Archive: Dinner Tonight

Chicken Soup With Rice Flashback

Does anyone remember this cartoon special, "Really Rosie," from the 1970s? A production of children's lit master Maurice Sendak, "Really Rosie" (with vocals by Carole King) is based on Sendak's endearing collection of poems, “Chicken Soup With Rice.” Here’s the entry for March from the book: In March the wind Blows down my door And spills my soup Upon the floor. It laps it up And roars for more Blowing once Blowing twice Blowing chicken soup with rice. That’s what came to mind when I made this cozy, chicken-and-rice combo from Janie Hibler’s “Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers” (recipe details below) a few weeks ago. In her tribute to the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest, Hibler includes several Vietnamese recipes to represent the influx (and the cuisine) of Asian immigrants to the region in the early 1990s. Although not quite soup of the Sendak variety, Kimmai’s Vietnamese Ginger Chicken...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 19, 2009; 07:50 AM ET | Comments (17)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

The Comfort of Cooking With Strangers

While I'm on vacation, I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Shannon Henry, a former Post technology writer, who has transferred her talents to the kitchen. When I move to a new town (twice now in the past three years), there is one constant: I make lasagna with new friends. (Shannon Henry) It may seem like a funny thing to do, but cooking with someone you hardly know, while you mix sauce and layer noodles, can be a profound experience. After what seemed like a lifetime in Washington (including seven years of writing for The Washington Post), my husband and I moved to Denver, where I started a cooking group. For more than two years, we were a dozen women strong, who gathered in smaller groups to make soups, sauces, breads, appetizers -- you name...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 16, 2008; 08:51 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Great Sugar Pumpkin

My colleague, Michele Hatty, likes to play in her kitchen when she isn't running things as Editor of Live Discussions at washingtonpost.com. She recently shared her newfound love for the sugar pumpkin (aka pie pumpkin). Below, her kitchen report -- and perhaps inspiration for last-minute Thanksgiving menus. Stuffed pumpkin just out of the oven. (Michele Hatty) Friends joined my husband and me for dinner on a recent Saturday night, and their visit seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something I'd read on food writer Dorie Greenspan's blog: a stuffed pumpkin. The concept is pretty simple: Take a 2-3 pound sugar pumpkin, cut a lid out the way you might with a jack-o-lantern and scoop out the seeds and strings. But then instead of carving a face in the little guy, stuff it with a mixture of bread, cheese and chopped garlic. Pour some heavy cream laced with nutmeg over...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 21, 2008; 07:30 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; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (19)

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; 07:00 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)

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)

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)

There's-No-Place-Like-Home Lasagna

Here in my new casa in my new city on my new coast, I'm feeling a strange mix of excitement and confusion. Although the mailbox tells me "X" marks this spot where KOD now lives, I've been wandering aimlessly from room to room, looking for things that belong together so that I could quickly connect the dots and start calling this place "home." A slice of home. (Kim O'Donnel) And of course, the kitchen is where I began this process of making order out of chaos. By Monday night, we readjusted kitchen cabinets to make room for tall bottles of olive oil and put commonly used pantry items and tools within elbow's reach. We chowed down on a quickie wokful of fried rice, one of our favorites, but on this night, my kitchen and I were still getting to know each other, cordial albeit tentative. For Night Two, something cozier...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 27, 2008; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (12)

The Duh Factor of Quinoa

I'm hardly new to quinoa, the ancient plant native to the Andes, but I have to admit, it had been a while. But over the weekend, Mister MA and I did a dinner date out on the town, and had the pleasure of sharing a bowl of toasted quinoa to partner with our fish entrees. (He claims it was his quinoa debutante dance.) Toasted quinoa. (Kim O'Donnel) It only took a few forkfuls to remember how much I love these nutty, fluffy seeds that pop open almost like tadpoles (a squiggly little comma emerges) when cooked. It's simple fare that cooks up as easily as a pot of rice, but unlike oats, millet or other gruel-style cereals, quinoa is more complex, both nutritionally and gastronomically. For thousands of years, the Incans have referred to quinoa as "gold" for its uber nutritional content. Not only is it high in protein (about...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 8, 2008; 08:48 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; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (17)

