Share Our Strength

January 24, 2011

Share Our Strength Close-out, and an Alinea Casserole (oh yeah, I went there)

First things first; the numbers are in: you donated $19,656 to Share Our Strength.  THANK YOU!  I am humbled by your generosity, and incredibly grateful for your support of this cause.  You know, there's so much talk in the news these days about the need for civil discourse in politics coupled with a plea for toning down the caustic rhetoric in Washington, and I'm here to tell you -- as someone who works in the trenches -- that things in the political arena are the same as ever, and actually starting to get worse.  But what you guys did?  It makes me really hopeful about humanity in general, not to mention reaffirms my belief that great people do great things and THAT is what makes this world go around.  Seriously, thank you.  I'm honored to know you all.

All the winners of the giveaways have been notified, confirmed, and their goodies are on the way.

Everyone give a big round of applause (and a jealous side-eye, because I know you want to) to Tom Norwood, the winner of dinner for four at Alinea.  Tom and his fiancée are taking two of their friends to dinner, and I can't wait to hear all about it.

*   *   *   *   *

Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas wrote a(nother) book.  It's called Life, on the Line, and it's due out March 3rd.  You can pre-order it on Amazon, and you can check out the website for the book, which has some great photos, interviews, and excerpts from some of the chapters.  I can't wait for you to read it when it comes out.  I'll be giving away a few copies here on the site in March, so stay tuned.

*   *   *   *   *

Earlier I mentioned how not civil politics is these days.  I've lived and worked in Washington for nearly a quarter-century, and this is the most contentious, testy, frustrating, and head-banging-against-desk-ing it's ever been.  My clients are fantastic, and working with them is intensely rewarding.  However, the climate in which we have to work is so much more challenging and vexing than it's ever been -- this applies to both sides of the aisle -- and at the end of every single day, I'm exhausted. 

To top it off, it's January... which is a hard food month for me.  I love comfort food, but I'm tired of soup.  I love root vegetables, but if I see another potato, turnip, beet, or squash, I'm going to scream.  I really, really miss my January favorites pre-celiac: grilled-cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and lasagne.  Yes, I can make all these things with gluten-free ingredients, but trust me: they don't and will never taste as good as the real thing.

So, a week or so ago, to get myself out of this work and food funk, I gloomily and grumpily opened the Alinea cookbook to the next recipe I'd planned to do for the blog: Salsify, smoked salmon, dill, caper.

Here are the components of the dish: salsify, olive oil, picholine olives, bread crumbs, parsley, lemon, smoked salmon, capers, ginger, red onion, garlic, dill, radish.  There's a lot of powder making, dehydrating, emulsifying... things I already know how to do, so I knew it wouldn't be difficult to make this dish exactly as it is in the book.

And yet, I couldn't do it.  I wasn't feeling it.  I wanted something different.  Something with many of those ingredients, but not. that. dish.  And to make matters worse, I've been turned off by smoked salmon lately.  It's too overpowering, and I just don't enjoy the flavor of it anymore.  That might change, of course, but for right now, the last thing I wanted was to eat smoked salmon. 

So, I opened the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and pulled out salsify, olive oil, picholine olives, gluten-free bread crumbs, parsley, lemon, capers, red onion, garlic, dill, and radishes.  Then, I saw a bag of wild rice on the shelf.  And leftover Vasterbotten cheese from the Noma dish I made in the cheese drawer in the fidge.  And a whole chicken in the freezer.  And all of a sudden, it hit me: I was going to make a casserole.

My friend, David Hagedorn, wrote about his newfound love and acceptance of casseroles in a recent Washington Post piece, and I saved that article because I wanted to try some of his ideas.  So, I quickly scanned his recipes to figure out my ratios, and started chopping, sauteeing, roasting, and baking, and lo, a casserole was born:



I'm not much for proper recipe writing, so here's a rundown of what I did:

Into a mixing bowl went:

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 C cooked wild rice

Half a red onion, diced and caramelized

Roasted chicken pulled off the bone (white and dark meat), chopped/shredded

8 salsifies, peeled, sliced, roasted w/ olive oil and salt

Small handful of capers

10 Picholine olives, pitted and chopped

Fresh parsley, chopped

Fresh dill, chopped

A Vasterbotten cheese sauce (butter and rice flour for the roux, then the cheese and some milk)

Salt and pepper to taste

I folded all the ingredients together, then gently pressed them into the casserole dish, topping them with butter-soaked gluten-free tortilla bread crumbs.

