What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 31, 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: Happy Halloween! What tricks do you have up your sleeve? If I'm looking at my calendar correctly, Thanksgiving is just three weeks away. Yikes. Have no fear; I'll be doing specials galore -- next Thursday, Nov. 8 at 1pm is Veggie Thanksgiving, followed by an all-inclusive Thanksgiving special on Nov. 15, also at 1pm. The Food section is gearing up for its Tgiving coverage, as early as next week, including a story by yours truly. Stay tuned for lots of turkey goodies from both the print and online components. And now, let's fire things up...


Gettysburg, Pa.: Hi Kim, Broccoli doesn't inspire me, but I need to eat more green veggies and I have plenty of broccoli still in our garden. Can you suggest ways of incorporating it in a sandwich filling? Maybe with cottage cheese and a spice or two? Obviously this concept needs expert help.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting you mention brocc, Gettsyburg. I'm testing a brocco soup that has no cheese. The tough part with brocc is its textured, even when pureed. I think pureeing it with silken tofu would be more effective than with cottage cheese, particularly for a sandwich. I also like mixing hummus with brocc florets. Thoughts for this brocc poster?


Falls Church, Va.: Kim!

I tried to make two different types of muffins (one of them your pumpkin muffins)and both sets came out really condensed! They just did not rise. Do you have any suggestions besides following the recipe? I'm not used to using an electric oven, if it helps.


Kim O'Donnel: How old is your baking soda and powder? Could be the culprit.


Catskill Woman: Here is an amazing corn bread recipe that I found years ago in the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown ... as he puts it "one batter makes three layers. The corn meal settles. The bran rises. In the middle an egg-custardy layer." Trust me ... this is really good and always a surprise to your guests who associate corn bread with dry, mealy yuck!

1 cup corn meal (coarse ground works best)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup unbleached white flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/4 - 1/2 cup honey or molasses

1/4 cup oil

3 cups milk or buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Mix together. Mixture will be quite watery. Pour into greased pan. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees or until top is springy when gently touched.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm always looking for a new way to do cornbread. Thanks Catskill!


Fairfax, Va.: I need a venison loin for a special meal I'm making on November 11th. Any idea where I can find one? If only I knew a hunter! Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I guess I need to put you in touch with my mom and her beau, whose property is overrun with deer. In fact, he was asking me last night for a recipe for venison. There are a few farms that sell game at farmer's markets, but venison? Not sure.


Sweet Potatoes: I just got a passel of homegrown North Carolina sweet potatoes with the red dirt still stickin' to 'em, and I need some good ideas. And my mama's sending me some more later. There's always the pie/cobbler/baked with adobo/roasted bit. Any other good ideas out there? Freezer ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Make soup, dearie. I wrote in my blog recently about how easi it is to do an impromptu weeknight puree of sweet potatoes . Enjoy!


Alexandria, Va.: Following up from last week's question about cauliflower, I wanted to pass along my absolute favorite recipe for the stuff. This is a Deborah Madison recipe, from Local Flavors. Truly, it is delicious!

Green Cauliflower with Parsley and Green Olives

The color doesn't much matter but one of those lime-green cauliflowers or a whorl of broccoli romanesco makes a stunning looking dish, as does a mixture of green and white cauliflower.

1 lg. head cauliflower, broccoflower, or broccoli Romanesco

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, leaves finely chopped

2 Tablespoons finely chopped tarragon

1/2 cup chopped Spanish green olives

2 Tablespoons drained capers, rinsed

1/3 cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Manchego cheese

1. Cut the cauliflower into small florets; peel and dice the stems. Put the parsley, tarragon, and olives in a bowl with the capers, oil,1 /2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper.

2. Steam the cauliflower over salted boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Dump it into the bowl and toss well. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with a little Manchego cheese grated or shaved over the top.

Kim O'Donnel: Great stuff, Alexandria. I am writing about cauliflower in tomorrow's blog, by the way. Cheers.


Arlington, Va.: Stew! My husband and I love it, and he actually makes it using his mom's recipe. But she is of that 1950's era where you really don't experiment much with seasonings, so it's just meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomato sauce, and some Italian seasoning. Even though the stew is great, it's very basic and could really use that certain "something." Since I want to encourage my husband to keep making it (what a treat!), a fancy list of ingredients or multiple steps just won't work. Do you or anyone have ideas for a few ingredients he could throw into the mix before he puts it in the oven? Thanks for these great forums and all your awesome advice!