A Bean Burger Worth Biting Into

This post is a long time coming. For years, What's Cooking Vegetarian readers have been waiting, ever so patiently, for a reliable meatless burger recipe made from beans or grains (rather than mock meat). The requests have been piling up in my inbox, but trust me, they have not gone unheard. It's just taken me a few years to find a vegetarian burger that not only tastes great but holds together on a bun. At long last, a veggie burger that works. (Kim O'Donnel) I hardly expected to find the holy grail in a book called "Recipe of the Week: Burgers," but sure enough, tucked among the other 51 recipes in Sally Sampson's new collection, is a killer recipe for black bean burgers. Now this I gotta see, I mumbled to myself, as I assembled said patties in about 20 minutes. Black beans are a smart choice for a veggie...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 16, 2008; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

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; 09:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Night Fishcakes With a Thai Twist

The story behind this story is one to which we all can relate: What should I cook for dinner tonight? I was pondering that very question yesterday afternoon, but was coming up empty, even with hundreds of books in my midst. To help fire up the synapses, I turned to my food-stained copy of "The Kitchen Diaries," an old reliable by Brit food writer Nigel Slater. In "The Kitchen Diaries," Slater chronicles a year in the life of his own home kitchen in London. Thai fish cakes: A sure-fire way to break out of a cooking rut. (Kim O'Donnel) I peeked at the Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 entries (with the idea of coinciding with the calendar) which dish up "lamb shanks to warm the soul" and "a smoked fish supper." The idea of fish appealed -- but without the smoke. So I kept thumbing through until I saw the...

 

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

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Pasta

As evidenced by yesterday's poll results, there's much bacon love in the air. And because more than half of you are foaming at the mouth with baco-thusiasm, I'll reciprocate with spaghetti alla carbonara, one of my all-time favorite bacon-lickin' dishes. Carbonara fixings, minus the cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) Rome is the ancestral home of carbonara, derived from the Italian word carbone, which means coal. It is unclear whether the dish is referring to the bacon's resemblance to bits of charcoal or to carbonari, the actual coal miners, who may have cooked over a fire upon resurfacing from their lengthy underground stints. When exactly Americans fell in love with bacon, eggs and pasta is a bit fuzzy, but it seems that returning World War II soldiers who were stationed in Italy developed a hankering for the dish and may have been responsible for bringing it to this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 11, 2008; 08:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Nod to Indonesia

Last night's sunset was religiously momentous on two accounts; it marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as well as the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that includes, among many things, daily fasting. Although it's a little late in the game to offer up Rosh Hashanah menu ideas, I'm dedicating next Tuesday, Sept. 18, to a forum on breaking the fast, in time for Yom Kippur, which takes place on Friday, Sept. 21. It will be your chance to exchange tips and ideas for Saturday's repast after the 24-hour fast, so mark your calendars. I had other plans for today's blog space, but immediately scrapped them when I learned of yesterday's seismic rumblings on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which has spawned three earthquakes and a resulting -- albeit small --tsunami. (How the words "small" and "tsunami" can be in the same sentence is beyond me.) Indonesia isn't...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 13, 2007; 12:13 PM ET | Comments (3)

The Time Is Now for Ratatouille

"September is the best time of year for the market," declared Mister Mighty Appetite as we strolled through Arlington Courthouse market on Saturday morning. I had just been thinking the same thing. September, in this part of the country, brings together the best of both worlds -- the climax of summer crops and the debut of cooler-weather, underground goodies hinting at the upcoming change of season. The choices are overwhelming. The jewels of summer, at their peak, for a limited time only. (Kim O'Donnel) But for right now, this very moment, it's the horn of plenty, a brief window with the most glorious view, a still life painting everywhere you turn and a bursting bubble of aromas and flavors. Who needs drugs when an intense sensory high is at the fingertips? With such a rare and temporary opportunity of produce riches, now is the time to fire up the stoves...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 10, 2007; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (16)

Please Play With Your Orzo

In just a matter of days, kids of all ages are headed back to school, an exciting rite of passage for kindergarteners and college freshmen alike. I always loved the smell of a new lunchbox, the anticipation of meeting new teachers and making new friends, the shopping for new school supplies. Everything is new and seems fresh, at least for a little while. All this reminiscing has me thinking about school lunches -- and what we can do at home to make them more interesting, tastier and yes, healthier. Orzo flavored with grated zucchini, onion and herbs. (Kim O'Donnel) You know how it seems like every kid goes through a phase of eating plain noodles with butter and/or shredded cheese? I want to build upon that noodle-y foundation, add a few tweaks and turn it into a dish that all students of life would embrace. I'm talking about orzo, the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 13, 2007; 11:38 AM ET | Comments (11)

