Archive: Discoveries

Chocolate Syrup, the Old-Fashioned Way

(Kim O'Donnel) As part of our recent efforts to offer DIY versions of HFCS-sweetened packaged goods from the supermarket, today’s feature is all about chocolate syrup. That’s right, I’m leaving NesQuik and Ovaltine out of the conversation and instead focusing my energy on the unctuous, brown elixir that transforms vanilla ice cream into a brown cow milkshake and what turns an ordinary glass of milk into dessert. Even though I rarely touch the stuff these days, chocolate syrup is a piece of my childhood that takes me back to diners, ice cream parlors at the Jersey shore and the hospital green vintage milk shake machine on the kitchen counter that my father liked to operate on special occasions. I can see the syrup being poured into those stainless cups as I type. For a sweet walk down memory lane, I highly recommend trying out the recipe below, which is...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 18, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (9)

Ketchup, Hold the HFCS

No matter where you stand on the issue, last week’s news about two studies linking high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and mercury probably has you thinking about what lurks behind the refrigerator door and those kitchen cabinets. HFCS figures into the soda we drink, as well as candy, ice cream and various dairy products, baked goods, snacks, cereals, frozen food and all kinds of processed food that comes in a can or a bottle. According to “Not So Sweet,” one of the aforementioned studies published by the Institute of Agricultural and Trade Policy, Americans consumed 9,294 tons of HFCS in 2002, the most recent figures available based on U.S. Census Bureau data. TONS. It makes food sweet all right, but it also acts a preservative, which is probably why that bottle of ketchup in the refrigerator door is still kicking. Homemade HFSC-free ketchup. (Kim O'Donnel) Some diehards might argue that...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 4, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (15)

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; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

An Evening With Muhammara

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

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 24, 2008; 09:38 AM ET | Comments (13)

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)

Give Us Our Daily Indian Bread

I did something this weekend I've always wanted to do: I made Indian flat bread. I know, that's like saying I prepared "fish;" there are more types of Indian bread than you can count on both hands, an extensive umbrella category that includes north-south India variations as well as immigrant versions in neighboring Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore, and further afield in Guyana and Trinidad, in the eastern Caribbean. Freshly-griddled roti ready for supper. (Kim O'Donnel) For most Westerners, Indian bread means naan, the pillowy leavened rounds baked in a tandoor oven, which, according to Madhur Jaffrey in "From Curries to Kebabs," is a relatively recent addition to the ancient tradition of Vedic breads. "Delhi and most of India knew little of the tandoor or the naan until after the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947," writes Jaffrey. "At that time refugees from western Punjab came bearing portable...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 7, 2008; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

At-Home Mussels -- And a Case for DIY Curry Paste

We were hankering for mussels at Casa Appetite over the weekend, a craving that also met our objective of eating more sustainable seafood. Mussels get a unanimous green light from the environmental community, getting high marks for aqua-farm management practices and their low position on the food chain. Mussels with a red curry take off the chill. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never dared to make mussels at home, it's time to get busy. They are so easy to prepare you'll be wondering what took you so long to wake up to this marvelous dinner secret. Once rinsed and inspected, mussels require less than 10 minutes of cooking time. Dinner can literally be on the table in a half hour. For Sunday night's supper, I wanted a bowlful of ka-pow, a little heat in my mussel broth on this stubbornly chilly spring eve. A coconut curry sounded just right. But I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 31, 2008; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

Playing With Polenta

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from "Mister McG" who expressed much frustration over a pot of polenta. He writes: "I learned last night why they sell pre-cooked polenta in those tubes. I made some from scratch last night and it came out very lumpy. Tasty, but lumpy. As soon as I started adding cornmeal to the boiling water, it clumped up. Do I need to let the water settle down before mixing?" Intellectually, I knew the solution was to add the cornmeal gradually, but I couldn't back up my written reply with first-hand polenta experience. I promised to follow up with a kitchen report, so this blog's for you, Mister Magoo. Polenta, topped with spicy anchovy-garlic tomato puree, with a side of broccoli raab. (Kim O'Donnel) Cornmeal porridge is what we're talking about, and depending where you live, it's got a different name (mealie pap in South...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 7, 2008; 09:29 AM ET | Comments (37)

