Archive: October 2008

The Ka-Ching of Kitchen 'Rithmetic

Back in April, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the cost of food was higher for the first quarter of 2008 than all of 2007, our ears began to perk up. In this space, readers got together and shared their kitchen tips and tricks on getting thrifty. Flash forward six months, and the economic climate is darker still, as the future of the world’s financial health hangs in the balance. Good thing someone out there isn’t just getting thrifty; he’s actually doing the math to show us the money. Culinate contributor Hank Sawtelle gets an A for doing his homework on the real dollars-and-cents savings of buying a whole chicken and cutting it up ($8.45) versus buying parts separately ($14.73) If you're thinking yeah, right, easier said than done, take a look at the following video, which walks you through the steps of cutting up a whole bird....

By Kim ODonnel | October 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (18)

As Daylight Ends, Please Pass the Vitamin D

When Daylight Saving Time officially comes to an end this Sunday, Nov. 2, it’s gonna be a whole lot darker around here. The egg yolk is on a short list of Vitamin D-rich foods. (Kim O'Donnel) Once we collectively reverse the hands of time on our alarm clocks, we lose an hour of precious sunlight at supper but get it back (at least for a while) at breakfast. Here in Seattle, the conversation has turned to the rapidly diminishing light, the marvels of something called a dawn simulator, and most interestingly for this native east coaster, the importance of Vitamin D. As kids growing up in the '70s, we were told to drink our Vitamin D-enriched milk because it makes our bones and teeth strong. These days, scientists say the benefits are much more far reaching, protecting us from a host of diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis and certain kinds of...

By Kim ODonnel | October 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Chat Leftovers: Polenta, Baked Apple Woes, Winning Chili

Connecticut: Hi Kim, I have a question about polenta. Is there a way to keep it from setting up so quickly? I add it slowly while whisking, but as soon as I stop, it tightens up. And as soon as it starts to get thick, it starts bubbling like lava even though I turned the heat down. What gives? Cornmeal getting close to becoming full-fledged polenta. (Kim O'Donnel) Connecticut, my dear, I tried my hand at polenta earlier this year, and here’s what helped me: Drop cornmeal into pot a handful at a time, "like rain," stirring or whisking constantly and making sure water continues to boil. When all of cornmeal is incorporated, about five minutes -- continue stirring but lower heat as cornmeal mass thickens. It will soon become fairly dense and taken on volcanic qualities as it erupts periodically. Lower heat if necessary to keep eruptions at a...

By Kim ODonnel | October 29, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (9)

Save the Nancys With Your 30-Minute Specials

This one’s dedicated to my editor, Nancy, who loves to cook but recently lamented rarely having time to do more than carry out sushi for supper. And it’s dedicated to another Nancy, my dear friend and a full-time mom in the Midwest who confessed to me she’d like Santa to bring her a kitchen genie this year. Short of that miracle, she’ll take a handful of quickie dinner ideas to keep hope (and the domestic peace) alive. Time. We always seem to be running out of it or looking for more, except when it comes to dinner, for which there is none. By sundown, we’re either wrung out, beaten down or just too tired to lift a spatula. You know what happens next -- dinner in a bag or a box. For a while, dinner on the run can be fun, but it gets tired, salty and expensive real fast....

By Kim ODonnel | October 28, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (19)

Meatless Monday: Hooray, Tempeh!

In the four years that I’ve known about my allergy to mushrooms, I’d never really bemoaned the absence of edible fungi -- until now. With the weather crisping up and calling for heartier supper fare, my thoughts recently took a detour into off-limits territory -- a pasta dish with caramelized onions, goat cheese -- and portobello mushrooms. Tempeh stands in for mushrooms in this hearty pasta dish with goat cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) A long-time dog-eared favorite discovered during my cooking school days in New York, this dish single handedly helped me to appreciate mushroom cookery, and it quickly became part of my recipe repertoire. Since my diagnosis, however, the only thing that recipe has been doing is collecting dust. With this unexpected craving parked on the front burner of my brain, what could I do in lieu of an Epi-pen prescription, I wondered. And then along came tempeh (pronounced...

By Kim ODonnel | October 27, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

From the Recipe Crypt: Halloween-y Treats

October 31 is just a week away. Are you practicing your apple-bobbing maneuvers? (Kim O'Donnel) This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, which means tricksters can frolic all weekend long. The Friday night monster mash can easily segue into a Saturday morning-after pumpkin pancake brunch or an afternoon candy-making workshop before the next round of evening festivities (and a costume change, of course). Roll up those costume sleeves and whip up a pot of homemade caramel for dipping apples. While you oversee the super-hot cooked sugar, the under-12 set can spear the apples with sticks (use up those unused take-out chopsticks) and assist with the dipping. Aprons (and a candy thermometer) are a must! For more of a kitchen challenge (and something more arts-and-craftsy), consider a batch of homemade candy corns. I had a ball making these last year, but my only regret was not having a partner. A team...

