Archive: Vegetarian/Vegan

Campfire Cake

I have my nose in Mary Karlin’s new book, “Wood-Fired Cooking,” my mouth watering at the sound of her garlicky grill-smoked clams and wood-roasted artichokes. I’m trying to decide what will be first on my wood-fired-inspired menu, and then I stumble upon a recipe for chocolate cake. A slice of chocolate cake after being "baked" on the grill. (Kim O'Donnel) But this is no ordinary indoor domestic goddess kind of cake; instead, it’s got all the makings of cowgirl cookery (or a very rogue Girl Scout). Instead of the Suzy Homemaker oven, this cake comes to life over a pile of smoldering coals, and yes indeed, you can call the neighbors and tell 'em all about the cake you baked on the grill. What’s more, there are no eggs in this cake. There is no butter, either. In fact, there is nothing dairy or egg-ish about it (unless you make...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 9, 2009; 08:05 AM ET | Comments (9)

Thursday Is Veggiedag in Ghent, Belgium

By the time you read this with your morning coffee, the plates will have been cleared at the first official Veggiedag (Meatless Day) in Ghent, Belgium. Poster from U.S. Food Administration's war conservation ad campaign. (Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration) As reported by the BBC, mayor Tom Balthazar has officially declared Thursday meatless in his city of nearly a quarter million people. In an effort to make the connection between meat consumption and greenhouse gases (18 percent of which come from livestock production), Balthazar has asked his fellow civil servants to abstain from meat every Thursday; vegetarian meals will also be served in the city schools. Earlier this year, Germany’s federal environment czar publicly urged his fellow citizens to reduce meat consumption, but those words have yet to be translated into deeds, as they are in Ghent, which may be the first city in the world to implement...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 14, 2009; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (9)

Three Cookbooks I'm Excited About

The UPS guy and I have become pretty good pals, and I owe it all to cookbook publishers. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t receive a review copy of a new kitchen-appropriate title, an embarrassment of riches that requires constant upkeep. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it, even when a book doesn’t speak to me or goes promptly into the donation pile. Here are three titles that have passed the “looks good” test and have earned a time slot on the recipe-testing calendar at the Casa. (Courtesy Clarkson Potter Publishers) “Real Cajun” by Donald Link I’ll admit, New Orleans has a spiritual hold on me, so it didn’t take much to win me over with Donald Link’s book about the food of his native Acadiana, the heart of Cajun country. I was expecting all the classics -- etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya -- which are...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 13, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Meatless Monday: Super Cinchy Curried Potatoes

While in DC last week, I cooked dinner with my pal Liz Kelly, who shares my love for all things lentil-y. The gray cold weather last Tuesday had us craving something that would warm our bellies, so we decided to try out a recipe that’s been on my to-do list, from the new “660 Curries” by Raghavan Iyer. In just 45 minutes, we had dinner on the table, but we agreed that if not for our kitchen gabfest, we probably could have pulled it all together in about a half hour. (The trick is to have a pot of lentils going while you prep the taters and the aromatics.) (Kim O'Donnel) I had little idea of what Iyer meant by a red lentil sauce and how it would translate at the table, thinking maybe this would make an interesting side dish. But something magical happens when the creamy lentil...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 8, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (17)

Meatless Monday: Veggie Pot Pie

Still in search of a meatless Thanksgiving entrée? Today’s ditty is for you. Cheddar-crusted veggie pot pie. (Kim O'Donnel) You cannot get more homespun than a pot pie, nor can you can much cozier. And talk about a one-pot autumnal feast! Practically everything we love about the Thanksgiving meal (except for the turkey) is in there -- the spuds, carrots, onions, herbs and garlic (plus any other root veggie favorites), the pool of rich gravy, all of which gets capped off with a savory biscuit! I crafted my veggie pot pie, pictured above, on a school night because that’s the kind of geek I am, but honestly, this dish is better suited for a special occasion or weekend project. Although not difficult, a pot pie is time consuming, requiring about 90 minutes of active prep time and 45 minutes of baking time. On the other hand, compared to roasting...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 24, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

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)

Meatless Monday: Crazy for Kale Pesto

For many of us in four-season climates, the word “pesto” transports us to the sultry days of summer, when the air is heavy with the perfume of basil. Sigh. November ain’t exactly basil pesto season, and even though there’s winter squash, sweet potatoes and hearty greens to keep me company on chilly-willy eves, sometimes I get sentimental for some sun-kissed basil lovin’. Like last week. Lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale: Winter's cure for summer pesto blues. (Kim O'Donnel) Pesto and penne is exactly what I had in mind, but the bitter, peppery leaves of arugula, even when mixed with ricotta, wouldn’t do the trick this time ‘round. I needed something smoother, mellower and dressed in a shade of gorgeous emerald green, a reminder of easy, breezy summer nights. The most unlikely of candidates stepped right up to the counter and requested some kitchen face time. Her name: Lacinato Kale. As...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 17, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (16)

Meatless Monday: Meet the Beet Quesadilla

It’s not you, it’s me. That’s what I’d been telling the beet all these years. She’s a looker alright, but my love for the beet only ran pigment deep. All I needed was one bite to remind me I couldn’t get past the chalky texture, no matter how she’s prepared. Regretfully, I’d swear her off once again, fully aware of her nutritional prowess. (She’s loaded with folate, disease-fighting antioxidants and iron, known for its blood- and liver-purifying abilities.) Beets and chard are among the surprises in Devra Gartenstein's veggie quesadillas. (Kim O'Donnel) And then I moved to Washington state, where the long, fairly temperate growing season favors the underground crops, and I reckon there are more beet lovers per square mile here in Seattle than any other place I’ve been. My crew in Seattle laughs at my foolishness, somehow knowing that eventually I’ll change my tune. I have. And...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Delicata Inamorata

In the winter squash universe, everyone, it seems, has an exotic- sounding name or one of those sweet-nothing terms of endearment. Kabocha. Hubbard and Kuri. Buttercup and Sweet Dumpling. (Don’t you feel amorous just by the mere mention of their names?) Delicata rings with lacinato kale and Israeli couscous. (Kim O'Donnel) I must confess, however, the one variety that stands above the rest and has me howling at the moon like a star-crossed lover is Delicata. With her thin, edible skin, she makes slicing a breeze and dinner prep like a walk in the park. I slice her into squash doughnut holes, and in less than an hour, she’s tender, naturally sweet and ready for feasting. She requires little seasoning (some salt and a little oil to keep from sticking will do), as her true essence --a cross of sweet potato and corn – emerges after some time in...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 3, 2008; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (12)

Meatless Monday: Hooray, Tempeh!