Fruitcake Update

Nearly two weeks ago, I announced my plans to embark on a virgin journey into fruitcake territory, a land of dried (and sometimes candied) fruit, booze and a whole lot of waiting. My guide, LaurelAnn Morley, a chef-restaurateur in Barbados who's made more than her fair share of fruitcakes, recommends that the fruit get a good long soak in an alcohol bath for up to one month before you even consider making the cake batter. Fruitcake fruit steeping in spirits. (Kim O'Donnel) Since I now have permission to do a shorter soak, I got my fruit going last weekend and plan to keep it marinating until the first week of November, which translates into two weeks and some change. (Even shorter soaks of a few days are permissible, says Miz LaurelAnn.) After the first few days, I noticed how quickly the fruit had absorbed the alcohol, resulting in a more...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 25, 2007; 06:58 AM ET | Comments (1)

Humbled by Phyllo Dough

It's Friday night, and I'm thinking I've got everything under control for my baklava experiment on Sunday, buying the ingredients in advance, thawing my dough in the fridge as strongly recommended in several cookbooks, making my qater (simple syrup with a perfume-y twist) early enough to get it nice and cool. I was in good shape, no? Sunday afternoon, and I'm making the nut filling in the food processor, an earthy mix of walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. I've got melted fat on standby, the pan is greased and I'm ready to go. Baklava, at long last. (Kim O'Donnel) I open the fridge, pull out the package of dough, open the container, pull away the plastic. Wait. Something's not right. Where are all the tissued layers? I look for the packaging. Smarty pants here bought "Puff Pastry." Unlike the whisper-thin, easily torn sheets (phyllo literally means "leaf"), "puff" (aka pate...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 24, 2007; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (18)

A Quick Pickle Trick

My recent foray into home canning has inspired yet another exercise in culinary preservation - pickling. If you're a newbie like me, here's the 411: To pickle means to preserve food by soaking and storing it in a brine (salt water) or vinegar. To be in a pickle, well, that's another story that may require the assistance of advice columnist Carolyn Hax. Yes, Virginia, pickles come from cucumbers. (Kim O'Donnel) I remember as a kid chomping on my dill pickle that came with my diner/deli favorites, such as grilled cheese and corned beef on rye, and asking my father where pickles come from. When he told me cucumbers, I didn't believe him. (Go figure; I believed in Santa until I was ten, but pickles from cucumbers - not a chance.) More experienced picklers know that the cuke isn't the only pickled game in town; there's a wide world of brined...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 11, 2007; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (4)

Adventures in Home Canning

It took a cross-country flight, a ferry ride, a two-hour drive and a lady named Midge from Indiana for me to learn the fine art of canning. While planning my trip to Seattle earlier this summer, I asked my friend Kate, a self-proclaimed hippie who's done her fair share of homesteading and living off the land, if she could teach me how to can. Much to my surprise, Kate was equally in the dark as this home-canning rube, so we agreed to embark on this adventure together. A view of the Olympic Mountains from Kate's front yard in Port Angeles. (Leslie Silverman) It was decided that the canning extravaganza would take place at Kate's house in Port Angeles, Wash. About 90 miles northwest of Seattle, Port Angeles is a funky Olympic Mountain town known for Dungeness crabs, endless lavender fields and its close proximity to Victoria, B.C. It's also where...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 7, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pineapple Twist of Fate

There was a dinner party at Casa Appetite on Saturday night, a combo early birthday celebration and inaugural warming of the new house. We were a group of 12 and yours truly insisted on doing all the cooking, as long as guests would reciprocate with their beverage of choice. With three or four meatless eaters on the guest list, it was a no-brainer to whip up a pot of eggplant curry and some coconut rice to sop up its juices. The omnivores sunk their teeth into Viet-grilled chicken, which continues to impress me with its depth of flavor and ease of preparation. While folks were cocktailing, I was manning the stove, frying up a batch of okra pancakes, which are more like fritters, cornmeal-y in a hush puppy kind of way, and loaded with still-crisp okra studs. A perfect nibble to whet the appetite. The real surprise of the evening...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 21, 2007; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Marinade Mojo

What is a marinade [MEHR-ih-nayd]? According to the "Food Lover's Companion," the indispensable culinary dictionary by Sharon Tyler Herbst, a marinade is "a seasoned liquid in which meat, fish and vegetables are soaked in order to absorb flavor, and in some instances, to be tenderized." Sounds like a textbook definition that we all can live with, right? But as many of us know, the "seasoned liquid" definition but skims the surface; a marinade is more like an elixir, mysterious and nuanced, possessing near-magical powers, transforming the tough, sinewy and one-dimensional into complex, multilayered morsels that melt in the mouth. We all know the effect that a good marinade has on us -- it nearly makes us swoon, as we lick our fingers into oblivion. But how many of us know the underlying tenets of marinade mastery -- the chemistry and the elements that give a sauce its magic powers? Most...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 17, 2007; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (5)

