Archive: October 2007

Halloween Looking Glass

I was Elvis once. A can of Campbell's soup, too A faded photograph reveals that I was a football player Back in the day And a for a brief moment, I Transformed into Pippi Longstocking (I think). O'Donnel Halloween, 1976. (Kim O'Donnel) The details are sketchy But as my mind's eye travels Back in time I can see the old neighborhood And the 100-pound cut-out pumpkin Perched on the wheelbarrow in the front yard On Penarth Road. My father's doing. He loved Halloween. I can smell the damp leaves That rustled under our feet As my brothers and I, and our assorted friends (I can see Julie Lerner, who lived around the corner) Set out at dusk Plastic pumpkins in tow For our evening of Candy begging. ...Trick or treat Smell my feet Give me something Good to eat.... I can hear the chanting The trick-or-treater's plea The candy mantra...

By Kim ODonnel | October 31, 2007; 9:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

Weeknight Indian Hot Pot

The recent chill in the air has me hankering for a hot meal. A steaming pot of something - soup, stew, curry - it doesn't matter as long I can tuck into a bowl and eat with a spoon. Although I've got a nice reliable stable of hot pot recipes for this time of year, I'm always looking for more ways to fire up the belly. The challenge for many cooks, including myself, is hot-potting during the week; if the dish takes longer than an hour, start to finish, it probably will have to wait until the weekend when there's more time to play at the stove. Indian hot pot in less than an hour. (Kim O'Donnel) As the sun did its last dance yesterday around five, I began leafing through the pages of "Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking," an oldie but goodie (it has just been reprinted...

By Kim ODonnel | October 30, 2007; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Thanksgiving Magazine Roundup

If you've waited in a supermarket checkout line lately, chances are you've caught up on the dedicated-to-Thanksgiving special issues from food magazines. I rounded up six of them during a recent checkout, and have since leafed through, scribbled notes and made an assessment: Not one stands above the rest or inspires me to take this year's Thanksgiving feast to a new level. Thank goodness for my back issues from years past, which seem to cover the basics and have more of an instructional focus. I know, it must be challenging for mag editors to come up with a new Thanksgiving theme year after year, but I gotta say, I'm left feeling un-wowed. Below, my notes; please weigh in and offer thoughts on additional magazines that have either helped or hindered this year's preparation. BON APPETIT Can you judge a magazine by its cover? Focus on the contents of the plate...

By Kim ODonnel | October 29, 2007; 11:32 AM ET | Comments (29)

Getting Handy With Candy Corn

Many of you may know that one of my secret guilty pleasures is making candy, particularly if it's the home-spun version of something typically found in the supermarket candy aisle. To that end, I've taken on marshmallows, lollipops, caramel apples, pumpkin seed brittle and chocolate truffles. Home-spun candy corn. (Kim O'Donnel) Imagine my delight when I learned that I could make my own candy corns, one of my all-time Halloween favorites, even with its high fructose corn syrup content. All I need is a handful to take care of my annual fix, so I make an exception and bite off those little white waxy tips (not a perception but a reality -- candy corns do contain carnauba wax, the same ingredient used in mascara and shoe polish). Thanks to the folks at Bon Appetit, the DYI candy corn party got started when they tinkered with the stuff this time last...

By Kim ODonnel | October 26, 2007; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (7)

Fruitcake Update

Nearly two weeks ago, I announced my plans to embark on a virgin journey into fruitcake territory, a land of dried (and sometimes candied) fruit, booze and a whole lot of waiting. My guide, LaurelAnn Morley, a chef-restaurateur in Barbados who's made more than her fair share of fruitcakes, recommends that the fruit get a good long soak in an alcohol bath for up to one month before you even consider making the cake batter. Fruitcake fruit steeping in spirits. (Kim O'Donnel) Since I now have permission to do a shorter soak, I got my fruit going last weekend and plan to keep it marinating until the first week of November, which translates into two weeks and some change. (Even shorter soaks of a few days are permissible, says Miz LaurelAnn.) After the first few days, I noticed how quickly the fruit had absorbed the alcohol, resulting in a more...

