What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 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 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 was online Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Noon ET.

The transcript follows.

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Kim O'Donnel: Sunny palm tree-swaying greetings from Key West! As some of you already may know by reading my blog, I headed south a few days ago to hang out with my well-on-the-mend brother, Tim, who has lived here for several years. The weather couldn't be finer. Sorry if that irritates some of you under layers of ice and snow, but come on down, where the air is sweet. I am one lucky gal, I know it. Happy to take questions about this village of an island or anything else that's on the front burner. A few notes: This Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, I'll host my monthly vegetarian hour, so join in for the meat-free hoopla. Also, I'm taking snacky suggestions for the upcoming Super Bowl festivities (Feb. 4 in Miami -- who said I didn't know anything about football?) as well as Valentine's Day, which is about three-ish weeks away. For now, let's hear all about it...

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Silver Spring, Md.: Kim,

I'm hoping you can inspire me. I made a delicious beef stew over the weekend (very snowy day meal), and I like my recipe: stew meat, browned, then add red wine, beef broth, onions, carrots, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and S&P and stew for 1-5 hours. I have leftovers, and I want to add something different, but what? I could steam some roots vegetables or saute some mushrooms. Do you have any other ideas? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Silver, root veggies are a great accompaniment to stew, and that's an easy add-on. I'm particularly partial to parsnips, which I have a sweet flavor that's less cloying than carrots, in my opinion. I also love me a bed of egg noodles with stew...or a bed of cous cous. What's your starch of choice?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! I'm sorry if you've answered this before. Can you recommend a place where I can buy, organic, non- or minimally processed hormone-free meat and seafood and turkey? I'd prefer to find something other than Whole Foods. I have a few places I can go for chicken. Thanks, ma'am!

Kim O'Donnel: The best places to buy minimally processed meat and poultry in this area are your local farm markets, hands down. During the winter, you've got Dupont Circle Fresh Farm and Takoma Park on Sunday am, and on Saturday, you've got Arlington Courthouse and Falls Church. Alexandria is open year round, but I don't know who the meat vendors are. At the others, you can find Cibola Farms, of Culpeper, Va., which does a lot of bison, as well as goat and pork, plus Smithfresh, of Berryville, Va, which does pork, lamb, beef, goat, as well as eggs. There's also Eco-Friendly foods, which sells a sundry variety of meats. Try these out for size. Animals are raised humanely, without antibiotics, usually grassfed, all the good stuff. Plus you're supporting local farms and the local economy.

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Wannabe Conch:: Okay, I'm jealous.

If you liked the Hogfish Bar and Grill, try BO's Fishwagon while you're down there. It's on Caroline Street in the Bight. There's a good coffee place nearby on Caroline as well, the Coffee Plantation.

Kim O'Donnel: Hmmm...someone who claims to be from KW posted a comment on the blog this am, urging people to stay away from BO's. But Coffee Plantation I know well. After today's chat, I am headed into town to sample the joe at Island Joe's Gourmet Coffee. Hope to deliver a report in tomorrow's blog.

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"Better then Kraft": I can't tell you what a hit your macaroni and cheese was the other weekend with the younger set. A couple of weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were having some friends to lunch with their 9-year-old daughter. One of the things on the menu was macaroni and cheese as a safe option for the youngun (the others would, I knew, challenge her conservative palette, although she -did- try them). But she stuck to her macaroni and cheese, saying to me as she liberally tucked in "I usually don't like home-made m&c, but yours is really good." My boyfriend joked "better than Kraft" and she agreed.

That became a catchphrase of the lunch! I was honored as she's a notoriously difficult eater. But the praise must go to your recipe -- thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: YAY! So glad it went over well. Here's hoping that 9 year old will ask for more of the homemade stuff rather than the famous blue box.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim!

Your blog was a breeze of fresh air to read. Yes, we are cold here, with melting ice, and comfort food is on my mind.

I attempted making home-made chicken noodle soup (okay, the noodles were dried), but it came out watery and bland. I was highly disappointed given the amount of effort it took. Any suggestions? I'd love a steaming bowl of hearty chicken noodle soup!

Thanks a lot.

Kim O'Donnel: Glad the blog made you forget the cold for a minute or two. Re: your chix noodle soup: Tell me about that broth of yours. What did you use to season it? Once you've got a stock made, you can enhance it, with garlic, ginger (even as infusers), chile, herbs, shallots. If it's lacking salt, try a bit of soy sauce to season. Sometimes it's nice to toss cooked noodles in olive oil before adding to broth. For veg, what about some chopped bok choy? Better than celery, in my opinion.

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Ashburn, Va.: Fifty-two meals in one year! Do you think I could write a book about 2007?