Baked it in a 375F-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.

I put some fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon atop my serving before digging in.


It completely and totally hit the spot, and cheered me up rather unexpectedly.  I'm glad I went with chicken instead of smoked salmon, and think you could maybe even make this with canned salmon (old school!) or maybe some fresh arctic char as the protein and it would be really good.

I've since taken all the leftovers and put them in single-serving containers in the freezer.  That way, when I leave early in the morning for a marathon day of meetings, I can move a container of it from the freezer to the fridge to thaw, and then when I get home, warm it in the oven while I take the dog out for a quick walk when I get home.

Wait.  What did I just say about a dog?

Some of you might remember Jake.  I still miss that little guy.

But last week, a new little guy found his way into my home. 

Meet Dexter (we call him Dex, or Dexy, because helllooooo, Dexy's Midnight Runners):


So, to recap:

You guys are awesome.

I adapted a recipe from one of the world's greatest restaurants and turned it into a freakin' casserole.

My dog is cute.

The end.


January 17, 2011

Bad dancing? Let me show you it.


The Alinea at Home Share Our Strength fundraising campaign has officially ended.  In the next few hours, I'll have the final total from the team at SOS.

Watch your email this week to see if you're one of the lucky winners of the many generously donated prizes, including dinner for four at Alinea.

Once all the winners have been notified and confirmed, I'll announce everything here on the blog.

Stay tuned....


January 14, 2011

Noma: I cooked from it.

I cooked from the Noma cookbook, and lived to tell about it.

You can read all about it here:

The Washington Post: "Tales of the Testers: What About 'Noma?"

And, some photos, in case you're interested:



January 09, 2011

Oh man......

Technical difficulties on every front.

My dancing-along-to-Michael-Jackson video coming later this week.

Noma cookbook blog post coming soon, too.

Oh, and an interesting adaptation of a dish from the Alinea cookbook.  I did a bit of time travel and retro-fied it.

But alas, none of my technology will talk to each other, so I need some time to sort everything out and get these posts ready for primetime.  Thanks for being patient with me.

*  *  *  *  *

We're in the homstretch of the Share Our Strength fundraising campaign -- which ends as soon as the clock strikes midnight on January 16th.  This is your last week to donate -- $5, $500, whatever you can give -- to have a chance to win dinner for four at Alinea, along with some other pretty cool prizes.

We've raised more than $18,000 in donations so far.  Think we can get to $20,000?  I might have to do the Macarena on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial if y'all get us over $20,000.  It's totally what Abe would've wanted, don't ya think?


January 03, 2011

I did somersaults in front of the U.S. Capitol


But wait.  There's more.

I heard from the team at Share Our Strength late last week, and guess what?!?!  In just three weeks, you all have donated more than $15,000!!!  So, not only have we exceeded the $10,000 goal, this means that one of you will win dinner for four at Alinea.

This campaign continues until January 16, so you have until then to donate if you haven't already.

Coming soon:

My experiences cooking from the Noma cookbook; and

A video of me dancing to The Michael Jackson Experience on my neighbor's Wii.

But for now, a heartfelt THANK YOU.

Back soon...


December 27, 2010

I went Christmas caroling at The White House...

I'm cooking the Noma dishes this week and will blog about them shortly.

In the meantime, here's a video of my little Christmas caroling escapade at The White House.

Big props to Cassie and Lucas for joining me in song... and special thanks to their family for letting them do it.  They were visiting Washington from out of town and were amazing sports for letting me, a total stranger, rope them into being a part of this fun little event.


Somersaults at the Capitol Building coming soon.

And a reminder: donating to Share Our Strength enters you into a drawing to win a dinner for four at Alinea, among other amazing prizes.

Be back soon...



p.s. -- Thanks to Chris Wilson for being my camera guy.


December 22, 2010

Preserved Meyer Lemons, and a MAJORLY AWESOME Share Our Strength Update

Amaze your friends!

Dazzle fellow food lovers!

Brag that YOU can make something from the Alinea cookbook.


Because YOU CAN.

A few of the recipes in the book call for preserved Meyer lemon.  Trick is, you need to start them 3 months in advance.  So, knowing I have some springtime recipes that use preserved Meyer lemon, I got them started this past weekend.

Wanna see how easy it is?




Seriously.  That's it.  You quarter six Meyer lemons, remove the seeds, and mix them with 14 oz. sugar and a pound of kosher salt.  Seal 'em in a bag and stick 'em in the freezer for three months. 