Kim O'Donnel: How would the hub feel about adding some red wine or dark beer to the mix? You can also suggest that he season the meat separately from the veg, which shouldn't get seasoned until just before serving. A few sprigs of fresh thyme is an easy add-on, and at then end, some fresh choppped parsley. Let me know how it goes.


Vienna, Va.: I'm breaking up with my girlfriend tonight. But I want to be nice about it. I invited her over for dinner. I only have about 40 minutes to cook, and obviously don't want to be running in and out of the kitchen during the meal. She likes fish. What recipies could you recommend.

I don't think I'll need a dessert. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: As someone who's been broken up with over dinner, I'm not so sure how I feel about your question. Why put her through dinner only to have a lousy ending to the evening? I don't think there's ever a nice way to break up, period.


Alexandria, Va.: Did Catskill Woman forget to include the bran in her otherwise delish looking cornbread recipe?

Kim O'Donnel: Let's ask...yooohoo, Catskill Woman!


Pumpkin muffins: Can you post a link to your recipe? Sounds like something for me to try!

Kim O'Donnel: Details for Pumpkin Muffins , on my blog, A Mighty Appetite.


Louisville, KY: I'm cooking dinner tonight for a guy I want to impress and I have the menu planned except for dessert. For dinner- chicken breast stuffed with Soppressata and dill havarti cheese (I've made this dish before and the Soppressata adds wonderful flavor to the chicken breast), steamed asparagus spears, and roasted blue potatoes w/ olive oil.


For dessert I was thinking of doing a fruit salad with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and this pomegranate that I picked up because it was on sale. I've never eaten a pom so what does it taste like and should I just dice in small pieces for the fruit salad, or do I need to make it into a dressing (a friend told me they were juicy)? I was thinking I'd drizzle warm honey and cinnamon over the salad. Any suggestion on how to pull dessert off?

Kim O'Donnel: Now, here's a relationship question I'll happily answer! Louisville, if things are going well, break the pom in half into a bowl and share with your new pal. It's kind of messy but definitely a date-centric activity. Chew on the pulpy seeds and experience the pom together!


Steubenville, Ohio: Kim; Don't forget to tell Arlington to add some garlic to her husband's ingredient list for stew.

Kim O'Donnel: Agreed. GARLIC, please!


Broccoli: For the stem parts, there's always broccoli slaw. Just shred snd sub for all or part of the cabbage in most slaw recipes.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. I like me a broccoli slaw, with julienned red bell pepper, ginger and some red onion. Thanks for the reminder.


Dinner Break Up Person: Dooon'ttttt do it over dinner. Do it before dinner so she can call her girlfriends and they can take her out to dinner. And she's not going to want to eat, anyway. And a homecooked meal ain't the way to leave it. It's better if you're direct. Make it easy on her.

Kim O'Donnel: THANK YOU.


Apple Butter: I just bought some apple butter at a farm this weekend and was looking for other ways to use it besides as a spread on toast and muffins. Can I mix it into oatmeal? Any other suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: You most certainly can swirl into oatmeal. It's nice with cheese, too.


Where to Find Venison: I've seen venison (farm-raised, of course) at Balducci's in Alexandria and Dean and Deluca in Georgetown.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, thanks for the sleuth.


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I'm hoping you can help me -- I'm having 10 people over for an early Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. It's a potluck that we have every year where the host cooks the turkey and we each bring a side. This year I've volunteered to host, but I've never made a turkey before. I've researched recipes and as much as some look amazing (rosemary citrus miso glaze, etc.) I'm really looking for a simple yet delicious recipe that isn't too advanced for a beginner. Any advice?

Kim O'Donnel: Did you buy a turkey yet? If it's frozen, thaw in fridge. NOW.

Take a look at my

brined turkey how-to video

. This method is beginner friendly, but you must have space in the fridge to keep the bird in a brine bath for a few days. Holler if you have more questions.


Sweet potatoes: Make fritters out of those babies. Grate on the coarse side of the grater or use the food processer. Don't overdo the egg and flour. Mix together, fry up and serve with apple sauce and sour cream. Divine!

Kim O'Donnel: sounds like latkes to me, which are divine, I agree. Applesauce can cook while you're making the fritters.


Springfield, Va.: In re-reading some chat transcripts, I noticed the praises being sung for Pomi tomatoes. Any tips on where to buy them? I've never seen them in a store. Also, I've seen TV cooks using tomato paste, anchovies, etc., packaged in tubes that resemble toothpaste tubes. Anyone ever seen that in a store? Thanks in advance!

Kim O'Donnel: I have found them at Whole Foods as well as Harris Teeter, I believe. any other Pomi sightings, folks? Re: toothpaste tubes of tomatoes and anchovies, yes the tomato paste is great and keeps well in fridge.


