Archive: September 2007

A Proper Pre-Boarding Menu

While sharing nibbles from my trip to Seattle last month, I neglected to mention a delightful epicurean experience in the most unlikely of places -- the airport. In all fairness, Sea-Tac, the airport serving the Seattle/Tacoma, Wash. area, offers a variety of dining options that keep sub-par nacho opportunities to a minimum. Mister MA and I were flying cross country on Southwest, which means stocking the carry-on baggage pantry for the long airborne journey. Little did we know that after the security line we were in store for a groovy wine bar offering tempting edibles to take on board. The delicious find in question is the cleverly named Vino Volo ("volo" means flight in Italian), a brilliant new concept now available in five airports around the country, including two in the Washington area. In fact, the very first Vino Volo opened its doors in September, 2005, at Dulles (Concourse C,...

By Kim ODonnel | September 28, 2007; 8:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Soy Saucy Affair

Soy sauce was the raison d'etre for a most lavish affair last night at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complete with a receiving line, political big wigs, a video message from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, flowing booze, incredible sushi and a taiko drum performance, all MC'd by former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers (whose first encounter with Kikkoman was in the early 1970s when he was stationed in Japan). Specifically, the root of all the hoopla is Kikkoman , the global condiment giant that is celebrating 50 years of doing business in this country. The company, owned and operated by the Mogi family -- 17 generations! -- has been in the soy sauce business since the 17th century. Kikkoman first came to this part of the world in the late 1800s, exporting to Hawaii well before it was a state. In 1957, Kikkoman opened its first U.S. headquarters in...

By Kim ODonnel | September 27, 2007; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (10)

Chat Leftovers: Barley, Date Night Menu and Party Drink Planning

There were too many good questions left hanging in the What's Cooking queue yesterday; below, a few for the road that bear consideration and your feedback, of course: Silver Spring, Md.: What is the difference between pearl barley and whole barley. I bought whole rather than pearl. Will it need more cooking time or more liquid to substitute? Whole barley (aka hulled barley, and on occasion, pot barley) is the more nutritious of the two, with only the outer husk removed, whereas pearl parley is "pearled" - which means steamed, polished and stripped of its bran coating. Thing is, pearl barley cooks much faster; a one-cup portion takes about 35 minutes to cook, about half the time it takes to cook the same amount of hulled barley. In "A New Way to Cook," Sally Schneider recommends that hulled barley, like other chewy whole grains, benefit from being soaked for several...

By Kim ODonnel | September 26, 2007; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chewing Gum As Eye Candy

I have no idea when last I gave my jaws a workout on a piece of chewing gum, and it's been even longer since I purchased my very own pack. The refusal to support the corn syrup industry notwithstanding, I've got nothing against the stuff -- except when I step into a wad carelessly spewed onto the pavement by some miscreant, or better yet, unknowingly park my butt into a gum-encrusted movie seat waiting for me like a mischief night prankster. Looking at gum in a whole new way. (New York Magazine) And really, I'm okay if you're okay chewing with your mouth open, tongue and teeth snapping against the give and the pull of an edible rubber band, making more noise than the youngsters in the Great Ape House at the National Zoo in a race to maximize a flavor surge that lasts about as long as the average...

By Kim ODonnel | September 25, 2007; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (3)

Humbled by Phyllo Dough

It's Friday night, and I'm thinking I've got everything under control for my baklava experiment on Sunday, buying the ingredients in advance, thawing my dough in the fridge as strongly recommended in several cookbooks, making my qater (simple syrup with a perfume-y twist) early enough to get it nice and cool. I was in good shape, no? Sunday afternoon, and I'm making the nut filling in the food processor, an earthy mix of walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. I've got melted fat on standby, the pan is greased and I'm ready to go. Baklava, at long last. (Kim O'Donnel) I open the fridge, pull out the package of dough, open the container, pull away the plastic. Wait. Something's not right. Where are all the tissued layers? I look for the packaging. Smarty pants here bought "Puff Pastry." Unlike the whisper-thin, easily torn sheets (phyllo literally means "leaf"), "puff" (aka pate...

