Archive: June 2008

A Kid's Cookbook for Everyone

There's a new kid's cookbook about to hit the shelves, and it's poised to set kitchens around the world on fire - and that's a good thing. Flapjacks from "River Cottage Family Cookbook." (Kim O'Donnel) Anyone who's ever been in pursuit of a kid-friendly cookbook knows that the pickins' are generally slim - a patchwork selection of dumbed-down recipes, cutesy cartoon illustrations and very little culinary background that might prove useful. At last, at last, the British are coming, and they might just save the day, with the U.S. edition of "The River Cottage Family Cookbook." The latest title from the successful River Cottage series (I've got "Fish," the James Beard award-winning "Meat" and "Cookbook" in my midst ), "Family" is unlike any other children's cookbook for one reason: intellectual parity. In fact, if you're in the market for a clearly written, entertaining cookbook for beginners with a focus on...

By Kim ODonnel | June 30, 2008; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (10)

Who Wants to Take an Eat Local Challenge?

In November 2006, when I wrote a Food section story about preparing a 100-Mile Thanksgiving, the word "locavore" was a new word familiar to a small group of like-minded people in the Bay area, practicing what they preach, which is to eat food grown and raised within 100 miles of where you live. Yellow wax beans from my local foodshed. (Kim O'Donnel) Now the word locavore is filtering in the mainstream and becoming part of the vernacular - last year, Oxford American Dictionary declared locavore the 2007 Word of the Year. By now, you've probably heard about or read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", the memoir Barbara Kingsolver and her family wrote about moving from Tucson to a small Appalachian town in southwestern Virginia and eating locally for a year. Shortly after the publication of Kingsolver's book in 2007, "Plenty," by Vancouver, B.C. couple Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, hit the bookstore...

By Kim ODonnel | June 27, 2008; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Field Trip to Yonkers

Yesterday, I crossed the Hudson River in a Consumer Reports (CR) test car and spent the day in Yonkers, N.Y. (go here for some cool historical tidbits) for a blogging conference on the campus of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of the monthly magazine. At the front entrance of the CU entrance in Yonkers, N.Y. (Kim O'Donnel) I was one of 20-some bloggers from various parts of the country, media organizations and content disciplines. But the one connecting thread among this diverse group of writers is a focus on the consumer. Whether it was Viet Do, who writes personal finance blog Stopbuyingcrap.com, MSNBC.com correspondent Bob Sullivan who pens The Red Tape Chronicles or Leslie Hatfield, who updates Green Fork, Eat Well Guide's blog on sustainable eating, we gathered in one room to talk about our collective passion for "speaking truth to power," as keynote speaker Craig "Craig's List" Newmark so...

By Kim ODonnel | June 26, 2008; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (2)

New York Minute: I'm Offline Today

I'm in New York, attending Consumerism 2.0, a blogging conference organized by the Consumers Union, the folks who publish Consumer Reports. I'll be back online Thursday with a report, a crumb or a good story. Remind me to tell you about the guy at the Union Station wine shop who wanted to charge me five bucks for a plastic cup....

By Kim ODonnel | June 25, 2008; 7:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

An Evening With Muhammara

Ready to graduate from hummus and baba ghanouj? I'm hardly suggesting you give up these Middle Eastern meze treats anytime soon, but if you're ready to expand your horizons, hang onto your hat and hop aboard the magic carpet. Muhammara: A great use for roasted red peppers. (Kim O'Donnel) Feast your eyes on muhammara (Moo-HAHM-mer-ah, she says kind of confidently but hoping an Arabic speaker will chime in), a roasted red pepper puree seasoned with walnuts, pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper, a deep red moderately spicy chile from Aleppo, Syria, an ancient city in the northwestern corner of the country. The story is that the Aleppo is the birthplace of muhammara, but it's my understanding you'll find muhammara in southern Turkey as well. Unlike hummus, this is not a seven-minute dish, but muhammara rewards you with a multiplex of flavor - a little sweet, a little savory, a little spicy...