Broccoli Slaw: A great slaw that lasts 2-3 days in the fridge: It does stay crunchy.

broccoli slaw

chick peas

grape tomatoes

your favorite olives

tossed with your favorite vinaigrette

Amounts based on your own tastes.

Kim O'Donnel: Many thanks, dear.


Venison: Try the Organic Butcher in McLean: 703-790-8300

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent!


Broccoli Sandwiches?: One time I roasted a bunch of veggies (including peppers, broccoli, and asparagus), and put them in a pita with Alouette (that herbed, spreadable cheese -- much like cream cheese). It was really tasty ... of course, I also like broccoli, so you can take that for what it's worth.

Kim O'Donnel: Another thought on broc sandwiches...


Catskill Woman: Nope, didn't forget the bran ... its in the whole wheat flour ...

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for following up, CW.


Sweet Potato, USA: Hi Kim,

For the Sweet Potato Lover.

Jamie Oliver suggests roasting a butternut with crushed chilies and corriander, a bit of olive oil and S and P for a layer in lasagna.

I just did the same with sweet potatos and it's really good. I'm eating leftovers at my desk right now! They were so yummy out of the oven they almost didn't make it into the lasagna.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, yes, lovely idea.


Breaking up is hard to do: Also, don't do it after going out to a nice dinner ... especially if she offers to (and you let her) pay. Just sayin', as someone who's been on the short end of that stick ...

I agree with the earlier poster, do it before dinner, make it short and sweet and to the point, and let her go to dinner with her friends.

Kim O'Donnel: I remember wanting to throw my Caesar salad in this guy's face when he told me he had been cheating, back in 1988....couldn't agree more with your end of the stick.


For breakup guy: Agree making dinner is not necessarily the way to go ... but ... for me, I like to know 'why' in depth. Perhaps you could agree to meet up with her for coffee or a drink. It's better to be on neutral territory and it's good if you can have a situation where she can either stay and talk about it or run out to her girlfriends.

You sound like you're being a good person abou this, and that counts for a lot.

Kim O'Donnel: Ok, ok, I'm not Hax, so let's cool it with the dinner breakup!


Cranberries and Apples: I have cranberries and apples I would like to make into a dessert together. Any ideas? My husband is asking for a crisp. I have never made one with cranberries.

Kim O'Donnel: Crisp will be great with the cran, just you see. That combo is also great in a pie.


Butter substitution in Takoma: Kim,

I have a baking question for you. I frequently try to use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil when I bake. This works really well in pumpkin breads and muffins and spice cakes, etc. But what about butter? I have a cake recipe that calls for two sticks of melted butter. That seems like a huge amount of butter for a not very huge cake. Can I substitute in some applesauce for some of the butter (maybe replace one stick with an appropriate amount of applesauce, then only have one stick of butter in the cake)? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I don't know for sure, Takoma. Subbing applesauce for oil is very effective. Not as sure if it will work as sub for butter. Anyone who's tried?


Gaithersburg, Md.: My husband and I are going to a game night party at a friends house this weekend. The menu is soup and sandwiches. The host is making about three different types of soups and sandwiches. What can I bring as a side dish or appetizer? I was hoping for something different than the standard fare (Dip, chips, veggies, etc.) Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: You can make spiced nuts. Melt butter, add cayenne, brown sugar, chopped rosemary and salt. Coat unsalted nuts. Such a nice treat.


Sweet Potatoes: I wait eagerly for the fall because as soon as it's here I begin eating one of my favorites, all through the winter. It works with either sweet potatoes or butternut squash. -- Saute garlic and a little onion in olive oil, add diced potatoes/squash and a little chicken stock. Simmer until they are soft. Add some sage and parmesan and serve over pasta. Yum. If you have parsley or spinach, throw that on too!

Kim O'Donnel: Good one. I am keen to cook up some squash myself, with black bean garlic sauce and sesame oil, serve with kale.


Charlotte, N.C.: Hi Kim,

I had a question about Osso Bucco. I tried to make it using beef shanks instead of veal and the recipe did not come out very good. I used beef per the butcher's suggestion for a cheaper alternative and since I typically like to avoid using veal. The beef shanks were each only about 5 percent meat, the rest was bone or fat. Is this typical? Any suggestions for next time?

Kim O'Donnel: Charlotte, I usually go for lamb shanks when I don't want to do veal. They are definitely cheaper than veal and have a lot of meat on the bone. Care to try? I've got a video how-to that i need to dig up for you.


