What's Cooking

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for another edition of What's Cooking , our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel .

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

Catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page .


Kim O'Donnel: After luxuriating in the pace of a long holiday weekend, I've got a bit of calendar amnesia. It's really Tuesday? Hope you enjoyed some leisure time and had a chance to play outdoors with such cooperative weather. If you haven't had a chance, check the new blog, Savoring Summer (link to the right on this page), and let me know your thoughts. It's a work in progress and I welcome the feedback. I've had a chance to taste everything from newly arrived Copper River salmon to pork ribs this weekend. By the way, Food section tomorrow features a bunch of grilling stories, including an update from Walter Nicholls on current exploding price of wild salmon. Check it out. I know it's hot out, probably too soon, but I just love it. Tell me what you've been up to.


Oakton, Va.: The Harris Teeter grocery chain spent a lot of money in building a fancy two-story store in Fairfax to anchor a small shopping center a couple of years ago. At that time, anyone, even those lacking advanced nuclear science degrees, had to question the soundness of putting a major store in a bad traffic location, much less a two story grocery?with limited parking??

This decision was further questionable in light of the bad experience of A and P's attempted entry into the metro area grocery competition, opening and closing several stores including a nice, big store just down the road from where Harris Teeter chose to build. (now a successful Super H oriental store)

Yesterday I went to this Harris Teeter store to shop ... I like their handicapped parking arrangements ... and was greeted by a hand-written sign indicating that the store would close May 30, 2006. At the same time, I am reading of planned new stores to be opened in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Who is running this zoo? Lousy management, I guess ... somebody must have deep pockets ... In Fairfax,they have Harris Teeter brick entrances and fancy brick walls, H-T logos all over the place, plus a bunch of maybe too successfull strip mall restaurants and shops that maybe consumed all of the planned parking, like the "aren't they ever going to leave?" Starbucks!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. That would mean today is the last day for the HT Fairfax location. Anyone else hear tidbits on this news? This is worth following up on...


Vienna, Va.: I have leftover grilled shrimp from the weekend. What can I do with it besides tossing it in a salad. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You could tuck into a baguette with some lettuces or spinach, a swipe of Dijon mustard and have yourself a dandy sandwich. You could chop up and toss into an omelette. You could mix with some avocado. You could eat with mango or pineapple chunks...


Madison, Wisc.: Hi Kim!

I recently received 2 pineapples direct from Hawaii and now find myself with a bit of a problem: I'm going out of town at the end of the week and can't possibly eat them both before then. I'm hoping you or the foodies can help -- can pineapple be frozen? Any good recipes to use up this bounty? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hi Madison, do keep up posted on farmer's market activity out there, ok? As for your pineapples, you sure can freeze one, so long as you cut it up into chunks and put in airtight container or bag. It will last for a while if stored prooperly. Frozen, it's great as part of a smoothie, by the way. Also great on pizza. Thaw in fridge when you're ready to use.


Bethesda, Md. : Hi Kim!

I bought some fantastic spinach and purple asparagus at the farmers market yesterday. I had the asparagus last night and the night before. Tonight, I'll have the spinach. How can I go about making wilted spinach, instead of steamed or just plain raw? I've had things served with wilted spinach in restaurants & loved it. I also have a shallot -- how can I use that to give a little extra zip to the spinach?

In a related question, what type of extra virgin olive oil is the best for use with veggies?

Kim O'Donnel: Wilted spinach is just another name for sauteed spinach. You can do this in a hot skillet, with a bit of olive oil (since it cooks so quickly) and some garlic, if you like, but be careful on it burning. Add some pinenuts and plumped up raisins and you've got a dish like something off the menu at Jaleo. A shallot would be great alternative to garlic or an addition. Shallots are great partners in the skillet w/veggies. Other things to consider: after washing spinach, which you should do a few times to rid of silt and dirt, drain really well. Water in the skillet will cause spinach to steam. Don't cover the skillet -- those beautiful green leaves will turn army brown. Salt at end.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Help me cobble together these ingredients? I have chicken breasts, a nice assortment of fancy mushrooms (including shiitakes, chanterelles, etc.), some thyme, shallots. Plus some other basic kitchen staples. Am a little stumped on how to make an entree of them. Ideas? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Shallots and thyme can season a bunch of shrooms in a skillet, lined with a mix of olive oil and butter. Let shrooms cook til brown. Don't crowd pan, as they'll steam. You want them cook for longer than you'd think. Chicken -- is it boned or boneless? I'm thinking some rice would tie everything together...


