Author: Kim ODonnel

Swimming Upstream: Growing Up at an Alt-Weekly

Every job is a stone upon which you step. For me, that first stone was in a creek called Philadelphia City Paper, a small but mighty body of water with a near electric current. It was publisher Bruce Schimmel’s paper then, and he had editor David Warner help him run it. Together, they encouraged me to stir the proverbial pot, to ask questions that made people uncomfortable, to speak truth to power, and to write like I meant it. [pullquote]We were mostly young, underpaid, overworked and totally and utterly in love with the printed thing we made week after week.[/pullquote] I was 22. It was 1989. It was a time when you picked up the phone to talk to a source, and when out in the field you holed up in a phone booth. We filed our stories on early generation Macintosh word processors, stories that the art department (two gals who would become like sisters to me) would lay out by hand, using an exact-o knife to remove typos. The entire staff stayed until …

The Best Happy, Healthy-ish Birthday Cake Ever

Happy Birthday, TueNight! You’ve made it through year one, which in web years is a mighty accomplishment. Your birthday celebration would be incomplete without cake. To get this party started, I’m sharing a recipe from the KOD vault that has figured into sundry momentous occasions over the years. [pullquote]“The Bundt is an emblem of kinder, gentler times, when school bake sales were legal and somebody’s mother would cut one into hunks and call it “coffee cake.”[/pullquote] Break out that Bundt pan that’s been collecting dust; you’re going to need it (and if you live in a Bundt-free zone, you can pick up one secondhand at your neighborhood thrift shop for just a few bucks). For newbies, a Bundt pan is deep and round with lots of ridges but best defined by its middle chimney which leaves a hole in the center of a cake. The Bundt is an emblem of kinder, gentler times, when school bake sales were legal and somebody’s mother would cut one into hunks and call it “coffee cake.” It might have …

How to Find the Best Second-Hand Culinary Items

Occasionally, I fantasize about getting out of the incredibly competitive racket that is food writing. I’d put my second-hand shopping gene into high gear and hang a different kind of shingle — as a local merchant. The shop would stock gently used kitchenware and cookbooks. There might be a small lunch counter serving strong coffee, grilled cheese, soup of the day and a really good cookie. First person I’d hire is my mom, a former antiques shopkeeper and the subject of “Confessions of a Garage Sale Addict,” an April 1973 story that ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Susan wasn’t much of a cook (I’m working on it), but she was and remains a master at spotting the choicest relics from a second-hand/vintage haystack. It takes a special kind of crazy to bring home a 500-pound oak icebox for display in the living room. Together, we’d comb the world of fleas, estates, garages, attics and basements for all things culinary and kitchen-y to fill the shelves. But we’re a picky pair; we’d buy as if outfitting …

Tasty Life: You Gotta Meet My Girl, Za’atar

Try defining the word “tasty.” Can you do it objectively? Even word arbiters have trouble being impartial — one of the Merriam-Webster entries defines tasty as “having a good flavor.” Good according to whom?  When it comes to matters of the palate, there is no boss of you. There’s no right or wrong answer, and my “tasty” may be worlds apart from yours (especially if it involves a half-inch of jarred mayonnaise in between two pieces of white toast). Who am I to judge if white goop makes your world spin? As my father — who passed more than 30 years ago — used to say, “That’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate, Kimberly.” Tasty is the truth — as you know it — Ruth, and no matter how much our respective versions of the truth may vary, we all are in its pursuit. A life without tasty seems like a life half-baked, after all. To that end, and because I spend most of my waking hours in the pursuit of flavor, I will be sharing …

Women Who Inspire: Joyce Pinson

NAME: Joyce Pinson AGE: 53 OCCUPATION: Master gardener, food blogger at Friends Drift Inn: Recipes, Gardening and Hot Flashes, and a freelance writer WHO SHE IS: From her red barn in the itty bitty mountain town of Pikeville, Kentucky, Joyce Pinson is determined to teach the rest of us about the cuisine of Appalachia, an area traditionally known for coal mining. Through her blog, videos on public access TV, local newspaper column and heirloom seed and saving, Pinson is doing her darnedest to give ​her little-known, misunderstood neck of the woods its proper culinary due on a national level. With the recent launch of a state-funded “Appalachia Proud” food label initiative, Pinson’s dreams may come true that much sooner. WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: In the competitive, star-fucking world of food writing, Pinson is a relative nobody — but she doesn’t let that stop her. Pedigrees and celeb connections be damned; Pinson bulldozes her way to the table and demands (politely, ‘natch) a moment of your time so she can tell you a story about her paw paws, the …

