Archive: January 2009

Under-$20 Super Bowl Chowdown, 10 Ways

Here’s the deal: You’ve got 20 bucks to spend on vittles for Sunday’s big game on the big screen. Not a penny more. Whatever you decide to spend on booze, that’s your business. But when it comes to the chow, we’re going to keep it a budget-style affair. After all, who’s not pinching pennies these days? Sure, you can head over to KFC and pick up a 16-piece bucket for $20.99. And I hear Domino’s is offering its “American Legends” pies for $12.99. But honestly, how will your chow-in-a-box taste by the fourth quarter? That’s what I thought. Instead, have a look at what I’ve cooked up – 10 menu ideas with a festive flair, a cozy television hootin-and-hollerin’ vibe --- and with that under-$20 price tag. Of course, if you're feeding 20 people Sunday night, your budget will double or triple, but you get the idea. Your budget-minded suggestions,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 30, 2009; 4:00 AM ET | Comments (18)

Poll: How Do You Take Your Brownies?

poll by twiigs.com brown·ie What’s in a name? And would a brownie by any other name (or definition) taste as sweet? Here’s how Merriam Webster defines it: 3: a small square or rectangle of rich usually chocolate cake often containing nuts But, according to The Oxford Encylopedia of Food and Drink in America, brownies are “bar cookies, usually chocolate, baked in square or rectangular cake pans.” So which is it – cake or cookie? “The Food Lover’s Companion” further mucks up the works with this definition: “A dense, chewy, cakelike cookie that is generally chocolate-flavored…” Less than satisfied with these conflicting book-ish reports, I sought first-hand counsel and epicurean wisdom from a handful or two of trusted gluttonous comrades, and asked them to honor me with their definition of “brownie.” The responses, I’m sorry to report, are as wildly all over the map as the authoritative sources. To wit,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

High Fructose Corn Syrup Meets Mercury

You may have seen this television commercial (or one like it) last September: Brought to you by Sweet Surprise, a Web site of The Corn Refiners Association, the ad campaign came on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s decision in July that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be labeled as “natural.” The clip reiterates the theme that HFCS is “made from corn, has the same calories as honey or sugar and is fine in moderation.” To back up for a second, HFCS is a man-made sweetener that has taken the place of sugar in soda over the past 20 years and has found its way into a slew of processed foods, including cookies, cereal, ketchup, bread and dairy products. Making HFCS requires sundry chemicals, including caustic soda (also known as sodium hydroxide or lye) which is used to help separate corn starch from corn kernel....

By Kim ODonnel | January 28, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (20)

Chat Leftovers: Converted Rice, Boneless Chix Woes

Rice rice baby: I have a burning question. What is converted rice? Did it change religion, or was something done to affect nutrition or cooking time? Should I prepare it differently than I would, say, Jasmine rice? Let’s start with some basics. Brown and white rice begin similarly, with the removal of its outer (and inedible) husk, aka hull. At this stage, the rice is considered “brown,” with its bran and germ intact (as well as fiber and nutrients). When rice goes through the additional steps of having its bran and germ removed, it becomes “white.” Converted rice (as in Uncle Ben’s) is white rice that’s been parboiled (or steamed) and then dried before milling, resulting in a beige-ier shade, a less sticky texture and purportedly more nutrients. It does take a little bit more time to cook than regular white rice, but check that orange Uncle Ben’s box for...

By Kim ODonnel | January 27, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Meatless Monday: First-Rate Falafel

I know I urge you to try everything I share with you in this space, but I really, really, really think you should try making falafel. For a long time, I considered the Middle Eastern bean patties one of those kitchen untouchables -- too difficult to make worth my while and better left to the pros manning the street carts. (Kim O'Donnel) Truth be known, falafel are much easier and straight forward to put together than they seem, and as a result, feel like a tremendous accomplishment. Everyone is impressed when they hear you’ve just whipped up falafel, which is why they’re great for entertaining. (Super Bowl snacks, anyone?) If you’re worried about the “fry” factor, let me share a few thoughts -- the patties are swimming in a pool that’s about 350 degrees, which means quick cooking -- about two minutes tops -- and fairly little oil absorption....