By Kim ODonnel | June 24, 2008; 9:38 AM ET | Comments (13)

Mister MA's Birthday Cherry Cobbler

We celebrated Mister MA's big 4-0 this weekend, a backyard surprise at Casa Appetite with close friends and family. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I delegated in getting this party off the ground, assigning various tasks to a handful of willing trusted souls whose efforts allowed me to actually enjoy myself the evening of the event. The letting go meant doing only a portion of the cooking as well, a huge step for this kamikaze party planner. Cherry cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel) I decided to order all of the salads and meatless items from Lebanese Taverna Market, a consistently reliable catering outfit that has served me well over the years. (No doubt I will miss them when I move to Seattle.) That freed me up to marinate several dozen chicken thigh-leg combos in my fave Vietnamese-style marinade and have fun with the desserts. Without a doubt, I...

By Kim ODonnel | June 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (15)

Feasts for the Solstice

Tonight at 7:59 p.m. ET, the skies officially change hands and become the property of Summer, the belle of all the seasonal balls, in this Lioness's opinion (birthday: August 22). It is the longest day, with the greatest number of daylight hours, and it is the brightest and mightiest day, when the sun reaches its maximum elevation. Yours truly's midsummer night's dream come true, circa 1970. (Family photo) For the ultimate sun-powered solstice experience, Fairbanks, Alaska sounds like the place to be. Tonight (well, tomorrow morning, actually) at 12:48 a.m. local time, the sun takes a short nap (it doesn't even fall below the horizon!) until 2:58 a.m. when it re-emerges for another day. (And if you've ever participated in a Midnight Sun extravaganza, please share your stories -- I'd love to hear what's it like to play outside at that hour!) I love the following description of the solstice,...

By Kim ODonnel | June 20, 2008; 8:31 AM ET | Comments (10)

Chat Leftovers: Making a Meze Party

Washington, D.C.: I'm having a Middle Eastern themed cocktail party and I need a few meze suggestions. I'm thinking hummus, pita chips, tabbouleh, couscous. What else do I need? I tried frying falafel last week, but they completely disintegrated. Can I bake falafel? Would I need a different recipe? Homemade Arab flat bread. (Kim O'Donnel) What a fun idea, particularly during the outdoor entertaining season! The idea behind meze is little bites on little plates, which collectively can make up a meal, a perfect equation for a summery informal gathering. I love making meze because the preparation is straightforward and requires relatively few ingredients, which translates into very fresh tasting, honest food. With an emphasis on whole grains and legumes, much of Middle Eastern cuisine offers plenty of choices for your meatless guests, and because it's so flavorful and satisfying, the omnivores won't feel cheated. Hummus is one of the...

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2008; 8:16 AM ET | Comments (11)

Swimming in Greenpeace's Seafood Report

I heard from the Washington office of Greenpeace (GP) yesterday; the environmental activist organization has just released a new report on the continually-shrinking supply of seafood, with a focus on the big supermarket chains. "Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores Are Emptying the Seas" is a 75-page document that includes a "supermarket scorecard" of the seafood purchasing practices and policies of 20 supermarket corporations and a "Red List" of 22 species that Greenpeace has identified as "most vulnerable" to overfishing and extinction. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which monitors 600 marine stocks, 52 percent of the world's fish supply is "fully exploited" and seven percent of species are depleted. Interesting angle, I think to myself. Oceana is the only other environmental NGO that I could think of that has been focusing on the retail sector, with its mercury advisory campaign at supermarket seafood counters. I'm eager...

By Kim ODonnel | June 18, 2008; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

Non-Dairy Frozen Adventures

"Do you think it's worth buying an ice cream maker?" Celebritologist Liz Kelly asked me last week. "After all, I don't eat much dairy." Chocolate sorbet: Look how pretty! (Kim O'Donnel) I explained to my vegan pal that making your own frozen desserts -- with or without dairy or eggs -- is an incredibly satisfying endeavor that is also surprisingly easy. I told her I saw both homemade sorbet and soy "cream" in her future, and that yes, it's worth plunking down 50 bucks (the going in-store price for a model from the Cuisinart ICE line -- but even cheaper online) to learn what the appliance fuss is all about. Sure enough, Liz purchased an ICE-25 in preparation for her upcoming beach vacation and requested a few MA links to get set up. I too have had frozen treats on the brain; with Mister MA's 40th birthday this weekend, I...