Veal Cheeks, Soy Sauce and Cheap Choppers

There were lots of extra unanswered questions from yesterday's What's Cooking discussion. Below, a sampler, plus a lil' extra sumpin' from a cherry-loving reader... Silver Spring, Md.: Are veal cheeks exactly what they say they are? I always assumed so (though I've never ordered them, nor do I plan to), but others told me recently that they were a different cut of meat. If the word cheeks is a facial reference rather than a posterior, one then yes, you're on the right track. Just like human mammals, cows (baby cows) have two cheeks on each side of the face, a muscle responsible for controlling the action of the mouth. Because it is a muscle, the cheek requires slow cooking on low heat (also known as braising) to coax it into rich, tender meat. Usually, you'll find them on menus during colder menus, when people are hankering for stews. Arlington, Va.:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2007; 08:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gnocchi Odyssey

Over the past week, I've baked more potatoes than I have in several years. My sudden interest in baked spuds lies within the crackly skin rather than as a complete edible package to accompany sour cream and bacon bits; it's part of a mission to get something right, a dish that has eluded me for years. The dish in question is gnocchi (say nyoh-kee), the famed Italian dumplings that taste light and fluffy when done right -- and like a gum eraser the rest of the time. Potato gnocchi: third time's a charm? (Kim O'Donnel) With basil in season, my thoughts turned to pesto, which sparked a food memory from a trip to Monterosso, a small village in Italy's Cinque Terre. The five interlinking villages are located in Liguria, on the southeast handle of the northwest coast, which hugs the Ligurian sea. In addition to outrageously seductive foccacia and the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 25, 2007; 12:25 PM ET | Comments (12)

Eureka! Homemade English Muffins

In this week's What's Cooking chat, a reader from Honolulu asked for a recipe for homemade English muffins To the muffin-y rescue came a reader from Oakland, Calif., who shared a tried-and-true recipe from Winos and Foodies, a New Zealand-based blog. Oakland was kind enough to convert the measurements for us non-metric cooks. Details are below. English muffins getting griddled. (Kim O'Donnel) Also an English muffin virgin, I took this recipe as a cue. It was my turn as well to get griddlin' and see what the fuss was all about. I've always been impressed by restaurants turning out their own English muffins, but for some reason never thought I should recreate the experience myself. I kept thinking I'd never get that nooks and crannies thing down like our old pal Thomas. I studied the recipe several times and kept thinking, what's the catch? This seems so easy. I even...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 22, 2007; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (29)

Lemon Love

I love my salt and pepper. My oil, too. But if I had to dash away with only one ingredient to help me cook, it would be, hands down, the lemon. The little ol' lemon, that staple of the household cleaning world found in soaps, detergents and furniture polish that we all take for granted, is also a culinary powerhouse. It is modest yet strong, assertive yet understated, and a hero when you really need one in the kitchen. The mighty all-purpose lemon. (Kim O'Donnel) I always have at least one lemon on hand -- and not just for an impending cold. Below, 36 ways I love the lemon -- and I'm sure I'm missing something. Please add to the list in the comments area. Oh, and if you don't already own a zester (a mere five bucks), do yourself a favor and pick one up, zest up a lemon...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 21, 2007; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (43)

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)

Make Way for Beignets

I know, it's been a tough week in weather land. If you're lucky, you've got a long holiday weekend just ahead, with some extra time to recover from the wintry mishegas. An extra day also means more time to play in the kitchen. It's a chance to dive into projects that are either too complicated or time consuming for the average worknight supper. The afternoon is all yours to get floured up, fried on and just plain curious. Beignets and coffee. (Kim O'Donnel) This weekend in particular coincides with two distinctly different, culinary-centric cultural events - Chinese New Year (Sunday, Feb. 18) and Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 20). Today, I present Weekend Project Option Number One - beignets (say BEN-YAY), that classic New Orleans fried-dough snack and quintessential breakfast treat. Until last week, I had never made beignets, a dish I supposed I'd leave to the experts. That assumption, it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 15, 2007; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (23)

