresh figs? A zillion years ago, I FTD'd a fig tree to a boy I loved in Australia, but that was way before I had ever eaten a fresh fig myself. Not until I met Karla nine years ago did I get my very own hands-on experience with a ficus tree and its magnificent low-hanging fruit that has traveled the world over the ages. Fresh figs from Karla's tree. (Kim O'Donnel) I've always had a thing for figs and, like many American kids, the introduction began with the Fig Newton, a cookie I couldn't get enough of. My dried figgy experience expanded to a more sophisticated level...

By Kim ODonnel | August 24, 2007; 9:47 AM ET | Comments (26)

Getting Fresh: All Aboard the Purslane Train

Like watercress? Then hop aboard and join me on the purslane train. Yes, that purslane, the weed that many gardeners find prolifically annoying. But don't pull those roots just yet, my dear green thumbs. These green leaves and sorta red stems are the stuff of mega nutrition. In addition to being low cal (just seven per cup) and chock-full of Vitamins A, C, E, plus iron, calcium and potassium, purslane is - are you ready? - the number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids among green leafy vegetables, beating out the touted spinach eight to one. Purslane, the good weed. (Kim O'Donnel) Specifically, it's loaded with the heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is typically found in cold-water fatty fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines or mackerel. For vegetarians and those who are landlocked, this is exciting information. In the course of my digging, I learned that the island of...

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2007; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

My Kind of Birthday Cake

A little fairy came by recently, questioning me about my taste in birthday cakes. Did I have a favorite, by chance? A secret admirer wanted to know and was interested in placing an order, but not until he got a sense of my cake crumb preferences and peeves. "Nothing fancy or fussy," I said. "No candy do-dads, frosting roses, buttercream, pudding centers, jams, jellies, dacquoise, and most importantly, nothing too sweet." Chocolate Guinness cake. (Kim O'Donnel) Frantically, he made some notes, and then looked at me, his eyebrow knitted. "Well, is there anything about a birthday cake that you DO like?" he asked. "You've shared your peeves but none of your preferences." I closed my eyes for a minute, envisioning the perfect birthday cake. I like simple, homey cakes, sometimes in a bundt shape or in a single springform layer. Red velvet comes to mind. Coffee cake. Rum cake. Gingerbread....

By Kim ODonnel | August 22, 2007; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (19)

Pineapple Twist of Fate

There was a dinner party at Casa Appetite on Saturday night, a combo early birthday celebration and inaugural warming of the new house. We were a group of 12 and yours truly insisted on doing all the cooking, as long as guests would reciprocate with their beverage of choice. With three or four meatless eaters on the guest list, it was a no-brainer to whip up a pot of eggplant curry and some coconut rice to sop up its juices. The omnivores sunk their teeth into Viet-grilled chicken, which continues to impress me with its depth of flavor and ease of preparation. While folks were cocktailing, I was manning the stove, frying up a batch of okra pancakes, which are more like fritters, cornmeal-y in a hush puppy kind of way, and loaded with still-crisp okra studs. A perfect nibble to whet the appetite. The real surprise of the evening...

By Kim ODonnel | August 21, 2007; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Marinade Mojo

What is a marinade [MEHR-ih-nayd]? According to the "Food Lover's Companion," the indispensable culinary dictionary by Sharon Tyler Herbst, a marinade is "a seasoned liquid in which meat, fish and vegetables are soaked in order to absorb flavor, and in some instances, to be tenderized." Sounds like a textbook definition that we all can live with, right? But as many of us know, the "seasoned liquid" definition but skims the surface; a marinade is more like an elixir, mysterious and nuanced, possessing near-magical powers, transforming the tough, sinewy and one-dimensional into complex, multilayered morsels that melt in the mouth. We all know the effect that a good marinade has on us -- it nearly makes us swoon, as we lick our fingers into oblivion. But how many of us know the underlying tenets of marinade mastery -- the chemistry and the elements that give a sauce its magic powers? Most...

By Kim ODonnel | August 17, 2007; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (5)

Connecticut Country

I've got a good pal, Miz B, who recently moved north with her family to a Connecticut town called Woodbury, where sidewalks and traffic lights are fewer (there are three) and forests are in greater abundance than their former neighborhood in Alexandria, Va. Instead of CVS, there's a locally owned pharmacy, as is the case with the video rental shop, where invoices are written by hand. Antique shops prevail, and I'm told that this place is autumn leaf-peeping heaven. This is a place where you can hear yourself think and the insects sing, where chickens are for sale at the hardware store and farm stands with just-picked produce dot the road. On his way to work yesterday, husband JC was forced to bring the car to a stop for a traffic jam -- a family of 17 turkeys that needed to cross the road. Meanwhile, B, her three lively children...