It's how they do it at the #1-ranked restaurant in America.  You can do it, too. 

If you don't want to do a full-on Alinea dish with your preserved lemons, you can get some ideas for how to use them from:

David Lebovitz

Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes

Serious Eats

The Los Angeles Times

The Washington Post


Make them.  You won't regret it.

*   *   *   *   *

Because they've clearly figured out I'm addicted to making my favorite gluten-free brownies topped with homemade dulce de leche these days, the lovely folks at Chicago Metallics donated some brownie-making supplies for me to give away as part of my Share Our Strength campaign.

I got the updated donor list from the team at SOS today, removed family and close friends and jumbled the order of the list, then asked my Twitter followers for a number between 1 and 104 (the number of donors so far).  The 10th number Tweeted back to me corresponded with the line on which was Cathy K. from Brush, Colorado's name.  So, Cathy, we'll be shipping out a brownie pan, batter pitcher, and silicone spatula to you shortly.  Enjoy, and thanks for your donation!

*   *   *   *   *

I've got to run, because there are Noma dishes to cook, Christmas carols to be sung at the White House, and now... somersaults to be done in front of the Capitol Building.


You guys, we've raised nearly $8,500 for Share Our Strength.  IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS.

Do you know how awesome you are?  Do you?  Because you are.  And I love you for it.

Videos and photos to come next week.

Here's a reminder of our donation milestones:

$2,500 -- I will cook something from the Noma cookbook. [Sourcing the ingredients for this has been FUN.]

$5,000 -- I will go Christmas caroling at The White House. [I hope I don't set off the Dork Alarm.]

$7,500 -- I will do a row of somersaults in front of the Capitol Building. [Wonder if I can get one of my favorite Senators to join me?]

$10,000 (our goal, by January 16) -- I will dance along with the Wii videogame The Michael Jackson Experience.

More than $10,000 -- I think I might just have to select one lucky winner for dinner at a certain award-winning restaurant in a certain midwestern city.  My treat.  I think that's a fair trade for us going over our goal, don'tcha think?  No more humilation for me; and the chance to eat an amazing dinner for you. Yeah, sounds about right.


Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas got in touch with me not long after I posted this and said, "Not your treat... our treat. You get 10k and we will pony up a dinner for 4 on us... not two... four. OK? Got that? raise the dough and we will be yours for the taking that night."

So here's the deal: if we raise more than $10,000, there's a dinner for 4 at Alinea that's going to be given away to one lucky winner.

Holy WOW.

*   *   *   *

Thank you for everything you've given so far.  There's a part of me that wants to say I'm blown away by your kindness... but if I'm telling the truth, I've known for a long, long time that you all are a kind, generous, helpful, caring bunch.  I love seeing it come to life again this way.

Thank you so much.

And, thank you to Nick and Grant, whose generosity and support I couldn't do without.

December 16, 2010

Share Our Strength Donation Update, a Giveaway, AND Milestone Challenges


You guys.

In just one week, we've nearly hit the $5,000 mark. 

When I got the news, I "YEAH"d really loudly in a client's office, and then burst into tears ('cause I'm a big old softie when you get right down to it). 

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Thanks also for your emails about families you know who are suffering this year and what you're doing to help... and about the food banks you volunteer for that are seeing a more than 400% increase in need... and how much more you're thinking about this problem in our country and what you can do in your own communities to help others. 

While I do love living and working in Washington, there are times it can be a really self-involved city that plays host to a lot of mean-spirited, political, back-stabbing nonsense.

So, these emails and donations mean more to me than you could ever know, and continue to renew my faith in humankind.  You guys are amazing.

Thank you.

*   *   *   *   *

When the team at Share Our Strength emailed me the list of donors yesterday, I removed the names of family and close friends, then asked my Twitter followers to pick a number between 1 and 43 (the remaining number of donors who've given so far), with the 10th number Tweeted being the donor number I'd give a special little prize to.

The 10th Tweet back to me was the number 27, and on line 27 of the donation list was a gentleman by the name of Carl, from Massachusetts (I'll withhold his last name to maintain some semblance of privacy), who is the lucky winner of an iTunes giftcard as a special thank-you from me for jumping right in and donating in the first week.  That card is comin' your way, Carl.  Enjoy, and thank you.