By Kim ODonnel | January 26, 2009; 9:05 AM ET | Comments (22)

PB and Salmonella: The Latest Sandwich

When I walk into attorney Bill Marler’s downtown Seatttle office that overlooks the Puget Sound, it’s not just the view that I’m taken with: it’s Marler’s computer screen, which has a browser window open to the Web site of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which he checks vigilantly throughout our interview. These days, Marler, who has been representing victims of foodborne illness since 1993, is consumed by the nation’s latest food scare, Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter. Since late August, 488 people in 43 states have been infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, and the common link is peanut butter and peanut paste from a processing plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by Peanut Corporation of America. The outbreak may have contributed to six deaths. Peanut paste is the stuff that food manufacturers use to flavor a plethora of processed foods, peanut butter-cheez snack crackers among them. Although the paste is not sold...

By Kim ODonnel | January 23, 2009; 8:43 AM ET | Comments (14)

Kim's "20"

This month’s Saveur is the annual “100” special issue, a list of 100 people, places, trends, tools and ingredients that tickle the editors’ taste buds. Typically a roundup of big-name tastemakers and high-end products, the list is a who’s who of foodies and what’s what in chowhound-dom. But this year, editor James Oseland has shifted gears, instead celebrating you, me and everyone we know – the home cook. You’ll meet Margherita Chiaramonte, of Sicily, who shares her recipe for Zuppa di Grano Cuturru (greens and bulgur soup) and Mei Teck Wong, a housewife in Singapore who’s got a knack for making supper based on what’s in the fridge. In his editor’s note, Oseland refers to these women (plus a handful of other home cooks from different corners of the world) as “unsung kitchen heroes” who exemplify “a basic truth … that cooking is one of the most fundamental, and beautiful,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 22, 2009; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (6)

Q&A: The Voice of Obama Foodorama

I was right; Obama Foodorama Editor Eddie Gehman Kohan was indeed swept up in the “Onaugural” hoopla, but the intrepid blogger from Los Angeles, who claims to have slept “five hours over the past four days” came up for air yesterday after “Bam” was sworn in. Gehman Kohan, who checked in with me yesterday from somewhere near the parade route, reports that she’s been having an inaugural blast. Despite having blown into town last Saturday with nary a party invitation, she says that has managed to “crash my way into a handful of inaugural balls.” Obama Foodorama Editor Eddie at the Green Inaugural Ball on Monday night. (Courtesy Eddie Gehman Kohan) I asked the self-described “ag policy wonkette” to share the story behind her blog and to offer her thoughts on a buffet of topics, including newly confirmed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the fuss over the White House...

By Kim ODonnel | January 21, 2009; 6:32 AM ET | Comments (5)

Obamafoodorama

I wish I could say I made up this word, but a feisty blogger in Los Angeles beat me to the punch. There’s no dictionary-style definition just yet, but I’m placing my bets that blog minx Eddie Gehman Kohan will get to that in the first year of the Obama administration. Gehman Kohan, a food writer and blogger based in Los Angeles, launched Obamafoodorama on election night as a “daily diary of the Obama foodscape, one byte at a time.” Born out of The Haphazard Gourmet Girls, a group blog on food safety, sustainability and agriculture policy written by Gehman Kohan and her sisters, Pleasant and Meghan (aka 'Cupcake' ) Gehman, Obamafoodorama is everything and anything that makes any agricultural, comestible, edible and gastronomical connection with the First Family. You want to know what Sasha and Malia are having for lunch at Sidwell Friends? You got it. What Obama ate...

By Kim ODonnel | January 20, 2009; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Meatless Monday: Gio’s Mama’s Pasta e Fagioli

When we worked together, my friend Gio and I didn’t share recipes, which is a shame, given that his parents are first generation immigrants from Sicily. Messina, to be esatto. Caterina Calabro with her husband, Filippo. (Family photo) But to be fair, when we met about 12 years ago, Gio was fresh out of school, a single guy in his 20s with a really thick New Jersey-Italo accent. I’m thinking his mama, Caterina, was probably stocking young Gio’s freezer with all of his Sicilian favorites. Now he’s all grown up, gone and got hitched to a nice girl and is the father of two little girls. Perhaps that’s why he’s begun sharing Caterina’s recipes on Facebook? Whatever the reason, thank goodness! First on the menu is Caterina’s pasta e fagioli, an Italian classic of pasta and beans, which is neither soup nor stew, but a little bit of both....

