Archive: Getting Fresh

In a Tomatillo State of Mind

Local tomatillos showed off their pretty chartreuse-y skins at my neighborhood farm market last weekend, which means only one thing at Casa Appetite: salsa verde. Tomatillos waiting to be sauced. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never had the pleasure, now's the time. As a member of the nightshade family (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers), tomatillos show up when it's nice and warm. Even though it kinda looks like a tomato and it's got tomato as part of its name, the tomatillo is not a tomato, nor is it a green tomato waiting to turn red. Think of it as a distant cousin with a sweet-tart disposition. Super-low in calories (1/2 cup is just 20 calories), the tomatillo is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. See for yourself what a great sauce she makes, proving her mettle in all kinds of flavor scenarios -- with grilled mains, rice and beans, scrambled...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Getting Fresh: All Aboard the Purslane Train

Like watercress? Then hop aboard and join me on the purslane train. Yes, that purslane, the weed that many gardeners find prolifically annoying. But don't pull those roots just yet, my dear green thumbs. These green leaves and sorta red stems are the stuff of mega nutrition. In addition to being low cal (just seven per cup) and chock-full of Vitamins A, C, E, plus iron, calcium and potassium, purslane is - are you ready? - the number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids among green leafy vegetables, beating out the touted spinach eight to one. Purslane, the good weed. (Kim O'Donnel) Specifically, it's loaded with the heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is typically found in cold-water fatty fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines or mackerel. For vegetarians and those who are landlocked, this is exciting information. In the course of my digging, I learned that the island of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2007; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Fresh: An Okra Valentine

Bamia, bhindi, gombo, lady's fingers, quingombo -- these are just a few of the world's many pet names for my beloved okra. Unless you live on the North Pole, chances are you're able to get your hands on some okra. Because it thrives under hot and humid conditions, it has made its way into kitchens around the globe, from Angola to Texas, Barbados to Turkey. Introducing the beautiful Miz Lady Finger. (Kim O'Donnel) Word has it that the taut green (and sometimes red) seed pods are quite ancient, originating in Ethiopia and making their way along the Nile River to Egypt. But okra didn't stop there; she embarked on a world tour and went west, boarding slave ships in places like Ghana and Senegal, later getting dropped off in Brazil, the Caribbean and eventually, slave trade hot spots such as Charleston and New Orleans. She's a tough lady finger, I'll...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2007; 09:39 AM ET | Comments (16)

Getting Fresh: Fry Those Green Tomatoes

As a Yankee girl, I was unfamiliar with the southern notion of fried green tomatoes until 1991, when the dish's namesake movie starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy et al. was released. Watching "Fried Green Tomatoes" was a magical experience, a peek into a world about which I knew so little -- the South -- and I remember being both enchanted by the small-town intimacy of the Whistlestop Café and horrified by the racism. Cornmeal-coated fried green tomatoes. (Kim O'Donnel) Not until 1996, though, did I have my first up-close experience with a fried green tomato. I was working as a line cook at Cashion's Eat Place, where I become intimately acquainted with the deep fryer. One of the signature dishes on chef Ann Cashion's hand-written menu, was fritto misto, a classic Italian dish of fried seafood. But Cashion, who's from Jackson, Miss., added a southern twist to this dish with...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 2, 2007; 09:49 AM ET | Comments (8)

Getting Fresh: A Sucker for Popsicles

Last year at this time, I broke in a set of popsicle molds. It was a big step beyond the age-old, homegrown method of pouring juice into Dixie cups, inserting a stick in the middle and patiently waiting for the stuff to freeze. This newfangled contraption had suction cups, a built-in tray and handy-dandy reusable sticks -- way cool. So I went to work and pureed a mango -- some of you may remember -- and then I never bothered to post the recipe. Here's why: Although thrilled with their stunningly good looks and freeze-ability, the 'sicles tasted kind of eh. Kind of rough on the tongue, kinda chalky. Hurry, eat me before I melt! (Kim O'Donnel) Maybe a kid hankering for a cool pop wouldn't notice the texture value, but this big kid did, which prompted further exploration on this frozen matter. Thing is, I winged it last year,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 26, 2007; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (11)

Never Enough Zucchini Recipes

In "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," novelist Barbara Kingsolver's account of eating locally for a year, there's a chapter called "Zucchini Larceny." The summer squash in the family garden had lived up to its reputation as the vegetable that keeps on giving, and in one passage, Kingsolver suggests to her husband that they get a pig to help them with the surplus. Though she doesn't buy a pig, Kingsolver does discover that she's not the only one with a squashy problem: Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people don't put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke. "Crabcakes" made with grated zucchini. (Kim O'Donnel) I don't have a garden of my own -- something that I hope to change next year. But even as a farmer's market customer, I have...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 20, 2007; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (22)

