Archive: Seasonal Produce

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)

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)

Pesto Americano Will Have to Do

Don't mess with Mother Nature, even when she speaks Italian. A recent spate of hailstorms took its toll on Italy's basil crop, which are likely to have an impact on the availability and price of pesto, the beloved green sauce. One of the most hail-damaged areas is just west of Genoa, the Ligurian capital and birthplace of pesto alla Genovese. Italians are a particular lot; pesto made outside of Genoa cannot be considered the real deal. Given the circumstances, do you suppose they'll let the pesto rules slide this season? Will basil from Sardinia be considered an acceptable substitute? For those of you with more backyard basil than you know what to do with, count your leafy blessings and think of all those pesto-starved Italians. Perhaps an all-basil dinner party is in order, complete with a batch of stateside pesto. Your Italian guests, too distressed to notice the difference, will...

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2006; 10:35 PM ET | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Who Loves Ya, Basil Baby?

Although still in a Sunday morning fog, I grabbed my market bags off the hook and stumbled out the front door for the few blocks to my neighborhood farmer's market. Basil: Not just for tomatoes anymore. (Kim O'Donnel) On my short walk, I began formulating my mental shopping list for the week, not paying attention to the fact that I was nearing the white canopies of the market. Suddenly, I was greeted with an alluring perfume, a mix of anise and flowers that immediately lifted me out of my somnambulistic state. "Wow," I said to myself out loud, "what smells so good?" One more step led me underneath a vegetable seller's canopy where the mystery was solved. Of course. It was the basil making all that aromatherapeutic magic. She was everywhere I looked, on display at nearly every vendor and graciously infusing the atmosphere -- allowing us to ignore the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2006; 09:27 AM ET | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

American as Cobbler

The expression "American as apple pie" is indelibly ingrained in our brains. Remember the "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" commercials? But really, if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, the expression has been around only since the 1960s (according to "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf), a relatively short time in the pie world. The anatomy of a cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel) The reason I bring up pie in a cobbler blog is because pie predates cobbler by a few hundred years - it was born in England, it seems, during the Middle Ages. When the English settled on this side of the Atlantic, they quickly began baking their beloved pies, but with a twist. Enter the cobbler. (check this link for recipe details) "Without the resources of brick ovens...colonial cooks often made cobblers...

By Kim ODonnel | August 11, 2006; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

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) | TrackBack (0)

Tomato Love Poetry

Sonnet #43, Kitchen Style Tomato-basil salad with dots of goat cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) How do I love thee, tomato? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and might My palate can reach, when remembering out of sight Your peak month of August, when you bear fruits of juicy Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most urgent need for a BLT, by sun or moon-light. I love thee with abandon, as Venus might her Mars or Vulcan I love thee purely, as surely as the summer wanes I love thee with the passion of my appetite Above all fruits, and with my childhood's eye of Jersey tomatoes As if they were falling from the sky. I love thee with a hunger I seemed to lose With my lost innocence (and the icky mealy tomatoes of January)! I love thee with the smell,...

By Kim ODonnel | August 7, 2006; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)

Drink Your Dinner Tonight

Ah, the weather. The way it shapes our lives, changes our mood, affects the way we think, sleep and eat. This week in weatherland has been a real hootenanny, hasn't it? Even in the short time I've been back on DC soil, the uber-meltdown has a heat-lover like myself running for shade. Gazpacho: Much better than a V-8. (Kim O'Donnel) Under such extreme conditions, what does one eat? Do you cook? Do you even want to eat? Consider uncooked items for the dinner table -- no, that's doesn't mean a bowl of cereal. Consider another kind of bowl -- gazpacho. The Andalusian cold soup is like having a whirl of air conditioning down the hatch. There's something so lovely and cooling about a cold tomato puree. Let it linger in the throat and feel the internal temperature come down a few degrees. In addition to its cooling factors, gazpacho offers...

By Kim ODonnel | August 4, 2006; 01:12 PM ET | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

O.K. About Okra

First, let me introduce myself. I'm Erin Hartigan, Food and Dining editor for washingtonpost.com and I'm guest-blogging while Kim is enjoying a much-deserved yoga retreat. I was so eager to post my favorite breakfast cakes with you yesterday that I jumped right into the food. I'm thrilled to share some of my recent cooking adventures. I'm a fair-weather okra eater. When introduced to it in its pickled or fried Southern-style forms, I don't care for the slimy little things, but in certain preparations, okra is my favorite summer dish. I keep an eye out for it at local farmers markets and was thrilled to see it make an appearance last week. It wasn't until I spent some time in Nepal that I truly came to appreciate okra. A pivotal part of dal bhat, the standard Nepali meal of lentils and rice, okra spices up the dish in a curry-like preparation...

