Archive: September 2008

Figs and Olives: A Delightful Surprise

A few weeks ago, I went to an after-work picnicky thing to meet some of Mister MA’s new colleagues, and unlike most office-sponsored gatherings, the food was memorable – in a good way. Fig tapenade. (Kim O'Donnel). While Mister MA fetched the drinks, I perused the colorful array of mostly meatless dips and spreads, but the thing that caught my eye was the fig tapenade. A first for me, I was intrigued, imagining how figs and olives would taste and feel in one unified bite. It would take just one little spoonful to hook me, well, forever. Where have you been all my life, olives and figs, baby? What a groovy combination, a yin-yang of sweet and savory, smooth and chunky, mellow and pungent. While licking my fingers, I decided that I must figure out how to recreate this extraordinary flavor sensation and share the figgy love. A few Googlish...

By Kim ODonnel | September 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Meatless Monday: Warming Up to Winter Squash

Ever try a kabocha (say Kah-boh-cha) squash? It’s the Jade green pumpkin-looking variety, sometimes with little streaks of yellow-green. As with most winter squash, the kabocha is tough-skinned, requiring a sharp blade (get out those sharpening steels) to get through its armor. (It’s not as tough as that dastardly acorn squash, though.) Plan on 20 minutes of peeling and chopping time, and yes, it’s okay to do this the night before and store the squash in an airtight container. Once inside, however, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning yellow-orange flesh that transforms into sweet tender morsels, a cross between squash and sweet potato. Here’s a fun recipe that I made on the fly one Saturday morning about five years ago at the Arlington Courthouse farmers’ market. It was pouring rain like buckets, but the market, as always, stayed open, and the diehard shoppers showed up with their umbrellas. This...

By Kim ODonnel | September 29, 2008; 6:23 AM ET | Comments (4)

Debating Over Presidential Debate Snacks

By now you know that both presidential candidates will show up in Oxford, Miss., tonight for the first televised debate of the post-convention season. In my inbox, I’m seeing a flurry of last-minute invitations to watch the debate, but what I want to know is this: what about the snacks? In such a close race, should debate-viewing snacks be color coded like these cocktails? Or should there just be something -- anything hard and crunchy -- to chomp on during what will undoubtedly be a nail biter? Should McCain fans run out to get the fixins for the Arizona senator’s beloved barbecue? And does anyone have a recipe for Palin punch? Should Obama supporters say to heck with the arugula jokes and make some arugula pesto anyway? Or perhaps, in honor of the debate’s location – Oxford, Miss., also the home to the Southern Foodways Alliance -- there should be...

By Kim ODonnel | September 26, 2008; 1:41 PM ET | Comments (10)

Tofu Brownies Rock

So I’m curled up in bed catching up with a pile of magazines, and my finger stops on a recipe in the latest issue of Yoga Journal. Triple-chocolate chipotle brownies. Tofu brownies.(Kim O'Donnel) I dog-ear the page and move on to the section about how yoga boosts brain power, which I could use a little more of these days. A week later, I return to the recipe, scanning it for ingredients, discovering that these aren’t just chocolate brownies – they’re tofu brownies. A few years ago, I had better-than-good results with a vegan, gluten-free brownie “bite” that was published in Food & Wine. And many of my vegetarian readers know how much I love my tofu pumpkin pie. But tofu in brownies? Could it really pass sweet-tooth muster? I put the recipe to the test last night. As with many dessert recipes that call for silken tofu, the brownies needed...

By Kim ODonnel | September 25, 2008; 12:45 PM ET | Comments (13)

Getting Hip to COOL

Beginning next week, you may notice more labels at the meat counter and in the produce aisle of your neighborhood supermarket. As of Sept. 30, the federally mandated Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law will go into effect at supermarkets nationwide. The COOL requirements for beef, lamb, pork, seafood, produce and peanuts have been on the books since 2002 as part of that year’s Farm Bill; however, implementation has been painfully gradual, rolling out with seafood labels in 2004. The list of COOL-required categories has since expanded; as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the rules now apply to chicken, goat, macadamia nuts, pecans and ginseng. With COOL, shoppers will now know, for example, if a head of garlic was grown in California or in China, which has earned a grisly reputation for exporting tainted food. (Remember last year’s pet food nightmare?) It should also help eliminate some of the...

