What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 30, 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 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: Hello! After my brief escape in the Key West sun last week, I am back in the meat locker that is our fair city. Hope you are bundled up and enjoying a hot lunch. Hey, that greeting card day we all love to hate is coming up, and to help you with your romantic plans of all shapes and sizes, I'll host a special What's Cooking, Valentine show next Thursday, Feb. 8, at 1pm. I've already had my share of conversation hearts, which I've decided are the weirdest tasting things on the planet. For now, let's hear what's on that front burner of yours...


Shaw/D.C.: Hey Kim,

If I bring home fresh bread (like a baguette from Whole Foods or some place) and want to "save" it for another day and freeze it, what's the best way to revive it? Bake it? Broil it? Would a toaster oven work? Love the chat!

Kim O'Donnel: Wrap it in foil, reheat at 300 until warmed through. Dunno if a toaster oven is big enough for a baguette, though. Anyone with other bread revival ideas?


Queso, Queso, Queso!: Hi Kim, it's me again! I was hoping that you might have a recipe or more suggestions for me for making the best salsa con queso ever this Sunday for the game. Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: I'm working on it, SERIOUSLY. In fact, I've been doing some research. I plan to have a big chip 'n'dip extravaganza in Friday's blog. Hope you can wait that long.


Arlington, Va.: Kim, please help! I have been taking classic recipes and substituting ingredients to achieve healthy(ier) results. My boyfriend has put in a request for Buffalo Wings for the Super Bowl -- he thinks I can make anything. I have never made wings before but am looking for a good way to get that crispy, spicy taste without all the oil. Do you think browning in a little olive oil followed by baking in the oven would do it? What sauce should I use? Do I marinade first or just put sauce on after the browning stage? This dish is way outside of my comfort zone so I have no idea where to start!

Kim O'Donnel: Chicken wings are already wrapped in an ample layer of fat, so need no extra oil to get them going. And browning is unnecessary. When the mood strikes, I like a jerked chicken wing -- marinated in a jerk paste (well, you got me, I do add a wee bit of oil to the paste, but that's all you need!) and then roasted in a 375 oven until cooked through. For crisp skin, put under broiler for a minute or two.


Washington, D.C.: I found a recipe for a creamy garbanzo-spinach soup that looks pretty good, and I have a few questions.

Should I mush the garbanzos, or some of them?

What other legumes or vegetarian ingredients would be nice, in addition?

Will the spinach get gross if left in too long, i.e., leftovers?

What herbs would be complementary? (It's a pretty basic recipe!)

Thanks a million.

Kim O'Donnel: Pureeing the garbanzos will give you something closer to "creamy" but you'll never get a smooth velvety texture as with other veg. I like pinto beans with garbanzos, and I love barley, too. Lots of lemon zest here, garlic, a leek, yes. Spinach goes in at the end, about 2 minutes before serving, so it can wilt yet maintain its integrity. Rosemary loves garbanzos and all the rest, as would thyme.


Arlington, Va.: I'm having my wisdom teeth removed tomorrow and foresee many mushy meals in my future. Other than apple sauce, jello, and mashed bananas, potatoes and squash, are there any "exciting" foods I should be aware of? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You might be able to do a red lentil soup, which practically purees by itself. Have a look at a recent blog entry for ideas...think you'll be able to do mac and cheese? Look at today's blog. Hope it goes smooothly. I went through the wisdom extraction when I was 16.


Germantown, Md.: Hi Kim,

What's the best way to keep knives sharp? I have three Henckels (forged, not stamped) and I run them about 50 times on the steel before each use. I recently bought a manual "diamond" sharpened (Chef's choice, with the two slots). However, after using the sharpener, the knives don't seem to hold their edges for very long.

Kim O'Donnel: Chef's Choice does electric sharpeners, not manual, right? If so, I'm not as well versed on electric sharpeners as I am on manual sharpening stones. Anyone out there who uses an electric sharpener who can chime in here?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim. Thank you for doing these chats. I've learned so much from you and your readers.

The mac and cheese sounds amazing. But one question, do you think it matters what kind of milk you use?