I decided my resolution this year is to make one home-cooked meal per week (an improvement). I will plan, shop, and prepare one actual meal a week. (Restaurants with friends, takeout or opening cans for the other six days).

I hope I can cook at the end of the year!

My question this week is:

How do you make rapini less bitter?

I made orecchiette con rapini this week and boy was it bitter. I made it with a long-lost boyfriend a few years ago -- bitter. I had it at a proper Apulian restaurant and it was divine so I decided to try it again myself. Nope, still bitter.

Help?

Kim O'Donnel: Well, Ashburn, I'm actually working on a desk calendar that includes one recipe per week. There is something to be said for your mission. Please keep up the good work. Rapini can be blanched for a minute or so to help reduce bitterness before it goes into a saute pan. That's about it. Otherwise, you may be a member of the I think rapini is too bitter club, which is fairly large.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Stew-girl here. I usually serve my beef stew with egg noodles or couscous. I like the parsnip idea, but how should I prepare them, steamed or roasted? Or...? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: If you roast, they will have even more flavor. Lather with olive oil, add a bit of thyme, salt, pepper. Don't cook all the way through, so they can finish in the stew.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim -- I need some soup help. I made a basic potato soup over the weekend -- added sauteed garlic, onion and leeks. Salt and pepper. It was good, but needed a little more flavor. Adding some cream helped, but what other flavors can I use to boost the overall taste without adding more salt? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I like a lot of parsley in my potato soup, pureed right with the potatoes. I also think a little heat from cayenne or chilies helps immensely, as well as the rind and of a lemon, plus a few squeezes of the juice.

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Midwest: Kim -- This is the overwhelmed woman who wrote you last week - and then you blogged about me! AAK! That was a little embarrassing! (But I appreciated everyone's comments, the cookbook ideas, and the encouragement.)

I just wanted you to know that I wrote up a menu and just for that I feel so much better. Sunday everyone pitched in -- I made a meat stew with beans, daughter made the fruit salad, other daughter made dessert, boys set the table, husband washed the dishes and even 7 -year-old daughter dried. Last night was my class and they did have to have leftovers, but there was a salad and daughter made rice to go with the stew from Sunday. Tonight is latkes and I'm having the kids peel and wash the potatoes before I get home from work.

Just having a plan made me feel much better. Thanks for your help.

Kim O'Donnel: A big high-five all the way from Key West, Ms. Midwest! You go, girl! How empowered you must feel. I'm so thrilled to hear of the collaborative movement afoot...

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Lancaster, Pa.: Hi Kim,

I just wanted to compliment you on your incredible recipe, A Dark & Stormy Pear Crisp. It was truly delicious. In your recipe, vanilla extract was an ingredient but you did not indicate how much. I used 1/2 teaspoon; that seemed about right.

By the way, what kind of food will you be serving at your upcoming wedding?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Lancaster, glad you liked the crisp; it's a goodie and available here in my handy dandy new recipe index.

Re: vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon is fine, even 1 teaspoon is good, particularly if you have a good quality vanilla at your side. Re: my wedding (five weeks from Friday, by the way): I will start sharing those details in upcoming blog. Stay tuned.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

Follow your chats regularly and love them. Last week there was a question where the chatter used dried red chilies and was unable to spice up the dish. Soaking the chilies in water might get the spice, but the key to bring out the hotness, is to tear the chili into two or more pieces and add the dried chilies to hot oil. When it gets sauteed in oil, the spice comes out and a whole bag of chilies done this way would kill with the heat.

Just wanted to let you know a bit about the way dried Indian chilies are used.

Kim O'Donnel: Completely agree. Oil is a great way to bring out the heat in dried chilies. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim. We're fans of scrambled eggs in our household. We usually just scramble the eggs with a little milk, onion and red bell pepper. Any other ideas for jazzing up this breakfast staple? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I like cooking my eggs in olive oil rather than butter, which I think adds a lot of flavor. I also am partial to herbs -- parsley, chives, basil -- and a few glugs of my favorite hot sauce.

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In the bulk aisle: Can you suggest a store in the District with a wide selection of bulk grains? I'm thinking amarinth, teff, and especially kasha. Whole Foods near me doesn't have much of a selection...if you can think of a place that's Metro accessible, that would be even better! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Have you called over to My Organic Market (MOMs) in Alexandria? Not metro-accessible, though. The teff you're likely to get some of the Ethiopian grocers in the city; there's one on 18th Street in Adams Morgan that comes to mind. Anyone with bulky whole grain thoughts?

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Kim --

I bought three bags of lentils (orange, green and brown) last week on impulse, and I keep staring at them, not quite sure what to do with them.

Any suggestions? I'd like something I can heat up and eat over rice that would make a good lunch while I'm chained to my desk during the week.