What to Eat When You're Already Cooked

When the temperature hits 102 like it did yesterday in Washington, it's difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks, with that gunky layer of environmental haze muddling all cerebral functions. When it's this hot, I can hardly walk a straight line, feeling tipsy (but not in a good way), let alone figure out what to make for supper. When it's so hot that it feels like the oven is already on, why would any self-respecting soul turn that dial at dinnertime? This was the question I continued to ask myself as I wandered aimlessly at the Clarendon farmers' market late yesterday afternoon, in search of inspiration for a cool supper. Had my brain been fully operational, I would have noticed all the fixings for gazpacho right before me -- cucumbers, carrots, basil, peppers, tomatoes. There's no better time of the year to whip up this Spanish classic, which packs...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 9, 2007; 11:44 AM ET | Comments (12)

Weeknight Eggplant Curry

Last night was girls' night - just me and my pal Danielle. It would have been easy to pick a place and go out for margaritas, which we've done in the past, but instead we stayed in and cooked together. Lately, I've been keen to come up with new ways to prepare eggplant, particularly those slender violet Japanese varieties that are pretty enough for a centerpiece. I had purchased a bunch on Sunday, which meant using them pronto. Eggplant is less refrigerator-resilient than meets the eye, and I've learned the hard way to keep the procrastinating to a minimum. Japanese eggplants make wonderful curry.(Kim O'Donnel) My eggplant repertoire is reliable albeit limited - there was the smoky baba ghanouj, a grilled salad with roasted peppers and feta and a moron-proof roasted eggplant number with Chinese black bean-garlic sauce, all wonderful and worthy of repeat experiences. But for this occasion, I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 31, 2007; 09:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

Stale Bread Makeover

All last week, a stale baguette sat on the kitchen counter. Rather than feed it to the birds, I wrapped the hard-as-a-rock loaf in a plastic bag and channeled my culinary muse. What about bread crumbs? Nah, got plenty on hand. Bread pudding? Hmm, sounds tempting, I mean, who doesn't love bread pudding...but what about something a bit kinder to the waistline? Besides, I'd like something seasonal... Stale bread gets makeover with tomatoes, cukes and herbs.(Kim O'Donnel) And then it occurred to me -- there was all kinds of conversation in last week's vegetarian chat about bread salads -- panzanella, fattoush and the like -- and vine-ripe tomatoes just happen to be showing up at farmer's markets. Stale bread cubes and juicy tomatoes are a perfect match; the tomatoes gently coax the bread back to an edible toothiness and as the bread softens, it acts like a sponge, absorbing the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 30, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

When Pantry Comes to the Rescue

Thursday, a week ago. I had known in advance the day would be long and arduous. In addition to all the regular chores associated with work, home, traffic and weather, there would be evening pickup duties connected to air travel and associated ground transport for one Mister Mighty Appetite. In anticipation of the day ahead, I begin to mull over possible venues for a quick supper, not even considering a meal at home. Frankly, there is just too much to do. As the day wears on, summer storms and resulting flight delays become part of the equation, and now it's anybody's guess when/if Mister MA would get home in time for dinner. It's 7:30, I'm in traffic and suddenly ravenous. What to do, what to do, I wonder. I can no longer be the dutifully waiting spouse. As I get closer to home, I mentally scan the contents of the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 23, 2007; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sublime Viet-Grilled Chicken

Saturday night, I'm on the phone with my kid brother and he's at a loss on how to marinate a bunch of chicken thighs for a party of three that evening. His go-to combos have lost their luster and he's counting on big sis to pull him through. I give him some ideas, but in the course of doing so, I'm thinking: Maybe I need to overhaul my marinade repertoire as well. One can never have enough marinade tricks up the sleeve. A few blinks of the eye later, and it's Sunday afternoon, supper time time already within reach. The idea is to highlight much of the seasonal produce in the fridge, with grilled chicken as supporting cast. Grilled chicken finally gets its due with a simple Vietnamese marinade. (Kim O'Donnel) For a marinade, I want something simple, using relatively few pantry basics with enough kapow to justify a short...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 16, 2007; 08:18 AM ET | Comments (16)