Thanks again!

washingtonpost.com: Southern Comfort: Mac and Cheese (A Mighty Appetite, Jan. 30)

Kim O'Donnel: Good question. I remember several years talking to a chef who insists that skim milk does not a good mac and cheese make, and I kinda agree with him. It's not impossible to make the white sauce, but it may not have the same texture. Personal choice. For this recipe, I used 2 percent.


Mac and Cheese: Oh Kim, why'd you have to do that to me? I just started focusing on weight loss and you do a blog about my favorite wintry comfort food. I'm practically drooling now thinking about it. Guess I'll just have to work that into my plan somehow ...

I've never paired it with stewed tomatoes but I bet that would be good. One of my favorite pairings is grilled cheese sandwiches (notice a theme: cheese plus carb) with tomato soup.

washingtonpost.com: Southern Comfort: Mac and Cheese (Blog: A Mighty Appetite, Jan. 30)

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, I know what you mean. Really I do. In addition to the stewed tomatoes, I sauteed a bunch of Swiss chard with garlic, so we had a more well-rounded plate of meatless fare. Can you give some of the mac away to a friend and enjoy just half a batch?


Washington, D.C.: I'd actually love to hear your advice on manual knife sharpeners, as I've heard that works better than electric. What would you recommend?

Kim O'Donnel: The first person to teach me how to sharpen a knife is Gillian Clark, chef at Colorado Kitchen. We were working together at Cashion's Eat Place, and she was a bossy sous chef who made my life miserable as the lowest cook on the totem pole. I love her for it, though; I owe much of my kitchen smarts to her and to Ann Cashion. Gillian used to hold the occasional "knife clinic" before dinner, and a few of us would be schooled. She used a stone and a little mineral oil, and that was it. Had the sharpest knives in town. It took a while for me to get the hang of it, but really I find it the most reliable way to sharpen a knife. 45 degree angle, heel to tip, at least 20 times on each side of the blade, on each side of the stone. Will take about half an hour, but it's worth it.


Veggie in Dupont Circle: Kim, I am loving your blog ...

It struck me recently how many of your recipes I absolutely fall in love with -- and then they become my standbys. In fact, I've started my own Kim "cookbook" in a binder with your recipes (with my faves biscotti and bar nuts at the front).

As much as I love my binder method, please tell me you will compile your recipes into a cookbook! I'll be first in line for it.

washingtonpost.com: Blog: A Mighty Appetite

Kim O'Donnel: You are too kind. Believe me, I am tinkering with a few different manuscript ideas, just gotta find a publisher who's willing to take the chance.


Low(er) Fat Buffalo Wings: Well ... it's not quite the same thing as the original, but I find that you can do buffalo cubes that approximate the desired flavor. Take some strips or cubes of chicken breast (wings would work fine too). Dry and dredge in flour mixed with salt and pepper. Stir fry in a bit of vegetable oil (the olive can burn) until the chicken is browned a bit and cooked through. Add a couple tablespoons of hot sauce or bottled buffalo sauce, and an optional pat of butter. Serve with a blue cheese dip made of crumbled blue cheese and chopped scallions mixed with half (lowfat) yogurt and half (lowfat) sour cream.

I know ... still not the healthiest thing ever, but much better for you then deep frying and all that mayo.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going. I like it.


Denton, Tex.: Hello.

I'd like to refine my palate and increase my foodie vocabulary in order to taste food more knowledgably and in turn hopefully cook better. I'm a beginner cook so I'd like learn all the basic tastes and then move on to what combinations work well together. I'd also like to learn the jargon associated with food, because I find myself tasting a food but not being able to sufficiently describe what I'm tasting.

Is there a book, DVD or a method available that I can try?

Kim O'Donnel: Only if you tell me where Denton is! Seriously, though, "The Improvisational Cook" by Sally Schneider may be up your alley. She's got a whole section devoted to flavor combinations, probably the first time I've seen this tricky topic given attention in a cookbook. If you're keen to learn food vocabulary, get a copy of "The Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst. It's a dictonary of culinary terms, ingredients and cooking methods. A great tool.