Bethesda, Md.: Kim,

You weren't kidding about the exploding price of copper river salmon. I saw sockeye salmon in Whole Foods for 33.00 a pound! First they banish soft shells, now this! Fortunately, I was able to get it cheaper at another fish market near Bethesda!

Kim O'Donnel: Yeah, when I saw it last week, it was $33 on one day, then $29 on another. I don't want to scoop Walter's story, but the good news is that prices won't be insane for too much longer -- at least that's my understanding. Promise to keep you up to date on that front.


Washington, D.C.: Do you know anything about grilling at Rock Creek Park? Are there bbq's available?Thanks! Looking forward to trying some new rubs!

Kim O'Donnel: Great question. Wonder if this is something the Going Out Gurus (Thursday at 1) know about...I'll ask around.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim.I just ran over to the DOT farmer's market and picked up some things, including baby red onions. They looked too good not to buy them. Now what do I do with them? I also got some fresh peas. (And strawberries, naturally.)

Kim O'Donnel: Do they have green shoot attached? If so, that can be eaten as well. Baby onions are mild and easier to digest. Great raw without a tummy ache. They'd be great with those peas, actually. Do a quick blanch (30 seconds in boiling salted water, remove to ice bath to stop cooking), then a quickie saute in butter w/the onion too. That would be lovely. Glad you wrote in about DOT market, proof pudding that there are midday markets alive and well.


Clifton, Va.: What killed Harris Teeeter in Fairfax wasn't the parking but Wegman's opening down the road literally 10 minutes away. Lower prices, better selection and the best cusotmer service in town. All the Giant's and their fellow shopping center tenants in a 10 mile radius of the Fairfax Wegman's have seen double digit declines in their business over the last 12 mos. Blame Wegman's not the shopping center.

Kim O'Donnel: But should we really blame Wegman's if it's a better alternative? I know what you mean, though. I know Whole Foods closed Annandale location, timed with opening of Old Town store. I guess it's part of the biz.


Dullsville: Kim, my kitchen knives have gotten dull from shameful lack of upkeep, to the point where I'm more smushing parsley than I am chopping it. Will a sharpening steel help, or do I need to grind a new edge? If grinding is the only answer, is there somewhere in Arlington where I can have someone put on a new edge, or do I need to sack up and by myself a knife sharpener?

Kim O'Donnel: Both. First get a new edge on your baby. Then go out and buy a steel, to be used every single darn time you cook. That's right. The steel helps to maintain the edge. It's kind of like flossing, and the new edge is like going to the dentist. You certainly can take to get done -- try Sur La Table in Pentagon Row, La Cuisine in Alexandria and maybe ask at an Arlington hardware store if they offer service.


Boston, Mass.: Need a light, quick detox meal after this weekend's eating binge. Suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Fruit is on the menu for me today. Some pineapple, leftover blueberries and strawberries from the weekend and a little yogurt. Tonight I've got some pea shoots and local lettuce with my name on it, a lemony vinaigrette perhaps, and maybe some chickpeas, drained, with garlic, lemon zest, parsley, olive oil. I know what you mean, feeling a little heavy myself.


Manassas, Va.: Bought my first-ever grill this weekend. Any quick recipes for grilled meat, poultry, seafood, or veggies would be greatly appreciated.

Kim O'Donnel: Do check my new blog: In the Friday edition of Savoring Summer , I'll be covering a different piece of the grilling world. Last week was about burgers and steaks, and readers offered their takes on the subject as well.


Harris Teeter in Fairfax: Word on the street (and in the store) is that the Harris Teeter is being turned into a Walgreens and the H.T. will relocate somewhere nearby. That shopping center has always been awkward to get to what with the weird traffic configuration surrounding it.

Kim O'Donnel: Walgreens? Interesting. I had no idea they were in this area. If parking is the issue, I hope the Whole Foods people are thinking about the rat maze of a parking lot at Clarnendon store. What a deterrent.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! How do I cook baby or Japanese eggplants so they still retain their beautiful purple skins? I've tried replicating lots of different Thai curry dishes, but the skins always turn brown by the time the eggplants have cooked? What's the secret?

Kim O'Donnel: Braising the eggplants might be a way to retain color of skin but I don't know if that's foolproof. Grilling definitely will kick pigment to the curb. Interesting question, one I never thought about.


Paella?: Kim,

Last week I asked for suggestions for cooking with saffron and you suggested paella. Can you share a recipe?


Kim O'Donnel: Have a look at the seafood paella video/recipe I did a few years ago. I learned this recipe from Jose Andres, exec chef for Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, etc. It's a goodie.


Fort Meade, Md.: I remember reading from previous chats about various rubs for grilling. Here's mine, taken from a Web site.