Seat-of-the-Pants Noodles

A welcomed rainstorm arrived late yesterday afternoon, casting a gentle gray pallor on the skies. It was moody weather appropriate for reflection. Earlier in the day, I told Mister Mighty Appetite I'd cook dinner, but forgot about the part that the fridge was bereft of fresh veggies. With my bags still unpacked and a house in newly-moved chaos, I was stumped on what I'd fix for dinner, a little low in the kitchen inspiration department. Improv noodles to a last-minute supper rescue. (Kim O'Donnel) A quiet moment of meditation took me back to the Emergency Communities kitchen, where my CulinaryCorps colleagues and I were tasked with cooking four meals for 300 people with limited ingredients and under challenging rustic conditions. Dinner on the first night was prepared by Kelli, who teaches kid's cooking classes in North Jersey, Grace, a culinary student in Buffalo, N.Y., while moonlighting at UPS, and Sandy,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 13, 2007; 11:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Spring Risotto

This time last week, I was celebrating the contents of my fridge, which were overwhelmingly green -- chard, leeks, buttery lettuce, green garlic -- and locally grown. It's such a pleasure to welcome spring vegetables back to the farmer's market scene, a parade of greenery that is crisp, bright and full of promise. Risotto gets a spring makeover, with leeks and green garlic. (Kim O'Donnel) And the show just keeps getting better and more beautiful. Joining the gorgeous green lineup this weekend were local asparagus, spinach and all kinds of herbs, such as tarragon, chervil, chives, dill and thyme. Risotto, as I mentioned last week, is a great way to experiment with spring's new arrivals. Taking a cue from "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison, I spring-a-fied a pot of risotto, with leeks and green garlic, a zesty pair from the allium family. Lest you worry about having onion or garlic...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 30, 2007; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Yankee Girl Fries Fish

I can't be there, but I thought I'd join them, anyway. I'm talking about Rep. Jim Clyburn's annual fish fry that takes place tonight in Columbia, S.C. After interviewing Clyburn's appointed fish fry guy Lucius Moultrie, I was inspired to fry up some fish in my own kitchen. To get started, I consulted a few cookbooks, including "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by the late Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock as well as the newer "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Moultrie, who's been at this for 10 years, told me that his winning dredge is a combination of cornmeal and its pulverized, finer-textured sister, corn flour, which I thought would make an interesting mix of textures. I also followed Moutrie's advice on omitting a liquid binder, such as buttermilk or beaten egg, which he believes takes away from the flavor of the fish. Instead,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 27, 2007; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (0)

Glam Lamb

I was an adult before I had my first bite of lamb. I had no idea what I had been missing. When exactly lamb entered my life is a blur, but I remember it was a lamb chop -- tender, petite and rich on the tongue. For years, I played it safe, nibbling only on chops over and again, while ignoring the tasting possibilities from the leg, the shank and the shoulder. Leg of lamb, stuffed with tapenade. (Kim O'Donnel) For years, the idea of cooking lamb was way off my radar, and then cooking school hit me over the head and sent me down some kind of yellow brick road full of adventure, just like Dorothy. I did have a bit of Scarecrow in me, but on my way to see the Wizard, I learned how to braise lamb shanks and grill chops and serve them with a redolent...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 28, 2007; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

A St. Patrick's Taco

With a name like O'Donnel, I must have the luck of the Irish, right? Well, kinda sorta. As an Anglo mutt of varying European stocks, I'm more Irish in name than in genealogical connection. My German mother is hooked up with a proud Irish dude, and so every year at this time, he likes to make a pot of corned beef and cabbage. No thanks. The cabbage is typically cooked way beyond resemblance of a cruciferous vegetable, and the corned beef is just too darn fatty. Salmon tacos -- a lot more fun than corned beef and cabbage. (Kim O'Donnel) When it comes to paying tribute to St. Pat, I think of salmon instead. There's something about the pink, Omega 3-rich flesh that lifts me out of a winter funk (particularly under such dreary Nor'easter conditions), and by the way, salmon swim in the rivers of Ireland. To wit, a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 16, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (8)