By Kim ODonnel | June 17, 2008; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Food That Makes Life Worth Living

This might sound crazy, but a six-pack of local berries and cherries saved me from falling off the deep end this weekend. Summer fruit bonanza: (Clockwise from top left) Blackberries, sweet cherries, blueberries and raspberries. (Kim O'Donnel) Saturday morning, I queued up in a line about 50 deep at my neighborhood farm market for my fix of summer fruit from a Virginia berry farm. Strawberries had been gracing the stand for the past four weeks, and I was hoping I might see the first batch of blueberries. Little did I realize I'd get treated to a whopper berry bonanza -- the blues, plus blackberries and raspberries -- and an extra bonus of sweet cherries. In awe of my discovery, I stared at the rows of fruit in their pint containers, bursting in shades of indigo and lipstick that every girl dreams about. The air was heavy with their perfume, and...

By Kim ODonnel | June 16, 2008; 9:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

He's Your Daddy: Your Kitchen Stories

Last month in this space, we celebrated Mom. Now, just in time for Father's Day (this Sunday, June 15), it's Dad's turn. In the same generous, kind-hearted spirit, you shared your stories about D-A-D, opening the virtual scrapbook with memory crumbs and photographs. Olga Berman (pictured, left) and sister, Anna, with their father, Leonid, in Moscow, 1983. (Family photo) "Popcorn prepared in the turkey roasting pan," is what Wisconsin native Jo Demars remembers about growing up with her frugally-minded, improvisational father. "This made a humungous batch which satisfied the brood throughout a long, long drive-in double feature movie night." For Sarah Choate of Odessa, Tex., the "flaming nachos" episode sticks in her mind; for Katie O'Hara of Alexandria, Va., it's the case of the exploding milkshakes while Mom was out of town, and for Cheryl Fountain, of Edgewater, Md., it 's the indelible images of those father-daughter Easy Bake oven...

By Kim ODonnel | June 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Your Favorite Fresh Herb and Why

A fairly wet spring here in the nation's capital has done wonders for my backyard herb collection which barely made it through last summer's drought. My erstwhile-pathetic pot of oregano has morphed into a lush carpet of tender green leaves, popping with a woody perfume. And because it's doing such a number on my olfactory receptors, I'm using oregano in the kitchen whenever I have a chance - with feta cheese, in vinaigrettes, pizza sauce, omelettes, a pot of beans, to name a few. My very happy oregano. (Kim O'Donnel) Admittedly, my current crush on oregano has blinded me from the bounty of summer herbs currently on parade, and really, I must snap out of it before snow begins to fall. But it got me thinking: With such herby riches within my reach, how do I choose? I asked a handful of herb aficionados around the country the following question:...

By Kim ODonnel | June 12, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (22)

Sorting Through the Tomato Pulp

As expected, there were several questions about the salmonella-tainted tomato scare in yesterday's chat, so I'll try and break it down. Tomatoes: Hey Kim. I'm trying to remember 8th grade home ec...what exactly is salmonella? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea and related illnesses. It is passed through both animal and human feces. There are several kinds of salmonella strains; the strain associated with the current tomato scare is Saintpaul. The infection caused by salmonella contamination is called salmonellosis. And how have tomatoes contracted it (from what I remember, vegetables weren't the potential contaminates my teacher warned us about.) It's not like e. coli that you can just wash off, correct? Usually, salmonella is associated with animal products - poultry, beef, milk or eggs, but vegetables are not out of the question, and here's why: It's...

By Kim ODonnel | June 11, 2008; 8:26 AM ET | Comments (21)

Cooling Off With Hot Food Writers

If you live east of the Mississippi and as north as Boston, you know it's BLAZING hot for early June. Here in Washington, we're in Day Four of an extreme heat wave, making popsicle eating a competitive sport. In the heat of the moment, I asked a few dozen food writers, bloggers and chefs to share their favorite ways to cool off in the kitchen -- suppers that are raw, uncooked or using as little stovetop power as possible. Below, a dozen or so very cool ideas. Pea shoot pasta. (Courtesy Rachel Rappaport/Coconut & Lime) Fruit is at the top of the list for Washington area writer and cooking instructor Monica Bhide: Here's what I'm having for lunch these days. Peel and chop -- lychees, papaya, mango, apricot and watermelon and place in a large bowl. If I have on hand, canned jackfruit and canned mangosteen (found at local Indian...

