Archive: January 2008

Are You Game to Gumbo This Mardi Gras?

"Rebuilding New Orleans -- One Plate at a Time" is the tag line in the signature field of chef Frank Brigtsen's outgoing e-mail messages. No doubt these words would look good on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt, but what I love most about this message is that Brigtsen really means what he types; this is a personal mantra and mission statement that oozes out of his pores like whiskey sauce on top of bread pudding - strong, passionate and unforgettable. Day 3 of Frank Brigtsen's gumbo and it keeps getting better. (Kim O'Donnel) I met this disciple of the great Paul Prudhomme during a week-long volunteer chef stint last June. To say that I fell in love with his food is not telling the whole story; I fell in love with this man's infectious passion and determination for the city of his birth, of his life, and he hopes,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 31, 2008; 8:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Supermarket Salsa: Super Bowl-Worthy?

It's a big game, but somebody's gotta ignore it. That's my job this Sunday night, when two packs of big burly guys from up North throw a ball and pummel each other in the ground one last time to determine who's the baddest bunch of footballers of 2007. My husband often asserts that I'm highly un-American, (never been to Vegas or watched "Star Wars") and my refusal to watch the Super Bowl ("Come on, the commercials are great") is a highly unpatriotic act that worries him. Oh well. Although I don't actively participate and join the party around the telly, I do recognize that I have an important behind-the-scenes role to play -- as arbiter of snacks. The salsa contestants. (Kim O'Donnel) Four hours of grunting in front of a mega-HD, turbo surround-sound flat-screen television is hard work. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. Physical labor of this intensity...

By Kim ODonnel | January 30, 2008; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (54)

February Food Mag Roundup

A new batch of food magazines has hit my desk. Herewith, highlights from a selection of edible glossies decorating the newsstands for the next 30 days. Bon Appetit There's a lot going on in this issue -- almost too much of a good thing. The cover promises "The Green Issue" -- and the inside delivers a bounty of eco-news on dining, travel and products, plus a mini pull-out shopping guide of winter produce. The talent is considerable, too; cookbook author Deborah Madison does an "Earth-Friendly Dinner Party" with seven recipes, chef Dan Barber (Blue Hill Farm) encourages you to eat your vegetables, and novelist Ann Hood travels to Tuscany to eat agriturismo salami. The book is brimming with three new columns: "The Cooking Life" by "Orangette" blogger Molly Wizenberg, "Family Style" by "Next Food Network Star" winner Amy Finley and "Health Wise," with a rotation of writers (this month it's...

By Kim ODonnel | January 29, 2008; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Veggie Chat Leftovers: Soy Sauce, Winter Dessert and No-Meat Lent

Yesterday's vegetarian edition of What's Cooking ended too soon, with many unanswered questions idling in the queue. Here are a few to chew on over the weekend. Dessert?: I'm taking dessert to a friend's house this weekend, for after a kind of heavy meal. Any suggestions for a dessert? We aren't vegetarians, but the friend has some cholesterol concerns, so I'd love some ideas for desserts without eggs, cream, dairy... It's too cold for sorbet! Bake a fruit crisp, dear -- and instead of butter in the topping, use heart-healthier Earth Balance spread. I've been using it in cakes, cookies and my Dark 'n' Stormy pear crisp with great success, and no one can tell the difference. Oats and cinnamon are powerful anti-cholesterol warriors, so adding them into your topping ups the healthy ante. Meringue makes for a festive ending to a meal -- and without the yolks becomes a...

By Kim ODonnel | January 25, 2008; 8:44 AM ET | Comments (9)

The Tao of Grilled Cheese

I have this t-shirt; it's black with blue lettering that reads "find your center." At yoga class, I'm encouraged to focus on my core, which is supposed to help strengthen my back and help balance both the body and mind, but sometimes all I can see are the blubber rolls jiggling around my belly button. (Maybe it's time to take that third eye in for a checkup.) Goin' home with grilled cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) Then there are times in my practice when I am indeed able to locate body-mind central, a place from which I can observe my life at that given moment without judgment. That's not to say I'm trying to clean up or fix things from the day, but rather to look at those events as clouds passing by. Going, gone. It's an opportunity to pause, like when you're about to blow out candles on your birthday cake....

