Archive: September 2006

Rosh Hashanah Sweets and Savories

Tomorrow at sundown marks the beginning of year 5767 in the Jewish calendar and the beginning of the High Holidays (Yom Kippur follows 10 days later on Oct. 1). As is the case with several other Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah is rich with food symbolism. Challah, the egg-based dough that's typically braided for weekly Sabbath dinners, "is coiled into rounds of a higher symbolic order" for the auspicious occasion, explains Post Food section's Bonnie Benwick. Apples and honey also play a central role, representing hopes for a sweet and joyous year ahead. Variations on the theme include an apple cake with honey sauce, a cozy apple coffee cake or, if you're in need of something gluten free, an apple cake made with almond meal, a Passover classic equally good at this time of year. In his cookbook "Olive Trees and Honey," Gil Marks includes several savory ideas using winter squash,...

By Kim ODonnel | September 21, 2006; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

A Smokin' Baba Ghanouj

In her cookbook, "A Well-Seasoned Appetite," food writer Molly O'Neill poignantly describes this time of year as "summer's last stand." In her introductory notes to a chapter entitled "Almost Autumn," O'Neill writes: "Summer's end seems to ask for deep, huskier flavors, the kinds born of roasting, simmering and baking. Romancing summer and reveling in the new gives way to a relationship. It's time to tend." Chinese eggplant is great on the grill. (Kim O'Donnel) In my own kitchen, I see this shift, looking at the new (apples and pears) but also finding ways to bridge the romance of summer with the "impulse to insulate against cooler winds." This week, as I pay my respects to summer's end, I am giving eggplant one last dance. And like O'Neill, I look for more intense flavors that stand up to earlier sunsets and transitional breezes. For these reasons, I turn to the smoky...

By Kim ODonnel | September 20, 2006; 12:05 PM ET | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Solving the Spinach Scare

In the midst of the media frenzy over E. coli-contaminated spinach, there's a fact that few people are talking about: the supermarket isn't the only place to get the stuff. It's hard to believe, given that our constantly replenished supermarket shelves are constantly replenished with pre-washed and pristine greens, as if packaged by elves. With gift-wrapped spinach always for the taking, who would want to bother looking anywhere else for salad fixins? But sustainable agriculture advocates beg to differ. "If there ever was a reason to shop local, this is it," says Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a home gardener and food blogger from Syracuse, N.Y. The latest contamination scare makes it "more critical than ever to eat closer to the source," adds Baskerville-Burrows. "If we patronize smaller, local farms and something goes wrong, we can trace it back directly to the producer." What's more, the coverage of the E. coli scare has...

By Kim ODonnel | September 19, 2006; 1:27 PM ET | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Chile Pepper Parade

There's a changing of the guard at Season's gate later this week, with autumn officially kicking off the evening of Friday, Sept. 23. Like it or not, it's the home stretch of summer, the last opportunity to savor warm-weather crops that soon will be a winterized memory. Get'em while they last -- tomatoes, eggplant, corn, melon, peaches and peppers. Throughout this week, I'll pay tribute to a few summer produce hangers-on; today is all about chile peppers. Below, a chile sampler found at a few area farm markets over the weekend:...

By Kim ODonnel | September 18, 2006; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)

Foodway to Our Hearts

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

By Kim ODonnel | September 15, 2006; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Trader Joe's Comes to Washington

Trader Joe's, the off-beat , California-based grocery chain that's been spreading like wildfire on this side of the country, has come to DC. Not on the perimeters, but right smack in the middle of town, at the corner of 25th and L Streets NW. The residents of West End and Foggy Bottom must be dancing in the aisles, as the only other walking-distance supermarket option for years has been the Safeway in the tucked away complex of the Watergate (at 25th Street and Virginia Avenue NW). Doors opened on Sept. 1, in the ground floor of The Columbia Residences of Washington, D.C., the swanky yet-to-opened condos, in the space formerly occupied by Columbia Hospital for Women. I arrived on Day 5, around 6 p.m. The place was crawling with urban dwellers, just out of work, foraging the shelves, which seemed to deplete by the minute. Without a shopping list, I...

By Kim ODonnel | September 14, 2006; 12:48 PM ET | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)

Nutritional 411 on Lulu's Cookies

The flurry of comments this week over Lulu's cookies has been fun to watch, and I'm delighted by all the reader enthusiasm. Since many of you expressed further interest in the nutritional value of the cookies, I asked Post Food section assistant editor Bonnie Benwick for an expert hand. With the whizbang help of Nutritionist Pro, the software used by the Food section for all of its published recipes, Benwick input the specs for Lulu's cookies. Below, the nutritional low-down, per cookie, approximating a heaping teaspoon before going into the oven: 125 calories 2 grams protein 1 gram dietary fiber 14 grams carbohydrates 7 grams total fat; 1 gram saturated fat 33 milligrams sodium 0 grams cholesterol Not exactly a low-cal item, but on the plus side, it's cholesterol free, low in saturated fat and considering its size, comes with a decent dose of fiber, which makes you feel full....

By Kim ODonnel | September 14, 2006; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Do Your Wash Your Rice?