Rennet and vegan and vegetarian: In your blog, a person pointed out that cheddar cheese often has rennet and is therefore not vegetarian. In your reply you say that 'I didn't claim this recipe to be vegan, just vegetarian'. This must have been a slip -- I'm sure you know that rennet is not vegetarian, it's made from the lining of a calve's stomach.

Kim O'Donnel: I guess what I'm trying to say is that cheese, even with rennet, is considered acceptable fare for many vegetarians, just as eggs, butter and cow's milk are. For some, it's not okay, and I welcome any variations and modifications to the recipe to accommodate dietary preferences.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Kim,

Had sent you an e-mail, but I thought I would try the chat as well. Does anyone know where I might look to buy large quantities of pre-cut veggies and fruit, as well as cubed meat? (Think a VERY LARGE fondue party.) I would, of course, order ahead of time -- just need to know what type of places to call.

Thanks, and good luck on the wedding!

Kim O'Donnel: Besides a place like Costco? Maybe Shopper's Food Warehouse? Someone please help.


Lentil Love: Hi Kim,

I made the Syrian style lentils Sunday night and they were wonderful! Thanks for the great recipe. Do you have any other recipe ideas featuring the pomegranate molasses?

Kim O'Donnel: so glad you enjoyed. For more recipes that include pomegranate molasses, check out "Lebanese Cooking" by Madelain Farah or some of Claudia Roden's books on Middle Eastern fare. I am pretty certain that fattoush, a salad with pita chips, cukes, lettuce and tomato, includes a wee bit of pom molasses. A little bit goes a long way.


Columbia, Md.: I have made almost exactly the same mac and cheese recipe using about half as much skim milk and it is quite tasty and has a creamy texture. I heat the milk up before adding it to the roux which makes it easier to blend together.

Kim O'Donnel: There you go! I knew someone would surface with a skim milk mac!


Healthier Mac n' Cheese: I made a favorite Cooking Light mac n' cheese over the weekend (and had leftovers for lunch today). I used evaporated fat free milk, plus some regular cheddar. It's creamy, but light.

Kim O'Donnel: And another....


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Any experience with Meyer lemons? I keep hearing how great they are, but haven't a clue what to do with them. Thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: Meyer lemons are indeed wonderful jewels of the earth. They have a sweeter, more mellow flavor, which allows for eating out of hand. Are you lucky enough to have some? They have a short growing season in Florida, and when we get them up north, they're quite pricey. You can make the most wonderful lemon curd of your life, toss them into salads, preserve a bunch for later use...other thoughts?


Divine Ms. K, Arlington re: Buffalo Wings: The best way I've found to make buffalo wings a bit healthier is to use kitchen shears to snip off as much of the extra skin and fat off the wings as possible ... particularly the little fatty pockety-thing on the drummette part and the connecting skin from the other half.

Bake on a rack at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, turning once, until crispy and browned and lots of the fat has rendered out. Toss with a scant coating of hot sauce mixed with melted butter (as little of it as you can get away with and still have them coated). Use a commercial reduced fat blue cheese dressing, or make your own with yogurt, or low fat mayo.

Psst: There's a great lower-fat mac and cheese recipe in A New Way to Cook, by Sally Schneider ... Macaroni and Cheese (Recipezaar.com)

Kim O'Donnel: Miz K, to the buffalo rescue. Sounds good, dear, and thanks for the Schneider tip; I have her other book as well.


Cheddar without dead-animal rennet: Oregon's legendary Tillamook Cheese sells Kosher Cheddar made without dead-animal rennet. I've seen it sold by mail, but perhaps it's also available at a local Kosher market.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for this very useful tidbit.


Vienna, Va.: I thought most commercial cheese (like Kraft) used artificial rennet these days anyhow.

Kim O'Donnel: I don't know the answer to this question off the top of my head, but I am happy to dig and let you know what I learn.


Re Knife sharpeners:1.I've read that you should only use a few strokes on each side when honing a blade before each use. It's also important to make sure you're using the correct angle (around 20 degrees). 2.The Chef's Choice electric sharpener (I think it's model 130, but there may be a newer version) is consistently rated the best sharpener out there, by Cook's Illustrated and a few other cooking sites. 3. If knives are losing their edge it could also be cutting technique and surface that may be dulling them.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for this very handy first-hand report.