Clifton, Va.: Home out in Middleburg maybe a better choice for venison. I have never seen venison at the Organic Butcher. Do you want farm raised or wild?

Kim O'Donnel: Let's ask the original poster...


Bland Stew: How about some black peppercorns while it's stewing and salt at the end?

Kim O'Donnel: The only thing about black peppercorns is digging them out at the end. If the reader has a cheesecloth, she can place inside so they don't float all over the place.


Caramel Heaven: Hi Kim,

Not only does Cowgirl Creamery have a great selection of cheeses, it also sells the best soft caramels I have ever tasted. They're from Normandy, made from salted butter ... rich, delicious, fabulous. They're almost sublime enough to make me swear off any other dessert. (Almost) How can I make something this good at home? I've made caramels before so the technique is no problem, but the recipe? This requires a sleuth with trained tastebuds ... you, I hope! Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I do have a caramel recipe, tinkered with it last year during the holidays. Give me a week to dig it up, okay?


Pumpkin Ice Cream: No time for pumpkin ice cream? Pumkin I scream, ice cream, ice cream?

Kim O'Donnel: Ack. Yes, I saw that. I need to do a little homework on this one. I'm thinking you can add puree to the heated cream, but I want to consult my ice cream guru first. I won't forget.


Re: Venison: One or two of the butchers at Eastern Market usually has venison loin, chops, sausage, etc. Also, elk which could do if they are out of venison.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. Even more venison sightings than I thought...thanks!


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Kim,

Can I make apple crisp on Friday and serve it on Saturday evening? If so, how should I store it?

Much obliged!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. You can wrap it with foil and keep out in a cool place. Refrigeration is not mandatory, particularly at this time of year.


Boston: Two beef stew ideas:

1. Beef Bourguignon (bad spelling, I know) A-la-J. Child ... should be easy to find the recipe.

2. Red cooked beef. Cut chuck roast into 2-inch cubes. Heat some oil in a wok. For 2.5 pounds of beef, add eight whole cleaned scallions, eight smashed cloves of garlic, four inches of peeled ginger, coarsely chopped, three tablespoons of chili paste. Fry the beef with the seasonings until the beef is a bit brown. Then add 1.5 tsp of sugar, stir, and fry for another minute or two. Put in 3 TBSP soy sauce and water to barely cover. Slap on the wok lid and simmer until tender (1.75-3 hours). Serve with long noodles and top with chopped scallions or shredded daikon. I like a good stirfried veggie on the side too.

Kim O'Donnel: I like you, typos and all, Boston. Thanks for the good ideas...


Sweet potatoes: I like the version they used to make at whole foods Mashed sweet potato with maple syrup

For a savory version mashed potato with sauted garlic, diced shallots crushed red pepper with a spoon of prepared horseradish added in the end.

Oven baked sweet potato home fries with or without roasted kale.

Kim O'Donnel: I love the idea of horseradish on top of sweets. Nice one!


Falls Church, Va.: Your suggestions are always creative and tasty so perhaps you can assist my current problem. A menu that will appeal for a small dinner party (celebratory gathering) that includes our guest of honor that has the restriction of soft foods. Is my only option pasta. Please help!

Kim O'Donnel: Soup is definitely in order. What about lasagna? A little more festive than a bowl of pasta.


Roasting potatoes: I noticed that Louisville was going to roast her pots in olive oil. Roasted pots really need to done at a high temperature so, given olive oil's low smoking temp it might be better to go with safflower or corn or ... something else.

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, it can be done, particularly if potatoes are small or quartered. I roasted a bunch last week at 400, brushed with olive oil and kept an eye on them. They were fingerlings, I believe. Really nice.


Washington, D.C.: Kim, I bought a London broil and defroasted it for tonight ... I assume that means cook in under the broiler. Correct? For how long? Also I have some cremini mushrooms that I was thinking about turning into a sauce to go with it. Can I sear the meat in a pan before putting it into the oven and then deglaze it and use the creminis? Any other ideas? Thanks, want to make a special Halloween treat since I have to stay in! Happy Halloween everyone!

Kim O'Donnel: You don't HAVE to cook London broil under the broiler. Don't let the name foil ya. You can grill it, sear it, then finish in a high oven...


Washington, D.C.: Any thoughts on how to prepare some turnips? Should I mix them with some butternut squash for a root roast?

Kim O'Donnel: You can, indeed. Olive oil, salt, thyme. I also like to mash turnips with potatoes. Lots of garlic.


Kim O'Donnel: I have to skedaddle, I'm afraid. Type to you in November and get ready for the turkey countdown (I can't believe it's here already). Enjoy the beautiful Halloween weather.


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