Soft Diet Salves and Assorted Kitchen Notes Despite my speedy typing, there's never enough time to answer all of the questions submitted in my weekly chat. Here's one left in the queue that needs immediate assistance. Washington, DC writes: I am on a "soft diet" after having oral surgery, and I am going to scream if I have to eat another bowl of soup, plate of mashed potatoes, or smoothie/milkshake. Any recipes/suggestions? Screaming is probably not a good idea after oral surgery, so let's nip that idea in the bud pronto. There are lots of options for food that goes down the hatch without the use of those recovering choppers....

By Kim ODonnel | September 13, 2006; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (40) | TrackBack (0)

Join the Lunchbox Revolution

Freeze! Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to You, with the Ho Ho hanging out of your mouth. That means you too, Mister cheese doodler. Lulu's cookies and coffee. (Kim O'Donnel) Come on, hand it over. I promise, it won't hurt. Just this once, I want you to trade in some of that processed lunchbox loot for something a little bit different. In fact, this snack/dessert/breakfast-on-the-run is so scrumptious I am confident you won't want your bag o' doodles back. I've got a secret weapon cookie that will have your friends lining up in the cafeteria begging for seconds. Best of all (don't tell anyone), this cookie is good for your heart. In addition to the much-touted cholesterol-lowering oats, this little zinger is loaded with sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which contain cholesterol-lowering, hearty-healthy compounds called phytosterols. Flax seeds, with their highly publicized and sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids, also appear, doubleteaming...

By Kim ODonnel | September 12, 2006; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

Wok-Fried Chicken

With my new wok properly seasoned, I needed an inaugural dish, something to continue the newly christened wok on its patina-ed journey to non-stick bliss. Fried chicken in the wok. (Kim O'Donnel) For ideas and some preliminary wok dos and don'ts, I called my friend and wok guru Grace Young, whose "The Breath of a Wok" is a must-have for anyone considering a wok. DON'T "make a dish with sweet and sour sauce. The acid is going to strip the seasoning off the wok, and that's exactly what you don't want to do." That means no tomatoes, vinegar, wine, citrus of any kind - anything acidic. Young further explains that "a new pan is dying to drink oil. Deep fry something or cook bacon." Hmm...I had never thought about using a wok as a deep-fryer, but the idea makes sense. A wok gets really hot very quickly, and that's exactly...

By Kim ODonnel | September 11, 2006; 10:29 AM ET | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The School of Curds and Whey

Earlier this summer, Washington got a dose of serious cheese, when California-based Cowgirl Creamery set up shop in Penn Quarter. The "coursework" at Cowgirl Creamery's cheese class this week. (Kim O'Donnel) With a few months underfoot, the Cowgirls are expanding their in-store offerings, including sandwiches, wine and cheese-tasting classes. Last night was the first in a series of Thursday evening classes focused cheese tastings, led by cheesemaker and CG co-founder/owner Sue Conley. Our small group gathered in a back food prep area, cheerfully set up with all the tasting trimmings -- cheese, bread and wine glasses. Yesterday's focus was the basics of cheesemaking, with an overview on simple, fresh varieties such as fromage blanc, chevre, ricotta and mozzarella, with tasting notes on the milk of four different animals (cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo) and what happens along the way, from farm to cheese board. Conley steered the conversation towards...

By Kim ODonnel | September 8, 2006; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

A New Wok State of Mind

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

By Kim ODonnel | September 7, 2006; 2:26 PM ET | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Nurse Noodles

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

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

Kitchen Perfect is Overrated

Close friends came for dinner last night, and the occasion was momentous. This thing called Life recently recently threw them some unexpected twists and turns, and I responded to the news with an impromptu offer of food and drink at casa O'Donnel. Ice cream is one of their favorites, so I knew a batch of the homemade stuff would be a welcome distraction and perhaps yield a few smiles. After much deliberation, I decided on flavoring the ice cream with peaches before they disappeared into the culinary sunset until next year. A little basil thrown into the heated cream and allowed to infuse would lend an additional late summer note, I thought. In spite of my lateness, the custard was moving along nicely and was setting up in the fridge for its churn in the machine. And then I goofed. No, I royally screwed up. With dinner nearly ready, one...

By Kim ODonnel | September 5, 2006; 12:10 PM ET | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

P-Patch Party People

"We're gonna go see my friend Deb at the P-Patch," announced Leslie, my Seattle houseboat host. "Tuesday is work-party night." Translation: We were headed to one of Seattle's 70-plus community gardens, which grows thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables expressly for area food banks. Deb Rock, who's been a food-bank garden coordinator at Interbay Community Garden since 1999, oversees a group of volunteer gardeners who join her every Tuesday night during growing season, between April and October. The "party" portion of the evening comes after the weekly chores of harvesting are completed, and that's when we first-timers showed up on the scene. "Kim, can you go to my plot and pick a container's worth of sun gold tomatoes for the panzanella?" Deb asked me. "And don't worry if the tomatoes are splitting; they're still tasty," she added. Leslie and Trine were on raspberry duty, then moved onto lettuces and...

By Kim ODonnel | September 1, 2006; 1:45 PM ET | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

 

© 2006 The Washington Post Company