Pot Pie: It Takes Two

The severely cold weather has given me a one-track mind -- getting warm. I pull out all my stops -- the thick woolen socks, an extra scarf, a hot breakfast and pot pie. A slice of pot-pie heaven. (Kim O'Donnel) In fact, pot pie was all I could think about while in savasana (final relaxation pose) in yoga class last night. I was doing a mental check list, scanning the contents of the crisper drawer in the fridge and by the time I walked back into the cold, I determined there enough in-house provisions to make an ad hoc pot pie. Visions of a hot savory pie bubbling through its crust were indeed swirling in my head as I boarded the Metro across the river into Arlington. By the time I got home, it was already 7:30, a tad late for a supper project this ambitious, I confess. By myself,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 6, 2007; 10:37 AM ET | Comments (10)

Southern Comfort: Mac and Cheese

January is a tough month for Susie. With each passing day, as the calendar numbers get higher, my winter-resistant mother is slowly unraveling at the seams. Although seasonal changes are already in place by December, Susie the sun goddess is adequately distracted by her uniquely decorated Christmas tree and a mailbox full of holiday greeting cards. Until. January 1. Mac and cheese, please, with a side of stewed tomatoes. (Kim O'Donnel) Almost like clockwork, my mother's tolerance of winter rapidly diminishes, and her mood takes a turn for the Arctic worst. It starts out as simple annoyance, but as soon as that first layer of ice covers the streets, my mother's emotional state turns into one of disgust and ultimately, inconsolable despair. Right about now, as January comes to a close, Susie typically is boarding a plane headed for southwest Florida, but this year, she's delaying her escape due to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 30, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Key West Kitchen

The sun is out, the skies are a brilliant blue and the wind is doing a dance with the palm trees here in Key West, Fla. It is a glorious morning, almost a wee bit chilly. Just another day at the office. (Kim O'Donnel) Like a savvy bird, I flew south just hours before the snow arrived in Washington. I hate to rub it in, but I drank my coffee this morning out on the porch as the sun gently said hello. Winter escapism aside, I am here primarily to visit my kid brother, Tim, who spent most of last fall in a Miami hospital. He's been home since mid-December, convalescing at an amazing pace, and already he's back to work part time. The last time I saw Tim, he was heavily sedated and hooked up to a ventilator. We didn't know if he was going to survive. Once he...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 22, 2007; 11:13 AM ET | Comments (18)

Clammering for Clams

It had been months since I last supped on clams, probably when I was vacationing in the Pacific Northwest last summer. Thing is, there are plenty of clams right in my own back yard -- and I've been long ignoring them. Littlenecks swimming in a pungent briny broth. (Kim O'Donnel) Here, on the Atlantic side of North America, there are softshells as well as hardshells to choose from. For the purposes of my supper this weekend, I went the hardshell route. Also known as quahogs (pronounced KO-hogs), hard clams were important to Native American tribes, such as the Algonquins, who also used the shell's beads for wampum, a system of negotiations and contracts. Littlenecks are the smallest of the lot, averaging about two inches in diameter. They are known to be tender and sweeter in flavor. Next in size are the cherrystones, followed by large or chowder clams. I was...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2007; 10:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rice Bowl Basics

One of my favorite things about a new year is the return to simplicity. After several weeks of a seemingly endless trough of holiday sweets and roast beasts, I'm relieved to let go of the lavish feasting and get back to basics. A bowl of wok-fried, veggie-studded rice makes everything nice. (Kim O'Donnel) For me, the shift in attitude is more about lightening things up than about counting calories, and in particular, incorporating more vegetables (and less meat) into my diet. A big bowl of clementines is in full view when I'm eager for a snack, and I've said bye-bye to those cookie gift bags. Typically at this time of year, I yearn for soup, but as one reader pointed out in my chat yesterday, the weather has been just too darn balmy for steaming bowls of broth. Instead, I turned to a different kind of bowl, studded with a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 3, 2007; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (11)