By Kim ODonnel | October 25, 2007; 6:58 AM ET | Comments (1)

I Killed My Pork, Again

The headline above is how one reader got my attention in yesterday's What's Cooking. Below, the details on the pork-y misadventures: For the life of me I can't manage to cook pork chops correctly. The only time I was successful was when I first coated the chops in eggs and then crumbled up Doritos and then sauted in a pan on both sides. Last night I seared one-inch-thick chops on both sides for about 3 min/side and then put in an oven proof pan with some stock and wine at the bottom, covered with aluminum foil and cooked for an hour at 300. They were definitely cooked through but dry (even though there was plenty of liquid left). What am I doing wrong? What can I do with the leftover two pork chops? What should I do the next time? Sounds like a case of the overcooked blues, dear. Nothing...

By Kim ODonnel | October 24, 2007; 8:58 AM ET | Comments (15)

The Great Pumpkin Menu

Do you say "pumpkin" or "squash"? Pumpkin has a much better ring to it, I think; as Elizabeth Schneider writes in "Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini," it's "a more pleasing word to me than the long-winded term 'large hard-skinned squash.'" So when did we North Americans botch up the works and start calling the Halloween jack o'lantern a pumpkin and recognize the rest of the cucurbita maxima, moschata and pepo families as "squash?" Why can't we keep things simple like lovers of orange-fleshed vined plants in other parts of the world -- Australia, the Caribbean and southern Africa -- and call a pumpkin a pumpkin? (Because it would be too easy, like metrics.) Pumpkin still life: Golden Kabocha (left); Butternut (rear) and Buttercup (right) (Kim O'Donnel). Whatever you call the tough-skinned beauties, they are autumnal eye candy, showing off their glistening oranges, golds, gray-blues and Mallard greens, and their many...

By Kim ODonnel | October 23, 2007; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (7)

Tea Geeks

"It's time for tea," Mary Lou Heiss declared to me in our phone conversation last week. And in this case, Heiss, who owns a specialty foods shop in western Massachusetts with her husband, Robert, doesn't mean that the kettle is on. Instead, she means that tea, as an artisanal product, is finally getting its due in the United States. "Earlier this year, we went to the World Tea Expo, a sort of newish trade show (it launched in 2003), and we met so many people who are about to start a tea business," says Heiss. "Within the next year, tea is going to explode." Tea experts Mary Lou Heiss and Robert Heiss. (Steve Garfield) The Heiss's, who sell about 120 kinds of loose-leaf tea at their store, Cooks Shop Here, have just published "The Story of Tea," an impressive body of work that is part travel journal, brewing manual, history...

By Kim ODonnel | October 22, 2007; 7:32 AM ET | Comments (16)

United States of Corn

"From the corn syrup in your soda pop to the corn starch that makes your paper more printable -- corn is all around you!" -- Iowa Corn Growers Association Web site It also happens to be in your hair. That's what filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney find out when they have their hair analyzed for carbon isotopes at a University of Virginia lab. The results: Their hair is loaded with the stuff. This startling discovery sets the stage for a year-long corn-growing experiment in Iowa and the raison d'etre for their documentary, "King Corn." Best friends at Yale (class of 2002), Cheney and Ellis -- along with Ellis's cousin, documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who directs the film -- moved to Greene, Iowa in 2004 and chronicled their adventures of growing a leased acre of corn in the middle of the corn kingdom. (To wit: in 2005, Iowa farmers grew...

