Archive: April 2008

Kim's Six Go-To Kitchen Favorites

Alexandria, Va.: Over baked ziti last night my husband commented that he is impressed with the wide variety of dishes that I cook for us (we're newlyweds). He said his mom only had about seven recipes that she made over and over again. I told him I agreed -- my mom had about 10 recipes that were recycled, but those 10 recipes were the most delicious food I will ever taste. (Nothing's better than a mom's cooking). I told him the reason I cook such a variety of dishes for him is simply because I'm looking for MY 10 favorite recipes that I can then cook over and over again in my sleep -- the ones that my kids will later say were the best food they'll ever have. So far, I've only discovered one of those recipes -- I'm still searching for the other nine. So I'm curious. What's...

By Kim ODonnel | April 30, 2008; 9:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mixed (Diet) Relationships: Can They Work?

Love has no rhyme or reason or even a calendar, but there's something magical about falling in love during spring. In his 1928 composition "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love," Cole Porter argues that falling in love is all part of Mother Nature's plan. When the little bluebird Who has never said a word Starts to sing Spring When the little bluebell At the bottom of the dell Starts to ring Ding dong Ding dong When the little blue clerk In the middle of his work Starts a tune to the moon up above It is nature that is all Simply telling us to fall in love But unlike the "Cold Cape Cod clams, 'gainst their wish" who do it, we human creatures have dating/mating checklists and criteria that go beyond the force of nature. For many, religion is the deal breaker; for others, it may be income, education,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 29, 2008; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Eating L.A.

The first order of business is a big platter of thanks to those of you who shared your favorite things about Los Angeles. It was gratifying to read all of your suggestions while I was out there, and as a gesture of gratitude, I've scribbled the following report. Local dried fruit and nuts at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. (Kim O'Donnel) As I mentioned last week, it had been at least eight years since my last visit to sunny L.A. (temperatures climbed to 90 on Sunday), so I had a lot of catching up to do. I suppose a trip to Los Angeles is incomplete without a celebrity sighting, and even I, who never gets any star-eye candy, had my fair share. Thursday night's supper at Suzanne Goin's Lucques included a full-on view of Zachary Quinto, the "Heroes" guy and the new "Spock" in the J.J. Abrams version of "Star...

By Kim ODonnel | April 28, 2008; 11:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Call for L.A. Faves

Good morning from Los Angeles! The sun is just peeking over the hills as I type, my first cup of coffee in hand. I arrived here late yesterday afternoon, tagging along with Mister MA, who's attending a seminar thing. It's been eight, maybe nine years since my last trip here, so in some ways I feel like I'm starting all over with where to go and what to eat. Anticipating that Mister MA would be sequestered in conference rooms all day, I asked my pal Bill Addison to join me on my escapades uncovering this sprawling sunny metropolis. Although Addison hasn't done L.A. in 11 years, he knows a thing or two about eating as the food critic at the Dallas Morning News. Over the years, he and I have traipsed around the country exploring the eats and drinks of various cities, including Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Key West, Chicago and...

By Kim ODonnel | April 24, 2008; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (27)

Getting Thrifty: Reader Tips and Tricks

It's pretty hard not to notice that the cost of food is all jacked up, and the prices are climbing faster than a cockroach fleeing for safety. Between February 2007 and February 2008, the Consumer Price Index for all food increased by 4.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture' s Economic Research Service. The price increases are even higher for specific food items; cereal is up by 6.6 percent, milk is up by 16.8 percent and eggs are 25 percent more expensive than one year ago. The bean counters at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the ongoing consumer price indices, have reported that the food index for the first quarter of 2008 jumped at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.3 percent, already higher than the 4.9 percent increase for all of 2007. As harsh as the sticker shock may feel in your neck of the...

By Kim ODonnel | April 22, 2008; 10:26 PM ET | Comments (0)

How Green Are You?

