Archive: Summer

Help Fill My Vintage Picnic Basket

(Kim O'Donnel) A bluesy/gospel concert on the grounds of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo last week was the inspiration to dust off my vintage picnic basket and actually put it to good use (please don't tell my mother it's been hiding in the basement). Unfortunately, last week’s last-minute event left little time to plan a menu, which means said basket did little but look pretty on the lawn. I love the idea of a picnic but never can seem to get my al fresco act together. That’s where you -- -- the savvy bunch that you are -- can lend a hand as we gear up for the long holiday weekend. Should I keep things simple and make cheese sandwiches on artisan bread, pack a few pieces of summer fruit and call it lunch-for-dinner or should I get more elaborate, with a three-course feast of cold fried chicken, a couscous...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 3, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Celestial Feasting, Fete-ing on the Solstice

On Sunday at 1:45 a.m. ET (or Saturday night at 10:45 p.m. if you’re on the west coast), the sun arrives at its most northernmost point and briefly stands still before moving in the other direction. All this celestial activity results in the longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice. In fact, the word solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still). If the weather cooperates, I highly recommend spending as much time outdoors, celebrating the energy of the sun. Here in Seattle, I plan to attend the 21st annual Solstice Parade in Fremont, an event that promises great merriment, food, drink (and rumor has it) naked bicyclists. In the course of my research, I’ve learned festivities will be carrying on from coast to cast, including an all-night party in Philly, a museum hootenanny in Cleveland, yoga sun salutations in New...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Saying 'Yes, Darling" to Strawberry Fro Yo

(Kim O'Donnel) You know how Jersey has tomatoes, Georgia has peaches and Texas has pecans? Well, Oregon has strawberries. Until I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea. So I got a pint on the side of the road along route 26 last week while driving to the Oregon coast with my mom. After alternating stints in the fridge and rides in the back seat of the car, the pint began to show signs of distress, but it was far from a lost cause. A spinach salad with strawberries might be out of the cards, but I wondered how I could maximize the flavor of these intensely flavored sun-kissed morsels without entering them in a beauty contest. With the summer solstice approaching this Saturday, my thoughts have turned to my ice cream maker and how I’ve not taken her out for a spin in a year, since...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 17, 2009; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (10)

Grilled Pizza Party

(Photo courtesy of The Bitten Word) This post originally appeared July 7, 2006, just a few months after A Mighty Appetite was born. To mark the first “official” weekend of the summer grilling season, I’ve updated my grilled pizza prose and spiffed it up with a purty picture on loan from Zach and Clay, the savvy cooks from DC-based blog, The Bitten Word. While your dough rises, have a looksee at the following tips based on my first-hand experiences with pizza a la grill. I’ve also shared the recipe details for my version of dough, which has served me well for the past 9 years. * While a charcoal grill yields more flavor, a gas grill, which offers more temperature control, makes pizza grilling a snap. The reason? Pizza dough needs a mixed temperature setting. The first few minutes, you want things nice and hot to allow for dough...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 22, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Ten Ways to Get Your 'Loupe On

Summer of 1988: I was a new college grad, making six bucks an hour at two jobs and living in a group house in West Philadelphia. It was ridiculously hot all the time in that skunky Philly sort of way. Other than developing a penchant for tequila, I remember my obsession with cantaloupe and vanilla yogurt. I made it for breakfast before heading to my six-dollar-an-hour job on my bicycle called Shirley, and I made it for dinner because most of the time, it was just too hot to cook. I'd buy my 'loupes from Al the Fruit Man, an old codger who sold produce on the U. Penn campus, or I'd pick one up at Sue's, a Korean-owned fruit shop on a corner in Center City. Cantaloupe with honey and pecans. (Kim O'Donnel) There is one caveat with loving cantaloupe melons -- and that's the uncertainty of the tasting...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 8, 2008; 11:50 PM ET | Comments (19)

Mister MA's Birthday Cherry Cobbler

We celebrated Mister MA's big 4-0 this weekend, a backyard surprise at Casa Appetite with close friends and family. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I delegated in getting this party off the ground, assigning various tasks to a handful of willing trusted souls whose efforts allowed me to actually enjoy myself the evening of the event. The letting go meant doing only a portion of the cooking as well, a huge step for this kamikaze party planner. Cherry cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel) I decided to order all of the salads and meatless items from Lebanese Taverna Market, a consistently reliable catering outfit that has served me well over the years. (No doubt I will miss them when I move to Seattle.) That freed me up to marinate several dozen chicken thigh-leg combos in my fave Vietnamese-style marinade and have fun with the desserts. Without a doubt, I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 23, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (15)