Women Who Inspire: Naomi Starkman

NAME: Naomi Starkman AGE: 43 OCCUPATION: Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats WHO SHE IS: Most of us would consider a law degree and a few executive-level stints in magazine publishing good enough to call it a day. But not Naomi Starkman. She got schooled in organic farming, and hung her shingle as a food policy consultant for groups like Consumers Union. Five years ago, she breathed fire into Civil Eats, a daily site of news and commentary about the state of the food system. Until recently, she and co-founder Paula Crossfield essentially ran the site on fumes and the good will of 100-plus unpaid contributors (myself included). However last fall, they defied the 30-day odds and raised $100K via Kickstarter, with rousing social media and financial support from the food-erati — Michael Pollan, José Andrés and Ruth Reichl among them. Now they’re really cooking with gas. My prediction? We ain’t seen nothing yet. WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: I’ve met fewer people more driven or determined not just to make something work, but to create something for the greater …

Stave off the Chill With These 7 Warm-You-Up Recipes

By the time you read this, half of the Lower 48 will be shivering in its collective boots, the result of a massive polar air mass over the eastern seaboard and the Midwest. It’s predicted to deliver sub-zero wind chills and historically low temperatures. From my perch in Seattle, I’m enjoying more civilized temperatures in the low 40s. I feel for the rest of youse and your freezer-burned brains and the inevitable madness of cabin fever. Allow me, a long-time veteran of wintry past lives in Philly, New York and DC, to help scrape you off the floor and spin you like a dervish right into the kitchen. Herewith, some of my all-time favorite ways to take the edge off a dastardly chill. You’ll be toasty in no time.   1. Spiced Hot Chocolate Think chai with a chocolate twist. Steep milk with star anise, cardamom and other warming spices, then whisk in cocoa powder. I’ve made this using fortified coconut milk with equally rich results. Excellent with or without a shot of rum for …

Festive Food Items To Create, Gift, Devour (In That Order)

If we believe the hype, this is the most wonderful time of the year, but years of fighting the blues has taught me one thing: The only way to keep my head above the proverbial water (and out of the holiday punch bowl) is to keep everything as simple as possible. For this seasonally-affected cranky pants, that means lots of fresh air (versus hot gusts from a wall vent), loading up on vegetables (to offset the eggnog load) and scaling back on conspicuous consumption. These days, the gifts I give (and like to receive) are decidedly DIY, low-tech, with a little mindful tinsel thrown in for good measure. What follows are a few of my favorite things. 1. Chocolate Bark If you can melt chocolate, you can make chocolate bark. Seriously. Here’s what you do: Chop up a handful of your favorite dried fruit and nuts (or throw into the mini chopper), maybe a hint of sea salt and stir into a bowl of melted chocolate (which you can do in the microwave). My secret …

How I Stay Sane On Turkey Day: A Chef Shares Her Secrets

  Kim O’Donnel is a trained chef and author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations  Here she shares six tips for staying sane in the kitchen during the holidays. 1. Don’t Fret. It’s a waste of energy and emotion to work yourself up into a pre-party lather. Before stepping into the kitchen, I actually meditate and/or practice a bit of yoga, or go on a solo walk. 2. Everyone Gets a Job. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but everyone who comes to our house for a big holiday meal gets a job: Setting the table, dish duty, carving the turkey, making gravy and so on. I’m done with the days of being the maid and not enjoying the meal. 3. Feed the Cook. Have a grilled cheese sandwich or a fried egg around noon for the cook; a little stove top nosh to keep up the energy level and provide a brief respite from the work. 4. Shower Zen. Allow time to rinse off in the shower before guests arrive. Sounds obvious, but it’s another way to get a “time …

Thank You Squash! A Recipe for Thanksgiving

We understand if winter squash has been on your “avoid” list — you practically need an axe to pry it open. But there’s no need to give up on these beta-carotene bombs entirely; there’s a thin-skinned, quick-cooking option and her name is Delicata. Shaped more like a mini football than a turban or a pumpkin, the delicata squash usually comes in shades of deep yellow, frequently accented with very stylish hunter green stripes. Unlike its cousin the acorn squash, the delicata actually has flavor, a delightful mash-up of corn and sweet potatoes. Ingredients 1 ½ cups water 1 cup Bhutanese red rice (Plan B: long-grain Wehani; cooking times and liquid amounts may vary) 3 to 4 delicata squash (about 1 pound each) ⅛ cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste Freshly ground black pepper ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped ¼ cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped (Other options: walnuts, almonds, or pecans) ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh …

Late-Blooming Bride: Globetrotter Finds Love Right Under Her Nose

He: A white high school quiz show champ from Kentucky, separated from his wife, wearing a shiny new cancer survivor medallion on his lapel. Me: A serial man-eater with a preference for dark-skinned men from various corners of the globe, and trips out of Dodge always in the works. Embroiled in an on-again, off-again, decade-long love affair with the son of an erstwhile political revolutionary from South Africa, where I was planning to relocate and become a first lady of sorts. Mr. Kentucky and I sat a few hundred feet away from each other in the newsroom at washingtonpost.com, where he ran business and technology news and I wrote food and travel stories. He may as well have worked on the other side of the world.  If it weren’t for his shiny bald head, the result of chemotherapy, I may not have noticed him from my cubicle. And yet, as John Lennon sang, and many other famous people have publicly observed: Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Along with …