By Kim ODonnel | June 10, 2008; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

'Morning, Sunshine: Is Breakfast on Your Menu?

Last week's issue of New York magazine takes on breakfast, a tasty multi-course spread on the meal that people either love or hate. We've all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the fuel that fires up the engine and takes your brain to a higher level. As much as I do appreciate the sound advice, I rarely wake up hankering for a meal to start to the day. I'm an early bird alright, but I prefer my worms after coffee, thanks. One of my favorite parts of the New York package is "What I Ate This Morning" poll; the responses are fascinating, covering the gamut from cigarettes to four hard-boiled eggs. All this breakfast banter got me thinking: What happens when you rise and shine? Does breakfast figure into your routine, and if so, is it a slow or rushed affair? When I waited...

By Kim ODonnel | June 9, 2008; 8:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Instant Couscous Improv

All the quinoa talk in yesterday's veggie chat got me hankering for a cold summer salad, and if I couldn't get my hands on those glistening pearls of quinoa, I decided that instant couscous would do the trick just as well. (Kim O'Donnel) Made from granular semolina, couscous is a staple of northern African countries, including Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Making couscous by hand is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that involves rubbing semolina wheat into pellets, then repeated drying and steaming until a uniform grain is achieved. Traditionally, it is cooked in a multi-tiered steamer called a couscoussiere, an experience I've yet to have, but I've got my fingers crossed. For now, I'll take the instant even though traditionalists say it doesn't even come close to the real thing. But I love the pre-cooked stuff because it is so ridiculously easy to pull off a nutritious, satisfying summer salad...

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2008; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (17)

Vegan and You Don't Even Know It

Today is a long-overdue meatless chat day, and as part of my making-up-for-lost-time efforts, I intended to test a recipe yesterday and share the results in today's space. However, monster-style thunder, lightning and tornado-ish conditions blew through the Washington area yesterday afternoon, leaving Casa Appetite without power for several hours and alas, getting in the way of my kitchen plans. As some of you may already know, I've been contemplating the state of my diet since a dear friend of mine underwent coronary bypass surgery. The theme resurfaced like a bad rash this morning, when I heard from my mother, whose long-time companion suffered a massive heart attack last night. Now if there's anyone who needs to say sayonara to the sausages and embrace a meatless diet to give his clogged arteries a fighting chance, it's this guy. I've never asked him why he won't jump the red-meat ship given...

By Kim ODonnel | June 5, 2008; 9:03 AM ET | Comments (37)

Road Trip! Help Kim Chart Her Course

There's change on the horizon at Casa Appetite. Next month, Mister MA starts a new job in Seattle, and just as soon as I can pack up my pots and pans here in Arlington, Va., I'll join him on our new adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Should I just close my eyes and pick a place to get a bite to eat? (Kim O'Donnel) Because I've seen so little of this country (fewer than half of all 50 states), I've decided to take my time getting to my new neighborhood and embark on my first-ever cross-country road trip. If all goes as planned, I'll bid adieu to the nation's capital in early August and begin my coast-to-coast eating/blog-stravaganza, filing regular dispatches in this space along the way. So far, I have no set itinerary, but I'm inclined take a northerly route (with a few southerly detours). And that's where you...

By Kim ODonnel | June 3, 2008; 6:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Heart-Wise Reality Check

Mister Reality Check stopped by to see me last week when I got word that a dear friend was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital for open-heart surgery. Just four days prior to receiving this news, I had cackled with him at a party for a mutual friend, sharing our hopes and dreams, and in the short term, the plans we had in store for the long holiday weekend. Little did we know that life had other plans for him and his arteries. The dramatic turn of events aside, the bypass was successful, and my friend is now at home, recuperating and perhaps reflecting on how quickly life can flash before our eyes. The news knocked the wind right out of me, as it took me back 25 years when my father's heart stopped pumping and then just six weeks later, his mother's heart stopped, too. It was DNA's way of...

By Kim ODonnel | June 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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