By Kim ODonnel | September 24, 2007; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (18)

Fear of Phyllo Be Gone! Bring on the Baklava

Washington, D.C.: I know this sounds silly but I love baklava and have always wanted to try making it, but I have a terrible fear of failure mania that has prevented me from trying. I think I'm afraid of working with the phyllo that keeps drying out and breaking, even when covered with moist towel. Please help. Funny, I've long avoided baklava myself, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's always been too sweet? Or maybe I'm overwhelmed by phyllo dough as well. So we're going to do this together, Washington. This weekend, I'm taking the phyllo plunge, and I'm embarking on a maiden baklava voyage. Consider this a virtual holding of the hand, and I hope you'll join me in solidarity this weekend in your own kitchen. But first, a bit of baklava background is important. Picking a recipe, it seems, is like deciding on a favorite pair of...

By Kim ODonnel | September 21, 2007; 10:36 AM ET | Comments (4)

Italian Cookbooking

A What's Cooking reader who recently returned from a vacation in Italy is champing at the bit for "an authentic, not-too-difficult Italian cookbook" to recreate some of those magical moments at the table. Ah, Italia. Seven years have passed since I walked on Italian soil, but that place, it does something to you. Bewitching, magical and even a bit maddening, Italy gets under your skin and never lets you go. Some of us come back to our routines but we're never quite the same - we're constantly day dreaming. And others (who've got the right idea), such as food writers Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Faith Willinger and memoirist Marlena de Blasi return stateside merely to pack up their affairs and start a new life on the other side of the ocean. Some of you may know that I cut my teeth on Italian cucina, when I took a master course at...

By Kim ODonnel | September 20, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (6)

Looking for Sage Advice

In the spring, my dear friend Jennifer with the green thumb gave me a big pot of culinary herbs as a housewarming gift. Containing a mix of rosemary, lemon thyme and sage, the pot went straight to the back deck, joining the lavender and oregano. All summer long, I snipped sprigs from my lively herb garden and brought them into the kitchen for extemporaneous bursts of color and flavor, throwing them in everything from vinaigrettes to garnish. My wildly growing sage, ready for the kitchen. (Kim O'Donnel) Snip there I'd go again with the oregano, the thyme and my newly sprouted basil. But the sage, which was growing like crazy, was largely ignored, and frankly, other than Thanksgiving stuffing, I was at a loss over what to do with it. It was a shame, really, because sage (aka salvia officinalis) is quite beautiful and fragrant in a men's cologne sort...

By Kim ODonnel | September 19, 2007; 11:16 AM ET | Comments (30)

Breaking the Fast With Aunt Rita's Cake

After an early, pre-sunset dinner this Friday, Sept. 21, Jews will begin to observe Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that may include reflection, prayer and a 24-hour fast. By Saturday night, everyone is ready to chow and break the fast among family and friends, a repast that's usually heavy on the dairy and eggs. Aunt Rita's marble cake. (Kim O'Donnel) Over the past week, I've surveyed a bunch of friends about breaking the fast, and many of the menus looked the same - a carb-o-licious spread of bagels, cream cheese, smoked fish, noodle kugel and cake for dessert. But I liked the way my pal "Mister MG" describes the meal that he shares with his family every year: "It's a giant spread of bagels, cheeses, smoked fishes, noodle kugel and more. A great, fresh bagel, with smoked whitefish or sable, a slice of red onion, tomato and some sweet...