In the four years that I’ve known about my allergy to mushrooms, I’d never really bemoaned the absence of edible fungi -- until now. With the weather crisping up and calling for heartier supper fare, my thoughts recently took a detour into off-limits territory -- a pasta dish with caramelized onions, goat cheese -- and portobello mushrooms. Tempeh stands in for mushrooms in this hearty pasta dish with goat cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) A long-time dog-eared favorite discovered during my cooking school days in New York, this dish single handedly helped me to appreciate mushroom cookery, and it quickly became part of my recipe repertoire. Since my diagnosis, however, the only thing that recipe has been doing is collecting dust. With this unexpected craving parked on the front burner of my brain, what could I do in lieu of an Epi-pen prescription, I wondered. And then along came tempeh (pronounced...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 27, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Meatless Monday: Improv Stuffed Peppers

If you grew up in the ‘70s like me, you might remember stuffed peppers for supper. Chances are the bell peppers of choice were the decidedly un-sweet green variety and the filling was ground beef and something tomato-y. I always liked to see their little hats in the oven, but once at the table, I remember being much more interested in the filling than the containers, which is a pity. Once I got my hands on a bell pepper with deeper sun-kissed pigmentation, I began to understand what the fuss was all about. Ah yes, stuffed peppers can be sweet, and the filling need not be meaty to mask their lack of personality. Veteran vegetarians know that stuffed peppers make for a terrific one-dish meatless meal, and best of all, you can make up the filling as you go along, depending on your mood or what’s in the fridge....

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

Meatless Monday: Roasted Cauliflower Meets Tahini

For years, I was a devotee of the cold salads in the glass case at the Lebanese Taverna market in Arlington, Va. When I swing through town in early December, I’ll be sure to get my fix of Middle Eastern mezze treats, among them the arnabeet – fried cauliflower with tahini sauce. In the meantime, I can sponge up the juices from “Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond,” a new cookbook by chef Sara Jenkins (daughter of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins) and her collaborator Mindy Fox. (Kim O'Donnel) Here, Jenkins suggests roasting (rather than frying) the florets, resulting in a lower-fat dish with arguably more intense flavors (the cauliflower’s natural sugars like to come out and play in the oven). While the cauli roasts, you can make the tahini sauce, which takes all of five minutes with a blender or food...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 6, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

Figs and Olives: A Delightful Surprise

A few weeks ago, I went to an after-work picnicky thing to meet some of Mister MA’s new colleagues, and unlike most office-sponsored gatherings, the food was memorable – in a good way. Fig tapenade. (Kim O'Donnel). While Mister MA fetched the drinks, I perused the colorful array of mostly meatless dips and spreads, but the thing that caught my eye was the fig tapenade. A first for me, I was intrigued, imagining how figs and olives would taste and feel in one unified bite. It would take just one little spoonful to hook me, well, forever. Where have you been all my life, olives and figs, baby? What a groovy combination, a yin-yang of sweet and savory, smooth and chunky, mellow and pungent. While licking my fingers, I decided that I must figure out how to recreate this extraordinary flavor sensation and share the figgy love. A few Googlish...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 30, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Meatless Monday: Warming Up to Winter Squash

Ever try a kabocha (say Kah-boh-cha) squash? It’s the Jade green pumpkin-looking variety, sometimes with little streaks of yellow-green. As with most winter squash, the kabocha is tough-skinned, requiring a sharp blade (get out those sharpening steels) to get through its armor. (It’s not as tough as that dastardly acorn squash, though.) Plan on 20 minutes of peeling and chopping time, and yes, it’s okay to do this the night before and store the squash in an airtight container. Once inside, however, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning yellow-orange flesh that transforms into sweet tender morsels, a cross between squash and sweet potato. Here’s a fun recipe that I made on the fly one Saturday morning about five years ago at the Arlington Courthouse farmers’ market. It was pouring rain like buckets, but the market, as always, stayed open, and the diehard shoppers showed up with their umbrellas. This...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 29, 2008; 06:23 AM ET | Comments (4)

Tofu Brownies Rock

So I’m curled up in bed catching up with a pile of magazines, and my finger stops on a recipe in the latest issue of Yoga Journal. Triple-chocolate chipotle brownies. Tofu brownies.(Kim O'Donnel) I dog-ear the page and move on to the section about how yoga boosts brain power, which I could use a little more of these days. A week later, I return to the recipe, scanning it for ingredients, discovering that these aren’t just chocolate brownies – they’re tofu brownies. A few years ago, I had better-than-good results with a vegan, gluten-free brownie “bite” that was published in Food & Wine. And many of my vegetarian readers know how much I love my tofu pumpkin pie. But tofu in brownies? Could it really pass sweet-tooth muster? I put the recipe to the test last night. As with many dessert recipes that call for silken tofu, the brownies needed...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 25, 2008; 12:45 PM ET | Comments (13)

Meatless Monday: Zucchini “Meatballs” With Red Sauce

Enthusiastically is how you responded to last week’s proposal for a weekly meatless feature. We take that as a “yes” and we’ve decided to waste no time in getting started. Welcome to the first edition of Meatless Monday, a Mighty Appetite feature that explores the idea of taking a break from meat one day a week. Although many readers have expressed an interest in diversifying their diets, they also tell me that they don’t know how and could use a little help in the motivation department. That’s why, starting today and every Monday, I’ll dish up a different recipe (with Casa Appetite testing notes, as always), but the meat will nowhere to be found. It won’t be on the side, it won’t be in the soup stock, it just won’t be -- for one day of the week. Curiosity can often be a great motivator -- and a recipe...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 22, 2008; 08:07 AM ET | Comments (15)

A Meatless Day Keeps Global Warming at Bay?