By Kim ODonnel | September 24, 2008; 12:40 PM ET | Comments (5)

Nine Reasons to Say Yes to Fall

It was late in the day on the left coast when I realized Miz Summer had officially handed the baton to Autumn, who made her appearance at 10:44 a.m. ET yesterday. (Kim O'Donnel) As many of you already know, I’m a woman of the sun who’d rather cool off under a tree than thaw my toes by the fire. I must admit, however, that as I get older, I warm up to autumn a little bit more with each passing equinox. After all, it is an exciting time of year to cook; like falling leaves, fall produce is a showcase of reds, yellows, oranges and funky shades of green, like you might find in an oil painting. For many of us, fall is a return to the indoor kitchen with the windows creaked shut and the oven going full blast, filling the house with olfactory fairy dust. It is a...

By Kim ODonnel | September 23, 2008; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (11)

Meatless Monday: Zucchini “Meatballs” With Red Sauce

Enthusiastically is how you responded to last week’s proposal for a weekly meatless feature. We take that as a “yes” and we’ve decided to waste no time in getting started. Welcome to the first edition of Meatless Monday, a Mighty Appetite feature that explores the idea of taking a break from meat one day a week. Although many readers have expressed an interest in diversifying their diets, they also tell me that they don’t know how and could use a little help in the motivation department. That’s why, starting today and every Monday, I’ll dish up a different recipe (with Casa Appetite testing notes, as always), but the meat will nowhere to be found. It won’t be on the side, it won’t be in the soup stock, it just won’t be -- for one day of the week. Curiosity can often be a great motivator -- and a recipe...

By Kim ODonnel | September 22, 2008; 8:07 AM ET | Comments (15)

Guided Curry Tour

K Street: I love curries but am a bit intimidated by all of the spices. In an attempt to overcome this, I've talked some friends into joining me for a "curry day" and having a do-it-yourself cooking class. We want to get the relevant spices, toast and grind them -- we are planning to make 3-4 dishes, if possible, and then we'll sit down and eat when all is over. My question is whether you can suggest a good source for recipes that will go over how to handle the spices, etc. I saw that you referenced a new curry cookbook in your blog recently, so thought that might be an option. Ideas? As I mentioned in this week’s chat, I love this idea. In fact, it’s got me thinking about the possibility of doing a “Curry Week” in this space this fall, announced in advance so that readers could...

By Kim ODonnel | September 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

A Meatless Day Keeps Global Warming at Bay?

Want to save the planet? Take a day off from meat, suggests a world-renowned climate change expert. (Kim O'Donnel) In an interview last week with Britain’s The Observer, Rajendra Pachauri recommends one meatless day per week to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,” says Pachauri in the Sept. 7 article. Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, Pachauri argues that the world’s livestock is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a statistic echoed in a 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In case you hadn’t noticed, we like our meat here in USA. In its 2001-2002 Agriculture Factbook (the most recent one published), the United States Department of...

By Kim ODonnel | September 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Chat Leftovers: Summer-Fall Bridge, Vegan, Soy-Free Supper and Cheap Tricks

Downtown D.C.: The weather is starting to get a bit chilly around here. Any bridge-the-season ideas for summer produce, but fall weather? With the autumnal equinox fast approaching (Sept. 22), there’s indeed a chill in the air after the sun says goodnight. This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to soup, stew and other warming potions, but as you mention, using the best of the summer harvest. Have a look at the details for this roasted red pepper puree, a light-to-medium bodied potage that still has one foot in summer, with all those sun-kissed peppers. I’m also partial to this creamy tomato soup, a perfect companion for grilled cheese or a hunk of crusty bread. (I’ve also added cooked rice just before serving, and I feel like I’m back in kindergarten.) Speaking of rice and companions, there’s no better time to whip up a pot of eggplant...

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2008; 6:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Finding a Thrill on Cranberry Hill

For many of us in the lower 48, the words “berry picking” conjure up images of a hot summer day at a U-Pick-It farm somewhere off the interstate, a fun weekend activity for the kids and hey, maybe we’ll pick enough to snack on for the ride home. The tundra of the Yukon River Delta. (Kim O'Donnel) In Alaska’s tundra country, however, those same two words cast a very different picture. For the Yup’ik Eskimos, who have made the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta their home for nearly 3,000 years, wild berries are a vital component of their largely subsistence diet – a main (if not the main) source of Vitamin C. In this cash-poor economy, berries are a currency, and when the Yup’iks say they’ve gone picking, it’s serious business, to the tune of 20 gallons for one family. The latest wrinkle, though, is the ultra-harsh reality of gasoline prices,...