By Kim ODonnel | September 18, 2007; 10:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Passion for Purple Hull Peas

A Yank like me didn't know much 'bout fresh field peas growing up; many years would pass until I even felt a pod in my hand, zipped it open on its seam and smelled its earthiness. In fact, as a kid, I hardly ate beans at all, with the exception of the occasional can of chickpeas that my father would include on his antipasto platter of cured meats and cheese. (I can see that plate in my mind's eye, iceberg lettuce as a liner, salami and provolone cheese rolled up, toothpicks at the ready.) A close up of purple hulls, inside and out. (Kim O'Donnel) It seems that as an adult, I'm making up for lost time because now I can't get enough of beans. I can't imagine my life without them -- dried, canned, fresh, black, white, speckled -- they're all good in my book. Not until I became...

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2007; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Leave Me This Way, Basil Baby

In just nine short days, autumn officially takes over, which in this part of the country means bracing one's self for the end of so many warm-weather produce goodies, from Anaheim chiles to zucchini. I know, they'll all be back next year, but inevitably I get a bit wistful, pining for tangled cucumber vines and corn husks even as they disappear into the quickly fading sunset. At many farm markets, it will likely be the last hurrah for corn, peaches, cucumbers, and the delicately-leafed basil. Basil, on its way out for the season. (Kim O'Donnel) Yesterday afternoon, I faced a harsh reality, watching two basil-y bunches in a pitcher of water on the kitchen counter wilt before my eyes. I knew I had to act fast and make the most of what would probably be my final basil moment for the season. These leaves were useless for garnish or as...

By Kim ODonnel | September 14, 2007; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Nod to Indonesia

Last night's sunset was religiously momentous on two accounts; it marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as well as the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that includes, among many things, daily fasting. Although it's a little late in the game to offer up Rosh Hashanah menu ideas, I'm dedicating next Tuesday, Sept. 18, to a forum on breaking the fast, in time for Yom Kippur, which takes place on Friday, Sept. 21. It will be your chance to exchange tips and ideas for Saturday's repast after the 24-hour fast, so mark your calendars. I had other plans for today's blog space, but immediately scrapped them when I learned of yesterday's seismic rumblings on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which has spawned three earthquakes and a resulting -- albeit small --tsunami. (How the words "small" and "tsunami" can be in the same sentence is beyond me.) Indonesia isn't...

By Kim ODonnel | September 13, 2007; 12:13 PM ET | Comments (3)

Chat Leftovers: Purple Cabbage, Cheesy Grits and Meatless Meal Planning

There's never enough time to answer all of the questions that arrive in my What's Cooking queue each week; below, a few leftovers worth chewing on. Feel free to add your thoughts and kitchen insight in the comments area below. Alexandria, Va: My husband and I have decided to try and go meatless a little bit more and are attempting to make two dinners a week meat-free. We love beans and lentils, but don't want to make the foray into meat substitutes. This week's line-up includes a chickpea curry and your Syrian-style lentils. I'm thinking that eggplant parmesan and ratatouille are in our future. Other than those, I'm at a bit of a loss. What would you suggest to increase our menu horizons? You're off to a good start, Alexandria, but you're right, it's a good idea to have a stable of menu ideas to keep the meatless lineup diverse...

By Kim ODonnel | September 12, 2007; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (9)

A Quick Pickle Trick

My recent foray into home canning has inspired yet another exercise in culinary preservation - pickling. If you're a newbie like me, here's the 411: To pickle means to preserve food by soaking and storing it in a brine (salt water) or vinegar. To be in a pickle, well, that's another story that may require the assistance of advice columnist Carolyn Hax. Yes, Virginia, pickles come from cucumbers. (Kim O'Donnel) I remember as a kid chomping on my dill pickle that came with my diner/deli favorites, such as grilled cheese and corned beef on rye, and asking my father where pickles come from. When he told me cucumbers, I didn't believe him. (Go figure; I believed in Santa until I was ten, but pickles from cucumbers - not a chance.) More experienced picklers know that the cuke isn't the only pickled game in town; there's a wide world of brined...