By Kim ODonnel | October 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Chat Leftovers: Reader-to-Reader Assists

As of today, Oct. 23, 2008, only registered washingtonpost.com users will now be able to leave comments here (and on all post.com blogs). We're hoping this will cut down on spammers, denial of service attacks and general mayhem perpetrated by virtual jackbooted thugs. So, make sure you're registered. And remember, your post.com user name will appear with your comments once the switch is flipped. If you're a registered user, logged in and still having trouble: try clearing your browser's cookies and try again. There wasn't just a big pile of leftover questions in this week's What's Cooking queue; there were reader tips galore, random acts of online kindness that keep this chat going strong, now nearly 10 years old. Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens: See link to decidedly un-sweet recipe further down on this page. (Kim O'Donnel) Natural food coloring: You can find them on the web, but...

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

These Onions Are Jammin'

From Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Cook vi 1: to prepare food for eating by means of heat Onion jam teams up with olives and anchovies, a heady trio for a thin pizza-like dough. (Kim O'Donnel). We don’t think about it much, but heat – be it dry, wet, direct or indirect – brings about chemical changes in the composition of raw food that makes possible any number of edibles such as mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, grilled cheese sandwiches and roasted squash. Even for raw foodists, who allow maximum temperatures of 118 degrees, heat is an essential ingredient of our cooking lives. As a food geek, I am endlessly fascinated by the cellular transformation of the raw to the cooked, even when regarded as a simple pragmatic task (Dried beans plus liquid and heat equals soup, for example). But there’s one raw ingredient that consistently blows me away in the stovetop...

By Kim ODonnel | October 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Spooky Food-Related Costumery

A friend announced on Twitter that his wife is dressing up as the $700B bailout for Halloween. Brilliant! Why can’t I be that creative? (lstockphoto). It’s been years since I cooked up a Halloween costume. Would I dare this time 'round? Only 10 days remain until the festivities; is there enough time to concoct a get-up that’s both spooky and food related? Here’s what I’ve scribbled down thus far: A farmed salmon that just flew in from Chile with a bad case of jet lag -- or maybe it’s the flu? An ear of genetically modified (GMO) corn Here’s one to do as a team: Go as FDA-approved cloned cow twins! Your favorite partially hydrogenated oil, aka trans fat, the fat that keeps those packaged cookies, crackers and baked goods oh so fresh for...eternity. A peck of three-month-old salmonella-contaminated jalapeno peppers A McDonald’s Happy Meal. Smile! The latest daily allotment...

By Kim ODonnel | October 21, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

Meatless Monday: Sweet on Sweet Potatoes

Unlike Mister MA, I’m a big fan of the sweet potato and I’m always looking for new ways to play with them. My latest discovery comes from Peter Berley’s “Fresh Food Fast” which suggests pairing up the sweets with coconut milk and ginger, plus other aromatic treats. Even more than the sheer comfort factor of slurping on a coconut milk-infused elixir on a cold evening, I love how versatile this recipe proves to be. Want to make it super spicy? Go ahead. Not interested in the greens? Leave ’em out. I even considered pureeing, but the sweet potatoes are so tender, they practically puree themselves on the tongue. Sweet potatoes cozy up to coconut milk, rice and fried tempeh. (Kim O'Donnel). Berley suggests pairing the soup with a scoop of jasmine rice, a lovely idea that makes the soup feel more like a meal. Tempeh also enters this equation;...

By Kim ODonnel | October 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Green Sushi Advice

Sushi lovers, it’s time to say sayonara to toro (aka bluefin tuna). Hamachi (yellowtail), too. And for the time being, you can forget about ordering those freshwater eel and avocado rolls -- unagi is also a big environmental no-no. Cover of Monterey Bay Aquarium's new sushi pocket guide. (Courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium). That’s the latest advice from three ocean conservation groups that are poised to launch wallet-sized sushi guides next week. As of Oct. 22, the consumer guides will be available online via Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Each group has its own card with a unique design and layout (Blue Ocean’s list offers detailed descriptions about each species, for example), but the message is the same no matter which card you print out: avoid red-listed sushi and seek out more abundant and better managed species. All three groups also single out species that are...

By Kim ODonnel | October 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Chat Leftovers: Outer Banks Weekend, Parchment Paper

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: This weekend a group of 13 hard-working attorneys in our late 20s will descend upon the Outer Banks for some R&R. I have volunteered to cook dinner one night for the group and am looking for something relatively easy to throw together (maybe even in one pot) that won't keep me in the kitchen missing the festivities for too long. Any thoughts? No dietary restrictions. Littlenecks 'n' noodles. (Kim O'Donnel) Seafood sounds about right for a weekend at the beach. For a group of 13, you could grill or roast a whole fish (mahi mahi aka dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo swim in the surrounding waters) with little effort. Ask a fishmonger to clean and scale (particularly if you don’t have a fish basket) for you, then stuff with herbs. Season very well with salt (about 1 teaspoon per 1. 25-1.5 pounds), plus a lathering of...

