Archive: December 2007

Peas and Rice Make the New Year Nice

In the south, they say luck and fortune is on your side if Hoppin' John stops by on New Year's Day. The exact origins of the name remain fuzzy, but the culinary legacy of melding field peas (of which black-eyes are one type) and rice are crystal clear, a direct link to the African slave trade, particularly in rice-rich South Carolina. It's been said that field peas represent coins, clearing the way for fortune to enter one's home (perhaps the only way to keep hope alive for better days ahead), and you'd double your chances with a pot of collard greens, which represent cash, aka greenbacks. Although I wasn't raised with this tradition up north, I must have enjoyed it in a previous life because I wouldn't have New Year's Day any other way. It makes sense to me to channel my hopes and aspirations through a simmering pot of...

By Kim ODonnel | December 31, 2007; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (7)

Twelve Under-$20 Ways to Snack Well on New Year's Eve

If you're looking for my advice on whether to eat in or dine out on New Year's Eve, aka the strangest night of the year, I'd rather not, if that's okay. There's something to be said for going to your favorite neighborhood joint and letting someone else do the work. Such a convenience, however, comes double-fisted with potentially frustrating challenges of ringing in the new year out on the town -- overcrowded dining rooms, overworked servers, crazy drivers on the roads -- plus a hefty price tag. For me, the key is not whether you curl up at home or venture out into the world -- but that the evening is both simple and cheap. Of course, "cheap" is a relative term, but my point here is to be kind to your exhausted holiday wallet and work within your budget. Wait, there's one more (well, two more) important pieces: Do...

By Kim ODonnel | December 28, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (11)

Momentous Crumbs of 2007

As 2007 comes to a close, I will take time this week -- as I like to do -- to reflect on the past 12 months of my life, my kitchen and the community at large. The milestones of any given year are unique to each one of us, because we are all writing our own life stories -- but they are also shared because at any given moment at any GPS location, someone is experiencing birth, death, joy, sadness, love or anguish. Someone somewhere is also stirring a pot, or boiling water for tea, catching a bag of rice dropped from a UN helicopter, peeling a mango or praying for rain so that the crops can grow. Food is yet another other link in our chain of human experience that makes this world very small and all of its human snowflakes so very interconnected. And so, in reviewing my...

By Kim ODonnel | December 27, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (6)

What's Your Christmas Tradition?

A recent e-mail from "Dionysia," a reader in Adelaide, S. Australia, prompted today's post about Christmas feasting traditions. In her note, she writes: We usually have a cold Christmas lunch with prawns and interesting salads and my mum's stuffing (It's a Greek recipe, and she bakes them in muffin tins now, and freezes them.) No one that keen here on Christmas pudding, so I do my Strawberry tart and mum does her Greek trifle. Over in the Southern hemisphere, where swimming is more likely than sledding on Christmas Day, a cooling repast sounds just about right. Alas, climate doesn't determine all menus -- I've been to Christmas lunches in the sunny eastern Caribbean, where the spread includes heat-stoking dishes such as oven-roasted ham, macaroni pie and fried fish -- oh, and lots of rum. Culinary holiday traditions are as equally imprinted by several other indelible ingredients -- family history, ethnic...

By Kim ODonnel | December 24, 2007; 9:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cookie Cutters Gone Funny

I was done with making holiday cookies, really I was. But as soon as I got a glimpse of the ABC* (*already been chewed) cookie cutters by Fred, a Rhode Island design company, I just couldn't resist. It's rare that we allow ourselves an opportunity to make fun in the midst of all the holiday merriment, and this set of aluminum cookie cutters with missing body parts is a refreshing antidote to the seasonal madness of the not-so-fun variety. ABC cookie cutters and their real-life models. (Kim O'Donnel) One of these things is not like the others -- and I love it! I had some leftover gluten-free gingerbread dough, so I put the cutters to the test last night, and they performed er, um, beautifully. Washington pranksters, you can get your hands on a set for $10 at Tabletop in Dupont Circle, and a last-minute call revealed that the store...