By Kim ODonnel | January 24, 2008; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chat Leftovers: Peeling Ginger and "Lost" Cuisine

As is often the case, there are too many questions and not enough time to answer all the questions in the What's Cooking queue. Below, a few that grabbed my attention after this week's show. Arlington, Va.: What's the deal with peeling ginger? Is it for aesthetic purposes? I usually take off any loose bits that I can find in under five seconds, but otherwise the skin is left intact. It doesn't have a texture, and as far as I can tell it doesn't have a taste, so why bother? Although it may be flavorless, I don't entirely agree with your argument that ginger skin is without texture issues. Sometimes you get a thin-skinned piece, smooth and easy-going down the hatch; other times, luck fails and your hunky chunk is sealed with an impenetrable armor that requires an engineering degree for successful removal. Those who grew up in places where...

By Kim ODonnel | January 23, 2008; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

20 Ways to Soup It Up -- Without Leaving the House

With the exception of a few places in southern Texas and Florida, the nation is under a severe shiver watch. Soup, anyone? If you're worried about having the time (or the ingredients) to whip up a pot of soup after a long day traipsing through the tundra, don't be. Chances are good that you have soup fixins waiting to be noticed in the fridge and the pantry. Soup is not meant to be complicated or over analyzed; make do with what you have on hand and you'll be delighted by the results, I promise you. Okay, you argue; I've got a pantry full of soup stuff. But how do I get started, and more importantly, how do I get -- and stay-- inspired? It looks like this arctic blast isn't going away anytime soon, and the same soup day after day could get old real fast. I am nodding my...

By Kim ODonnel | January 22, 2008; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Feast Fit for King

I'm ready if ever asked. You know that age-old interview question about which famous person, dead or alive, you'd like to have dinner with. (I recall such an essay question in my application to college.) My top four picks are all dead. And what I'd do to make the evening possible is make some calls and inquire about their availability for a few hours. In exchange for their time and collective wisdom, I would prepare dinner, a home-cooked meal comprised of dishes with historical relevance, in honor of the birthday boy. Seated at the table, you'd find aviator Amelia Earhart, the dame who kept pushing the envelope with her solo flights across two oceans and her 1937 groundbreaking attempt to fly around the world, which led to her disappearance over the South Pacific. Ms. Earhart had such style, and I can only imagine she'd show up wearing one of her...

By Kim ODonnel | January 18, 2008; 11:16 AM ET | Comments (4)

Snow Day Salve

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogfest with the following weather announcement: the Washington area is getting some snow today. However the storm continues, it's a safe bet that come suppertime, the weather outside will be slightly frightful, if not annoying -- conditions that call for a hot pot of stove-top defrosting magic. Red lentils: a most formidable Snow Day solution. (Kim O'Donnel) Don't worry; I'm not suggesting a two-hour kitchen production on this potentially challenging weeknight. In fact, the recipe below for red lentil soup (aka masoor dal) takes about 45 minutes, start to finish. Not everyone has red lentils on hand in their pantry, I understand. But if you're already making the requisite trip to the grocery store for bread, milk and toilet paper, I urge you to look for red lentils and pick up the accompanying aromatics that make this soup so satisfying. Alternatively, pick up a container...

By Kim ODonnel | January 17, 2008; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (22)

Chat Leftovers: Cookbooks for Meatless Reasons

During yesterday's What's Cooking , a reader from New Orleans, La., with a few holiday gift cards burning a hole in her pocket expressed an interest in vegetarian cookbooks. In response, I asked for more information about her cooking habits and interests, and here's what I found in the queue after the live hour: We cook three to four times a week, eating leftovers otherwise. Not vegan -- but looking to reduce meat consumption for environmental and budgetary reasons. We like ethnic food, we dig hippie grains, etc, we are adventurous, and we're looking to expand the number of foods we eat per week. I also found this post from "Midwest," who writes: Can you recommend a Web site or book that offers recipes for relatively simple, hearty (but not high fat or calorie) vegetarian main dishes? Hubby has agreed to try a vegetarian night once every couple weeks, but...

By Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2008; 9:50 AM ET | Comments (34)

What's Your Spice IQ?

"How do I know which spices and herbs go together?" This is a question I've been hearing with increased frequency over the past few months. It's one thing to learn how to salt and pepper your food, which is an art unto itself; it's quite another to take the seasoning quotient to another level and infuse it with flavors that represent cuisines from different parts of the world. Variety is the spice of life: (in clockwise order) cardamom pods; nutmeg; cloves; coriander seeds. (Kim O'Donnel) It got me thinking how I first learned to use herbs and spices (by trial and error) and how I attained a higher spice IQ (practice and study). Still, some of the most enthusiastic cooks remain tripped up by the mysterious contents of those glass jars, and all too often, stick with what they know, using the same old spice combinations for every dish. To...

By Kim ODonnel | January 15, 2008; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (39)

Bridging a Gap With Paella

It would be a gross understatement to say that this weekend I got together with old friends and cooked. It is much more accurate to report that I went back in time and returned to my roots. The town of Bala Cynwyd (say KIN-WOOD), Pa., is where my tadpole brothers and I morphed into frogs. In 1971, my very young parents (both 28) moved us into a big ole fixer-upper on a tree-lined street where we rode bikes, caught lightning bugs and made snow angels. My parents were highly social creatures, whether it was entertaining in the multi-colored dining room with the pink piano or dressing up in platform shoes to go out with friends. When I look into my mind's eye, I see swatches of leisure suits, squirt cheese in a can and the game of "Clue." I can hear my father singing to the musical stylings of Charlie...

By Kim ODonnel | January 14, 2008; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Pasta

As evidenced by yesterday's poll results, there's much bacon love in the air. And because more than half of you are foaming at the mouth with baco-thusiasm, I'll reciprocate with spaghetti alla carbonara, one of my all-time favorite bacon-lickin' dishes. Carbonara fixings, minus the cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) Rome is the ancestral home of carbonara, derived from the Italian word carbone, which means coal. It is unclear whether the dish is referring to the bacon's resemblance to bits of charcoal or to carbonari, the actual coal miners, who may have cooked over a fire upon resurfacing from their lengthy underground stints. When exactly Americans fell in love with bacon, eggs and pasta is a bit fuzzy, but it seems that returning World War II soldiers who were stationed in Italy developed a hankering for the dish and may have been responsible for bringing it to this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 11, 2008; 8:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Debating Bacon

I have a confession to make. In the nine years since I launched What's Cooking and the two-plus years of writing A Mighty Appetite, I've been having a secret gastronomic love affair. All these years, I've kept my paramour on the down low, sharing my love only when I knew like-minded fiends were at the table. I've been leading a double life -- on the one hand, I'm advocating healthy cooking and hosting monthly meatless Web chats, and then when no one's looking, I'm swooning over the smoky perfume of... BACON. Say it ain't so, I can hear the vegetarians cry. But the truth is, I'm a card-carrying member of Bacon Lovers of America, even though I know it spikes my cholesterol and packs on the pounds. Other than a bag of chips, it's the one food that turns me into a compulsive eater. In fact, I've come to learn...

By Kim ODonnel | January 10, 2008; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Personal About Pots and Pans

It was a simple question, or so it seemed: What's Cooking reader "Clueless Bride," who's planning to register for cookware, asked for guidance about picking pots, pans and anything else to make her soon-to-be newlywed kitchen sparkle. She got lots of advice all right, but what she probably didn't anticipate was being put on the spot about registering in the first place! (That's what you get when you ask a bunch of highly opinionated readers for their advice.) Her question in yesterday's chat spawned a lengthy, all-over-the-map thread that inspired today's blog post. The skeletal crew that is my baterie of pots and pans. (Kim O'Donnel) As many of you know, I'm a newly wedded bride, so many of the planning issues on "Clueless Bride's" to-do list are still fresh in my mind. The hows and whys behind a bride's choices for her wedding day are highly personal, with deep...