By Kim ODonnel | October 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

World Hunger: By the Numbers

Tomorrow, Oct. 16, is World Food Day, a day designated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1979 to bring attention to world hunger and food (in)security. Flash forward nearly 30 years, and the world is facing not just a credit crisis (as we watched the Dow tank last week), but an ongoing food-price crisis that is proving catastrophic, particularly in the developing world, a crisis that is causing riots and deepening the wounds of mass starvation. In lieu of attempting to dissect the hows, whys and what-ifs of the world’s hunger crisis, I’m going to paint this gargantuan, mind-boggling and dire picture with numbers instead. It won’t solve anything, but it will get us talking, and maybe even get us thinking and doing and creating -- who knows – some itty bitty shred of change. 6.7 billion: The current world population (based on July 2008 estimates...

By Kim ODonnel | October 15, 2008; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (5)

Portland: It Really Grows on You

From Seattle, you can hop aboard an Amtrak train and be in Portland, Ore., in three, maybe four hours. It is a highly civilized experience from which Northeast Corridor sardine can riders have been unfairly excluded. (Leather seats, people! A movie! Conductors who don’t growl! Oh, and get this – just $56 roundtrip.) We arrive at our destination rested and relaxed (imagine that) and use yet another civilized mode of transport, the Portland Street Car, to get to our hotel. It’s still before noon, so the hardened hotel traveler in me assumes there’s no chance of an early check in, but that’s okay, I am thinking, we’d like to stow our bags if you don’t mind. But Ms. O’Donnel, that won’t be necessary, says the front desk agent. Your room will be ready in five minutes. You gotta be kidding me. Welcome to Portland, folks. This is the city with...

By Kim ODonnel | October 14, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Meatless Monday: Improv Stuffed Peppers

If you grew up in the ‘70s like me, you might remember stuffed peppers for supper. Chances are the bell peppers of choice were the decidedly un-sweet green variety and the filling was ground beef and something tomato-y. I always liked to see their little hats in the oven, but once at the table, I remember being much more interested in the filling than the containers, which is a pity. Once I got my hands on a bell pepper with deeper sun-kissed pigmentation, I began to understand what the fuss was all about. Ah yes, stuffed peppers can be sweet, and the filling need not be meaty to mask their lack of personality. Veteran vegetarians know that stuffed peppers make for a terrific one-dish meatless meal, and best of all, you can make up the filling as you go along, depending on your mood or what’s in the fridge....

By Kim ODonnel | October 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

Baked Pear Aromatherapy

The house smells like one of those potpourri candles – but in a good way. I’ve just pulled baked pears, enrobed in an almond streusel, from the oven, and the aromas are positively dreamy. Streuseled pears getting ready for the oven. (Kim O'Donnel). Think of this as a take on fruit crisp, with more emphasis on fruit than crisp, but with a little more pizzazz. As much as I love spooning into a tray of fruit crisp, it lacks structure and has a face only a mother can love. A roasted pear, on the other hand, stands tall and pretty, full of grace, streusel-y perfume -- and yes, plenty of fruit. The recipe, which comes from Bay area pastry chef Emily Luchetti, can easily be tweaked to suit personal preferences. Almonds, for instance, could easily be replaced with walnuts, and if you want to use dairy-free “butter” (I’m thinking Earth...

By Kim ODonnel | October 10, 2008; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Chat Leftovers: Food Processor Bread, Grieving Fare

Arlington Gay Food Fan (aka GAFF): Kim, I finally did it, and it's all your fault. I bought a full-size (10 cup) food processor. Since Saturday, I've made your hummus, a roasted veggie soup (sadly, there can be too much cumin when processed), two pizza crusts, a loaf of Italian bread, and tonight six Italian bread rolls (same recipe, but dough cut into six parts after doubling.) Please give me links to more bread recipes that work well in food processors with a bread blade. I'm especially interested in rye, sour, and Italian recipes. GAFF, I’ll take the heat any day for your kitchen purchases! Congratulations on your new acquisition; it sounds like you are having a blast. You know, I’ve never done bread in a food processor, but your recent adventure has me curious. In her blog, dough diva Rose Levy Beranbaum (and author of pastry classics, including “The...

By Kim ODonnel | October 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Roast Chicken: What’s Your Secret?