The White Chili That Wasn't

It was supposed to be a white chili supper. I had visions of white beans seasoned with rosemary and garlic whispering sweet nothings to ground turkey and pearl barley. It would be lighter (i.e. lower in fat) than a classic red chili yet hearty enough to satisfy an urban cowboy and with plenty of fiber to feel virtuous. The inspiration originally came from a recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit magazine about 10 years ago, with the barley catching my eye. I asked myself out loud why I rarely use barley, one of the easiest, no-fuss grains to work with in one-pot dishes. Ground turkey and barley make for a compelling chili. (Kim O'Donnel) The original plan was to share the work with my beloved domestic co-pilot, who considers himself a chili expert. "Okay, meet you after yoga," I said, "and you can pick up the ingredients at the store."...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 28, 2006; 09:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cafreal for a Cold

Over the weekend, my body felt a bit achy and I sensed the familiar signs of an impending cold. I resisted with an "Oh no, you don't," and made a beeline for the kitchen. I didn't crave soup as much as I did the healing powers of garlic, ginger and spices. I leafed through a copy of "One Spice, Two Spice," a newly released title for inspiration. The new book, penned by India-born chef Floyd Cardoz (of Tabla in New York) and Gourmet magazine's Jane Daniels Lear, is an effort to deconstruct Indian flavors for the American home cook. I bookmarked the page for "Chicken Cafreal," a traditional dish from Goa, the Portuguese-influenced coastal town in the southwestern part of the country. What drew me in was the spice paste -- garlic, ginger, chile, cumin, cinnamon, cloves -- pureed with a mountain of cilantro, known for its purported antibacterial qualities....

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 11, 2006; 12:03 PM ET | Comments (1)

The Meatloaf Rivalry

"I bet your meatloaf will be different from mine," my mother pronounced over the phone last night. "Why do you say THAT?" I asked, a little indignant, wondering how linguistics expert Deborah Tannen would comment on the exchange, which suddenly felt fraught with a competitive edge. Earlier this year, Tannen published her latest work, "You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation," a book that I devoured in a just a few days. Given my line of work, it's a rare occurrence that my mother and I would be preparing the same dish for supper, but yesterday's dreary weather felt like a meatloaf Sunday. (Besides, the beloved co-habitant was hankering for comfort food.) "So, how do you make yours?" she barked. Was that a challenge I was hearing? This coming from the same woman who used to make meatloaf cement when I was growing up. I think she cooked...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 13, 2006; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (38)

Weeknight Soup Improv

The workday had been long, and still at 6:30 last night, dinner remained a remote concept. As I worked my way through the produce bin of the fridge, I was greeted by a few sweet potatoes purchased over the weekend at the farmer's market. Sweet potatoes put to good use at the last minute. (Kim O'Donnel) What could I pull together with these, I wondered, in about an hour? I needed something that would feel like a meal, rather than just a part of a whole, so roasted sweets were out of the question. A soup, however, might do the trick....

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 12, 2006; 10:37 AM ET | Comments (5)

Foodway to Our Hearts

It's a known fact that on a practical level, food is fuel for the body. It keeps the human engine and all of its interconnected parts running. However, if physiological maintenance and growth were the only roles food had to play, what would happen to our long lists of food preferences? Chile shrimp and rice. (Kim O'Donnel) The emotional pull of food is complicated, personal and undeniable. When we humans come in contact with food, the switches to our five physical senses are activated, which sets the stage for an experience of emotion. These experiences are duly noted in the memory bank, and more often than not we share them with others. I know this may seem elementary, but think about it. Everything you eat today likely rings some kind of emotional bell for you. Even more interesting to this cook is the noise of one's emotional food bells clanging...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 15, 2006; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (8)

Nurse Noodles

If you live in Washington, you know that the weather has been a wee bit soggy over the past few days. Although sorely needed, the constant rain cast a gray, dreary mood, giving no sane reason to venture outdoors. At my house, the mood was furthered dampened by the arrival of a cold/flu setting up shop in the nasal passages of my beloved co-habitant. The cold-induced snoring made me feel like I was trapped in a cave with a monster truck. Something had to give. The damp conditions already had me craving for a bowl of noodles, Asian style, but now with a patient in the house, there was no stopping Nurse Noodles. Soup is good food, you'll get no argument from me there. But noodles? They're magic. There's something mood-altering about the salty-sweet pungency of hoisin sauce, married with soy sauce, rice wine and other Asian jarred condiments, enrobing...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 6, 2006; 12:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Plate of Hummus and Thou