A New Wok State of Mind

Last month while traipsing through San Francisco, I bought my very first wok -- well, my very first authentic wok, the real deal from China. My new wok getting a proper seasoning. (Kim O'Donnel) The idea of a new wok had been marinating in my brain for some time, inspired by Chinese cooking authority Grace Young. But it wasn't until I walked into Tane (call me "Octane") Chan's Wok shop in San Francisco, that I was faced with a do-it-now-or-you'll-regret-it moment. Fifteen bucks and a few minutes later, I became the proud owner of a flat-bottomed, cast-iron wok (carbon-steel is the other variety), with an enamel exterior coating. Yesterday, I unwrapped my newly arrived kitchen baby and brought her into my world. But before I could even consider cooking, I needed to give her a good scrubbing, to remove factory grime and any residual metal powder. This is one of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 7, 2006; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (8)

Alluring Dragon Fruit

Always on the lookout for enticing fruity finds, the dragon fruit caught my eye this week. I was in line for a bubble tea in Eden Center when I saw this bright round object resembling a pink spiky mango. Though the price tag for the one pound fruit was $8, I was willing to pay for the joys of discovering a new edible treat. Dragon Fruit. (Erin Hartigan) Thang loy, pitaya or strawberry pear, they come from Central and South America, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and China....

 

By Erin | July 26, 2006; 01:49 PM ET | Comments (0)

Using Your Senses

Ah, the weekend. At last, some time to catch up with ourselves, break out of autopilot work mode and use our physical senses (remember those?) to appreciate what's around us. SIP Hightail it to Ashburn, Va., this weekend for the ninth annual Old Dominion Beer Festival, where more than 100 beers from 50-plus mid-Atlantic breweries will be on tap. May I suggest a leisurely pace with those suds, perhaps with an intermittent snack and plenty of water to keep things hydrated? If the answer is no to beer, what about wine instead? From store tastings to vineyard tours, here's how to get your grape groove on in Washington. LOOK One of the new arrivals at local farmer's markets this week is summer squash -- yellow, zucchini and pattypan. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look for a vegetable that resembles a miniature space ship, sort of round, with...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 23, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Name That Fruit

This is Guy Smiley, with another episode of "Name That Fruit, " the only quiz show in the history of the world to tackle the mysteries of the supermarket produce aisle. Our first contestant is Rayburn Wycliffe, who's known in his home town of Bentonville, Ark., for his way with pineapple upside-down cake. (Buttermilk is the secret, so I'm told.) The first question is a real stumper, but here goes: Name a fruit native to Mexico Central America that looks like a cross between a pinecone and a corn cob but tastes like a cross between a banana and pineapple? And here's a helpful hint: It's got a SCARY name. Thirty seconds to answer, Rayburn, and you will be the owner of a BRAND NEW Viking range! The weird fruit that is the Monstera. (Kim O'Donnel) (Rayburn Wycliffe knits his eyebrows as he scours the depths of his memory bank,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 21, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

Meet Me at the World Bank Cafe

While doing errands on Saturday afternoon, I noticed something different about the northwestern corner of 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. From across the street, I could make out the words "Pangea Market" on an orange awning, but assuming it was just another quick-stop deli kind of place, I didn't plan to walk in. A quick peek in the window proved me wrong; whatever this Pangea Market was, it was far from ordinary. Part boutique, part café and part global education center, the market, formally Pangea Artisan Market & Cafe, is a collaboration between the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Craft & Café Inc., a fledgling Springfield, Va., company owned by two Nepalese immigrants. Open since May, Pangea is showcasing products from 40-plus artisans in 30 countries around the world, says store owner Sunil Shrestha, who oversees retail operations with his brother, Deepak. In addition to home...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 20, 2006; 09:34 AM ET | Comments (1)

Party Plates With a Conscience

Ever think about how much waste we create over food and drink every time we organize a summer cookout, picnic or other outdoor gathering? I hate to be an environmental downer, but it's time we get hip to all the debris we leave behind after our fun-loving feasts. Two companies have taken on the challenge, offering a new take on disposable plates and cutlery that work in tandem with the environment rather landfills....

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 1, 2006; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (5)

Caviar Dreams

When cooks think of kitchen toys, usually it's a zippy new appliance or cool gadget that makes life easier. But what if that toy were an ingredient? Recently, I was introduced to flavored whitefish roe, a newfangled product in the gourmet world. Sushi eaters may know it as tobiko - the tiny red or orange eggs of flying fish, tucked inside a California roll or topping sashimi. Infused whitefish roe from Tsar Nicoulai. In this case, it's American whitefish caught from the cold waters of the Great Lakes, then infused with tongue popping flavors, wasabi and ginger among them. Tsar Nicoulai (TN), a San Francisco-based boutique operation better known for its dynamite American (and sustainably-aquafarmed to boot!) caviar offerings, has taken the lead on this cool new trend that's got me all fired up....

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 1, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

 

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