Want to save the planet? Take a day off from meat, suggests a world-renowned climate change expert. (Kim O'Donnel) In an interview last week with Britain’s The Observer, Rajendra Pachauri recommends one meatless day per week to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,” says Pachauri in the Sept. 7 article. Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, Pachauri argues that the world’s livestock is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a statistic echoed in a 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In case you hadn’t noticed, we like our meat here in USA. In its 2001-2002 Agriculture Factbook (the most recent one published), the United States Department of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 18, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Chat Leftovers: Summer-Fall Bridge, Vegan, Soy-Free Supper and Cheap Tricks

Downtown D.C.: The weather is starting to get a bit chilly around here. Any bridge-the-season ideas for summer produce, but fall weather? With the autumnal equinox fast approaching (Sept. 22), there’s indeed a chill in the air after the sun says goodnight. This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to soup, stew and other warming potions, but as you mention, using the best of the summer harvest. Have a look at the details for this roasted red pepper puree, a light-to-medium bodied potage that still has one foot in summer, with all those sun-kissed peppers. I’m also partial to this creamy tomato soup, a perfect companion for grilled cheese or a hunk of crusty bread. (I’ve also added cooked rice just before serving, and I feel like I’m back in kindergarten.) Speaking of rice and companions, there’s no better time to whip up a pot of eggplant...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

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)

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)

Groovy Grilling: Greens, Beans and Crucifers

Grilling just got a little more greener -- as in leafy, podded and cruciferous. That's right; break out the barbie and grill up some salad, y'all. This season has seen the most interesting choices for the grill, including hearty greens such as broccoli raab and Swiss chard, bitter members of the chicory family, bean pods, cabbage and --- what the heck -- romaine lettuce. Hearty greens like romaine love a hot minute on the grill. (Kim O'Donnel) I love roasted radicchio with blue cheese and walnuts; why wouldn't I love it grilled with shavings of sharp pecorino? Its fairer-skinned cousin, the very elegant endive, is also getting grill marks, which I think would be gorgeous with drizzled honey and chopped walnuts. Grilled cole slaw? You betcha. Last month's issue of Gourmet gives the old school picnic salad a new lease on life, zipped up with an aromatic tarragon vinaigrette and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2008; 06:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

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)

Relishing the Idea of Homemade Chowchow

With the Fourth on the horizon, let us turn our attention to chowchow. If you're from the south or have canoodled with the Pennsylvania Dutch, you might know about chowchow, a type of sweet-n-sour relish made primarily from cabbage. But before we move on, let's define relish. Cabbage gets a fun makeover as chowchow. (Kim O'Donnel) Relish is a highly seasoned condiment made from pickled vegetables -- and sometimes fruit -- except when it's called a chutney. Just so everyone is on the same page, "to pickle" means to preserve food in a vinegar-based brine. In this country, 'pickle relish' means pickled cucumbers but if you travel to the West Indies, India or South Africa, you might hear the word achar instead. The word "chowchow" seems to have interesting, diverse origins as well. For starters, it sounds like chou, the French word for cabbage, and some historians claim that it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

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)

Non-Dairy Frozen Adventures

"Do you think it's worth buying an ice cream maker?" Celebritologist Liz Kelly asked me last week. "After all, I don't eat much dairy." Chocolate sorbet: Look how pretty! (Kim O'Donnel) I explained to my vegan pal that making your own frozen desserts -- with or without dairy or eggs -- is an incredibly satisfying endeavor that is also surprisingly easy. I told her I saw both homemade sorbet and soy "cream" in her future, and that yes, it's worth plunking down 50 bucks (the going in-store price for a model from the Cuisinart ICE line -- but even cheaper online) to learn what the appliance fuss is all about. Sure enough, Liz purchased an ICE-25 in preparation for her upcoming beach vacation and requested a few MA links to get set up. I too have had frozen treats on the brain; with Mister MA's 40th birthday this weekend, I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 17, 2008; 10:03 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)

Vegan and You Don't Even Know It

Today is a long-overdue meatless chat day, and as part of my making-up-for-lost-time efforts, I intended to test a recipe yesterday and share the results in today's space. However, monster-style thunder, lightning and tornado-ish conditions blew through the Washington area yesterday afternoon, leaving Casa Appetite without power for several hours and alas, getting in the way of my kitchen plans. As some of you may already know, I've been contemplating the state of my diet since a dear friend of mine underwent coronary bypass surgery. The theme resurfaced like a bad rash this morning, when I heard from my mother, whose long-time companion suffered a massive heart attack last night. Now if there's anyone who needs to say sayonara to the sausages and embrace a meatless diet to give his clogged arteries a fighting chance, it's this guy. I've never asked him why he won't jump the red-meat ship given...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 5, 2008; 09:03 AM ET | Comments (37)

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)

The Green Bean Love Train

When a What's Cooking reader from Boston, Mass. asked for ideas for a bunch of newly purchased green beans, she spoke to my heart. Whenever I look at a fresh green bean, which are coming into season in the southeast, I always see possibilities. It seems I've got enthusiastic company, as fellow readers chimed in with their own personal green bean-y faves. Green beans: Gentle giants.(Kim O'Donnel) During the live chat, I only had time to share recipe details for these Szechuan-style green beans, which have become a summer dinner party staple at Casa Appetite, but ever since, I've had green beans on the brain, gathering recipe and flavor combination ideas that keep the green bean love-a-thon going. Before we get started, I wanted to mention a bit of nutritional information about our friend, the green bean: One cup offers 16 percent of the RDA for dietary fiber and 20...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 15, 2008; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Mighty and Versatile Chickpea

Garbanzo. Bengal gram. Ceci. Shimbra. Hommes. Lahlabi. Chana. This is a mere sampling of the names used around the world for the little bean known in this country as the chickpea. Chickpeas ready for seasoning. (Kim O'Donnel) The chickpea is not as old as the ancient lentil, but it's not far behind, clocking in around 8000 BCE. Like the lentil, it was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, according to food historian Ken Albala, author of "Beans: A History," which he describes as modern-day eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria. The chickpea that most Americans are familiar with is called the kabuli, a larger, beige-colored variety common in the Mediterranean, but there's another called the desi, a smaller, darker variety that is more common in India, available in shades of red, green and black. I've yet to try these multi-colored gems and am eager to learn more about their flavor,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 18, 2008; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (43)

Vegan Cupcakes That Can Fool April

I'll make this snappy because I don't want to keep you from what I predict will be a life-changing experience. Vegan chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes. (Kim O'Donnel) What if I told you it was possible to bake the most outrageous chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes cloaked in a chocolate ganache frosting -- but without a drop of dairy, a smidge of eggs or a spoonful of sugar. That means that the most outrageous chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes in the world are also: a) cholesterol-free and b) diabetic friendly (the sweetener on duty is the low-glycemic agave nectar). If you're feeling a disconnect, I feel you. It is bizarre that rich, chocolate and tender crumb can be uttered in the same sentence as virtuous -- and vegan-undetectable. In fact, I daresay that these cupcakes would make the ultimate April Fool's Day (next Tuesday, April 1) treat -- you literally could fool the pants off all...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 27, 2008; 11:44 AM ET | Comments (57)