I'm going to do a few little giveaways like this between now and when the campaign ends on January 16, so stay tuned.  And the bonus?  Winning one of these early giveaways doesn't exclude you from your chance to be randomly chosen to win one of the other amazing books, foodstuffs, and other prizes generous people have donated.  All those items are listed here, and new things are being added along the way, including a Bryan Voltaggio bobblehead doll, courtesy of my friend, Emily, a fellow Washington-based blogger whose sharp wit, shiny hair, and penchant for TV snark makes her all the more lovable.

*   *   *   *   *

I had the following milestone challenges all ready to announce on Tuesday, and then meetings and work crises popped up, so I'm only getting around to putting this post up now.  Already, I see I need to cross one of these off the list, and it looks like we're getting really close to my having to light a candle and warm up the vocal cords for some outdoor entertainment for the Secret Service.

Below is what I promise to do once we reach some key donation milestones.  When we've raised:

$2,500 -- I will cook something from the Noma cookbook. [guess I better get crackin' on this one]

$5,000 -- I will go Christmas caroling at The White House. [might this happen tonight? this weekend?]

$7,500 -- I will do a row of somersaults in front of the Capitol Building.

$10,000 (our goal) -- I will dance along with the Wii videogame The Michael Jackson Experience.

More than $10,000 -- I'm going to have to come up with something really juicy to get us past our goal, aren't I?  Let me get back to you on this one.

Oh, and never fear: there will be photographic, videotape, and other documentary evidence of the above-mentioned activities posted here on the blog.  I am nothing if not accountable.  And motivated to get you guys to donate.  Seriously, if all you have is $5, that's millions to a kid who hasn't eaten in a day or two. 

*   *   *   *   *

I've got a few food-related posts coming your way next week.  One is all about preserving lemons, Alinea-style, and the other is an adaptation of a salsify dish.

Until then, you can read my recaps of Top Chef All-Stars over at The Washington Post, and you can kick a few bucks to Share Our Strength.  C'mon... you know you want to.

December 09, 2010

The Fourth Annual Share Our Strength Fundraising Drive


This is my fourth Share Our Strength fundraising campaign, and to date, the most urgent.

When I first started raising money for SOS, the numbers were hard to hear: 12 million kids were food insecure, meaning they went to bed not knowing if they would have anything to eat the next day.  Then, that number climbed to 15 million when the economy tanked in 2008.  Last year, the number was 17 million.  This year, it's gone even higher. 

More than 17 million kids -- nearly 1 in 4 American kids -- go to bed at night not knowing where their next meal is coming from.  I know I say this every year, but THAT'S NOT OKAY.  It upsets me to think that there are families without neighborhood, family, community, or church support where food is a priority.  Just stop for a minute and think about that: 1 in 4 kids is hungry in America.  One in four.

Kids who are hungry are more susceptible to chronic illness and disease, and they don’t succeed in school.  And, as our national economy continues to weaken, and more and more parents become unemployed, this problem will only get worse.  There's a stigma around this whole issue, too... and there are so many families out there who you wouldn't think are having food challenges, but are.  They don't want to talk about it, because they're embarrassed it's happening to them.  They make enough money to pay the rent or mortgage, but due to job loss, disability, or other factors, are barely scraping by because they don't qualify for food stamps or other support.  They don't have family in the area to help, and are too embarrassed to ask for help from anyone else.  The only meal their kids get is lunch at school. Families who fall through the cracks need our help, too.


I feel so incredibly lucky to have clients who keep me employed, but I know just like anyone else, nothing in life is a guarantee, and none of us ever truly knows when and if we might need help someday.  But right now, I'm writing this with a full belly, a warm house, a roof over my head, and safety and security in knowing I can and will eat tomorrow.  So, I want to help those who might not be as lucky as I feel.

We've created a dedicated Alinea at Home Share Our Strength campaign again this holiday season, and if you click on that page and make a donation, you'll be entered into a drawing to win some pretty cool stuff:

Those who donate $50 or more will be entered into a drawing to win one of the following:

The Professional Chef, 8th Edition (CIA; Wiley Publishing)

Avec Eric  (Eric Ripert)

How to Cook Everything (Mark Bittman)

A $50 gift certificate for Jeni’s ice cream

BLiS bourbon barrel matured maple syrup

… and a donation coming our way from Chef Achatz and Nick Kokonas at Alinea.


Donors who give $25 or more will be selected at random to win one of the following fabulous books as well as some really delicious coffee:

Around My French Table (Dorie Greenspan)

The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook, Commemorative Ed.