Feasts for the Solstice

Tonight at 7:59 p.m. ET, the skies officially change hands and become the property of Summer, the belle of all the seasonal balls, in this Lioness's opinion (birthday: August 22). It is the longest day, with the greatest number of daylight hours, and it is the brightest and mightiest day, when the sun reaches its maximum elevation. Yours truly's midsummer night's dream come true, circa 1970. (Family photo) For the ultimate sun-powered solstice experience, Fairbanks, Alaska sounds like the place to be. Tonight (well, tomorrow morning, actually) at 12:48 a.m. local time, the sun takes a short nap (it doesn't even fall below the horizon!) until 2:58 a.m. when it re-emerges for another day. (And if you've ever participated in a Midnight Sun extravaganza, please share your stories -- I'd love to hear what's it like to play outside at that hour!) I love the following description of the solstice,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 20, 2008; 08:31 AM ET | Comments (10)

The Food That Makes Life Worth Living

This might sound crazy, but a six-pack of local berries and cherries saved me from falling off the deep end this weekend. Summer fruit bonanza: (Clockwise from top left) Blackberries, sweet cherries, blueberries and raspberries. (Kim O'Donnel) Saturday morning, I queued up in a line about 50 deep at my neighborhood farm market for my fix of summer fruit from a Virginia berry farm. Strawberries had been gracing the stand for the past four weeks, and I was hoping I might see the first batch of blueberries. Little did I realize I'd get treated to a whopper berry bonanza -- the blues, plus blackberries and raspberries -- and an extra bonus of sweet cherries. In awe of my discovery, I stared at the rows of fruit in their pint containers, bursting in shades of indigo and lipstick that every girl dreams about. The air was heavy with their perfume, and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 16, 2008; 09:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Your Favorite Fresh Herb and Why

A fairly wet spring here in the nation's capital has done wonders for my backyard herb collection which barely made it through last summer's drought. My erstwhile-pathetic pot of oregano has morphed into a lush carpet of tender green leaves, popping with a woody perfume. And because it's doing such a number on my olfactory receptors, I'm using oregano in the kitchen whenever I have a chance - with feta cheese, in vinaigrettes, pizza sauce, omelettes, a pot of beans, to name a few. My very happy oregano. (Kim O'Donnel) Admittedly, my current crush on oregano has blinded me from the bounty of summer herbs currently on parade, and really, I must snap out of it before snow begins to fall. But it got me thinking: With such herby riches within my reach, how do I choose? I asked a handful of herb aficionados around the country the following question:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 12, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (22)

Cooling Off With Hot Food Writers

If you live east of the Mississippi and as north as Boston, you know it's BLAZING hot for early June. Here in Washington, we're in Day Four of an extreme heat wave, making popsicle eating a competitive sport. In the heat of the moment, I asked a few dozen food writers, bloggers and chefs to share their favorite ways to cool off in the kitchen -- suppers that are raw, uncooked or using as little stovetop power as possible. Below, a dozen or so very cool ideas. Pea shoot pasta. (Courtesy Rachel Rappaport/Coconut & Lime) Fruit is at the top of the list for Washington area writer and cooking instructor Monica Bhide: Here's what I'm having for lunch these days. Peel and chop -- lychees, papaya, mango, apricot and watermelon and place in a large bowl. If I have on hand, canned jackfruit and canned mangosteen (found at local Indian...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 10, 2008; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Leave Me This Way, Basil Baby

In just nine short days, autumn officially takes over, which in this part of the country means bracing one's self for the end of so many warm-weather produce goodies, from Anaheim chiles to zucchini. I know, they'll all be back next year, but inevitably I get a bit wistful, pining for tangled cucumber vines and corn husks even as they disappear into the quickly fading sunset. At many farm markets, it will likely be the last hurrah for corn, peaches, cucumbers, and the delicately-leafed basil. Basil, on its way out for the season. (Kim O'Donnel) Yesterday afternoon, I faced a harsh reality, watching two basil-y bunches in a pitcher of water on the kitchen counter wilt before my eyes. I knew I had to act fast and make the most of what would probably be my final basil moment for the season. These leaves were useless for garnish or as...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 14, 2007; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

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)

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)

Karla's Figs

For last weekend's soiree at Casa Appetite, I insisted on doing all the food. But when my girl Karla called and told me that her fig tree was bursting with fruit, I immediately relented. How could I say no to an offering of fresh figs? A zillion years ago, I FTD'd a fig tree to a boy I loved in Australia, but that was way before I had ever eaten a fresh fig myself. Not until I met Karla nine years ago did I get my very own hands-on experience with a ficus tree and its magnificent low-hanging fruit that has traveled the world over the ages. Fresh figs from Karla's tree. (Kim O'Donnel) I've always had a thing for figs and, like many American kids, the introduction began with the Fig Newton, a cookie I couldn't get enough of. My dried figgy experience expanded to a more sophisticated level...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 24, 2007; 09:47 AM ET | Comments (26)