By Kim ODonnel | January 19, 2009; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (3)

Mary Todd Lincoln's White Cake

As promised in yesterday's blog space, I’ve got the goods on Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake, the one she baked while courting Abe and in the Lincoln White House. A slice of Mrs. Lincoln's cake. (Kim O'Donnel) Upon first look at the recipe, which calls for six beaten egg whites, I’m thinking the results will be similar to that of Angel food cake. But Janis Cooke Newman, author of the historical novel “Mary” and all-knowing MTL White Cake expert, says I’m not even close; rather, Mary’s cake has a classic layer cake texture, with plenty of vanilla and almond notes. She also let know that despite two cups of sugar in the batter, the results are not super sweet as I had imagined. As I got to work, I wondered if I should invite Mary to join me in the kitchen, as Newman had done for three years while writing...

By Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

How Mary Won Abe Lincoln Over With Cake

You may have heard that Barack Obama has a thing for Abraham Lincoln. Come Tuesday, when he’s sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, Obama will put his hand upon the same Bible used at Lincoln’s inauguration ceremony in 1861. The honest-Abe homage continues at lunch, which features Lincoln-inspired fare (pdf file) served on replicas of china chosen by Mary Todd Lincoln, the 16th president’s notoriously eccentric wife -- and the first to be called “First Lady.” Had historian Janis Cooke Newman been consulted on the menu, surely she would have recommended Mary Todd Lincoln’s vanilla-almond cake for dessert. For three years, Newman, a San Francisco-based writer, spent much of her time “getting into Mary’s head,” for her historic novel, “Mary,” which is based on the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln. And baking Mary’s cake, says Newman, who spoke to me by phone earlier this week, “was...

By Kim ODonnel | January 15, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Chat Leftovers: Rutabaga Primer, Baby Shower Sweets, Spanish Apps

Richmond, Va.: I would appreciate a little help because my brain has gone on vacation somewhere warmer. I am baking desserts for an elder-care shelter this weekend and need ideas for transportable (probably not iced) 13x9 or bundt/tube cakes. I have done pound cakes of every flavor, carrot, chocolate, and spice cakes and am stumped. The folks look forward to the treats so I would very much appreciate any ideas you may have. Richmond, how can I resist helping someone who wants to help others. Here’s a handful of Casa Appetite favorites: Old-fashioned crumb cake, from Liberty Tavern chef Liam Lacivita. Not a Bundt shape, but easily transportable and those crumbs go great with coffee. For a little fruit (and fiber) with their cake, give this apple coffee cake with a cinnamon-y streusel a try. In my pre-Mister MA days, I lured many a man with this cake. Meow. You...

By Kim ODonnel | January 14, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Curling Up With Chicken and Rice

Mother Nature has been less than kind to many parts of the country this winter, which is officially less than a month old. Some folks might say this bad mood of hers has gone too far. Here in Washington state, Spokane has been walloped with record snowfall -- more than six feet of snow since mid-December -- and then the rain came, causing evacuation-strength flooding in large swaths south and west of Seattle. Avalanches, mudslides, the whole nine. Good times. Chicken and rice makes everything nice. (Kim O'Donnel) While perusing Facebook, I learn that AMA reader Sara G. is battling “50 mph winds and horizontal snow” in Lincoln, Neb. And over the weekend, I get an e-mail from my gal pal (and college roommate) Susan, who reports from Holden, Mass., where a huge ice storm in late December effectively blacked out the entire town. For a week. Here in Seattle,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Meatless Monday: Peanut Butter 'n' Apple Noodles

Remember when cold sesame noodles were all the rage in the 1980s? How I used to love to tuck into a bowl of the chicken sesame noodle salad at Le Bus, a funky bakery-café in an old house on Sansom Street in West Philadelphia, just a stone’s throw from the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied English. Compared to what was on the menu at the campus dining hall, those noodles were exotic eating. Not until I began studying cookbooks for a living did I learn that most cooks use peanut butter for the creamy sauce instead of Chinese sesame paste, which is harder to track down, and well, everyone has a jar of PB in the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time I slurped on a bunch of these noodles, but got a real hankering after spotting a version in Sheila Lukins’s new cookbook, “Ten.” In her...