Rocket (Arugula) in My Pockets

For the brunch-y spinach-chickpea pie I made over the weekend, I needed three bunches of spinach. (When cooked, the shrinkage is amazing.) Boy was I surprised while prepping my pie on Sunday to discover that I had purchased three bunches of arugula instead. Don't get me wrong; I'm a lover of the peppery green with a name for every day of the week (eruca, jirjir, rocket, roqueta, roquette, ruchetta, rucola) -- but three bunches? That's a lot of perishable greens on my hands. You know the rule: Use it or lose it -- and fast. An embarrassment of arugula riches. (Kim O'Donnel) To get the arugula party started, I used about half of one bunch in a salad of mixed greens and smoked trout, and that turned out great. But I could hardly rest, with those 2.5 bunches staring right at me. What to do, I ask you? Should I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 25, 2008; 07:56 AM ET | Comments (9)

Spinach Pie, Take 3

I'm a sucker for spinach pie. I like it as a hand-held snack or portable lunch, along the lines of a Middle East fetayer and I like it as a larger entity, baked in a pie plate, kinda Greek-style with greens, onions and feta cheese, but without the greasy phyllo. Spinach and chickpea pie. (Kim O'Donnel) While working on an Easter Sunday brunch menu last week, I dreamed about spinach pie, but also wanted to try something a tad bit different, a little tweak to the routine, if you will. An intriguing variation on the theme emerged as I thumbed through Molly O'Neill's "A Well-Seasoned Appetite." In her version, the dough is made primarily from chickpea flour, which got me thinking about socca, a popular chickpea crepe sold on the street in the south of France (In Italy, it's called farinata.) This I gotta see, I decided. In addition to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 24, 2008; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (23)

Brilliant (and Vegan) Banana Bread

Have you heard the word about agave nectar? It's a plant-based sweetener from the same plant that's used to produce tequila. Cookbook writer and food blogger Heidi Swanson raves about it in her "Super Natural Cooking" and offers Webby recipe ideas here. I've been tempted to take the agave plunge, but with a surplus of local honey, I've waited until the pantry could afford the space. A nice wholesome twist on an old classic: banana bread sweetened with agave nectar and dates. (Kim O'Donnel) Equipped with a copy of "Baking With Agave Nectar," a fresh new title by natural foods chef Ania Catalano, I can no longer procrastinate; her collection of 100 recipes using agave as the primary sweetener is too tempting to ignore. What I like is that she's taken on baked good classics -- brownies, morning muffins, fruit pies, cake frosting -- and reduces their glycemic load with...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 14, 2008; 07:41 AM ET | Comments (13)

Cook's Grab Bag: Year of the Rat, CSA Sign-Up, Spinach Salad

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Today is the beginning of the year 4706 on the Lunar Calendar. It is the year of the Rat - and if you were born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984 or 1996, this is your year, kid. The first sign of the Chinese zodiac (in the Western zodiac, it's Aries), the Rat is characterized as industrious and ambitious, a sing that is willing to take risks. It signifies new beginnings, so this would be a good year to put long-stewing plans into action. Over the past several years, I've consulted cookbook author Grace Young ("Breath of a Wok") for guidance on how to commemorate Lunar New Year at the stove. As she explained in an online chat with me a few years ago, the Chinese prepare foods that symbolize good health, prosperity and fortune and strength on the domestic/family front. I didn't get my act...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 7, 2008; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (8)

Veggie Chat Leftovers: Soy Sauce, Winter Dessert and No-Meat Lent

Yesterday's vegetarian edition of What's Cooking ended too soon, with many unanswered questions idling in the queue. Here are a few to chew on over the weekend. Dessert?: I'm taking dessert to a friend's house this weekend, for after a kind of heavy meal. Any suggestions for a dessert? We aren't vegetarians, but the friend has some cholesterol concerns, so I'd love some ideas for desserts without eggs, cream, dairy... It's too cold for sorbet! Bake a fruit crisp, dear -- and instead of butter in the topping, use heart-healthier Earth Balance spread. I've been using it in cakes, cookies and my Dark 'n' Stormy pear crisp with great success, and no one can tell the difference. Oats and cinnamon are powerful anti-cholesterol warriors, so adding them into your topping ups the healthy ante. Meringue makes for a festive ending to a meal -- and without the yolks becomes a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 25, 2008; 08:44 AM ET | Comments (9)

Snow Day Salve

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogfest with the following weather announcement: the Washington area is getting some snow today. However the storm continues, it's a safe bet that come suppertime, the weather outside will be slightly frightful, if not annoying -- conditions that call for a hot pot of stove-top defrosting magic. Red lentils: a most formidable Snow Day solution. (Kim O'Donnel) Don't worry; I'm not suggesting a two-hour kitchen production on this potentially challenging weeknight. In fact, the recipe below for red lentil soup (aka masoor dal) takes about 45 minutes, start to finish. Not everyone has red lentils on hand in their pantry, I understand. But if you're already making the requisite trip to the grocery store for bread, milk and toilet paper, I urge you to look for red lentils and pick up the accompanying aromatics that make this soup so satisfying. Alternatively, pick up a container...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 17, 2008; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (22)

Chat Leftovers: Cookbooks for Meatless Reasons

During yesterday's What's Cooking , a reader from New Orleans, La., with a few holiday gift cards burning a hole in her pocket expressed an interest in vegetarian cookbooks. In response, I asked for more information about her cooking habits and interests, and here's what I found in the queue after the live hour: We cook three to four times a week, eating leftovers otherwise. Not vegan -- but looking to reduce meat consumption for environmental and budgetary reasons. We like ethnic food, we dig hippie grains, etc, we are adventurous, and we're looking to expand the number of foods we eat per week. I also found this post from "Midwest," who writes: Can you recommend a Web site or book that offers recipes for relatively simple, hearty (but not high fat or calorie) vegetarian main dishes? Hubby has agreed to try a vegetarian night once every couple weeks, but...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2008; 09:50 AM ET | Comments (34)

A Merry - and Gluten-Free - Cookie For All

Psst! Hey, come here. Yeah, I'm talking to you, over in the corner with the food allergies, running far and clear from the cookie tray that inevitably shows up at every dang holiday party. I've got something I like to call a cookie miracle -- a gingerbread cut out that has not a drop of gluten, eggs or dairy -- and it tastes so good no gluten, egg and dairy cookie monster would ever know the difference. I'm serious, y'all! This recipe, which comes from the brilliant gluten-free kitchen of Maryland cookbook author Jules Shepard, is a stroke of sheer near-allergy-free genius. (Last month, I shared a few of her recipes for GF Thanksgiving treats). A holiday cookie miracle: no eggs, dairy or gluten. (Kim O'Donnel) In spite of all its ingredient omissions, this recipe is packed with a spicy punch and a crackery crunch that feels as festive and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 17, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (12)