By Kim ODonnel | August 16, 2007; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

A Good Connecticut Morning

I'm typing to you from the wilds of Woodbury, Conn., where it's a brisk 64 degrees, and even cooler in this 19th-century farmhouse. I sense autumn is just around the corner 'round these parts. I plan to check back in later today, after a proper breakfast at a local diner and a thawing in the sun. Stay tuned....

By Kim ODonnel | August 15, 2007; 8:55 AM ET | Comments (1)

Getting Fresh: An Okra Valentine

Bamia, bhindi, gombo, lady's fingers, quingombo -- these are just a few of the world's many pet names for my beloved okra. Unless you live on the North Pole, chances are you're able to get your hands on some okra. Because it thrives under hot and humid conditions, it has made its way into kitchens around the globe, from Angola to Texas, Barbados to Turkey. Introducing the beautiful Miz Lady Finger. (Kim O'Donnel) Word has it that the taut green (and sometimes red) seed pods are quite ancient, originating in Ethiopia and making their way along the Nile River to Egypt. But okra didn't stop there; she embarked on a world tour and went west, boarding slave ships in places like Ghana and Senegal, later getting dropped off in Brazil, the Caribbean and eventually, slave trade hot spots such as Charleston and New Orleans. She's a tough lady finger, I'll...

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2007; 9:39 AM ET | Comments (16)

Please Play With Your Orzo

In just a matter of days, kids of all ages are headed back to school, an exciting rite of passage for kindergarteners and college freshmen alike. I always loved the smell of a new lunchbox, the anticipation of meeting new teachers and making new friends, the shopping for new school supplies. Everything is new and seems fresh, at least for a little while. All this reminiscing has me thinking about school lunches -- and what we can do at home to make them more interesting, tastier and yes, healthier. Orzo flavored with grated zucchini, onion and herbs. (Kim O'Donnel) You know how it seems like every kid goes through a phase of eating plain noodles with butter and/or shredded cheese? I want to build upon that noodle-y foundation, add a few tweaks and turn it into a dish that all students of life would embrace. I'm talking about orzo, the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 13, 2007; 11:38 AM ET | Comments (11)

Veggie Lunchbox and Shrimp 'Veins' With a Side of Hot Fudge

There were too many good questions left undone from this week's What's Cooking jamboree. Below, a few to chew on, with an invitation to weigh in on any or all of the topics -- vegetarian workday lunches, deveining shrimp and the search for a true-blue hot fudge sauce. Have a delicious and safe weekend. Vienna, Va.: Kim, do you have any ideas for a healthy, satisfying vegetarian lunch that I could easily pack in a lunchbox at 6 a.m.? I've tried the old standby of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn't seem to fill me; I've tried packing leftovers, but my supply of leftovers is inconsistent. Vienna, you're a prime candidate for Jamaican patties, veggie style. (Scroll past the meat filling details and you'll see what I'm talking about.) Spend an afternoon on the weekend whipping up a batch, then you can freeze them individually, pack it...

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2007; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

What to Eat When You're Already Cooked

When the temperature hits 102 like it did yesterday in Washington, it's difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks, with that gunky layer of environmental haze muddling all cerebral functions. When it's this hot, I can hardly walk a straight line, feeling tipsy (but not in a good way), let alone figure out what to make for supper. When it's so hot that it feels like the oven is already on, why would any self-respecting soul turn that dial at dinnertime? This was the question I continued to ask myself as I wandered aimlessly at the Clarendon farmers' market late yesterday afternoon, in search of inspiration for a cool supper. Had my brain been fully operational, I would have noticed all the fixings for gazpacho right before me -- cucumbers, carrots, basil, peppers, tomatoes. There's no better time of the year to whip up this Spanish classic, which packs...

By Kim ODonnel | August 9, 2007; 11:44 AM ET | Comments (12)

Gluten-Free Adventuring

Today's Food section includes my profile of Jules Shepard and her gluten-free journey. Shepard, who lives in Catonsville, Md., has celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder that makes eating gluten a living nightmare. Shepard shares the ins and outs of her adventures in perfecting a gluten-free flour mix and a few recipes from her book, "Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating." Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. (Kim O'Donnel) While writing the story, I tested Shepard's recipes for gluten-free scones, chocolate chip cookies and pizza dough. All of the linked recipes include how-to details for Shepard's trademarked "All Purpose Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix," a combination of softer starches and flours that mimic the taste and texture of whole-wheat flour. The chocolate chip cookies are undetectable in their gluten-free qualities - you'd never know the difference. The scones are fluffier than their whole wheat-based counterparts, but as Shepard promised, they are packed...