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)

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)

The Cobbler-Top Debate

A summer without cobbler is like ______________________ For me, it's like a morning without coffee, a Sunday without the paper, a kitchen without garlic. Something feels amiss, not quite right. (Feel free to fill in the blank and weigh in below in the comments area.) Blackberries cobbled with topping, Nigel Slater's way. (Kim O'Donnel) It's right around this time of year when blackberries and peaches are bursting at market that I get a yen for cobbler. Last Sunday, I brought home 2 pints of blackberries with drupelets (the small clusters of small fruits) taller than my thumb, resembling a beehive hairdo that Marge Simpson might envy. (By the way, the fruit clusters are not called brambles, as I had mistakenly assumed. The bramble is the actual plant, which is a thorny bush, and to bramble means to pick wild blackberries.) They are almost too pretty to eat, but don't waste...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 3, 2007; 09:40 AM ET | Comments (22)

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)

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)

A Date With the Picnic Basket

Washington's weather over the past few days has been extraordinarily un-humid, a stunningly rare phenomenon in late July. Over the weekend, it occurred to me that it's high time for a picnic. For years, I've been in possession of a picnic basket passed down from my mother, who has a thing for American artifacts and antiques. She tells me that this wooden basket, dressed up with a nifty wicker-exterior and the original plastic dishware in Fiesta colors, dates to the late 1940s. Sadly, I've never taken the basket for an al fresco spin, but I started thinking about what I'd fill it with. All dolled up and no one to take her out: my picnic basket from the 1940s. (Kim O'Donnel) The notion of eating outdoors to celebrate life has been around since medieval times; according to "The Oxford Companion to Food," there's evidence of pre-hunt feasts in 14th-century England:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 24, 2007; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (10)

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)

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)

Grown-Up Ice Cream Sandwiches

The current weather: One bazillion degrees, with equal humidity and an excellent chance of thundercrackers. All across America. Looks like it's time for ice cream, boys and girls. It's the only way to forget the barometric pressure and lick our way into oblivion. Chocolate cookies bookend a heaping scoop of coffee frozen yogurt for an outrageous ice cream sandwich. (Kim O'Donnel) Just before the skies opened yesterday, I was paging through "The Perfect Scoop," a new title by pastry chef David Lebovitz, who also writes a lively food blog from Paris. In addition to all the weird and wonderful flavors of ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt, Lebovitz has included a chapter on "vessels," because as he writes, "Everything in the world deserves a proper, final nesting place." My eyes locked on the page for ice cream sandwich cookies. Now there's something I haven't tried at home. I closed my...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 11, 2007; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (22)

Red, White and Blue Cheat Sheet

This year's Fourth of July is a real bugger, falling in the middle of the week. It's a tall order being red, white and blue while whipping up a fabulous outdoor feast without the cushion of a long weekend. We're literally running out of time before the rockets' red glare gets going, so chop-chop. To help, I've compiled a cheat sheet with lots of links to recipes for various components of a classic summertime shindig. Let's go! Got marinade? There's still time to rub it in and lather up dem ribs, roasts and birds. Consider a dry jerk, curried rub or a bath of yogurt-based tandoori seasonings. Homemade burger buns are the bomb diggety. (Kim O'Donnel) No time for marinade? Do the plank instead. A piece of salmon grilled on a untreated wooden plank does most of the seasoning work, imparting the flavor of the wood into the fish. It's...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 3, 2007; 11:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

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)

Ten Reasons to Love Summer

At 1:06 p.m. ET, summer officially begins according to astronomers in high places. The solstice is an auspicious occasion for this summer baby, who is much happier in sandals than boots, seeking the rays of the sun than the force of an icy wind (see accompanying pic for proof positive). Yours truly, around the age of five, preparing for a career in the circus. (Family photo) Just saying that summer is here makes me smile. There's an old James Taylor tune, "Summer's Here" from his album "Dad Loves His Work" that takes the words right out of my mouth: Summer's here, I'm for that I got my rubber sandals, got my straw hat, I got my cold beer, I'm just glad that it's here... Summer's here, that suits me fine, it may rain today cuz I don't mind It's my favorite time of the year and I'm glad that it's...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 21, 2007; 09:19 AM ET | Comments (9)

 

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