What's Cooking Vegetarian

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, June 29, 2006 1:00 PM

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

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

The transcript follows.

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


Kim O'Donnel: Welcome to the June edition of What's Cooking Vegetarian, my monthly hour dedicated to meat-free cooking, eating and shopping. We here in the US of A have a long Independence Day weekend ahead of us, which means lots of feasting outdoors (hopefully). It's been a rough week on the East coast with flooding from top to bottom. How's everyone drying out? Anyone make mud pie in commemoration of the state of affairs? I was thinkin' about it. Peaches are here, ladies and gents. And don't delay, get more of those berries before they whisk off into the sunset. Apricots, too. Squash. Cherries, maybe the last of them! Corn come soon. Talk to me!


St. Louis, Mo.: Hi Kim,

Love your chat. You mentioned a cherry brownie recipe earlier, but did you post the recipe somewhere we can find it? if not, could you, please? Sounds decadent.

Kim O'Donnel: Here you are, St. Lou. This is a personal fave, especially right now while cherries are in season.

Cherry Brownies

Adapted from "A Passion for Desserts" by Emily Lucchetti


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract (alternatively: 1 teaspoon Kirsch)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

8 ounces (about 24) sweet, red cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs and extract. In another bowl, add flour, salt and baking powder.

Melt chocolates together with butter in a double boiler. (Alternatively, place a bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan with a few inches of simmering water). When chocolate is completely melted, pour into sugar/egg mixture and incorporate gently with a rubber spatula. Mix in flour mixture. Then gently mix in cherries.

Spread batter into pan. Bake about 30 minutes to 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middles comes out ALMOST clean. Let brownies cool. Lift brownies out by the parchment paper and slice on cutting surface.


Next twist on potato salad: Looking to do something a little different for a picnic this weekend - I'd like to make a sweet potato salad, but don't want anything mayonnaise-based. What would you recommend? I found a recipe with honey and cinnamon, but that seems too sweet. I'd like more savory spices to complement the sweet potatoes. Also, would you recommend roasting or blanching the potatoes?

Kim O'Donnel: I'm all about the mayo-free potato salad , dear. Have a look at the link for a way to get started. I love it with a strong mustard, lots of scallions, garlic and herbs, and yes, lemon. Boil'em, but don't forget the salt!


Alexandria, Va.: Just a shout-out to the person who provided that awesome apricots with honey-ricotta recipe on Tuesday - it was AMAZING! All my roommates, including the vegetarians, loved it. Thanks for a great recipe!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. And with apricots in season, a double bonus. Thanks for following up.


Salt Lake City, Utah: Hi Kim! I hope you guys dry out soon. We have the opposite problem -- lots of high 90's or just above 100 and no thunderstorms in sight. Send them out here, would you?

On that note, I'm avoiding my stove/oven, using the grill only to cook, which means I've been eating more meat and fish than usual, and I need a break (I usually eat veg. at least 1/2 the time).

Any great ideas for veggie meals with no cooking or grill only? I've had a bit too much eggplant lately. I do have tofu at home, but have never tried it grilled -- is that possible or is it too soft?

Kim O'Donnel: Salt Lake, take a look at my report on grilled tofu . It turned out great, but you do need to drain and give it a good kicky marinade. Have a look. I plan to do this one again soon.


Protein help!: I'm stuck in a rut eating the same beans and rice, lentil soup or stir-fry tofu. What are other good sources of vegetarian protein? Any unique ways to prep them for meals? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Quinoa is loaded with protein -- and you can cook it like rice and then zip it up w/ a vinaigrette and seasonal veg and herbs to make a salad. Nuts are loaded with protein -- add them to your salads and rice dishes. If you do dairy, get in some yogurt for breakfast with seasonal berries. Eggs, if you eat them, are also great protein warehouses.


Greensboro, N.C.: Hi, Kim. Any suggestions for a 1960s-ish dessert (no Jello)? I've been tasked with bringing dessert to a party this weekend, and the theme is the movie "The Graduate." I'm vegetarian, not vegan. Many thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I'd need to consult my books, but is upside-down cake considered a 60s thing? Sorry, I was still in a high-chair back then...help!