Winter empties: Don't know what it is about the season that makes me feel more hungry, even when I've already eaten plenty. Other than soups, which I do make, do you have any suggestions for tasty food that has some volume to it to help tamp down the sense of hunger? I eat anything, though am looking for something other than additional amounts of pasta, brown rice ...

Kim O'Donnel: Citrus makes me feel satisfied. It's a great energy picker upper, but the fiber makes me feel full. Try a tangelo, for starters...


Baltimore, Md.: Kim -- I can't get enough oranges lately but have a question about different varieties. I want something juicy and without huge seeds. I generally take a sniff at the supermarket and throw whatever smells and looks good into my bag. Any suggestions on a juicy variety that doesn't have big seeds?

Kim O'Donnel: Tangelos are very juicy,and seedless, right? Bridal brain like a sieve at the moment. Clementines seedless but not always super juicy.


Arlington, Va.: Re: uses for pomegranite molasses, don't forget the wonderful dip Muhammara (Red Pepper-Pomegranate Molasses-and-Walnut Dip). It should be easy to find a good recipe on the Internet -- e.g., epicurious.com has one.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes! Excellent. thanks for adding to this thread, dear.


Puff mama: Hello Kim and Chowhounds!

One of my resolutions is to explore different things in the produce department. I bought some lovely fennel and Belgian endive but I'm not sure what to do with them. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Puff! It's been a while. Fennel is great, thinly sliced, with any kind of citrus, as part of a salad. I am partial to arugula or watercress for this combo. Squeeze the citrus on top for dressing, too. You can also stuff whole fish with fennel, roast it and fry it, as part of a Italian fritto misto...Endive in my opinion needs a dip. Something mousse-y.


Tillamook fan: I find it Kosher Tillamook in most stores -- Whole Foods to Safeway.

Kim O'Donnel: Great. Such a useful nugget for our rennet-concerned friends.


Rennet: Thanks for the clarification. Certainly most vegetarians eat cheese -- I do myself. One of the destinctions between vegans and vegetarians is that vegetarians eat 'animal byproducts' and vegens don't. You can get veggie rennet, but rennet itself isn't an animal byproduct. Sorry to be picky - it's a problem I have with terminology. So many people I know who eat fish call themselves vegetarian where technically they're not. Some call themselves aquatarians or pescatarians. I like that. Our language on this is still evolving.

Kim O'Donnel: You should join the monthly vegetarian chat, last Thursday of the month. I make very clear that the entire hour is devoted strictly to meatless fare -- no exceptions.


Arlington, Va.: I have been eating more fish lately in an attempt shed a few pounds. How can I make baked or grilled fish more interesting.

Kim O'Donnel: Tell me what kinds of fish you fancy, and we can help.


Vegetarian cheese: There's also a listing of vegetarian cheeses here:

Cheese Joyous Living

Kim O'Donnel: Terrific. I'll have to take a look at this after the show.


Charles Town, W.Va.: Kim,

I made a whole chicken in the pressure cooker last night. I now have a good bit of leftover chicken and some stock. I am looking for some easy recipes to use with the leftovers. Maybe a crockpot soup? Can you help me?


Kim O'Donnel: That chicken might like to be teamed up with a bed of rice pilaf or some barley, dear. And use the stock to flavor your grain. Add a quickly wilting green like spinach or chard at the end. It'll be a great leftovers extravaganza.


Endive: I stuffed Belgian Endive leaves with curried chicken salad and served it at a cocktail party. It received many thumbs up. The bitterness and crunch of the endive worked well with the tanginess of the curry and the sweetness of the raisins.

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, endive really begs to be stuffed. Good call.


Fennel and Endive:: Both are delicious braised in the oven too by the way. I'm sure there are some searchable recipes out there!

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. Actually, I have roasted endive, with walnuts and blue cheese. Need to track down that recipe.