By Kim ODonnel | December 24, 2007; 7:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Foods of Solstice

According to the stargazers at the U.S. Naval Observatory, tomorrow, Dec. 22, is the first day of winter, beginning at 1:08 a.m. ET. It is also the shortest and darkest day in the Northern hemisphere, which means late rise and early to bed - and that at high noon, it's the farthest south in the sky. From a seasonal point of view, tomorrow is a day of both death and rebirth, because even though it's dark, the trees are naked and the squirrels have retired to their nests, the cycle is continuous, every day inching bit by bit towards longer days and the coming of spring in all its glory. Despite how frantic you may feel during the holidays, winter is a season of rest, restoration and reflection. Just last night, my friend Suzanne said that she was "looking forward to winter and being forced to spending time indoors." I...

By Kim ODonnel | December 21, 2007; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Your Chocolate Groove On

Marcel Desaulniers is hard-core when it comes to chocolate. His e-mail moniker is Goganache, for crying out loud. In 15 years, the chef-author has written six choco-filled cookbooks, covering every nook and cranny in the cacao world from cakes to pie, brownies to truffles, and then there's ice cream, of course. If you're still looking for a holiday gift for the chocoholic in your life, Desaulnier's latest endeavor, "I'm Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas," may be just the ticket. Nothing seems too complicated in this collection of 70-plus recipes, which read clearly and offer guidance. Golly Polly's Doodles. (Kim O'Donnel) Earlier this fall, Desaulniers, who's chef/owner of The Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Va., and I shared a table at The National Press Club's book fair, a proximity that allowed me to get a real mouthful of treats from his new book. I immediately fell in love with his Golly Polly's...

By Kim ODonnel | December 20, 2007; 9:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

Home Coffee Brewing 101

I remember the first time I walked into a Peet's Coffee store in San Francisco in the mid-1980s. It felt so exotic, and wow, you could buy bags of beans to take home! I was between my freshman and sophomore years in college, and a new coffee drinker, starting my day off with a tantalizing cup of Maxwell House brewed automatic drip-style, served with one teaspoon of Carnation Coffee-Mate and one Sweet-n-Low. I remember packing a bag of beans in my suitcase to share this way-cool California coffee with my mother. Back East, we didn't know much about coffee, except the oft-burned brews that were poured at the local diner or bakery, and Peet's would remain a fond memory years before I ever set foot in a Seattle Starbucks store in the early 1990s. (A few interesting worlds-colliding tidbits in West coast coffee history: When Starbucks opened its first store...

By Kim ODonnel | December 19, 2007; 9:36 AM ET | Comments (20)

The Peppermint Patty Project

A few weeks ago, some of you expressed interest in learning more about making peppermint patties, those chocolate enrobed, creamy mint confections that many of us grew up with. (I loved unwrapping the foil as a kid and taking that first bite.) Interestingly, the "feel the cool sensation" candies made an appearance in two foodie magazines this month, and last night, I made good on my promise to give them a test run in my own kitchen. I chose the recipe from Saveur (the other appears in Gourmet) because it involves making the fondant center, an interesting and enlightening lesson on cooking sugar and dairy to very high temperatures and then playing with it on a marble slab. Homemade peppermint patties: Worth the work. (Kim O'Donnel) Now about that slab: You really need one for this project, but you don't need to drop a bunch of money (Williams-Sonoma wants $129...

By Kim ODonnel | December 18, 2007; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (15)

A Merry - and Gluten-Free - Cookie For All

Psst! Hey, come here. Yeah, I'm talking to you, over in the corner with the food allergies, running far and clear from the cookie tray that inevitably shows up at every dang holiday party. I've got something I like to call a cookie miracle -- a gingerbread cut out that has not a drop of gluten, eggs or dairy -- and it tastes so good no gluten, egg and dairy cookie monster would ever know the difference. I'm serious, y'all! This recipe, which comes from the brilliant gluten-free kitchen of Maryland cookbook author Jules Shepard, is a stroke of sheer near-allergy-free genius. (Last month, I shared a few of her recipes for GF Thanksgiving treats). A holiday cookie miracle: no eggs, dairy or gluten. (Kim O'Donnel) In spite of all its ingredient omissions, this recipe is packed with a spicy punch and a crackery crunch that feels as festive and...