Omnivores, tell me something: What is it about Sunday and roast chicken? Why do they go together like peanut butter and jelly? And why does the world always seem a little safer when there’s a bird in the oven? (AP Photo/Larry Crowe). A thick cloud cover and an autumn chill in the air were all the reasons I needed to make it roast chicken night at Casa Appetite this past Sunday. Anybody who eats roast chicken knows that the perfume of crackling skin, as seductive and mouth watering though it may be, does not guarantee a superlative taste sensation. In fact, we’ve all had our fair share of mediocre, underseasoned roast chicken that, based on smell alone, should have been dynamite. Most veteran cooks will tell you it’s easier to screw up a roast chicken than to do it culinary justice. And maybe the easier-said-than-done enigma about the roast chicken...

By Kim ODonnel | October 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (25)

Tartlets: For Life's Special Moments

Quick breads, cobblers, cookies -- these are everyday desserts, familiar homey treats that make our lives just a tad sweeter. They’re tried, true and never have to be perfect or pretty. Shucks, you may even know the recipes by heart. Raspberries dot white chocolate/mascarpone-filled pastry shells. (Kim O'Donnel). But when a special occasion calls, as it did over the weekend, an everyday dessert just won’t do. I needed something pretty, festive and decidedly special, the culinary equivalent of a party dress or a pair of patent leather Mary Janes. I had been invited to a baby shower, but this was no ordinary lady-about-to-have-baby shindig. This was for my dear friend Leslie, who for 18 months, waited to become an adoptive parent. In July, her long-awaited wish came true, the call that would make her drop everything and hightail it on the interstate to meet her newborn son, whom we’ve come...

By Kim ODonnel | October 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Meatless Monday: Roasted Cauliflower Meets Tahini

For years, I was a devotee of the cold salads in the glass case at the Lebanese Taverna market in Arlington, Va. When I swing through town in early December, I’ll be sure to get my fix of Middle Eastern mezze treats, among them the arnabeet – fried cauliflower with tahini sauce. In the meantime, I can sponge up the juices from “Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond,” a new cookbook by chef Sara Jenkins (daughter of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins) and her collaborator Mindy Fox. (Kim O'Donnel) Here, Jenkins suggests roasting (rather than frying) the florets, resulting in a lower-fat dish with arguably more intense flavors (the cauliflower’s natural sugars like to come out and play in the oven). While the cauli roasts, you can make the tahini sauce, which takes all of five minutes with a blender or food...

By Kim ODonnel | October 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

The Tricks Our Food Fears Play On Us

A few weeks ago, Mister MA and I got a last-minute invite to tag along with a group of tourists taking an oyster boat excursion on the Puget Sound. The group, from the Philadelphia area, was on a week-long culinary tour of the Pacific Northwest with their cooking teacher, Susan DiBonaventura. It was an oyster booze cruise of sorts, an opportunity to sample several kinds of raw oysters, pulled right out of the surrounding waters by the folks at Taylor Shellfish Farms, the event organizers. The booze in question was a Pinot Gris from Oregon which paired beautifully with the briny bivalves. For many of my travel companions, the wine was more intriguing than the oysters. An oyster is meant to be fried, I heard someone say. How will I chew it, I heard one woman complain. And then there was Helen, who was clearly on the fence. As she...

By Kim ODonnel | October 3, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Veep Debate-Viewing Vittles

Tonight’s the night for the sole vice-presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, which means just one thing in this space: your only chance to make Veep-appropriate snacks. Baked Alaska in progress. (Flickr/Tommy Williams). When Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) take the stage at Washington University in St. Louis at 8 p.m. local time, it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious, but as with any good spectator sport, drinkies and nosh are vital components of the experience. Palin supporters have many options in both the food and drink departments. Although it’d be difficult to rustle up the fixins for moose stew (apparently one of the governor’s favorites) on such short notice, wild Alaskan salmon would make an excellent stand-in. Easier still is a platter of smoked salmon, which loves teaming up with crackers, toast points, herbs, cream cheese, even pizza. Here in the Pacific Northwest, salmon jerky...

By Kim ODonnel | October 2, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (16)

Chat Leftovers: Heart-Healthy Lunch, Veggie Supper Sides

Food Help - out of ideas: I'm on a restricted diet because of high cholesterol and high blood pressure (I'm only 28). I'm at a loss of what to do for lunches during the day. Breakfast and dinners are fine and I don't want to bring leftovers. I've done wraps with chicken, lettuce, tomato and mustard but those get boring. What are some good heart-healthy lunches - it can't include mayo, or cold cuts, or cream based soups. Suggestions? Based on the wording of your question, I’m assuming you want easily assembled items rather than cooking from scratch. This is why you may feel bored, so I urge you to think about a wee bit of cookin’ at home to expand your lunch-able options. From the supermarket shelves, stock up on canned fish that you can season with Dijon mustard, red onions and celery, as a salad or tucked inside...

By Kim ODonnel | October 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

 

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