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Head over to the blog, my dear, for not one, but TWO recipes for lentils -- and tons of lentil-y ideas from readers. Here's how to get started: Showing Love for Lentils

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Washington, D.C.: Kim,

I made a delicious and healthy black beans side with dinner last night -- enjoying the leftovers cold with my salad for lunch today. I think it would go well as a bean dip for Super Bowl day too, perhaps mashed up a bit more. Here's the recipe if you want to share or add any suggestions:

1. Saute half a sweet onion in 2 tsp olive oil. Add 1 can undrained black beans and another 1/3 cup water, bring to boil, then simmer.

2. Add 2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or brown sugar substitute as I did to make it healthier), and seasoning salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 5-10 minutes, slightly mashing the beans.

Kim O'Donnel: You hit it, dear. Sounds like a winner. Plantains would be delicious with this.

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Scrambled eggs idea: I love them with mushrooms, cheese and jalapeno peppers. Yum!!

Kim O'Donnel: Here come the scrambly ideas...

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Scrambled eggs: Add salsa verde, preferably home-made with lots of tomatillos, onion, and jalapeno!

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Pregnant. Queasy.: I'm definitely one of the lucky ones, in that I'm not losing my cookies all day. But I don't like the idea of food right now. I have a growly tummy, and nothing seems appealing. Well, mashed potatoes seem appealing. But nothing more complex than that. What can I make that is simple and nutritionally complete?

Kim O'Donnel: Do lentils sound appealing? You'd get calcium, minerals and if you add rice, a complete protein. Look at link posted earlier in hour to recipe. What about a piece of fresh fruit -- I'm thinking of pineapple or papaya for its easy-on-the-digestion enzymes.

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Cookies: Just wanted to let you know I recently made your chocolate spice cookies for a dinner party. I used them to put together ice cream sandwiches with caramel ice cream in the middle. They were the hit of the party. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I'm sorry I never responded to your inquiry about the ice cream sandwiches, but I'm proud of you that you took the initiative and made your vision come true! Well done. They sound fab, dear.

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Bulk whole grains: Bethesda Co-op used to have a lot of bulk whole grains, but I haven't been there lately. Probably worth a phone call, although not Metro accessible.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in...

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Culinary Student in Honolulu: Hi Kim. Thanks for the warm welcome last week. Hawaii has some great local cuisine and the weather right now is better. Although, having relocated here from the D.C. area, I've got to say that I kind of miss the snow a little!

I'm hoping you or some of the readers can help me. My son has ADHD and we are trying to eliminate corn syrup from his diet. He loves salad with raspberry walnut vinaigrette and most bottled versions have corn syrup. I've made vinaigrette at school and am willing to do so at home, but can't find any recipes or guidelines. Anybody have a really good recipe?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I'm going to throw this out to the readers, Honolulu. Curious, though: Do you have access to raspberries in Hawaii? Perhaps it'd be fun to experiment with all the local, exotic fruit for vinaigrettes...

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Food allergies: I have a co-worker who claims that she can't drink milk in the summer because of what the cows eat (she's got allergies to the usual outdoor things). Have you ever heard of such a thing? She tends to be full of hooey most of the time, but I just want to know for my own curiosity.

Kim O'Donnel: Well, the only way she'd find out for sure if she was allergic is to go to an allergist and get tested. There are lots of variables here -- what kind of milk she is drinking -- does it contain growth hormones, is it from local cows, etc.

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Flavor enhancements for potato soup: A Parmagiano-Reggiano rind or two thrown into soup does wonders for the flavor -- you can buy them at Wegmans or Whole Foods for a modest price.

Red or yellow bell peppers add some nice flavor. I also like a big handful of chopped dill, and/or some diced sundried tomatoes.

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic idea. Bravo dear. Thanks for adding.

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Jazzing up scrambled eggs: To vary scramble eggs:

Sometimes pan fry diced leftover potato and diced onion in the oil, and then add the egg mixture to the hot pan and cook them around the potatoes and onions.

Sometimes top with shredded cheese just before removing from the heat.

Sometimes mix in spices of choice in the eggs before adding to the pan. Parsley, paprika, basil, ground mustard seeds, rosemary are examples. Try combining two or three from your spice cupboard.

Kim O'Donnel: yes indeed....

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Scrambled eggs:.......add fresh chives (finely chopped), smoked salmon, and a little light cream cheese.......

Kim O'Donnel: More goodies for those scramblies...

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Grains: The Yes Organic market near Cleveland Park Metro has a decent amount of grains in bulk, in addition to the normal nuts, spices, etc.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you!

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Super Bowl: Hi Kim! I'm having friends over to watch the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, and I wanted to make a creamy salsa con queso. I tried last night with cheddar and a little mozzarella mostly melted in the double-boiler, then I took it off the heat and added the salsa. But while it tasted good, the whole thing congealed. Do you have any secrets to a good queso dip? Please tell me I don't have to use Velveeta!