By Kim ODonnel | December 17, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (12)

The Family Dinner Lives On

The plan: Come to Key West to get away from the noise and stresses of the city and the early winter we're having up north and to spend some pre-Christmas time with my mother and my brother, Tim. But, as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." Sure enough, I made it to the Conch Republic, with leisurely bike rides and daily yoga practice in mind. What I wasn't in store for was the surprise arrival of my brother, John, whom I hadn't seen in more than three years. To be honest, it kinda threw a wrench in my vacation mojo. We never really hit it off -- he pushed me head first into a pile of dog poo when we were kids -- and his drug abuse and resulting brushes with the law didn't exactly bring us closer together. The O'Donnel family:...

By Kim ODonnel | December 14, 2007; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (10)

A Memo to Santa

I'm really not one for gifts. Ask my mother -- it drives her crazy. This is one of the main reasons the O'Donnel family has gathered in Key West this week -- the sunny, 80-degree weather while the rest of the country runs for ice-storm cover is the best Christmas gift of all. We made a pact that there would be no gift exchange this year -- and instead would exchange the gift of each other's presence. So far, it's working out, and we're having a ball, eating dinner together for the first time in six years, laughing out loud and playing Scrabble out on the patio, a game at which certain unnamed family members like to cheat and create words not yet in the English dictionary. Mister MA and I also made a similar pact, but he often bends the rules because he loves buying gifts. What can I...

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2007; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mighty Appetite Wish List

I'm really not one for gifts. Ask my mother -- it drives her crazy. This is one of the main reasons the O'Donnel family has gathered in Key West this week -- the sunny, 80-degree weather while the rest of the country runs for ice-storm cover is the best Christmas gift of all. We made a pact that there would be no gift exchange this year -- and instead would exchange the gift of each other's presence. So far, it's working out, and we're having a ball, eating dinner together for the first time in six years, laughing out loud and playing Scrabble out on the patio, a game at which certain unnamed family members like to cheat and create words not yet in the English dictionary. Mister MA and I also made a similar pact, but he often bends the rules because he loves buying gifts. What can I...

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2007; 9:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Culin-thropic Holiday Gifts

'Tis the season for giving and gifting -- so today and perhaps tomorrow, I'll share a grab bag of ideas that may come in handy over the next few weeks. As fellow cooks and food-centric folk, you understand the altruistic power of a home-cooked meal and how it can warm the cockles of even the grinchiest of hearts. The sharing of food is an expression of love, whether you are giver or recipient, and it is transcends all other forms of communication because it is a universal language and it connects us all, from trailer to mansion, desert to tundra, Alaska to Zimbabwe. The idea of cooking for someone you love (or even just met) has been shared in this space before, and one that I encourage all of us to entertain as often as the muse allows. But there are other ways to spread the good vibrations -- and...

By Kim ODonnel | December 11, 2007; 9:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

All Hail the Vegan Queen

She's a high-school dropout with no formal culinary training, but Isa Chandra Moskowitz is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in the vegan cookbook world. At the age of 16, Moskowitz, a born-and-bred Brooklynite eschewed her meat-and-potatoes upbringing and embarked on a vegan punk rock journey that would morph into a public access television cooking show and ultimately, into a successful career as a cookbook author. It was only two years ago when Moskowitz, now 34, published her first book, "Vegan With A Vengeance," which has sold more than 50,000 copies, and already she's got two more under her belt, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" and most recently (October), "Veganomicon," both written with her punk pal, Terry Hope Romero. Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you thought vegan was far off the mainstream path, think again. "Veganomicon" is kicking everyone's butt on amazon.com; it is currently #18 on the list...