1beef brisket (10-12 lbs.), 1/4cup kosher salt, 1/4cup sugar, 1/4cup brown sugar, 1/4cup cumin, 1/4cup chili powder, 1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper , 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2cup paprika

In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika and mix well. Rub brisket thoroughly with this mixture and set aside.

Build a fire in one half of a large grill. For best results, use an aromatic wood such as mesquite.

When fire is ready, place brisket on grill, making sure that it is not above any part of the fire. Close grill cover and open vent about 1/2-inch.

Feeding the fire periodically, cook for 8 to 10 hours or until the internal temperature is 165C/ 170Ú!nd the meat is very tender. The exterior of the meat should be very black.

Remove from the fire, trim off excess fat and carve against the grain into very thin slices.

Note: I trim the excess fat off before applying the rub. This recipe, minus the salt, also works for bbq-ing chicken.

Kim O'Donnel: That's one mighty big steak you got, Fort Meade. For smaller cuts of meat, you could try the flank or the flat iron, particularly if you don't have all that time to devote to the big brisket. Thanks for sharing.


washingtonpost.com: Savoring Summer Blog


Milwaukee, Wisc.: Can you offer some fun ideas for non-salad uses of homegrown flowers and veggies? As part of my oh-so-wonderfully-indulgent gardening spree this weekend, I planted some nasturtium, and am eager for the growth to begin. I know the leaves are a nice peppery accent in a salad (I do not use fertilizer on any plants I plan to eat -- don't want to test that theory that the fruit seeds I've swallowed will grow in my stomach!).

What else can we do with lovelies such as these, pansies, etc. ... as well as the baby lettuces, carrots, etc. that are cropping up (pardon the pun)?


Kim O'Donnel: Once I stuffed gladiolas with a salmon mousse for a party and it was to die for. So exquisite on the tongue, so glamorous to look at. Flowers are great as garnish -- on top of soups, muffins, cakes, in hors d'oeuvres type stuff. Anyone with other ideas for edible flowers?


Grilling newbie: Check out Weber's Big Book of Grilling. Some plain and some fancy recipes, all are delicious and easy! With explanations on cuts of meat, methods of grilling, and very simple rubs and marinades.

Kim O'Donnel: Great. Other good ones to check are the many titles from Steven Raichlen, Peace Love & Barbecue, the Karen Adler books. Keep the titles coming, folks.


Washington, D.C.: I hope I'm not too late. What exactly is a spice rub? Are you supposed to actually rub the meat with the spice mixture, or just spread it on or what? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Spice rub is a mix of ground spices (and often herbs). Usually it's dry, but in some recipes you'll see moistened it a bit to become a paste. Yes, it's something you rub into the meat as a marinade, infusing it with deep flavor. As I learned this weekend, you can do dry rub on ribs, cook slow in oven, then finish on grill with wet sauce. It's a tantalizing combination.


Boston, Mass.: Aren't there some Mexican-type recipes that stuff squash flowers and fry them? Violets can be candied, I know, and rose was once the flavor of choice for puddings and cakes (before chocolate and vanilla made their ways over from the new world).

Kim O'Donnel: Squash flowers absolutely can be stuffed and fried (or steamed), but they're not flowers on their own, like nasturtium but definitely the flowering part of fruits and veg. Yes to candied violets but I guess we need to get a primer on how to make that happen...


Washington, D.C.: Just a little reminder -- read those labels and leave the brands with corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup off your shopping lists (they are really prevalent in juices and ice creams) along with the hydrogenated fats and enjoy all of the summer fruits and vegetables.

Kim O'Donnel: A great tip. That HFCS is a killer, and if you're interested in the topic, take a look at "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan, plus the new title by Marion Nestle.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim, I've just been introduced to these chats and am just starting to learn to cook in my sadly electric kitchen. I did want to share one little hint, learned in all places grad school.

For those that love collard greens and other low country delicacies cooked in pork fat, there is a relatively simple change that could cut cholesterol.

Sweet potato greens! Usually these are thrown out, but, they've been shown to be just as tasty, cooked in the traditional ways. And, they are cholesterol binding. A study about 10-15 years ago in the carolinas demonstrated that inspite of the high fat cooking method, using these instead of traditional greens reduced cholesterol levels compared to the other greens.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting. I would love to know more. Got any references I can explore?


Kim O'Donnel: Time's out, but the fun lasts all week, now I've got the blog. Join me weekddays for daily reports from the kitchen, market and the road: blog.washingtonpost.com/savoringsummer

In the meantime, have a delicious week and type to you in June. All best.


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