Olney, Md.: Does anyone know where to get real Buffalo Mozzarella in the area? I used to see it at Whole Foods, but now all I see there is cow's milk mozzarella from Vermont.

Kim O'Donnel: Pretty sure that Cibola Farms of Culpeper, Va., which sells buffalo meat/steaks, etc at local farm markets, was selling cheese as well...if it's not them, it's another vendor. Check Dupont Circle, Falls Church, Courthouse markets, and maybe Takoma. Anyone who can confirm that?


Alexandria, Va.: Hi, and thanks for taking my questions. First, I plan to make the Blueberry Buckle mentioned in earlier chats. It is fabulous! In one of the chats, someone suggested using brown sugar for the topping instead of white sugar. Should I use the same amount of brown sugar? Second, I'm having guests for a cookout tomorrow and plan to make vegetable and tofu kabobs with a lemon/soy/ginger marinade, but I'm at a loss for a grain dish or something else to accompany the meal. I usually do a plain wild rice or couscous side dish, but that seems to boring for company. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Glad you enjoyed. I am thinking of whipping up some of that this weekend myself. Re: brown sugar sub, you might be able to do with less sugar, but since I have not tested it this way, I can't be sure. Re: your kebabs situation: I think rice is a great accompaniment and you can zip it up with cashews and/or lime zest, or use coconut milk as liquid, which gives it a whole different dimension.


Washington, D.C.: I'm not vegetarian, but I keep tofu and meatless crumbles on hand for nights when I haven't planned ahead for meat. I'm an old-hand with pressing the tofu and soaking it in an Asian marinade, and making tacos/enchiladas out of the meatless crumbles.

What else can I do with these? Trying to eat healthy, so I'm not looking for lasagna recipes or anything. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You are a candidate for the barbecued tofu I mention earlier in the hour. It's incredibly delicious and all my carnivore guests were quite happy.


Bethesda, Md.: I'll keep this short. How long should tahini last in the fridge after it's been opened?

Kim O'Donnel: Me too: A few months.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: I would like to offer at least one non-meat alternative meal a week, but need a recipe that would please both my husband (no pasta or any type of starch) and my 4-year old daughter (she does like vegetables, except for peas, but nothing spicy). Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: During the summer, I would suggest veggie kebabs with a brush of marinade. It's easy, it's fun for the kid to see the food coming off a stick and you can keep the kitchen cool. One go-to meatless thing I do on a regular basis is black beans and rice. He can do without the rice if he wants...and you can make some pico de gallo when tomatoes come into season. Shredded cheese on top if you want, and everyone can fix their bowl as they wish.


Buffalo mozzarella: Try the Italian Store in Arlington (on Columbia Pike)

Kim O'Donnel: Well, my next thought was going to be Cheesetique in Del Ray, Va. and the new Cowgirl Creamery in the 900 block of F Street NW. Have you guys gone yet? It's a must!


Washington, D.C.: Do you have suggestions for a nice dessert that does not contain dairy? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: If you've got an ice cream maker, sorbet is splendid and completely dairy free. I intend to share sorbet report next week in blog , by the way.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi Kim,

Thanks for the chat.

I'm pregnant, tired and not in need of suggestions for quick meals that are nutritious but not a lot of work.

Normally I happily make moussaka, stuffed shells, veg tacos, middle eastern but I have not will power to do any of that now. I would appreciate any suggestions.


Kim O'Donnel: Hummus? Gazpacho? A hunk of melon with feta, red onion and lime?


Washington, D.C.: I'm going to a BBQ/party this weekend up in Easton. There will be about 20 people or so there. I'll be the only vegetarian, so I'm in charge of bringing my veggie burgers/dogs, as well as a side dish, to keep me happy, as well as the carnivores. Any thoughts on something I can make ahead, and will be filling for me, and enjoyed by the rest? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You know what would be fun? Make your own grape leaves. You can do these even two days in advance. I have a video for grape leaves, which features the meat version, but I can help you adjust with that...