By Kim ODonnel | December 10, 2007; 10:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going Nuts This Season

Every year at this time, I make a batch of spiced nuts for parties and for unexpected drop-by holiday revelers, and every year, someone asks for the recipe. It never fails. Recently, I did a small catering job, a working lunch for nine, and I added a container of nuts into their order for late afternoon sustenance, as a little extra sumthin'. As it turns out , the nuts were inhaled within minutes, prompting an e-mail request for the recipe. These nuts are THAT good. Spiced nuts. (Kim O'Donnel) While you rave, however, please give credit where it's due, which is Union Square Café in New York, where these nuts have been a daily bar staple for about a zillion years. I've made other spiced nut combos, and nothing has ever worked quite like this one -- not too sweet, not too salty, and infused with with the magical aromatherapeutic...

By Kim ODonnel | December 7, 2007; 9:35 AM ET | Comments (17)

Chat Leftovers: Let the Holiday Projects Begin

You're getting busy in the kitchen, or at least that's what the queue from this week's What's Cooking indicates. Below, a few leftover questions to whet your whistle as you gear up for those holiday baking and entertaining extravaganzas. Just remember, have fun and don't forget to breathe! And if you've got tips to add to the mix, please do so in the comments area below. San Jose, Costa Rica: Greetings from rainy, but warm Costa Rica I'd like to try using whole wheat flour in my holiday baking this year. Do I just substitute it entirely or do a mixture of white and wheat flour and by what ratio? Also, I've read a lot about whole wheat pastry flour. Is that what I should use? Gracias! Hey, Costa Rica. We just had snow yesterday in Washington, so rainy but warm sounds pretty good! Re: your pursuit of more whole...

By Kim ODonnel | December 6, 2007; 9:39 AM ET | Comments (2)

Take Time to Smell the Onions

The movie will be there in November, well before Thanksgiving, the publicist kept telling me. But the arrival of "How to Cook Your Life," the documentary by German filmmaker Doris Dorrie ("Men," "Enlightenment Guaranteed"), kept getting delayed, and admittedly I was annoyed. Ever since I got wind of this movie featuring Zen chef and cooking teacher Edward Espe Brown, I had ants in my pants, which isn't very Zen-like. But now I can cool my jets, as the movie opens this Friday, Dec. 7, at Landmark's E Street Cinema, and the timing couldn't be better. While we work ourselves into a holiday lather over the next few weeks, Dorrie's movie is a welcome respite from the seasonal madness, an opportunity to silence the jingle bells and perhaps smell the onions. The 97-minute movie, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlin film festival, is about nothing and everything. The camera...

By Kim ODonnel | December 5, 2007; 9:48 AM ET | Comments (5)

Tastes Like... December

In case you hadn't noticed, December is BUSY - and here's why (in chronological order): Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Simbang Gabi, Eid al-Adha, winter solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve (please add to the list if I've missed some). The twelfth month of the year is jam-packed with reasons to eat, drink and be merry, regardless of one's faith or spot on the globe. Survey ten people about what the holiday season means and in all likelihood you'll receive ten different interpretations. For me, this time of year means dark days and cold gusts of wind. Sorry, but a snowy white Christmas is far from my idea of fun. Take me to the beach instead; I'd much rather be singing carols in my bathing suit than in my woolies, which is exactly why the Appetites are headed to Key West this weekend for a tropical...

By Kim ODonnel | December 4, 2007; 8:58 AM ET | Comments (12)

Get Your Hanukkah Fry On

Menorah candles around the world will burn brightly tomorrow night, kicking off Hanukkah, the Jewish eight-day festival of lights. In this hemisphere, we need all the light we can get as we inch closer to the darkest, shortest day of the year, aka the winter solstice (Dec. 22). If there's wind and other wintry conditions contributing to the atmosphere (which has been the case over the past few days in various parts of the country), frying up a storm seems like the right thing to do, whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah. A pan-sized latke, cut into fourths and ready for applesauce. (Kim O'Donnel) I'm not suggesting that we hop aboard the deep-fried fatty train, but a little fried fun is quite okay every once in a while, particularly when done in small batches at home. For many, Hanukkah wouldn't be the same without a plate of potato latkes, cute...

By Kim ODonnel | December 3, 2007; 9:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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