By Kim ODonnel | October 19, 2007; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Divine Bites of Inspiration

Yesterday, I met two women visiting from Ghana. For the past ten days, Cecilia Donkur, 62, and Cecilia Appianim, 47, have been traveling around the country talking about the chocolate brand they own and the cocoa beans they grow. In fact, they've got to fly home this weekend, as the second cocoa harvest of the year is underway and there's much work to be done. The West African nation of Ghana is cocoa country; it is the world's second largest producer after Cote d'Ivoire, producing an average of 640,000 tons a year, a figure based on stats from the Vienna, Va.- based World Cocoa Foundation. Last year, 3.7 million tons of cocoa was produced worldwide, 70 percent of which came from West Africa. (Other African cocoa producers are Cameroon and Nigeria.) Ghanaian cocoa farmers Cecilia Donkur (left) and Cecilia Appianim (right). (Kim O'Donnel) Sounds like big business -- and it...

By Kim ODonnel | October 18, 2007; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Broccoli Dip, Hold the Cheez

Catonsville, Md. I make a spicy broccoli dip recipe my family always requests, but it uses Velveeta cheese. I would rather not use something packed with chemicals, but I'm worried to try the recipe with regular cheddar cheese, which seems too thick. Have you ever found a substitute for Velveeta? Do you have any recommendations for what I might try? Don't be scared, Catonsville; you can make your very own cheese sauce using a combination of Cheddar and Monterey Jack and be done with that yellow box for good. Earlier this year, I tweaked a recipe for queso, the classic melted cheese dip that inevitably makes its way to the Super Bowl party table, and had smooth, delicious results. The key is to start off with a roux -- equal parts fat and flour -- followed by a hearty helping of heavy cream (I didn't say this was low fat),...

By Kim ODonnel | October 17, 2007; 9:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

'Tis the Season - for Cookbooks

Autumn means crackling leaves as well as cookbooks, which are showing up in droves at my doorstep. There are simply too many titles to mention in one article, so while the season is hot, I'll dish up a few at a time in an ongoing cookbook alert. Here's a taste of today's featured titles. If you've been the slightest bit curious about oysters or want to expand your bi-valved horizons, A Geography of Oysters" by Rowan Jacobsen has your name all over it. Jacobsen, a staff writer for the quarterly food mag Art of Eating, shares his love of the oyster, which began at the age of 12, an experience he describes passionately from get-go and one that set the stage for his equally impassioned guide to eating oysters in North America. In many respects, Jacobsen's book is a travel book, chockful of maps and lists of oyster bars and...

By Kim ODonnel | October 16, 2007; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (15)

A Sweet Potato Two-Fer

I had a moment yesterday that only can happen at the neighborhood farmers' market, an affirming moment when I exclaim, "This is why I shop locally!" As I glanced over the selection of seasonal fruits and veg at the stand of Flowers of the Forest Farm in Great Mills, Md., I spotted a crate of greens that I had never seen before. The I saw the sign which read: "Sweet Potato Greens, $2/pound." Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens. (Kim O'Donnel) I asked the farmer how I might prepare them - they are so tender, and she agreed, mentioning they might go well in a raw salad with other greens. Then James, the vendor who sells baked goods for Grace's Pastries, walked over and chimed in. He says back home in his native Liberia sweet potato greens are a beloved dish. "We fry them," he says, looking excited to...

By Kim ODonnel | October 15, 2007; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (5)

Gearing Up for Fruitcake Season

Earlier this week, a What's Cooking reader expressed an interest in making fruitcake, the centuries-old dessert that Americans love to ridicule and Brits love to celebrate. Also known as plum cake, Christmas cake, black cake and wedding cake, fruitcake is a rich, dense cake studded with dried and candied fruit and usually marinated in booze for several weeks, sometimes months. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the fruit cake can be traced to the Middle Ages, when dried fruit began to arrive in Britain from Portugal and the E. Mediterranean. Sugar was cheap and plentiful, a reason to dip the dried fruit to further preserve and "candy" it. It's not clear exactly when alcohol entered the fruitcake equation, but recipe references to Madeira, rum and brandy all point in the direction of the 17th century, when British colonists boarded ships for the West Indies. The former British colony of...