By Erin | July 26, 2006; 08:19 AM ET | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Happily Spitting Watermelon Seeds

As many of you know, I love summer and the relaxed vibe it brings to our daily lives. There are many reasons that run the gamut, but the things I love most about this time of year is the produce. Sure, I love late sunsets, sultry breezes, afternoon thunderstorms and swimming outdoors, but it's the brilliant colors and perfumes of tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, basil and watermelon that make all that humidity worthwhile. Yellow watermelon: How can you resist?(Kim O'Donnel) Speaking of watermelon, it has arrived at local markets. This weekend, I picked up a baby beauty, with a gorgeous yellow flesh, nearly the color of a daffodil. And how sweet it is! To me, there is nothing like slurping on a hunk of watermelon. It makes me feel like a kid, racing to eat the flesh down to the rind before it drips all over my clothes. If you're up...

By Kim ODonnel | July 24, 2006; 09:34 AM ET | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Celebrate Local Garlic

Last week, I shared my tale of exasperation over Chinese garlic in the supermarket. Why, I wondered out loud, at the height of local garlic season, was I only finding garlic from the other side of the world? Local garlic has arrived at farmer's markets. (Kim O'Donnel) In particular, I was concerned about the supply of Chinese garlic at my local Whole Foods, which touts itself as a steward of sustainability. If a woman in Austin, Tex. can deliver 17 heads of lettuce a week from her farm to a nearby Whole Foods store, why can't a similar relationship be arranged among garlic growers in the Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia region and Washington area Whole Foods locations? I have not yet given Whole Foods a chance to respond to this question, but it's at the top of my to-do list and I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime,...

By Kim ODonnel | July 18, 2006; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

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 (2) | TrackBack (1)

Let's Bake a Freelance Tart

Ever since I celebrated the arrival of summer berries three weeks ago, I have been loading up on the bounty, filling myself to the gills with antioxidant-rich purples, indigos and reds. As soon as the season begins, nature's clock starts ticking, so there's no time to waste. Fellow berry-lovers known that blueberries hold up nicely in the fridge for several days, but those irresistible blossom-esque raspberries and blackberries start breaking down as soon as you get them home. Hurry and put those berries to use, in a freelance tart. (Kim O'Donnel) Within two days after purchasing, my razzies were looking less perky and showing beginning signs of fuzzy mold, so I had to act fast. The remaining half-pint of blackberries needed immediate attention as well. Should I make a pie, I wondered? Nah, too much work on a hot day. Cobbler, perhaps? Hmm, nice idea, but not enough fruit. Plus,...

By Kim ODonnel | July 11, 2006; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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) | TrackBack (0)

Name That Fruit

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

By Kim ODonnel | June 21, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Berry Marvelous

Warmer temperatures mean warm-weather crops -- and major produce scores at local farm markets. Making a debut appearance at Arlington Courthouse market this Saturday (8 a.m. - noon) were members of the squash family -- yellow, zucchini and the adorable pattypan -- and dare I say it, an inaugural bunch of peaches. The cast included cucumbers, onions of all colors, sweet (and sour) cherries, herbs galore and early-bird garlic bulbs. Blackberries and raspberries from Westmoreland Berry Fam in Oak Grove, Va. (Kim O'Donnel) But the main attraction, at least based on the long, movie theater-esque lines, were the berries! The stand at Westmoreland Berry Farm, of Oak Grove, Va., was bursting with color, showcasing six, yes six, different kinds of berries. There they were -- blueberries, blackberries, red and black raspberries, strawberries and tayberries (a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry) in all their glory, and it looked like...

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2006; 09:22 AM ET | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

All Cherries, No Pits

With the war in Iraq leading the headlines today, I offer a break from heavy news with an update from the food world: Local cherries are here! Cherries from the Clarendon farmer's market. Sweet they are (although I've been getting reports of sour variety too). Cherries are strutting their gorgeous selves at local farmer's markets (I found my batch at Clarendon farmer's market on Thursday). Aside from eating them one by one in a bowl, contemplating the meaning of life (Real Audio file), try them in a food processor-friendly clafoutis, a French dessert that's kind of a cross between a waffle and a pudding. When studded with cherries, it is luscious and screams summer. I also love the idea of roasting them in red wine as a dessert topping, a suggestion in "Fresh Food Fast" by Peter Berley. Here's how: In a small saucepan, bring to a boil: ¾ cup...

By Kim ODonnel | June 8, 2006; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

My Friend the Garlic Scape

While in Miami over the weekend, I received an e-mail from home base with the subject line: Scapes Are Here! Even at a distance of 900-plus miles from home, I was delighted by the news that one of my long-anticipated produce items had made its annual debut at the farmer's market. The "scape" in question is hardly a typo or a secret code word; it's shorthand for garlic scape, a part of the garlic plant that is a garlic lover's nirvana. Garlic scapes in all their glory. Here's the anatomy lesson: Garlic and its relatives in the allium family, (leeks, chives, onions) grows underground, where the bulb begins its journey, soft and onion-like. As the bulb gets harder (and more like the garlic we know), a shoot pokes its way through the ground. Chlorophyll- green like a scallion (maybe even greener), the shoot is long and thin and pliable enough...

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2006; 09:56 AM ET | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

 

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