Washigton, D.C.: Hi Kim. This weekend I tried poaching an egg in a small saucepan filled with 2-3 inches of water. When I cracked the egg into the pan it immediately sunk to the bottom, stuck there and most of the white flew off the egg. What did I do wrong? Was the water not boiling hard enough? Was there not enough water in the pan? Thanks for doing these chats!

Kim O'Donnel: Did you add a wee bit of vinegar to your water? This should be just the remedy...


Breakfast on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I've long dreamed of cooking up a savory breakfast muffin, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I envision something with spinach, cheese -- maybe a cornbread base, or whole wheat? I want something that dosen't need refrigeration, but that could deliver some nutrients in the morning in a quick, portable package.

Any thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh. I have some terrific ideas from Beth Hensperger, whose bread books I love. I will have to follow up later, but definitely have this on the to-do list for the blog.


Baked Fish Fancier: The fish person should get into parchment packets -- you julienne a few veggies, pitted kalamata olives are good here too, pour a little bit of wine/soy sauce/vinegar and a few drops of oil on them, toss in some herbs, and seal the fish inside with the goodies by folding the paper, crumpling it -- my mom uses staples or paper clips. Then bake in the oven and you have a delicious one-dish treat.

Kim O'Donnel: Parchment packets are a brilliant idea. I couldn't agree more. Perfect for weeknight suppers, too.


Egg Poach Problem.: Stirring the water before and after you drop the egg helps.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. Never tried that trick.


Blog, blog glorious blog: And we cannot wait for each installment, thank you!

washingtonpost.com: Blog: A Mighty Appetite

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. And a big hug back to you, dear. It's nice to know the blog resonates.


Tillamook Kosher: I think I've also seen this in Trader Joe's.

Kim O'Donnel: Another sighting for this non-animal rennet brand of cheese...


Arlington, Va. again: I like fresh tuna, orange roughy, shrimp and am willing to try other kinds as well as long as I know how to season and prepare them.

Kim O'Donnel: Yours is one of a handful of basic fish questions that need more time to answer. I'm going to put them in a file and respond at length in a blog entry in very near future. Hang tight.


Arlington, VA: Take it from this University@Buffalo alumni, if you're making Buffalo wings, the sauce is supposed to be half Franks hot sauce, half melter butter, tossed in sloppy proportions with the fried wings and served with celery (the only healthy part) and chunky blue cheese. As you can see, this isn't a healthy recipe.

You can bake the wings without a huge loss in flavor, but changes to the sauce pretty much make them something other than Buffalo wings. Doesn't mean they won't be tasty... but that's up to you.

Kim O'Donnel: I love it. Please check Friday's blog for all things Super Bowl...


Syrian Lentils???: The WP search engine didn't pull it up--Help!

Kim O'Donnel: Ah -- but you didn't check my handy dandy recipe index! Go here (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/2007/01/recipe_index.html) and you shall be rewarded....


Where is Denton?: North of Ft. Worth, TX. It is where I-35E (through Dallas) and I-35W (through Ft. Worth) recombine.

Also has a wide variety fo Indian food, North TX Univeristy, and TX Women's University among other things.

Kim O'Donnel: Beautiful. I love to know where my readers come from...


Re: Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Honey, you may not feel like eating a THING for a few days and then the soft foods are best. Soups are wonderful as long as you don't have to 'chew' but by the weekend you should be rare and to go for a Super Bowl bash.

Good Luck!

Kim O'Donnel: Or at least, some French onion dip, sans chips...


New York, N.Y.: Kim -- help me make dinner tonight! I have rice noodles, green beans, and carrots. Also soy sauce and sesame oil. I know I need to stop off to get a protein (I'm thinking beef for the BF, but what cut?)-- how do I jazz it all up? I love the chili shrimp, btw. Something along those lines would be great.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey New York, you could do a variation of the fried rice that's become a regular feature on my home menu...you can make variations as needed, and you'll see, I use shredded egg rather than any meat at all. See what you think.


Kim O'Donnel: Okay, time to run. Great fun with you today. See you in blog land, every weekday. Til next!


washingtonpost.com: Recipe Index


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