By Kim ODonnel | October 12, 2007; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (18)

Don't Worry, Be Heart-Happy With Walnuts

The ongoing debate over eating fish continued last week with the release of two studies which both determine that the benefits outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women and children. For the consumer, it's yet another wrinkle added to the already-confusing conundrum of weighing the heart-healthy benefits versus mercury and PCB contamination that has become a great cause of concern, particularly for women of child-bearing age and children. Omega-3-rich walnut cookies. (Kim O'Donnel) It's been long established that seafood, by and large, is a leaner way to get your daily dose of protein, than, say from a big ole rack of fatty ribs or a T-bone steak. But the more recently touted advantage of eating fish is the heart-healthy effects of Omega-3 fatty acids. Quickly defined, Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, which means that the body needs them, doesn't produce them and must get them from food. There are...

By Kim ODonnel | October 11, 2007; 12:37 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Food That Makes You Cry

"What food makes you cry?" my friend Papa Joe asked me the other day. "What do you mean exactly?" "Well, something when you eat it, evokes an emotion, takes you to other parts of your life." "Interesting question," I replied. "What food makes you cry?" "A turkey sandwich," he said matter-of-factly. "The day after Thanksgiving, when I was growing up, my mom, who's since passed, would make me a turkey sandwich, thinly slicing the meat right off the bone. While she sliced the meat, she'd explain to me how to make a turkey sandwich, and I never really paid attention. Since she died, whenever I eat a turkey sandwich, I think about her, and I now remember everything about the way she made it: The soft bread. The turkey, thinly sliced. The mayonnaise. The salt and the pepper." "I know it's simple stuff, just a turkey sandwich," he added. In...

By Kim ODonnel | October 10, 2007; 12:03 PM ET | Comments (10)

Rotten Tomato Blues

I woke up this morning....and smelled something bad ....(Maybe this is the beginning of a great blues song?) Mister Mighty Appetite didn't smell nothin' And he was sittin' right by the smell I thought for a moment Maybe I'm dreaming But no, no, no Baby That smell It was comin' From that box of Roma tomatoes Sitting on the dining room table I open the box And half my Romas They were smellin' real bad Turning into vinegar I was gagging a tad Pappa al pomodoro, made from rescued Romas. (Kim O'Donnel) I dumped out the bad ones And rescued the rest Those red ladies were cryin' Cryin' real bad "Baby, please do somethin' Somethin' real fast We don't want to turn Into tomato gas." I thought for a moment As I sipped on my Joe It's a wee early For cookin' But if I don't do something Those 'maters...

By Kim ODonnel | October 9, 2007; 11:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Signs of Thanksgiving; Nap Time

Just a quick note to check in and to let you know that I've emerged from my cookbook-writing cave and have survived the ordeal. Mister MA stepped right up to the plate and kept this desk jockey well nourished and nurtured. He gets a gold star. This is all to say that I'm taking the day off from writing in this space in order to recharge and dish up something delicious in tomorrow's space. Even in seclusion, I noticed that the word "Thanksgiving" has begun to surface in the usual places. Local farms are now accepting orders for Thanksgiving turkeys. Yesterday, I noticed a sign-up sheet at the Smithfresh Meats stand at Columbia Pike farmers' market. Local apple cider is here too, a welcome addition to my fridge. Keep your eyes peeled for the much-anticipated arrival of pear cider, a nectar of the goddesses that is usually available for a...

By Kim ODonnel | October 8, 2007; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cook for Me, Please

It's Friday, but this week, I won't be able to join you for cocktails. No playtime for KOD this weekend, I'm afraid. All week long, I've been burning the midnight oil, working into the wee hours of the morning in order to meet a deadline for my forthcoming holiday cookbook, and the frantic pace will continue right into the weekend. Yeah, I know, whine, complain. Pity me not (Although a massage would be lovely right about now, and there's a pimple on my right cheek that needs to disappear); I willingly embarked on this train and must endure the crazy ride for a little bit longer. But really what I need this weekend is a cook, someone who knows exactly how to feed a brain in overdrive, a nervous system that's a bit rattled and a spirit that could easily be defeated. Someone, please save me from the Pringles can...