Taste of Home Cookbook

Fresh From the Market (Laurent Tourondel)

Complete Book of Knife Skills (Zwilling, J.A. Henckels)

Molto Gusto (Mario Batali)

Gifts Cooks Love (Sur La Table)

The Simple Art of Eating Well (Jessie Price)

Anjum’s New Indian (Anjum Anand)

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Paula Wolfert)

Gluten-free Girl and the Chef (Shauna and Danny Ahern)

Heston’s Fantastical Feasts (Heston Blumenthal)

Coffee from Southern Skies Coffee Roasters


Donors who’ve given between $5 and $25 will be selected to win one of the following books:

In the Green Kitchen (Alice Waters)

Poor Girl Gourmet (Amy McCoy)

Blue Ribbon Cookbook (Bromberg Brothers)

Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce (Cathy Thomas)

Fannie’s Last Supper (Christopher Kimball)

American Cheeses (Clark Wolf)

Wild Food from Land and Sea (Marco Pierre White)

Farm to Fork (Emeril Lagasse)

The Big Summer Cookbook (Jeff Cox)

Peace Meals (Anna Badkhen)

Far Flung and Well Fed (R.W. Apple; Corby Kummer)

Cooking for Isaiah (Silvana Nardone)

Food Presentation Secrets (Cara Hobday; Jo Denbury)

Fine Cooking: Appetizers (Taunton Press)

Flavours from the Finnish Countryside (Maulavirta, Nurmi, and Lindgren)


No matter what your donation, $5 or $5,000, everyone will have a chance to win an iTunes giftcard, and a few other giveaways still in the works.

You can donate HERE.

A big, big THANK YOU to Wiley Publishing, The Washington Post Food section, and Dorie Greenspan for their generous book donations.

And, I'm giving away some of these prizes BEFORE the campaign ends on January 16, so donate early and often.

Last year, we raised just a little over $10,000 in donations, and I'd like to try and do the same this year.  You might remember that, last year, to get us past some specific donation milestones, I ate cilantro, oysters, tripe, celery, and durian -- all foods that still kind of skeeve me out just a little bit.  I also tap-danced in front of the White House.

This year, I'm taking suggestions for more of what my friends like to call Carol's Humiliating Moments in Philanthropy. Hit me up in the comments or via email, and let me know what will make you open your wallet a little wider this year.  Some early suggestions have included:

-- Somersaults in front of the Capitol building, while drinking a glass of scotch

-- Video of me trying to drum on the Expert level in Rock Band

-- Eating a softshell crab (they won't be in season until the summer, though)

-- Something with music and singing, preferably out of tune. In public.

-- Cartwheels around the Washington Monument

So tell me, what can I do to make you give, Give, GIVE? 

Remember, your donation is tax-deductible (Share Our Strength emails a confirmation receipt for tax purposes).

The goal for this year: $10,000

Let's do this.

February 01, 2010

Durian. Need I say more?

" you'd buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later."

-- Anthony Bourdain

"Durians Smell Awful — But the Taste Is Heavenly"

-- Smithsonian Magazine

"...a smell so overpowering that generations of Singaporeans have struggled to find a single description that fits. Among the charitable, printable comparisons: overripe cheese. Rotting fish. Unwashed socks. A city dump on a hot summer's day."

-- The New York Times

Liars.  All of them.  

The staff of Share Our Strength joined me in the durian dare as a way to say "thank you" to all of you who donated to our campaign here on the blog this year.  And you know what?   DURIAN DOESN'T SMELL BAD.

Now, let me say this: tasting it wasn't awful, either.  Texturally, it was kinda squicky... but the taste wasn't terrible.  The only even semi-objectionable part of the experience was the film it left on the roof of my mouth, and a few hours after I'd eaten it?  I burped, and that was not a pleasant experience.  Sneezing a few minutes after that?  Also not enjoyable.  But all it took was a simple brushing of the teeth, a scraping of the tongue, and a few glasses of water, and that all went away.

Hate to disappoint, but I'm here to dispel the myth that durian is the worst thing ever.  It's not.  It's sweet, but not sugary-sweet.  Just lightly sweet, like a banana milkshake.  It's custardy.  It's fragrant.  It's a bit like an almond-flavored avocado with a light tang in the aftertaste.  Touching its flesh was like touching the flesh of a mango. 

But it's not awful.  It's not disgusting.  It's not the worst thing ever.  Not even close.

See you soon......

p.s. -- the durian was from HMart, in case anyone wants to head out there and pick up one for themselves...

Alinea Book


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