Kim O'Donnel: I will have to do a bit more digging, but you'll probably need to add some milk to the mix to keep it from turning into a congealed glop. I'll follow up in next few days, ok?

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Providence: This is more of a hostessing question: I am having some friends over for brunch in a few weeks, and when one guest RSVP'd, she insisted that she make something for the meal, and was offended when I said she shouldn't bring anything -- I already had the menu planned. I love to cook and plan menus, and this woman is a terrible cook, and I know she'd bring a store-bought coffee cake.

She was so strident, I started to doubt the advice my mother always gave me: offer to bring something, if the hostess says no, don't bring something you expect to be served that day. You're always welcome to bring something like flowers, or something for the house.

Kim O'Donnel: Your friend is wrong, I agree. But perhaps you should be the bigger person and just let it slide. I don't know, this is an uncomfortable situation. Usually it helps when you've got a buffet scenario. Folks?

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Fruit Vinaigrette: Here's a simple recipe for cranberry vinaigrette. If she found a cranberry-raspberry blend that's 100% juice, it might suit her sons tastes and needs. Although it calls for concentrated juice, if I can't find it I use regular and just up the amount to taste.

2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)

2 tablespoons frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Whisk oil, cranberry juice concentrate and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going. Thanks much.

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Re: red lentils: These make a fab pasta sauce and cook pretty quickly. Saute onions, garlic, add lentils, canned whole tomatoes, a little red wine, oj and a smattering of spices (cumin, allspice, -- cinnamon particularly can bring out good flavor). Works on white or wheat pasta.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely idea. I always forget how great lentils go with pasta.

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Pear Crisp: Kim, I am silly. I really want to make your pear crisp but didn't seem to find the recipe on your blog list. I saw the Dark & Stormy Cocktail, but no crisp. Would you mind linking to it here? Thanks a lot!!

Kim O'Donnel: Dark n Stormy Crisp, at your service.

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River City: Melting cheese is hard, it chemically doesn't want to do it; it wants to congeal. It is, in fact, why Velveeta was invented, to make a cheese that would stay melted. Alton Brown does a good show about the chemistry of melting cheese.

Look at fondue recipes, and add milk. But it'll never be as pretty as the pics in the magazine,'cuz they use Velveeta.

Kim O'Donnel: Good points all. And I'll try to dig up some more tidbits on queso as well...

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Arlington, Va.: I think there is nothing the matter with serving left over beef stew over rice, brown is especially nutritious. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Or, make potpies!

Kim O'Donnel: Good tips for leftover stew...

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Coconut Cake Guy: I apologize for not answering your follow-up -- I've been on the road! Regarding my non-layer preference, I am a wimp! Actually, I have not delved into baking. Do you think I can handle it? I appreciate your service to our stomachs! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I think you can handle it. Dreams come true if you let them, dearie. Are you ready for the challenge? I shall begin looking for a proper coconut layer cake in coming days. Stay tuned!

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Washington, D.C.:"Hostessing Question": Why don't you tell your friend to bring some champagne for mimosas. Or the ingredients for bloody marys. If no one drinks alcohol, you could suggest an alternative drink. Just a thought.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice idea. When I want to control the menu, I tell folks to bring beverage of their choice -- unleaded and alcoholic.

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Chicago: Kim,

I'm six months pregnant and ovo-lacto veggie and my doctor just told me I'm borderline anemic. I'm looking for ways to get more iron in my diet, other than from pills. I ate spinach and other dark greens every day during my first pregnancy, but have been wary of them ever since the E coli scare this fall. (Locally produced greens from small farms are not an option in Chicago in January!) Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Dried fruit -- raisins in particular - -have lots of iron. Molasses! And you may want to look at legumes.

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River City: Accept gifts with grace. You may think your taste in food is better than your guest's, but she is trying to be kind and you're looking down on her for it!

Accept the coffee cake, even if it isn't to your upscale standards, put it out for guests and learn that having friends over for dinner is for the sake of appreciating friends, not for the sake of showing them what a superior gourmet you are.

Kim O'Donnel: Another thought on the hostess dilemma...

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Hostess...: Absolutely the guest is wrong, but she is just that, a GUEST. I would graciously accept the offer and try to give her specific suggestions that would fit into my menu. And if she brings something totally wrong, I'd suck it up and serve it. If the hostess is inviting her, she's obviously a friend, so why risk hurting her feelings?

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Kim O'Donnel: Hey guys, time to run. If you can, join me Thursday at 1 p.m., for the meat-free fiesta. Meantime, I've got some sun to catch, and Tim and I are gonna get on our bikes and grab some lunch. Thanks for joining me today! Take care.

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