By Kim ODonnel | January 11, 2009; 11:24 PM ET | Comments (13)

Ball Game-Worthy Oven-Braised Beans

It’s come to my attention that this is a big weekend in pro football world. Mister MA tells me there’s a slew of playoff games taking place both Saturday and Sunday. (Oh goodie, she replies, wondering about that overdue date with her sock drawer.) (Kim O'Donnel) He delivered this exciting sports news update as we sat down over a pot of beans earlier in the week. I had tried out a new beanery method (oven braising) from a new book (“Ten” by Sheila Lukins) and was eager for his thoughts on the variation, which includes a mélange of spices reminiscent of Jamaican jerk seasoning. If nothing else, I loved the aromatherapeutic results of the oven method; for a few hours, the whole house was filled with spicy oven perfume and cocooned me from the rain pounding outside the kitchen window. It felt easier than a stove top pot of beans,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 9, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Breaking (Banana) Bread

Thanks to a What’s Cooking reader from Reston, Va., my house is perfumed with a freshly baked banana bread. (Kim O'Donnel) “My mom sent me home from Christmas with some past-their-prime bananas. Since they've been sitting on my counter for a week, they're now REALLY past their prime, which means I'm making banana bread tonight," Reston wrote. Alas, there was a glitch. “All the recipes I'm finding online have complaints in the comments (I know, there are ALWAYS complaints), so I'm hoping you or another chatter has a fantastic recipe up a virtual sleeve.” Right after this week’s chat, I dug through my files for a very trusty banana recipe that I photocopied at my hometown library from an old edition of “The New York Times Cookbook” by the late Craig Claiborne. For more than 20 years, I’ve been toting this batter-stained recipe, a reminder of my college-break baking forays,...

By Kim ODonnel | January 8, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Chat Leftovers: Farm Market Meat Shopping, Afternoon Tea Party

Philly: My daughter wants to bake cookies to send to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you know how to do this? I don't mean how to pack the cookies but where to send them? Philly, it’s my understanding that for security reasons, you must send overseas care packages to a specific individual rather than to a general catch-all address. If no one in your immediate family is currently serving, reach out to neighbors to find out if they’ve got loved ones overseas who might like a sweet treat. For some great insight on baking for the troops, read my recent q&a with AMA reader Louise Skinner, who’s been sending cookies to troops for the past three years. Bethesda Mom: Congrats on 10 great years!! As someone who's followed the chat from the beginning, I can't believe it's been so long! Here’s my question: I'm planning an afternoon tea...

By Kim ODonnel | January 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

An Early Taste of 2009

On the dawn of this new year, I’m meditating on possible themes and directions that will define the flavor and mouth feel of 2009. I’m hardly a fortuneteller, so don’t expect any predictions; however, with this starter batch of tidbits, below, I’m able to piece together some storylines about issues, trends and tastemakers worth watching (and chewing on). So what can we expect from the world in which we eat, drink, cook, grow, fish, hunt and gather? Will it be the year of slow, fast or medium food? Will we ever know where all our seafood comes from? And while we’re pondering these notions, share what’s on the tip of your tongue, either literally or metaphorically, in the comments area. It will be difficult to ignore the crapped-out economy and its hand-to-mouth impact. Globally, one billion people will go hungry this year, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization....

By Kim ODonnel | January 6, 2009; 1:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Meatless Monday: Impromptu Supper, Roasted Kale

The holiday season tends to throw me off schedule, and just like clockwork, there she was, leaving me at the curb to figure out how to get back to January normal. As a result, grocery shopping duties took a back seat to merrymaking over the weekend, and this week’s meatless feature is admittedly unplanned and on the fly, using what was in the Casa Appetite fridge. Here in Seattle, the skies were steely gray on Sunday, and the air cold enough to allow snow to fall, she reports, wincing. (The city government has been under great scrutiny for its no-salt policy during last month’s batch of snow storms that left the city paralyzed.) It was around seven when Mister MA and I emerged from our respective corners of the house and met in the kitchen. Lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale. (Kim O'Donnel) As we poked around the fridge and in...

By Kim ODonnel | January 5, 2009; 9:33 AM ET | Comments (12)

 

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