Go here and click on Lebanon

for details. These would be a big among other guests, too.


Washington, DC: For the person seeking mayo-less potato salad, try this one, courtesy of epicurious.com. I usually add a lot more lime juice than the recipe calls for, and maybe some jalapeno, but it's great!

Sweet Potato Salad With Chili-Lime Dressing

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice -See how on streaming video]

4 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped

Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, 7 to 10 minutes (don't overcook or your salad will be mushy and falling apart.) Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the red bell pepper and scallions to the potatoes and toss with the dressing. Season again with salt and pepper. Serve warm or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you. Sweet potatoes will be coming into market later this summer.


Washington, D.C.: Grilled tofu follow-up -- recipe sounds great, but I don't have a grill. Pop it under the broiler? How far away and what kind of pan? I have a grill pan but when I use it on the stovetop all it does is fill the house with smoke -- would it work better if I use it under the broiler?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, under that broiler they go. Keep an eye on them, as they'll quickly char.


60's dessert: I was in the single digits during the '60s. Some of the desserts I remember eating a lot are coconut cream pie, banana cream pie, chocolate mousse. A coconut layer cake was always a favorite. And let's not forget the ice cream log.

Kim O'Donnel: Ice cream log, yes. And I'm thinking some kind of pie with a cookie crumb crust...when did Nilla Wafers put out that banana pudding recipe?


Arlington, Va. Roasting Okra: I think it's too early for market-fresh okra -- but I'd like to make a dish calling for roasted okra. If I proceed with frozen, should I thaw then roast, OR boil briefly, drain, then roast? Thanks for any advice.

Kim O'Donnel: Okra you will see very soon, dear. Definitely thaw thoroughly before roasting, and drain off any residual water. You don't have to boil first. Go straight to that oven. Keep me posted.


Buffalo, N.Y.: Hi Kim!

Any ideas for chilled soups?

Kim O'Donnel: Besides gazpacho, I'm a fan of melon soup...puree cantaloupe and season with lime, honey and cayenne. A little salt too. Basil garnish is nice here.


Buffalo Mozzarella: It's made from cow's milk, but the mozzarella from Blue Ridge Dairy at Arlington Court House Farmer's Market is fabulous!

Kim O'Donnel: Blue Ridge puts out some fine stuff. Thanks for chiming in.


Buffalo Moz, Alexandria: Try the Med. Bakery on S. Pickett. They have a grand cheese section.

Kim O'Donnel: And more thoughts on BufMoz. Good name for a band...


Washington, D.C.: I've recently given up meat and am looking for a good vegetarian cookbook -- not one with elaborate recipes but instead one for everyday dinners and meals. Any ideas? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Basic stuff: Check titles by Jeanne Lemlin. Comprehensive volume: Vegetarian For Everyone by Deborah Madison. Also check her "Vegetarian Suppers" which organizes by season and meal type. For menus, look at Peter Berley's stuff.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Thanks for the great buckle recipe! It was fantastic! (I used granulated sugar).

Really basic question -- do you have any new ideas of how to serve sweet potatoes? (besides baked with cinnamon sugar or sweet potato pie)?


Kim O'Donnel: Check the recipe a fellow reader shared earlier in the hour. This may be right up your tree.


Vegan in Paris:: Hi Kim, my vegan daughter is heading to Paris, France for a one-year assignment and I was wondering if she'll have much trouble finding food she can eat? Well ... food she chooses to eat?

Signed, Worried Mom in Maryland

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Mom, baguettes are vegan. It won't be easy, especially since cheese is a major food group in France. Will she have a kitchen? Sounds like she'll have to be cooking more often than perhaps she does here. I'd suggest taking a few cookbooks as preparation.


washingtonpost.com: Working Link: A Mayo-Free World (Savoring Summer Blog, June 2)


Arlington, Va.: Hi. I picked up some beautiful baby summer squash at the Farmers' Market this morning. I'm thinking of adding fresh herbs and maybe serving it with quinoa, but I'm open to suggestions.