Happy Earth Day, folks. No matter what you think about the 38th annual eco-fest, here are some indisputable statistics about the state of our planet: The Earth is getting hotter and hotter The oceans are getting emptier and emptier. The rainforests are getting smaller and smaller. Americans are getting fatter and fatter. (Kim O'Donnel) I'm not suggesting that all of these phenomena are related, but it's dawning on me more and more just how incredibly fragile our ecosystem is, how quickly these changes happened and how much they impact our lives. Whether or not we like it, believe it or can afford it, our daily choices have a measurable environmental impact, which cuts across all geographic, political, religious, racial and socioeconomic lines. It's tied to how we clean our house, our clothes and our bodies, the cars we drive and how we get to work and school, how we travel,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 22, 2008; 9:55 AM ET | Comments (15)

Meeting the Flourless Chocolate Cookie Fairy

Friday afternoon and I'm thoroughly enjoying the current above-average April temperatures that make it feel more like June. It had been a long week and I'm catching up with some magazines, a few new cookbooks and a glass of white wine. Phone rings, and it's Mister MA, who's decided to invite our friends, the Fonzes, over for dinner without much of a pre-invite spousal consultation. Flourless chocolate cookies. (Kim O'Donnel) The cook is really not in the mood for dinner party prep, but Mister MA, now obligated to play host, announces that he will prepare supper but wants to know if the culinary hotline is open for occasional troubleshooting. I step aside and watch him go, go, go, proud of him as he makes marinade for chicken, washes greens for salad ("Yeah, Dude, I know how to make a vinaigrette") and lights the chimney for the grill. I know he...

By Kim ODonnel | April 21, 2008; 8:43 AM ET | Comments (21)

The Mighty and Versatile Chickpea

Garbanzo. Bengal gram. Ceci. Shimbra. Hommes. Lahlabi. Chana. This is a mere sampling of the names used around the world for the little bean known in this country as the chickpea. Chickpeas ready for seasoning. (Kim O'Donnel) The chickpea is not as old as the ancient lentil, but it's not far behind, clocking in around 8000 BCE. Like the lentil, it was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, according to food historian Ken Albala, author of "Beans: A History," which he describes as modern-day eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria. The chickpea that most Americans are familiar with is called the kabuli, a larger, beige-colored variety common in the Mediterranean, but there's another called the desi, a smaller, darker variety that is more common in India, available in shades of red, green and black. I've yet to try these multi-colored gems and am eager to learn more about their flavor,...

By Kim ODonnel | April 18, 2008; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (43)

Edible Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and today, April 17, is Poem in your Pocket Day, which means pick a poem, put it in your pocket and sing it loud and proud when the urge strikes. In the spirit of poetic exchange, I've served up a buffet of three poems -- all with food references -- that speak to me like a low-hanging mango begging to be picked. The first dish is an ode to the artichoke by Beverly Fields Burnette, a Raleigh, N.C.-based poet and president of the North Carolina Association of Black Storytellers. Artichoke Pickle Passion: A Sonnet In southern springs we dug for artichokes In Miz Olivia's tall and weedy yard. She dipped her snuff, but never, ever smoked; At eighty-five, she wasn't avant-garde. Her 'bacco spittings grew the vegetable; Well nourished were the tubers, strong, the stalks. And even though their worth was questionable, With hoe in...

By Kim ODonnel | April 17, 2008; 8:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Year Without Salmon?

It's the number three most popular seafood in this country, but this year salmon may have to sit this one out. It seems that won't be difficult because there are so few to go around. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a federal agency under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 775,000 adult chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento River valley in central California in 2002. The minimum number to maintain conservation goals is 122,000 - 180,000. This year, the projected run: a mere 58,000. (Check out this graphic from the Sacramento Bee.) As a result, the PFMC voted last week to cancel this year's chinook salmon season in federal waters off the coast of California and most of Oregon. On May 1, the vote will be reviewed by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and will likely be confirmed. And yesterday, the California state Fish...

By Kim ODonnel | April 16, 2008; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Vote for Matzoh Lasagna

Although skeptical of the outcome, I was determined to find out how a lasagna made with matzoh instead of noodles would translate at the table. If I could pull this off, I thought, my days of annoying lasagna noodles that never seem to cook evenly would be a thing of the past. Plus, it just might work as a meatless Passover main -- and think of the unleavened lunch leftovers. Matzo lasagna with an arugula-ricotta filling. (Kim O'Donnel) The source of my matzoh-ed inspiration is Miami chef Allen Susser, whose online recipe includes eggplant and zucchini. Ultimately, I decided to forego Susser's choice of summertime produce for something more seasonally appropriate and chose cool-weather crop arugula instead. (Spinach would be equally lovely, as would a ragout of spring mushrooms.) In fact, I was so taken by last month's arugula pesto I thought it would do my lasagna proud. The short...