By Kim ODonnel | September 16, 2008; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (3)

Chum, Yum Yum

After a wild, inspiring ride along the Yukon River Delta in southwestern Alaska last week, I am still digesting my experiences and knitting them together for a blog post later this week. As previously mentioned, I embarked on a last-minute expedition to Emmonak, Alaska, to witness the final days of Yukon River salmon season – fall chum, to be exact. Yup'ik fisherman Humphrey Keyes and I wait for salmon on the mighty Yukon River. (Jon Rowley) Back in Seattle just a few days, I still have wild salmon on the brain big time. Good thing I had a few fish come home with me (and if you’re keen to get an idea of what I'm talking about, contact your local Whole Foods Market, which is currently offering Yukon salmon at seafood counters in many cities around the country). The weather here in Seattle has been very un-rainy, un-humid and un-hurricane-y,...

By Kim ODonnel | September 15, 2008; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (3)

Hurry Up and Get Canning!

The first day of autumn is but 10 days away, which means the opportunities for home canning and preserving are diminishing by the minute. If you’ve been putting off “putting up” like I have, there’s no more time to waste! This weekend, I hope to devise a plan and get real busy real fast next week with my canning partner Kate if she’s game. Last year, we canned peaches and made berry jam, and this year, I’m going to suggest pickled cauliflower (as seen in the September issue of Saveur and a big ol' batch of tomato sauce, using Barbara Kingsolver’s (“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”) recipe (details below). Looks like we might have help; I just received an e-mail from fellow food blogger Leslie Hatfield, of Eat Well Guide, who’s in Seattle visiting family. She says she’s ready to lend a hand; wonder if that would give us time to try...

By Kim ODonnel | September 12, 2008; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (7)

Doing One Last Zucchini Dance

From the desk of Let’s Make the Most of Summer Produce Before It Disappears into the Winter Sunset: Zucchini is still in the house! Mother Nature’s clock is ticking, but there’s still a wee bit of time to have your way with La Zuke in the kitchen. As veteran summer squash gardeners already know, zucchini is a prolific little bugger, which means never having enough friends -- or zucchini recipes. Zucchini getting some time with ricotta and herbs. (Kim O'Donnel) Have I got a goodie for you. For years, I’ve been hollowing out zucchini halves into boats and stuffing them with herbs, tomatoes and breadcrumbs, but this one, with Calabrian origins, is rich with ricotta (if you can, get some fresh stuff -- it really makes a difference). Fresh tomatoes get some time in a sauté pan with onions and garlic, and when cooled, the sweet mixture gets folded into...

By Kim ODonnel | September 11, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (11)

Cooking Up a Wedding Registry

Of all the things to do before your wedding day, you’d think that picking out gifts would be the fun and easy part. I found it downright agonizing, so much that I considered avoiding gift registry altogether. Hearing of this news, my mother loudly protested, arguing that “people will want to give you things to celebrate your wedding, Kimberly” and so I caved. As nice as it is to receive gifts, it’s a lot of hard work figuring out which ones you want, particularly if you’re interested in equipping your newlywed kitchen. And that means getting on the organizational stick, taking inventory of your (and your other half’s) stuff and being painfully honest with yourself about what you like, what you need and what you’ll really use. You’ll want to ask these questions as well: Will there be a merging of kitchen gadgetry and tools or are you both starting...

By Kim ODonnel | September 10, 2008; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (19)

No Chat Today; Hanging Out With the Eskimos

So I’ve got a really good excuse for missing this week’s What’s Cooking chat. I’m on the road again, but this time, I’m so far away even I can’t believe it. An early evening in Emmonak. (Kim O'Donnel) I’m typing to you from Emmonak, Alaska (say E-MONIC), a Yup'ik Eskimo fishing village roughly 500 miles northwest of Anchorage. Over the weekend, a rare opportunity to experience the final days of Yukon River salmon season fell into my lap -- a chance of a lifetime, even if it meant dropping everything and hopping on three planes to the Alaskan tundra almost immediately. Since Sunday, I’ve been holed up with the hardy folks who operate Kwikpak Fisheries. Fall is here in western Alaska, which means that the tundra is rapidly changing colors (from green to marigold yellows mixed in with orange), moose are fair game, wild berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) are ready...

By Kim ODonnel | September 9, 2008; 6:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Finger-Licking-Good Chicken Tikka

While preparing to move to Seattle this summer, I shared a list of things and places in D.C. that I knew I’d miss, and already I’ve got a hankering for one of the mentioned -- the divine Indian morsels at Rasika in Penn Quarter. Chicken tikka, close up. (Kim O'Donnel) A stroke of luck -- or maybe just some excellent timing -- came my way over the weekend, when I picked up the latest issue of Food & Wine, which features seven recipes by none other than Rasika chef Vikram Sunderam. Score! Eventually, I plan to test and savor every one of Sunderam’s F&W recipes, but chicken tikka is one that hooked me straight away. For some, chicken tikka -- boneless bits marinated in yogurt and spices and baked in a blistering hot clay tandoor oven, is considered unadventurous fare compared to the countless options under the Indian cuisine umbrella,...