A long day of work and weekday irritation that suddenly turns to dusk (and suppertime) is a scenario familiar to all of us, regardless of geography, occupation, age or marital status. We've all been there, over and again, and surely, the modern work-life balance dilemma will be knocking on your dinner plate sometime in the near future. In spite of its regular appearance, the "what's-for-dinner" conundrum never ceases to stump cooks of all kinds. As recently as Monday of this week, I fell victim to said syndrome -- tired, cranky and hungrier than I'd like to be at an hour when dinner ideas fail to penetrate the addled brain. At times like these, the very personal pieces of our personality emerge like erupting lava. Hungry at 7 p.m. after a long day, the cook becomes a strange creature, one who might, out of desperation, pour three bowls of cereal or...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 18, 2006; 12:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

Dinner Tonight: Lemon Grass

I had a case of the sludgies yesterday. The humidity hung over me like a scratchy woolen blanket - big, bulky and smothering. The energy level was drooping by the minute, and I couldn't snap out of it. Come on, rain, I shouted to the overcast skies, give us earthlings a little relief. Lemon grass: the amazing cooler off-er. (Kim O'Donnel) I felt like joining the neighborhood cat, Shakespeare (he had just invited himself indoors, as he's wont to do), who stretched out onto the cool wood that is my living room floor. Yeah, I know what you mean, pal. It's brutal out there. It was even difficult to think, yet I knew I had to come up with something for dinner to help wash away the cotton brain. What first came to mind was the lemon, yet I wasn't in the mood for an intense acidic flavor. But lemon...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 8, 2006; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (3)

Uncook Dinner Tonight

With area temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees today, the idea of cranking up the stove may seem superfluous. Cool off with Vietnamese summer rolls. (Kim O'Donnel) Steamy conditions call for raw measures - or nearly raw. Discard that notion of crudite and dip; an uncooked meal does not have to be the stuff of TV-style vittles. Meet the Vietnamese summer roll, the quintessentially uncooked dish guaranteed to keep you ultra cool and nourished under extreme weather conditions. A popular item on Vietnamese and Thai restaurant menus, the summer roll (aka goi cuon) is easy to replicate at home. Most of the work is in chopping and assembly. Summer rolls can be as creative as you want them to be, but you'll need a few key ingredients as foundation: rice paper wrappers and rice vermicelli noodles, which are readily available at Asian grocers (and increasingly available in mainstream supermarkets). Rice...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 17, 2006; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Dinner Tonight: Vietnamese-Style Lettuce Rolls

It was an A/C -swimming pool kind of weekend, with temperatures in the 90s. I found myself looking for weather-inspired fare -- something light that would help take the edge off. So I took a cue from the Vietnamese, who have mastered the art of delicious, fresh-tasting cooking that also cools the body under extreme weather conditions. A leaf of Bibb lettuce gets filled with lemongrassed ground turkey, rice vinegar-soaked veggies and a kicky dressing. (Kim O'Donnel) I have long wanted to make goi cuon, the classic summer rolls of softened rice paper (featured in the blog soon, I promise!), but with a beautiful head of bibb lettuce begging to be used, I decided to make lettuce roll-ups instead. For the filling, I used ground turkey (instead of the traditional yet heavier beef or pork), seasoned with lemongrass and the salty pungency of Vietnamese fish sauce. Thinly sliced onions and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2006; 10:47 AM ET | Comments (4)

Dinner Tonight: Fish Tacos

I know, it's soggy out and doesn't feel much like mid-June, but let's warm up and pretend we're surfers instead. Dude, wherever you are, the sun is blazing and your hair is streaked with it. Those were some killer waves, and now I'm starved. Let's make some grub and polish our boards. Darn. Still soggy, I'm afraid. Well, if the power of imagination won't kick in with a summery movie backdrop, how about the power of the kitchen? There's nothing like a batch of ">fish tacos (Real Player video)) to whisk you away from gray skies (or the concrete jungle). Chunks of tilapia or mahi mahi filets get dipped into a beer batter and are quickly fried into golden nuggets that are worlds away from the fast-food version. But before you heat up that skillet, get your taco fixins together -some shredded green cabbage for color and crunch and a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 12, 2006; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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