All Hail the Vegan Queen

She's a high-school dropout with no formal culinary training, but Isa Chandra Moskowitz is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in the vegan cookbook world. At the age of 16, Moskowitz, a born-and-bred Brooklynite eschewed her meat-and-potatoes upbringing and embarked on a vegan punk rock journey that would morph into a public access television cooking show and ultimately, into a successful career as a cookbook author. It was only two years ago when Moskowitz, now 34, published her first book, "Vegan With A Vengeance," which has sold more than 50,000 copies, and already she's got two more under her belt, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" and most recently (October), "Veganomicon," both written with her punk pal, Terry Hope Romero. Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you thought vegan was far off the mainstream path, think again. "Veganomicon" is kicking everyone's butt on amazon.com; it is currently #18 on the list...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 10, 2007; 10:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Giving Thanks to No Dairy, Eggs or Meat

Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving this year or contributing to someone else's feast, chances are good that you'll be in mixed company -- you, a turkey drumstick-chomping omnivore, breaking (egg and dairy-free) bread with someone who gladly will pass on the bird and gravy. These days, homogenous dietary preferences are more the exception than the rule at dinner parties. In the five-plus years I've been hosting a monthly vegetarian chat, I have witnessed an evolution in the way people eat and think about food. I remember questions from meatless readers who were tired of feeling marginalized at family holiday gatherings, but in just five years, there's been a shift in attitude, with increased interest on how to integrate, diversify and collaborate at the table. "Veggie Gourmet" Mimi Clark. So, you, the diehard meat eater, may ask: How do I allow space for vegetarians and vegans at the holiday table? Having an...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 8, 2007; 07:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Great Pumpkin Menu

Do you say "pumpkin" or "squash"? Pumpkin has a much better ring to it, I think; as Elizabeth Schneider writes in "Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini," it's "a more pleasing word to me than the long-winded term 'large hard-skinned squash.'" So when did we North Americans botch up the works and start calling the Halloween jack o'lantern a pumpkin and recognize the rest of the cucurbita maxima, moschata and pepo families as "squash?" Why can't we keep things simple like lovers of orange-fleshed vined plants in other parts of the world -- Australia, the Caribbean and southern Africa -- and call a pumpkin a pumpkin? (Because it would be too easy, like metrics.) Pumpkin still life: Golden Kabocha (left); Butternut (rear) and Buttercup (right) (Kim O'Donnel). Whatever you call the tough-skinned beauties, they are autumnal eye candy, showing off their glistening oranges, golds, gray-blues and Mallard greens, and their many...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 23, 2007; 07:27 AM ET | Comments (7)

A Sweet Potato Two-Fer

I had a moment yesterday that only can happen at the neighborhood farmers' market, an affirming moment when I exclaim, "This is why I shop locally!" As I glanced over the selection of seasonal fruits and veg at the stand of Flowers of the Forest Farm in Great Mills, Md., I spotted a crate of greens that I had never seen before. The I saw the sign which read: "Sweet Potato Greens, $2/pound." Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens. (Kim O'Donnel) I asked the farmer how I might prepare them - they are so tender, and she agreed, mentioning they might go well in a raw salad with other greens. Then James, the vendor who sells baked goods for Grace's Pastries, walked over and chimed in. He says back home in his native Liberia sweet potato greens are a beloved dish. "We fry them," he says, looking excited to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 15, 2007; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (5)

Rotten Tomato Blues

I woke up this morning....and smelled something bad ....(Maybe this is the beginning of a great blues song?) Mister Mighty Appetite didn't smell nothin' And he was sittin' right by the smell I thought for a moment Maybe I'm dreaming But no, no, no Baby That smell It was comin' From that box of Roma tomatoes Sitting on the dining room table I open the box And half my Romas They were smellin' real bad Turning into vinegar I was gagging a tad Pappa al pomodoro, made from rescued Romas. (Kim O'Donnel) I dumped out the bad ones And rescued the rest Those red ladies were cryin' Cryin' real bad "Baby, please do somethin' Somethin' real fast We don't want to turn Into tomato gas." I thought for a moment As I sipped on my Joe It's a wee early For cookin' But if I don't do something Those 'maters...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 9, 2007; 11:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Passion for Purple Hull Peas

A Yank like me didn't know much 'bout fresh field peas growing up; many years would pass until I even felt a pod in my hand, zipped it open on its seam and smelled its earthiness. In fact, as a kid, I hardly ate beans at all, with the exception of the occasional can of chickpeas that my father would include on his antipasto platter of cured meats and cheese. (I can see that plate in my mind's eye, iceberg lettuce as a liner, salami and provolone cheese rolled up, toothpicks at the ready.) A close up of purple hulls, inside and out. (Kim O'Donnel) It seems that as an adult, I'm making up for lost time because now I can't get enough of beans. I can't imagine my life without them -- dried, canned, fresh, black, white, speckled -- they're all good in my book. Not until I became...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2007; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chat Leftovers: Purple Cabbage, Cheesy Grits and Meatless Meal Planning

There's never enough time to answer all of the questions that arrive in my What's Cooking queue each week; below, a few leftovers worth chewing on. Feel free to add your thoughts and kitchen insight in the comments area below. Alexandria, Va: My husband and I have decided to try and go meatless a little bit more and are attempting to make two dinners a week meat-free. We love beans and lentils, but don't want to make the foray into meat substitutes. This week's line-up includes a chickpea curry and your Syrian-style lentils. I'm thinking that eggplant parmesan and ratatouille are in our future. Other than those, I'm at a bit of a loss. What would you suggest to increase our menu horizons? You're off to a good start, Alexandria, but you're right, it's a good idea to have a stable of menu ideas to keep the meatless lineup diverse...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 12, 2007; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (9)

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)

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)

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)