By Kim ODonnel | September 11, 2007; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (4)

The Time Is Now for Ratatouille

"September is the best time of year for the market," declared Mister Mighty Appetite as we strolled through Arlington Courthouse market on Saturday morning. I had just been thinking the same thing. September, in this part of the country, brings together the best of both worlds -- the climax of summer crops and the debut of cooler-weather, underground goodies hinting at the upcoming change of season. The choices are overwhelming. The jewels of summer, at their peak, for a limited time only. (Kim O'Donnel) But for right now, this very moment, it's the horn of plenty, a brief window with the most glorious view, a still life painting everywhere you turn and a bursting bubble of aromas and flavors. Who needs drugs when an intense sensory high is at the fingertips? With such a rare and temporary opportunity of produce riches, now is the time to fire up the stoves...

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

Adventures in Home Canning

It took a cross-country flight, a ferry ride, a two-hour drive and a lady named Midge from Indiana for me to learn the fine art of canning. While planning my trip to Seattle earlier this summer, I asked my friend Kate, a self-proclaimed hippie who's done her fair share of homesteading and living off the land, if she could teach me how to can. Much to my surprise, Kate was equally in the dark as this home-canning rube, so we agreed to embark on this adventure together. A view of the Olympic Mountains from Kate's front yard in Port Angeles. (Leslie Silverman) It was decided that the canning extravaganza would take place at Kate's house in Port Angeles, Wash. About 90 miles northwest of Seattle, Port Angeles is a funky Olympic Mountain town known for Dungeness crabs, endless lavender fields and its close proximity to Victoria, B.C. It's also where...

By Kim ODonnel | September 7, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pie Auction 101

The word "auction" conjures up many associations -- art, cars, cows, bachelors, antiques, produce -- but last weekend while in Seattle, I added another commodity to the list: pies. For some of you folks who come from the country, the pie auction may be old hat, but for this city mouse, it was a culinary first. Pies on the bidding table at Seattle's first Blues for Foodfest. (Kim O'Donnel) I got wind of the crusty hullabaloo from Seattle community gardener Deb Rock, the brains and organizer of Blues for Foodfest, a blues festival with new twist. Rock, who coordinates a "P-Patch" community garden that I profiled in last year's blog space, spearheaded this musical event with the goal of raising money and awareness for the 70-plus Seattle community gardens that donate several tons of produce to area food banks every year. My friend Leslie and I, pie auction virgins in...

By Kim ODonnel | September 6, 2007; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Best Chocolate Is in Seattle

During my visit to Seattle last year, a group of us were enjoying the last of our wine at The Incredible Feast, an al fresco grazing fest that raises money and awareness for Washington state family farms. Kate, who had just played a round of darts, was very excited with her winnings, a few bars of a locally produced chocolate called 3400 Phinney. We peeled away the wrappers, and as we nibbled, we all agreed that yeah, this is good chocolate, very good. But little did I know just over a year ago that good was just the beginning for Joseph Whinney, whose young Theo Chocolate company is now on the cusp of greatness. One afternoon last week, while my pal Leslie and I were strolling through Fremont, a neighborhood chockfull of funky boutiques and coffee shops, she points out the Theo headquarters, a combination cocoa bean roastery, chocolate factory...

By Kim ODonnel | September 5, 2007; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

Seattle: So Many Bites, So Little Time

For the fourth summer in a row, I vacationed in Seattle, one of the best places on earth to be in August. Locals were complaining that there hasn't much of the reputedly glorious summer to speak of, but last week's weather was simply stellar, with abundant sunshine. Lucky doesn't even come close to describing our sleeping arrangements; while I bunked at my friend Leslie's houseboat on Lake Union, Mister Mighty Appetite crashed at his pal Nymo's apartment on the beach in West Seattle. What more could we ask for? As indicated in last week's blog space, there's much love and appreciation for Seattle's cornucopia of local drinks and eats -- from beer to berries and back again (and many thanks for all your suggestions). My only complaint about Seattle is that there's never enough time to do everything on the wish list. I was hoping to check out the Seattle...

By Kim ODonnel | September 4, 2007; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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