Getting Fresh: Apricot Angst

I want to like the apricot. I really do. She's so darned pretty, with her smooth skin, all dolled up in a shade of orange that's easy on the eyes. Every year at this time, when locally-grown apricots show up at market, I gaze longingly at these beauty queens like a star-crossed lover with a selective memory. Inevitably, I buy a handful and take home my precious cargo, for yet another tasting, hopeful that this time's a charm. Look how pretty they are! It's a shame they're tasteless. (Kim O'Donnel) I'm sorry to report that this year's tasting was just like all the previous years, revealing nothing more than what I already knew -- the apricot is nondescript on a good day and mealy on a bad one. Blech is about all that comes to mind. For counsel (and perhaps commiseration), I work my way through my cookbook collection, and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 12, 2007; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (21)

Getting Fresh: Snap Beans

Green, yellow, purple. French, Romano, Dragon Tongue. These are just some of the names you might come across this summer wherever snap (aka string) beans are being sold. Regardless of variety, which vary in texture and flavor, they're all young forms of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) picked before their seeds develop (at which point, they become shell beans). Young beans should be sweet as well as snappy, and if you've got a bunch of flabby, mealy pods, well, add them to the compost pile. Snap to it: yellow wax beans. (Kim O'Donnel) I love snap beans, particularly at this time of year. As a teenager, I used to eat them raw, right out of the bag, and share them with Larry the house painter, when he'd break for lunch. These days, I like to cook them, just for a few minutes, and let the muse inspire me on how...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 28, 2007; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Fresh: Cherry Wonderful

Local cherries are here, which means that stone fruit season has begun -- and I have a date with some red flesh and a pit collection bowl this weekend. As much as I love eating them out of hand, cherries are stellar in desserts. Now's the time to indulge your sweet tooth because these ruby-red gems are here for just a few weeks. The cutest treats ever: cherry-almond tea cakes. (Kim O'Donnel) Of all cherry desserts, pie tops the list, but I'm also a sucker for cherries and almonds, a marriage of mysterious and wonderful proportions. The two just love each other, and I love them. As I'm wont to do while flying, I had a stack of magazines in my lap earlier this week and put the brakes on when I spotted a recipe for cherry and almond tea cakes in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living. Better...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 14, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Fresh: A World of Peas

I eat my peas with honey I've done it all my life I know it may seem funny But it keeps them on the knife Remember that nursery ditty? I kept singing it in my head last weekend while strolling through Arlington Courthouse market, where peas of various shapes and sizes, were strutting their stuff. Sugar snap peas. (Kim O'Donnel) It's a wee early in the season for the aformentioned runaway peas (that also require shelling), but in their place for the moment are the sugar snap pea, pea shoots and, on occasion, pea sprouts. The sugar snap pea is a relatively new invention, a hybrid developed in the 1970s that combines the sweetness of an English pea with the crunch of a snow pea. Unlike its English counterpart, the sugar snap is completely edible, pod and all, and is one of my favorite things, other than the red bell...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 31, 2007; 11:26 AM ET | Comments (2)

Getting Fresh: Reveling in Romaine

There's much to choose from this week at local markets --- pea shoots, chive flowers, squash blossoms and more of those luscious strawberries. But before the weather gets too summery, I wanna give a shout out to romaine lettuce, a coolish weather crop that's currently showing off its elongated green-leaf finery. Romaine lettuce: The most beautiful ruffles in the garden. (Kim O'Donnel) My main man Romaine. What a pleasure to see you again. And what an opportunity to make Caesar salad -- the quintessential application for hardy crunchy ruffles. Also known as Cos and Roman lettuce, romaine isn't just pretty to look at; it's really good for you. In fact, it beats out all other lettuces in the nutrition department, boasting substantial amounts of Vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium, folate (a nice bonus for pregnant moms), and whaddya know, even some of those heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 24, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Fresh: Sweet on Strawberries

Strawberries are here! And I mean the real deal -- the fire-engine red, lip-smacking variety that are at their peak, right now, at area farmer's markets. Yesterday, I spotted them at the Foggy Bottom FreshFarm Market as well as at the market in Clarendon, just in time, before the pounding rain. Farmer's market beauty queens: Strawberries from D&S Farm in southern Maryland. (Kim O'Donnel) Overcome by their honeyed perfume and eye-popping beauty, I bought two quarts and tore into one as soon as I got home. It's a once-a-year opportunity, folks, for a few short weeks. Hightail it to your nearest farm market now! Below, 10 ways I like to get my strawberry groove on: *Churned into sorbet or ice cream -- for cones, sandwiches, or better still, milkshakes *Baked into a crisp or cobbler, depending on which topping I'm in the mood for *Layered in parfait glasses as a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 17, 2007; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (23)

 

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