Kim O'Donnel: I love sauteed squash with mint and pine nuts. One of my favorite ways to eat it. The less time in the pan, the better. You want to taste the squashy-ness at this time of year.


Chilled soup: Cold cucumber soup is a favorite of mine -- made with blended (a couple) cukes, green pepper, avocado, a little onion or garlic and salt. top with paprika. It's beautiful with an edible flower garnish if you're into that kind of thing. There's a cousin of gazpacho in Spain made with grapes -- I'm hoping to try that soon!

Kim O'Donnel: Cold cuke soup is a goodie indeed. A little yogurt mixed in is lovely too...and herbs.


Rockville, Md.: Help -- my girlfriend's family is coming into town and they are vegan. What do vegans eat exactly? Is it mostly things like clay and wood chips? Are they allowed to eat small pebbles?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, they eat telephone poles too, just like Woodpeckers. COME ON! Have you asked her folks what their fave dishes are? And what are you plans with them -- are you cooking or dining out? FYI: NO cheese or other dairy, no eggs, no honey. Get some soy milk for their morning coffee. Soy ice cream for dessert. And get everyone for an excursion to the farmer's market. Up and at'em on Saturday or Sunday morning -- chop chop! I want a report during next chat!


Dim Sum in D.C.: Recently I have become a fan of vegan dim-sum Here is my take on it:

For the dip

1/2 cup Coconut milk, 2 tsp finely cut lemon grass, 1 tsp lemon jest, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp crunchy peanut butter

Combine and cook until the mixture comes to a boil

Rice Spring Roll wrappers from Whole foods.

Chopped carrots, cabbage, scallions, ginger

Combine and stir fry in high heat for a few minutes with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp soy sauce

Stuff and steam in a steamer basket for a few minutes and the dims are ready to go! I usually cannot shape the dims so I just stuff and fold them to a half moon shape.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for this. I am hoping to share my roll wrapping tips in a blog post coming soon. Coconut milk is also good for making faux ice cream. Cheers.


Washington, D.C.: I have a ton of sage growing in my garden. Any ideas (veggie or non) for using it? I'm sick of frying sage leaves already!

Kim O'Donnel: Sage and ricotta love each other. I would get some cheese ravioli and do a sage-y garnish. If you're feeling up to it, you could make a pizza dough flavored with sage and lemon zest....other sage ideas?


Cold Cuke soup: Do you blend the whole recipe or just the cukes?

Kim O'Donnel: I think you could do both. I would prob. puree. But let's ask the original poster...


Washington, D.C.: If the vegan daughter is going to be in Paris, there are several good vegetarian restaurants there, most of which have vegan options. Sorry I don't have any names handy -- I think I found them all through Web searches.

Kim O'Donnel: And did you find one Web site particularly useful in your search? Holler if you can.


Washington, D.C.: Had a great Indian okra dish last week, kind of a stewed thing. The little sliced coin type of okra, not whole ones. Any recipes? Could I do it with frozen okra?

Kim O'Donnel: Sure. But as I mentioned earlier, you want to thaw and then drain to minimize water, which will result in less flavorful results. Stay tuned, though; fresh okra is on its way to local markets.


Raritan, NJ: Deborah Madison also has a book out "Vegetable Soups", which has great chilled soups and only minimal overlap with her Suppers book. Also, Barbara Kafka ("Soups") and James Peterson ("Fabulous Soups") are other great hot and cold soup references ...

Kim O'Donnel: Great tips. I have yet to get my hands on Madison's Soup text, but I've heard good things. And the other two..well, they're tops, too.


Re: Vegans in Rockville: Be nice to your guests and they'll love it if you have some of the following on hand:

soy milk and ice cream, hummus and pita chips, lots of vegetables (fresh and/or frozen), lots of fruit, bagels, salsa, salad fixins but no 'cream' dressings. The main thing as Kim stated is they don't eat anything that comes from a Momma (eg., milk, honey, meat, cheese).

Hope you have a wonderful visit w/your vegan friends.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely ideas! Thanks.


cold cuke soup: yes, blend it all well so it's smooth and light green--really pretty and refreshing, but you'll have to get creative with the seasoning, as I don't recall the exact recipe--those are just the basics.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, color is key here...and don't forget that salt at the end.


speaking of cukes...: do you have a good recipe for TZATZIKI?