By Kim ODonnel | September 8, 2008; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (6)

A Lovely Eggplant Zinger

In three-or-four-season produce land, September is just about the best time of year; it is a true cornucopia -- the best (and often the last) of summer crops as well as the arrival of cooler-weather heartier plants that turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving and woolen scarves. The seasonal choices are endless, sometimes overwhelming in that embarrassment riches sort of way. Gardeners and farmers are up to their eyeballs in peppers, squash and tomatoes, and everyone wants to know what the heck to do with all the basil and eggplants growing like crazing on the vine or what the neighbor has just dropped off. Eggplant "fingers" mingle with a dry herb (rather than spice)-based curry. (Kim O'Donnel) Here’s one to lighten your eggplant, basil and tomato load, a Thai-Indian number that comes from “660 Curries,” a new cookbook from Raghavan Iyer. As I paged through Iyer’s 832-page tome, my finger came...

By Kim ODonnel | September 5, 2008; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (4)

White House Garden: Yay or Nay?

John Adams did it. So did Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm talking about gardening on the White House lawn. It's been a while -- since World World II -- since the idea has borne edible fruit; however, Chez Panisse and Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters has been pushing the idea of a White House vegetable garden since 2000, when Bill Clinton was in office. The Whofarm guys: Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow. (Courtesy flickr/photo_nola) Flash forward eight years, and Waters now has company, with Eat the View and The White House Organic Farm Project (aka The Who Farm), two separate efforts with a similar mission -- urging the next president to start growing his own food. Eat the View is the brainchild of Roger Doiron, the force behind Kitchen Gardeners International, an online community for gardeners around the world. Doiron, who lives (and has a 1/3 acre-garden) in Scarborough, Maine, began...

By Kim ODonnel | September 4, 2008; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (11)

A Taste of Slow Food Nation

Like a really good lunch buffet, Slow Food Nation was enormous, a feast for the eyes, belly and mind. The four-day event in San Francisco drew a crowd of 60,000 over Labor Day weekend, according to organizers, who are calling it the largest celebration of food in America. It was also a first for parent organization Slow Food USA, the North American arm of the international Slow Food movement. The entryway for Slow Food Nation, with San Francisco's City Hall in the background. (Kim O'Donnel) The choices for what to see, taste, hear and discuss were many and varied, and my biggest challenge was in deciding what to do first. There were lectures with star-studded panels, smaller workshops with artisans and activists, a farmers' market, Victory garden and open-air food court, book signings, film screenings, a rock concert and a "Taste Pavilion," an indoor regional/artisanal foods expo. As a member...

By Kim ODonnel | September 3, 2008; 1:40 PM ET | Comments (7)

Staring Gustav in the Eye

I found Meghan Gordon on Twitter, where she's been posting Hurricane Gustav tweets from New Orleans. On Twitter, Gordon is known as "Sazerac Attack," the same name of her blog, a collection of random thoughts about the town she's been calling home for the past five years. When she isn't tweeting,Gordon, who grew up in Texas, is reporting for The Times-Picayune, covering politics in New Orleans's West Bank, where she lives. I caught up with her via e-mail yesterday, just hours after the storm had passed. How did you prepare for the storm in the way of food and drink? Food and drink are typically low on the list when it comes to stocking the hurricane supply chest. I hit the grocery before hysteria starts to build to avoid insane lines and fill a cart with snacks that don't require heating or utensils, bottled water and caffeine of some sort....

By Kim ODonnel | September 3, 2008; 8:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Hurricane Evac Breadcrumb Trail

For a man whose motto is "rebuilding New Orleans --- one plate at a time," leaving behind his beloved city on account of another hurricane must have been incredibly painful for chef Frank Brigtsen. Chef Frank Brigtsen at the stove in June 2007. (Courtesy Gerald San Jose) But as Hurricane Gustav inched closer to the Gulf Coast threatening Category 5-like damage rivaling that of Katrina, getting out of hurricane dodge is exactly what Brigtsen, his family and kitchen staff did over the weekend. Miraculously, I was able to track down this native son of New Orleans just before he and his group of 20 evacuated in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday. Below, our e-mail exchange before and during the storm (and before the power went out in Natchez, Miss.). As to be expected, Brigtsen is cooking to keep hope alive; I was there last year to hear him utter the...

By Kim ODonnel | September 2, 2008; 7:21 AM ET | Comments (2)

 

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