Veggie Lunchbox and Shrimp 'Veins' With a Side of Hot Fudge

There were too many good questions left undone from this week's What's Cooking jamboree. Below, a few to chew on, with an invitation to weigh in on any or all of the topics -- vegetarian workday lunches, deveining shrimp and the search for a true-blue hot fudge sauce. Have a delicious and safe weekend. Vienna, Va.: Kim, do you have any ideas for a healthy, satisfying vegetarian lunch that I could easily pack in a lunchbox at 6 a.m.? I've tried the old standby of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn't seem to fill me; I've tried packing leftovers, but my supply of leftovers is inconsistent. Vienna, you're a prime candidate for Jamaican patties, veggie style. (Scroll past the meat filling details and you'll see what I'm talking about.) Spend an afternoon on the weekend whipping up a batch, then you can freeze them individually, pack it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2007; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

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)

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)

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)

Extra Helping of Meat-Free Assistance

Yesterday's vegetarian edition of What's Cooking covered a lot of ground, from dairy-free fats to a veggie-omnivore sex appeal debate. In response to one reader's query about meatless cooking classes in the Washington area, I mentioned Mimi Clark, of Fairfax, Va., who's been offering her Veggie Gourmet vegan cooking classes for the past 18 years. In a note that arrived after the chat, Mimi shared a few extra tidbits to add the conversation. Below, some of her thoughts: To the person who has a gluten sensitivity, tofu is not the only sub. There is also TVP, a defatted soy product that comes dehydrated (Bob's Red Mill is one of the manufacturers), and tempeh which you mentioned earlier. Tempeh is more of a whole food than tofu because it is made from whole soybeans, unlike tofu which is made from cracked, coagulated soybeans. In addition, tempeh is a fermented food which...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2007; 10:08 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)

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)

What's Cooking Veggie Chat, Today At 1 ET

A 100 percent meat-free hour is on the What's Cooking menu, today at 1 ET. Vegans, vegetarians and even carnivorous lurkers are all welcome in this monthly conversation on meatless eating, cooking and shopping. Catch up with previous Mighty Appetite posts of vegetarian and vegan interest....

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 30, 2007; 10:48 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Vegan Experiment

David Carver, of Reston, Va. was just three days into his 30-day vegan challenge when he posted a comment in the April installment of What's Cooking Vegetarian, my monthly vegetarian Web chat. "Being a huge lover of red meat, white meat, the other white meat and fish, this has been the single most difficult thing I have done," wrote Carver. "I feel like I am going through some detox phase only after 3 days." It was an intriguing concept, one that I wanted to hear more about. In addition to Carver, I heard from Kevin Goldberg, of Washington, who had embarked on a similar vegan journey, albeit with a drastically different outcome. Here are their stories. David Carver Yesterday, I caught up with Carver by phone, to see how the experiment was shaping up, and to see how he was faring. He was now in the fourth and final week...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 15, 2007; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Veggie Blogosphere

It's that time of the month, which means you, me and other assorted veg-heads gather together 'round the online countertop today at 1 ET and talk about meat-free cooking, eating and shopping. The idea to offer a vegetarian-only chat spawned six years ago as an experiment, but it immediately became clear that there was a hunger for this kind of information and conversation. But what about the other days of the month? How do vegetarians and vegans learn to be better cooks in our online universe? Six years ago, the pickings were slim. Now, the Web is more veg-friendly than ever, particularly with the explosion of food blogs in the past few years. To wit, if you go to blog search engine technorati.com and search for "vegetarian cooking" in its blog directory, you get a search return of 223 blog destinations. So, with such an overgrown garden, how does one...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 26, 2007; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (15)

The Noblest Beans

"You can tell where someone is from by their attitude about beans," argues Steve Sando, owner/founder of Napa, Calif.-based Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. "Californians and Southwesterners understand that you have a pot of beans like any other veg," Sando explains. "Eastcoasters are freaked out by beans and need a recipe. And if you're from the Midwest, there's zero bean culture." A work of art: Rancho Gordo's Rio Zape beans before cooking. (Kim O'Donnel) Generalizations aside, Sando knows of what he speaks; his life has been nothing but beans for the past 10 years. To be specific, Sando's business is heirloom beans; according to the USDA, the term heirloom plants refers to a) those planted from seeds that have been passed down for more than 50 years and b) open-pollinating, meaning that in addition to sowing seeds of a previous generation, they disperse naturally, by wind, rain and insects,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 12, 2007; 11:57 AM ET | Comments (13)

Honey, There's Beer in My Batter

As home cooks, we're told to cook with the same wine we like to drink. Why not apply the same argument to beer? In the spirit of beer-food pairing in today's Food section, I set out to put this theory to the test. Beer-battered veggies, with a glass of red rice ale to wash it all down. (Kim O'Donnel) Earlier this year, I shared my love for the line of Hitachino Nest beers, particularly the Red Rice Ale, one of the few things I've found to marry well with spicy noodles and curries. But I wondered: Would my favorite pinky-rose ale work as well in my mixing bowl as it does on my tongue? When Food section editor Joe Yonan challenged me to think about how I'd cook with my favorite beer, I immediately leaped to the idea of onion rings. The free association quickly followed: Beer batter. Red rice....

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 11, 2007; 09:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Delicious -- And Vegetarian

It was Friday afternoon, and I was in the mood to play hostess. However, as I e-mailed a small group of close pals for Saturday supper, I realized I was inviting them on short notice. The reason for the rush: I was in the midst of a round of recipe testing, and I needed a bunch of mouths to feed. Of primary concern was a a beer-batter veggie tempura (stay tuned for those details in tomorrow's blog space) that I was tinkering with, yet if I was inviting friends for the evening, I needed to expand the menu -- and perhaps solicit culinary contributions. In addition to battered veggies, I was thinking about simmering a pot of heirloom beans (more on those in Thursday's blog space!), and since one couple was strictly vegetarian, I thought, what the heck, let's keep this dish free of meat, too. The menu was going...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 10, 2007; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (9)

Mom, Can I Be a Vegetarian?