Kim O'Donnel: Not on my person. But I can work on that for you: e-mail me at: kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com


Re: Vegan in Paris: I just checked under yahoo "Vegan Restaurants in Paris, France" and hit several spots including a great page with tons of info and even the vegetarian restaurant in Paris, "Piccolo Teatro."

So a cookbook, a restaurant review and $$ in her pocket - sounds like she's all set! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Aren't you a petite tete de radis...merci beaucoup!


Vegan in Paris, Redux: And here's another - http://www.happycow.net/europe/france/paris/

Kim O'Donnel: And one more...


Washington, D.C.: For quick and easy chilled soup, combine a quart of buttermilk with a can of rinsed chickpeas and a peeled/seeded/diced cucumber, maybe diced red pepper. Add whatever fresh herbs you like--chives, dill, marjoram are all nice. Very refreshing!

Kim O'Donnel: More ideas on cold soups...cheers!


60's dessert: Try the unbaked cheesecake dessert with the graham cracker crust. Canned pie cherries on top. It shouldn't be that hard to find a recipe. It screams 60s.

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Yes. Especially those cherries that can withstand nuclear war. Excellent idea.


60's dessert: Bundt Cake!

Kim O'Donnel: And this too is a classic number...although we should check and find out if this is more of a 50s treat...


Raritan, N.J.: For the vegan going to Paris, a great source for restaurants is Patricia Wells' "Food Lover's Guide to Paris". All the restaurants as well as the farmer's markets. She still writes for the International Herald-Tribune, so reading that online or sending a question should get her some answers.

Also, eGullet has a Paris specialty food group ...

Kim O'Donnel: Patricia Wells is a great resource, yes. Nice tips!


60s desserts: Apple Brown Betty

Apple Dumplings

or, look at an old cookbook from the library and you get gems like:

Licorice Lemon Cake

Sally's Hurry-Up Cake

Apricot Gooey Cake

Cashew Caramel Yummies

etc. The cornier the name, the more authentic the dish.

Kim O'Donnel: We like Corn. thanks sugar!


Arlington, Va.: I totally recommend "5 ingredient vegetarian gourmet" by Nava Atlas

Super simple meals and tasty, also includes ingredients with soy "meat." She has a website out there somewhere too

Kim O'Donnel: I haven't seen this one. Thanks for pointing it to me. Will look and let you know.


sage overflow: I also love sage with sweet potatoes or butternut squash. This winter I made a great dish of tortellini tossed with cubed squash, and a sage garnish.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, sage loves sweet potatoes and winter squash, although that's really stuff for later down the road this year. I am also thinking of a bread pudding with squash. Might seem weird, but it could work.


Kim O'Donnel: Already time to go. Thanks for all the good cheer. Next Tuesday is July 4, so I won't be online again until July 11. However, my Savoring Summer blog continues, updated twice a day during the week. Have a delicious holiday weekend. And don't forget to eat your vegetables!


Bundt cake history: Bundt cake is the name used for a dessert cake cooked in a Bundt pan. The Bundt pan (a registered trademark) was created in 1950 by H. David Dalquist, founder of Nordic Ware, at the request of members of the Hadassah Society's chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They were interested in a pan that could be used to make kugel, a Jewish dessert. He modified some existing ceramic pan designs by introducing folds in the outer edge, and fashioned the pan out of aluminum.

The pan sold somewhat slowly until a Pillsbury-sponsored baking contest in 1966 saw a Bundt cake win second place. This prompted a scramble for the pans, causing them to become the most-sold pan in the United States soon after. Since introduction, more than 50 million Bundt pans have been sold by the Nordic Ware company.

The name Bundt comes from the German word bund, which means "a gathering of people." Dalquist simply added the letter "t" to the end and trademarked it. Pillsbury licensed the name in 1970 for a line of cake

Kim O'Donnel: And the Bundt has the last word! Thanks for this great tidbit...


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