By Kim ODonnel | April 15, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (30)

Not the Same Old Flourless Chocolate Cake

While in pursuit of a new twist on a Passover-possible dessert, I stumbled upon something really cool: a chocolate loaf cake made with amaranth and quinoa flours. Quinoa (KEEN-WAH), a leafy plant (chenopodium quinoa) that is native to Andes mountainous regions in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, has become very trendy in U.S. culinary circles as a versatile, gluten-free, high- protein "grain" which isn't a grain at all. In fact, the seeds are more like a cereal, which can be boiled in water like rice and dried and ground into flour. Not only is it high in protein, it's a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. For celiacs, quinoa flour is a gluten-free dream come true, and in the course of my research, have learned that it's considered acceptable Kosher for Passover fare. Chocolate-quinoa-amaranth cake. (Kim O'Donnel) The very savvy Bea Peltre, the blog mistress at La Tartine...

By Kim ODonnel | April 14, 2008; 11:46 AM ET | Comments (13)

Bring on the Brisket

When it came time to research Passover dishes this year, I called up Jeff, my cooking buddy in New York. Jeff and I met last year in New Orleans as volunteer chefs with CulinaryCorps, and we've been trading recipes and cooking stories ever since. Uncle Jeff's brisket just out of the oven. (Kim O'Donnel) Last fall, around Yom Kippur, Jeff passed on his late Aunt Rita's recipe for marble cake, and I kept hearing from our mutual friends about his to-die-for brisket. His recipe, below, calls for relatively few ingredients and about four hours of cooking time. I love how the onions caramelize and become part of the gravy, a heady elixir with a tang, thanks to the Worcestershire sauce. Jeff strongly recommends that you dare not slice the meat while warm and insists that the brisket is better the next day (please weigh in on this matter in the...

By Kim ODonnel | April 11, 2008; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (35)

Spring-Can-Hang-You-Up Food

Reston, Va.: What spring bridge recipes do you recommend to brighten up this blah weather? Vegetarian or fish, but willing to adapt as needed. I've been struggling with the stubborn weather too, Reston. The tulips have announced their arrival in my back yard and the birds are having a good old time belting arias, but I hear you, the air of late has been damp and raw, the evenings have been downright chilly and the skies have been moody to say the least. The first stanza of T.S. Eliot's famous poem, "The Waste Land, " comes to mind: April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. And then of course, there's the moody Ella Fitzgerald tune, "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," (from her 1961 album "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!" ) in which...

By Kim ODonnel | April 10, 2008; 9:39 AM ET | Comments (6)

Navigating the Meat Label Maze

Label Confusion: Kim, I love the little links you have been providing lately to shopping guides -- sustainable fish and dirty fruits/vegetables etc. I am trying to find a definitive guide to meat labeling and guidance on when to go organic or when natural will do. I've noticed that finding red meat labeled as organic is increasingly hard even though the chicken is everywhere. I am also concerned about making sure the animals have been treated as well as possible during their upbringing and during slaughter. Any ideas? I agree, it's tricky business trying to navigate your way through the sea of labels. Here's the situation in a nutshell: When you see a certified organic label on meat or poultry, that means that the farm is following the standards of the USDA's National Organic Program, which include the following rules: The livestock is raised without antibiotics or synthetic hormones (although...

By Kim ODonnel | April 9, 2008; 7:53 AM ET | Comments (20)

A Stick in My Craw

Pardon for the interruption from the regular blog-a-thon, but I've got a thorn in my side that needs extracting. Or maybe it's a gallstone. Whatever it is, I've got to release the pressure. In yesterday's blog space, I detailed my Indian bread-making adventures over the weekend, and for the most part, what I got for my efforts is a lousy t-shirt that says "Your Roti Ain't For Real." Translation: Apparently, my recipe, adapted from Indian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey's "From Curries to Kebabs" isn't authentic enough for some readers, despite the fact that I never made such a claim. "Those roti are nothing like the ones my mother makes. Hers are thin and papery. And definitely no yogurt," writes one reader. "Baking soda? Yogurt? Microwave? These are not roties," declares another. "I'm afraid these look nothing like the rotis my mother and grandmother made!!" proclaims yet another member of the...