Imagine the following scenario: You are a proud, loving parent. One day, your sprouting young adult announces the decision to become a vegetarian, just like that. Although this throws a wrench into your omnivorous family equation, you want to honor your child's dietary curiosity and allow space for exploration. So you scrape the chicken cutlet off your budding vegetarian's plate and double up the helpings of starch and veg. And for the next six, eight years, that's the way dinner works -- meat for most, side dishes for one. Simple, right? Your kid gets to be a vegetarian and the rest of the family is virtually unaffected by the dietary shift. In the midst of your gallant efforts to keep the family boat from rocking, however, stuff begins to fall through the vegetarian cracks. Lo and behold, it appears that someone is playing with his vegetables and instead eating mashed...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 31, 2007; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

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)

Get Your Soup Groove On

Hey! It really might be time for soup. The weather here in Washington actually feels like January, and from the looks of the forecasts, the weekend is promising plenty of winter, with the chance of flakes from the sky. In fact, let's go full throttle and make it a two-soup weekend, one for each day. Don't worry; soup is far from an all-day affair at the stove. Start to finish, you need just one hour to make a pot of soup. Seriously. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule. Bean soups and more elaborate meat-noodle-y numbers take a few hours or more. However, for the quickest route to a bowl of soup, I suggest going the way of the puree. In puree land, there are few rules and lots of room for creativity and improvisation. But a flavorful puree only comes with commitment to a few key ground rules: Use...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 19, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (18)

The Real Faux Burger

As I wrote yesterday, we are a burger nation, and as such, all palates and dietary preferences are invited to the patty party. When I worked as a reporter in Philadelphia in the late 1980s, my roommate Kat lived off veggie burgers from a box found in the frozen aisle of the supermarket. We were part of a group of underpaid twentysomethings who would gather often for dinner and, at that time, Kat was the only vegetarian. Every Fourth of July, Kat hosted a "Jamly" (pronounced jam-lye) on East River Drive, down by the Schuylkill River, where we'd cook out and drink her "Jamly" punch. I distinctly remember her grilling her veggie burgers while the rest of us ate beef patties. In nearly 20 years, those lonely days of vegetarian eating have long gone. In the late '80s, her only option was a Gardenburger. Now Kat can take her pick...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 12, 2007; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Showing Lentils Some Love

Here, in the land of presto-magico food out of a box, there's a good chance you know someone who has never tried a hearty bowl of lentils (and like my mother, refuses a spoonful). This is something I do not understand. Meanwhile in cultures around the globe, the lentil is the culinary humanitarian. It provides. It nourishes. It keeps us regular. It keeps heart attacks at bay. The lentil is lovely, not lowly. (Kim O'Donnel) In fact, one cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of protein, second in the protein-award line to the soybean. It's loaded with fiber -- 15 grams, more than half of your daily requirement -- and is a folate boon for pregnant women. If you plan to hit me with a "But I don't have time to cook lentils during the week; they require planning," I'm afraid you will lose this argument. Of all...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 5, 2007; 10:29 AM ET | Comments (38)

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)

Giving Thanks to Tatsoi

My pal Ms. B. and her two kinder just stopped by for an early morning coffee and oatmeal cookie snack. In between feeding the baby and wrestling with Zoe, the little minx, over the magic markers, B. asked me what I had in mind for Thanksgiving. Tatsoi, a produce beauty queen and my muse for Thanksgiving. (Kim O'Donnel) Aside from my locally-raised turkey (due for pickup from Smith Meadows this Sunday at Columbia Pike Market) and a batch of apple sauce (or will it be cranberries?), I told her I was unsure about the rest of the feast. "I need to get inspired," I said. "Perhaps when I go to market this weekend." And then I remembered the stunning rosettes of tatsoi I bought yesterday at Clarendon farm market, from Sunnyside Farms, in Washington, Va....

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 16, 2006; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Bowlful of Broccoli

And now, for Part Two of the Brassica vegetable love fest! (Yesterday, I shared my newfound love for cauliflower.) Today, broccoli is on the menu, served in a soup bowl. Broccoli soup, without the cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) In addition to broccoli and cauliflower, the Brassica family includes cruciferous siblings such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. If you want to keep the doc away, get cozy with these antioxidant champions. I'm predicting that just a few years down the road scientists will discover that the Brassica family is the golden key to age prevention. Just a hunch......

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 2, 2006; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (20)

Tales of a Cauliflower Convert

I blame it all on the crudites platter. For years, I eschewed cauliflower. I found it odd smelling, awkward in my mouth and too big to store in my fridge. I tried to like it, really I did, particularly after learning of its all-powerful, cancer-resistant antioxidants. Cauliflower: A produce beauty queen. (Kim O'Donnel) But its regular appearance on party platters, served as a companion for a bowlful of dip, threw me over the edge. Who decided that raw bulbous hunks of funky-smelling cauliflower tasted good? Yuck. Still, even when I ate it cooked, it never wowed me. Boiled white florets topped with a nondescript cheese sauce just didn't move this palate. Once I realized that the cooking method, not the vegetable itself, was responsible for my cauli-aversion, I changed my tune. Through roasting, I have learned to love cauliflower, particularly now, when it's in season and locally available. (I got...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 1, 2006; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (22)

A Curry Sweet Goodbye

As soon as I filed yesterday's post on hosting a Monday night dinner party, I donned a bandanna, buttoned up one of my old scruffy chef's coats and spun into action. Chilled vanilla custard went into the freezer bowl of my ice cream maker and churned for about 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of churning, I added about 3 ounces of chopped dark chocolate for an extra dimension and a contrast in texture. As I mentioned yesterday, I cooked the soaked dried chickpeas in an infused "tea" of fresh ginger, garlic and a star anise pod, which worked beautifully. Just as I had hoped, the chickpeas picked up the flavors of the aromatics and were off to a savory start. So much flavor already and not a drop of salt used yet! "Dry" chickpeas make their debut over rice. (Kim O'Donnel) For the next step, I pulled together...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 17, 2006; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Fool for a Kitchen Tool

According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, a gadget is "an often small mechanical or electronic device with a practical use but often thought of as a novelty" whereas a tool is "a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task." With these dictionary distinctions in mind, can you answer the following question: In the kitchen, are you a tool or a gadget person? My food mill making hand-cranked magic with tomatoes. (Kim O'Donnel) Humor me and do a mental inventory of the drawer that contains cooking-related items other than flatware. Whatcha got in there? Anything from the Nixon era, by chance? I've got a few rubber spatulas that have seen better days, and a mini funnel that I've never used, but I digress. As I scan the shelves and cabinets, I would describe my baterie de cuisine (the tools and equipment that help me cook) as minimalist. (Some would argue...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 3, 2006; 10:06 AM 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)

Vegan Brownies for Everyone

As many of my longtime readers know, I am a meat-eater who also swings meat-free. I'm hardly a vegetarian in the true sense of the word, but I do without meat, on average, in half of my weekly meals. Some may say I'm an omnivore, but the newfangled term is "flexatarian," referring to someone who eats a semi meat-free diet. Vegan, gluten-free brownies that will blow your mind. (Kim O'Donnel) As evidenced by five years of my monthly vegetarian chat, readers know that I'm hip to new and different ways of cooking traditional dishes, particularly if the revisions are undetectable to our fat-conditioned palates. To wit: Last year during the holidays, I made the discovery of pumpkin pie made with tofu, an amazing, more healthful tweak on a Thanksgiving staple. In keeping with this theme of delicious food that also happens to be free of animal products, I've got to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 15, 2006; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (22)