By Kim ODonnel | October 5, 2007; 1:08 PM ET | Comments (22)

Chat Leftovers: Cast Iron Cleaning, Restaurant Supply Shops

Some real goodies leftover from this week's What's Cooking chat inspired today's post that covers cast iron, pumpkin-centric partying and public-access restaurant supply shops. Here's the lowdown: Charlotte, N.C.: I'm wondering about maintaining my cast iron skillet. My wife scolded me for scrubbing it with dish detergent. I try to spray it with oil after I use it. Any suggestions on the proper way to care for cast iron cookware? Well, you're both right, kinda sorta. There are lots of schools of thought on how to clean cast iron cookware; some argue that even a drop of detergent will ruin the seasoning. Most veteran cast-iron enthusiasts, however, agree that long soaks in water will ruin the sought-after nonstick layer, which means starting over from scratch and re-seasoning the pan. My thoughts on cleaning both my cast-iron skillet and wok is that a small amount of soap (a few drops) applied...

By Kim ODonnel | October 4, 2007; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (10)

What to Do With a Box of Romas? Slow Roast'em

I was at the farmers' market, but I felt like I was at Bingo night with a winning card or at a half-price shoe sale. SCORE! It was Sunday morning, and Mister MA and I had rolled out of bed for our weekly ritual at Columbia Pike farm market. While he sipped on coffee and chatted with the farmers, I filled our bags with chard, celeriac, lamb chops, a loaf of bread and mustardy greens. My tomato bounty. (Kim O'Donnel) As I walked past the Toigo Orchards stand, I noticed something different from the usual set up of apples, pears and peaches. Perched behind the two guys working the stand was a huge box of Roma tomatoes, its inside lid functioning as a sign, which read: "10$ the box." My heart began to race. Oh man, the things I could do with that many tomatoes, I thought. I motioned to...

By Kim ODonnel | October 3, 2007; 11:23 AM ET | Comments (18)

The Gillian School of Cooking

Lemon curd. That's what I learned on my first day as a line cook rookie at Cashion's Eat Place in the summer of 1996. Emily, the pastry chef, had set me up with a pot of butter, egg yolks, sugar lemon juice and zest, instructing me to whisk constantly, so that the eggs wouldn't curdle. I was to holler when the mixture was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Because I didn't know any better, I whisked the curd using my entire arm, rather than my wrist, an error that quickly tuckered me out and made me feel faint. That's when Gillian walked in. She pushed open the kitchen doors and demanded to know who the new girl was, and stupidly I told her I wasn't feeling very well. "Are you pregnant?" she barked. "Um, I don't think so," I said sheepishly. I better not be, is...

By Kim ODonnel | October 2, 2007; 9:51 AM ET | Comments (3)

A Hot New York Minute

The only thing that isn't fast in New York is the traffic. Everything else about the city of cities travels at warp speed, a phenomenon I was reminded of during my 29-hour jaunt over the weekend. I practically beamed myself up north -- or so it seemed -- on an Acela ride that was just 2 hours, 45 minutes long. Minutes after the train rolled into Penn Station, I was on a subway car going east and disembarked at 57th Street, a scene of more-than-average Big Apple chaos that included a seemingly endless motorcade escorting heads of state in town for the U.N. General Assembly. And then, poof! with the whoosh of a hotel door, I was in yet another universe, the I.M. Pei-designed lobby of the Four Seasons hotel. There I met my friend Jeff and CulinaryCorps colleague, who was joining me for lunch at 57, where our CC...

By Kim ODonnel | October 1, 2007; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (5)

 

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