By Kim ODonnel | April 8, 2008; 8:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Give Us Our Daily Indian Bread

I did something this weekend I've always wanted to do: I made Indian flat bread. I know, that's like saying I prepared "fish;" there are more types of Indian bread than you can count on both hands, an extensive umbrella category that includes north-south India variations as well as immigrant versions in neighboring Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore, and further afield in Guyana and Trinidad, in the eastern Caribbean. Freshly-griddled roti ready for supper. (Kim O'Donnel) For most Westerners, Indian bread means naan, the pillowy leavened rounds baked in a tandoor oven, which, according to Madhur Jaffrey in "From Curries to Kebabs," is a relatively recent addition to the ancient tradition of Vedic breads. "Delhi and most of India knew little of the tandoor or the naan until after the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947," writes Jaffrey. "At that time refugees from western Punjab came bearing portable...

By Kim ODonnel | April 7, 2008; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting To Know Your Dining Table -- And Each Other

You know that piece of furniture in the kitchen or dining room with four legs and a couple of chairs tucked in around the perimeter? Yes, that thing that doubles as a desk and a mail box and is in need of a good dusting, is called the dining table. It is the surface upon which we place our daily bread and at which we gather, sit down and eat. The problem is, we don't. Come on. Be honest: How often do you sit down at the table for supper? Forget about breakfast, I already know the answer. It goes something like this, right? Breakfast is for the weekends, y'all. I've got my sippy cup of coffee and a granola bar, which I'll tear into while swerving lanes and exercising my road-raged lungs. And lunch, although it has at-table potential, how often does this really happen? Even I -- a...

By Kim ODonnel | April 4, 2008; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (11)

Milk: A Play in Several Acts

Enter stage left: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declares in late 1993 that synthetic growth hormones are safe to use on cows for increased milk production. They go by a few names: rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) and Posilac, the preferred name over at Agro bio-tech giant Monsanto. Moo. (Kim O'Donnel) After the FDA approval, Monsanto introduces Posilac to the food supply in 1994. In the late 1990s, rBGH is banned in Canada and the European Union. Fall 2002: Enter the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which gives the all-clear for national organic standards and a USDA-approved logo on certified organic products. Meanwhile, retail sales of organic milk grow steadily, with sales of organic milk and cream edging over $1 billion in 2005, up 25 percent from 2004 [PDF]. Between 1998 and 2005, the average annual growth rate of retail sales of all organic food...

By Kim ODonnel | April 3, 2008; 10:24 AM ET | Comments (24)

A Call for Helping One-Pot-Dish Hands

An e-mail from "Newton Mom," the Newton, Mass.-based sister of longtime reader "Bethesda Mom," arrived in my inbox last week, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Here's her kitchen scenario: A friend has organized a very large effort at my daughter's now former elementary school where once a month families make a tuna noodle casserole, using the identical recipe, and then she delivers them to a woman and children's homeless shelter in Boston called Rosies Place where they are served for dinner to the community. We have all been making these for some years. Apparently, it has been so successful that we have "graduated" to a different night of the month and are now free to change the menu and recipe. The new recipe does not need to be a casserole, must be able to be standardized, frozen and reheated and be easy enough that people will be...

By Kim ODonnel | April 2, 2008; 10:24 AM ET | Comments (32)

April Food Mag Roundup; Introducing Eco-Bites

This month's batch o' food glossies has been selected because they make me happy and satisfied, like a good meal. Rather than complain about the mags that failed to feed, I simply omitted them from the list. Cooking Light Despite all of the private lessons over the years, I remain a pasta dingbat. I haven't given up all hope, particularly now that I've read through Lidia Bastianich's extensive how-to feature on making the dough by hand (as in no pasta machine whatsoever, even a hand-cranked version). One day this spring, I'll follow Signora Lidia's steps and see if I can finally change my pasta fate. Jewish cooking authority Joan Nathan has penned a terrific recipe feature on making Seder a multi-cultural affair that draws on recipes from several countries. In the back of the book, there's a helpful companion piece on Kosher wine picks for Passover. I'm also intrigued by...

By Kim ODonnel | April 1, 2008; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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