By Kim ODonnel | January 9, 2008; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bring on the Blood Oranges

As many of you know, I've got a thing for winter citrus. There's a fruit bowl on the dining room table, and it's brimming with peelable sun-kissed treats. My current citrus main squeeze, however, is the blood orange, which is making the rounds at area produce aisles. Still life, January style: A blood orange among its citrus brethren.(Kim O'Donnel) Although it may seem like old hat to citrus hounds in Texas and California (and Italy and Spain), where the arancia rossa thrives, I am swooning over my stash, as I know they'll soon vanish into the produce sunset. Aside from eating out of hand, which I heartily endorse as a mid-afternoon snack activity, the blood orange offers intriguing savory opportunities at the dinner table. If you've never had the pleasure, a blood orange is a heaven-sent combination of sweet and tart that sparkles on the tongue. Think navel orange mixed...

By Kim ODonnel | January 8, 2008; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (7)

Playing With Polenta

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from "Mister McG" who expressed much frustration over a pot of polenta. He writes: "I learned last night why they sell pre-cooked polenta in those tubes. I made some from scratch last night and it came out very lumpy. Tasty, but lumpy. As soon as I started adding cornmeal to the boiling water, it clumped up. Do I need to let the water settle down before mixing?" Intellectually, I knew the solution was to add the cornmeal gradually, but I couldn't back up my written reply with first-hand polenta experience. I promised to follow up with a kitchen report, so this blog's for you, Mister Magoo. Polenta, topped with spicy anchovy-garlic tomato puree, with a side of broccoli raab. (Kim O'Donnel) Cornmeal porridge is what we're talking about, and depending where you live, it's got a different name (mealie pap in South...

By Kim ODonnel | January 7, 2008; 9:29 AM ET | Comments (37)

Curry Come Quickly

This week's sudden downward shift in temperature had much of the country (including Key West where my brother reports the coldest Jan. 3 in the island's history) running for flannel cover. Until last weekend, winter had been fairly kind to the Washington area; in fact, Mister MA and I broke out the grill on Christmas Day. Lemongrass curry: Just what the meteorologist ordered. (Kim O'Donnel) And then, just like a bad dream, those winds come and blow right through my new parka and chill every bone into paralysis. I know I must sound like a big cry baby to all you folks in perma-frosted points such as Iowa and Chicago (hi Nan), but my globally-warmed body is in thermal shock and I just can't get thaw! All week long, I've been wearing a hat indoors and the idea of venturing out into the world makes want to burrow deeper under...

By Kim ODonnel | January 4, 2008; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Food Mag Roundup: A New Year, A New Batch

With a hearty helping of positive feedback on the holiday magazine roundups in November and December, I've been motivated to make this a regular monthly feature. Expect a variety of least five magazines to be mentioned every month, with an invitation to chime in on your favorites and additional pubs worth mentioning. Here's what I've got on my desk at the moment... BON APPETIT Theme: "Best of the Year" -- trend spotting for the year ahead. Does Theme Deliver? I guess, but it all feels a bit thin to me. There's a fun travel piece on how to eat your way through Mexico City, deemed BA's "destination of the year," but the rest of this feature leaves me wanting more. I wanted to know, for example why brown butter is its "flavor of the year" or why there's a photo of chocolate pudding pie on the cover when we've just...

By Kim ODonnel | January 3, 2008; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (14)

What Do You Want to Eat This Year?

New Year's goals and determinations are on the tips of tongues this week, and the Mighty Appetite household is no exception. In addition to more exercise and a commitment to a daily regimen of vitamins and probiotics, I've got several objectives in mind to bring me closer to my broader goal of improved wellness. Here's a handful I hope to tackle: * Drink more anti-oxidant-rich tea, drink less alcohol which makes waistline expand magically before my very eyes. * Invest in a good juicer and re-introduce freshly squeezed juices into my morning routine, as I know how energized it makes me feel. * Put more green on my plate, more often. Bring on the whole grains too -- and diversify, play more with farro and millet, red rice and buckwheat. * Eat less gluten. Although not intolerant to wheat, rye and barley, I prefer how I feel when I keep...

By Kim ODonnel | January 2, 2008; 9:54 AM ET | Comments (19)

 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company