A Vegetarian Feast Fit for a Queen

You've listened to me wax philosophical about shopping at your local farmer's markets. I know I can be relentlessly passionate about eating and shopping locally, and maybe you've had enough of my stuff. But right about now is when all that philosophizing and dream weaving becomes a matter of practicality and smart food shopping. Okra at dusk. (Kim O'Donnel) August is the peak period for summer produce, and when the weather cooperates, the harvest is golden, yielding tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, onions, garlic, green beans, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, peaches, melon and berries. (I'm sure I'm missing something; please add to the list in the comments area below.) Sounds like the produce aisle in the supermarket, doesn't it? And because of the variety of veg, it's easy to forget about meat at suppertime. Last night was a case in point. I stopped off at Clarendon farm market in the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2006; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (13)

Kim at Kripalu

Greetings from Blissville. Since Monday, I've been soaking up the relaxed vibrations of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. The largest yoga facility in North America, Kripalu sits on 300-plus acres overlooking the Berkshires, a cluster of glorious mountain ranges in western Massachusetts. Although under Kripalu ownership since 1983, the property - Shadowbrook - dates to the 1890s, when it was originally built as a private country estate. Having changed hands a few times (including Andrew Carnegie, who used it as a summer home), Shadowbrook also operated as a Jesuit seminary for nearly 50 years. Another cool tidbit I discovered: Shadowbrook's luscious acreage was originally designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park). For many, mention of the word "Kripalu" conjures up images of a Hindu ashram, and rightly so. For many of its 23 years, Kripalu did operate much like an ashram, with a few...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 28, 2006; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (5)

Gluten-Free True-Blue Breakfast

Always on the lookout for new cookbooks, I was eager to crack open my newly arrived copy of "World Vegetarian Classics" by American-Brit cook Celia Brooks Brown. In addition to penning cookbooks, Brown appears on BBC's food channel and is a private chef, whose celeb client list includes Chrissie Hynde and Stella McCartney. When shopping for a new veggie title, I was particularly drawn to Brown's assertion (stated on her Web site) that "Vegetarian food still has a boring, brown, 'socks and sandals' stigma" which she has endeavored to reverse. If photos are an important ingredients in your cookbooks, this title will appeal; they are big and beautiful and dotted throughout the book. Brown has compiled 220 recipes from around the world, neatly organized by continent. Although keen to try the Pacha Rice (Egypt) and the Akara with Pilipili (black eye pea cakes from Nigeria), I made a beeline for...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 17, 2006; 09:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Corny Propositions

Yesterday's chat got readers all lathered up over corn, which has made its glorious debut at local farmer's markets. On Sunday, I picked up some that had been grown in Berkeley Springs, W. Va., and it was out of sight, some of the best corn I have eaten in the last few years. White corn from Berkeley, W. Va. (Kim O'Donnel) Because of its hidden husk-cloak, corn is always a mystery to the shopper. Can you really tell if the ear you picked will be free of worm holes or rot as well as sweet and tender to the bite? If you've got a secret for weeding out the goodies, please share in the comment areas below. The next question in corn world is: Cob or kernels? Do you eat your corn right off the cob, typewriter-style, like my kid brother, Tim, or do you prefer to shave it off...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 12, 2006; 09:03 AM ET | Comments (21)

The Zuke-A-Mole Trick

Zucchini's in the house! Get ready, because once it starts, summer squash doesn't stop producing. As one of the most prolific items in the garden, it requires cooking ideas that go beyond the same ole zucchini bread and ratatouille. The zucchini, aka courgette, has arrived at local farm markets. (Kim O'Donnel) Last summer, I came across this zinger, a unique dip that remarkably resembles guacamole. It's so similar in look and mouthfeel that you could almost fool people. Don't get me wrong; I love guacamole, but like it or not, the avocado is high in fat - about 25 grams each. Of course, if you're a vegan, this is a great way to get plant-based fatty acids, but the tendency among we fat-loving Americans is to add fat to the fat. In the case of the guac, we like to add sour cream, cheese, even the dreaded mayo, and then...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 7, 2006; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (6)

Scared of Tofu? Grill It

There's something about bean curd that scares the bejeezus out of meat eaters. Even the most open-minded carnivores run for the hills at the sound of the word "tofu, " and to their defense, the squishy white stuff does require a bit of kitchen schooling as well as flavor-doctoring before becoming palatable. But scaredy-cats, I gotta tell you: Summer is the time to get over your tofu terror because the white stuff luvs the grill. A kicky marinade and a handful of skewers is all you need to bring tofu to life. Last weekend, I tried out the recipe below with delicious results. The hoisin sauce is key here, as it contains sugar that caramelizes on the edges like a good barbecue sauce does on pork or chicken. With the direct heat of the grill, the tofu cubes trade in their squishiness for a chewy (and dare I say it)...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 23, 2006; 02:00 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Mayo-Free World

If you're stuck in traffic at 2 o'clock this afternoon, turn on your radio, pretty please. I'll be feeding Sam Litzinger, my on-air pal on Washington Post Radio (107.7 FM, 1500 AM...or if you are computer-bound, www.washingtonpostradio.com). This week, I've got a few painless side dishes suitable for weekend cookouts and all things grilled. I won't divulge all the tasty secrets, but one of the items on the menu is mayo-free potato salad, a concept that deserves far-better treatment than its goopy, mayonnaise-y counterpart. What is up with the mayo in the potato salad, people?...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 2, 2006; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

Meat of the Vegetarian Matter

Yesterday's vegetarian chat touched on how one transitions to vegetarianism and morphed into weighty discussion of the highly personal quality of such a journey. A few leftover comments include: Boston, Mass. "I don't think people can convert to being omnivores to vegetarian overnight. I'm not a full veggie (yet), but I started by cutting almost all red meat out of my diet and eating at least two veggie dinners per week. Next I decided I'd only eat ethically kept meat, which is more expensive, so my meat eating reduced for reasons of wallet. Once I went veggie for two weeks to try it out, and the temptation to eat meat was overwhelming. So I'm in favor of gradual life changes -- but then I'm not (too) concerned about killing animals to eat them, which I understand is a powerful motivating factor for many vegetarians." And a reader from Colorado wrote:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 26, 2006; 08:16 AM ET | Comments (1)

 

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