By Kim ODonnel | August 8, 2007; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (31)

Planning a Last Supper

We all know that life is short. But let's be honest: Do we ever do anything about it? Do we live as fully as we can, savoring each moment, enjoying each breath, or perhaps each bite? With a birthday coming up, I'm doing a bit of waxing philosophical, contemplating this thing called mortality and the art of living as if today were my last. The following quote from poet Emily Dickinson comes to mind: That it will never come again Is what makes life so sweet. I got to thinking, if I knew my days were numbered, how would I spend them, and more importantly, what would my last meal be? Most the time, life is not so kind, taking us without advance warning, but with a wee bit of notice, imagine the feast that could be planned. Remember Armande Voizin, the cranky old lady played by Judi Dench in...

By Kim ODonnel | August 7, 2007; 11:36 AM ET | Comments (18)

How Far Does $20 Go at the Farm Market?

It's National Farmers Market Week, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The big guy, Secretary Mike Johanns, even signed a proclamation for the occasion, giving an official high-five to farmers' markets all week long, through this Saturday, Aug. 11. I wish there was a produce party or related festivities to point you to (although that's an idea worth mulling over for next year), but I suppose you could argue that farmers' markets already are a riot of colors, aromas and flavors, and there's a party going on every week in your neighborhood during growing season. Last year, the USDA recorded 4,385 markets nationwide, an 18 percent increase since 2004. When it does a 2007 tally, it will be able to add three more locations to the growing list of Washington area markets, including Bloomingdale Market (Sundays, 10 am.-2 p.m, until mid-November), a producer-only market at First and R Streets,...

By Kim ODonnel | August 6, 2007; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (31)

The Cobbler-Top Debate

A summer without cobbler is like ______________________ For me, it's like a morning without coffee, a Sunday without the paper, a kitchen without garlic. Something feels amiss, not quite right. (Feel free to fill in the blank and weigh in below in the comments area.) Blackberries cobbled with topping, Nigel Slater's way. (Kim O'Donnel) It's right around this time of year when blackberries and peaches are bursting at market that I get a yen for cobbler. Last Sunday, I brought home 2 pints of blackberries with drupelets (the small clusters of small fruits) taller than my thumb, resembling a beehive hairdo that Marge Simpson might envy. (By the way, the fruit clusters are not called brambles, as I had mistakenly assumed. The bramble is the actual plant, which is a thorny bush, and to bramble means to pick wild blackberries.) They are almost too pretty to eat, but don't waste...

By Kim ODonnel | August 3, 2007; 9:40 AM ET | Comments (22)

Getting Fresh: Fry Those Green Tomatoes

As a Yankee girl, I was unfamiliar with the southern notion of fried green tomatoes until 1991, when the dish's namesake movie starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy et al. was released. Watching "Fried Green Tomatoes" was a magical experience, a peek into a world about which I knew so little -- the South -- and I remember being both enchanted by the small-town intimacy of the Whistlestop Café and horrified by the racism. Cornmeal-coated fried green tomatoes. (Kim O'Donnel) Not until 1996, though, did I have my first up-close experience with a fried green tomato. I was working as a line cook at Cashion's Eat Place, where I become intimately acquainted with the deep fryer. One of the signature dishes on chef Ann Cashion's hand-written menu, was fritto misto, a classic Italian dish of fried seafood. But Cashion, who's from Jackson, Miss., added a southern twist to this dish with...

By Kim ODonnel | August 2, 2007; 9:49 AM ET | Comments (8)

Veal Cheeks, Soy Sauce and Cheap Choppers

There were lots of extra unanswered questions from yesterday's What's Cooking discussion. Below, a sampler, plus a lil' extra sumpin' from a cherry-loving reader... Silver Spring, Md.: Are veal cheeks exactly what they say they are? I always assumed so (though I've never ordered them, nor do I plan to), but others told me recently that they were a different cut of meat. If the word cheeks is a facial reference rather than a posterior, one then yes, you're on the right track. Just like human mammals, cows (baby cows) have two cheeks on each side of the face, a muscle responsible for controlling the action of the mouth. Because it is a muscle, the cheek requires slow cooking on low heat (also known as braising) to coax it into rich, tender meat. Usually, you'll find them on menus during colder menus, when people are hankering for stews. Arlington, Va.:...

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2007; 8:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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