What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 6, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Deep-freeze greetings from the nation's capital! Yikes, it's crazy cold. How are you folks handling the sudden Siberian climate change? Me, I'm dabbling in pot pie and other body-warming treats. Fyi, sharing the culinary luv is the focus of my Valentine's Day special, this Thursday, Feb. 8, at 1pm. Join in; there will plenty of candy hearts to go 'round. And now, let's turn up those burners...

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Oakland, Calif.: Hi Kim -- I made your queso dip from the blog for the Super Bowl, and I and my guests loved it (I especially loved it, I declared a few times "I'm in love with this cheese dip!"). I cut the recipe in half (since it was a small party), and instead of using canned chilis, I used one fresh jalepeno that I roasted (on my gas stove) and peeled and chopped, and some minced non-roasted jalepeno. Also, as I commented in the blog, I don't have a microwave, but it worked great to reheat this on the stove (I just put it back in the pot and heated on low and stirred a few times). Yum!

And now my question: one of my New Year'sresolutions was to waste less, so what do I do with all of the celery leaves that I chopped off to make celery sticks (to go with the wings for the Super Bowl)? They're now in my fridge awaiting your advice.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Oakland, glad you enjoyed and that you found ways to improvise. Your idea to roast a chile is brilliant, thanks for your report. As for those leftover celery leaves, throw them in a pot as part of a veggie stock -- add a quartered onion, some garlic cloves, peppercorns, parsley if you have it.

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Lima, Ohio: Thank you for taking my question! This isn't really about food per see as much as it is about food presentation. I find I am hostessing parties that feature "buffet spreads" about six times a year. These are casual parties ... book clubs, bunco groups, football games. However, while they are casual, I feel my serving ware isn't making the grade. I use a lot of mismatched platters, serving dishes, etc. While I don't care for "matchy matchy" items, I do like an overall feel of cohesiveness. I like pottery mixed with stoneware mixed with different tiered racks for height, etc. I'm ready to start upgrading. While I don't think these parties warrant silver and chaffing dishes, I do feel they need a classier feel. How would you suggest I start my collection? Do I start with a color scheme? A variety of shapes/sizes? If you advise that I just "buy what I like" I'd respond by saying that is how I got here ... with my hodge-podged effect. I need a plan!

Kim O'Donnel: Hi Lima, I too don't care for "matchy matchy" -- learned by example from my mom and am more creative, as a result. If you're ready to start upgrading, why not start looking at catalogues as well as local pottery galleries. Don't worry about color scheme until you get inspired. Perhaps it would help to write down what's important -- weight of dishes, color, price, glaze, solid or pattern...take inventory of what you have and be realistic about whether certain pieces are necessary or if you're missing something from your current collection. Other thoughts for this hostess in Lima?

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Southern P.G.: Kim,

This is an ongoing discussion between my husband and me ... please settle this. After you cook something, how long does it need to cool (if any time) before refrigerating it? And, should it be transfered to a cool dish OR can you use what you cooked it in even if its still hot?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey P.G., cooked food definitely needs to cool before going into the fridge. Hot food in a cold fridge space does harm to the fridge, upsets the internal temperature and impacts that of the rest of the food. I would transfer my food from hot dish to a plastic container as well.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

Can you freeze small leftover bits of produce to make soup stock? Do you have to blanch produce before freezing? I like Oakland, am trying not to waste anything, but sometimes don't have enough veggie bits all at once.

Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Sure you can. The only glitch with freezing scraps is that we forget about them and they get lost in the dark corners of the freezer...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I enjoy these chats and often forward them to another foodie, my brother, in Detroit.

Anyway, are you aware of any monthly supper clubs, preferably vegetarian, in the D.C. area? I'm thinking along the lines of those featured in Cooking Light.

Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm not aware of anything, but if I were looking I'd give a call to the Vegetarian Society of DC, as well as the Vegetarian Resource, based in Baltimore. Veg Society does a lot of community events on ongoing basis.

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Arlington, Va.: An Irish spare rib recipe calls for 1/4 cup chicken demi-glace in the sauce. It even recommends Williams-Sonoma, but that's $29/jar. Is there anything out there that's cheaper and would suit? I've seen at the supermarket "chicken base" under the label Better than Bouillion by Superior Touch. Is this an adequate substitute, and does it measure the same as demi-glace? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: That's crazy, you don't need to spend 29 bucks for a container of demi-glace. I'm pretty sure that Whole Foods sells in its frozen area a variety of demi glace, for less than $10. You also could make stock and let it reduce, reduce,until you have something nice and thick and full of collagen.

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Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C.: I have leftover mashed sweet potatoes. Other than warmed up w/marshmallows on top, what can I make with it?

Kim O'Donnel: I might whip up a batch of black beans, just love the pairing of black beans and sweets. Veg could be braised bok choy or chard...roasted peppers...a pot of quinoa...

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For Oakland: Keep a gallon zippered baggie in the freezer -- onion skins, carrot shavings, and celery leaves all go in there, so you can make stock anytime without buying extra veggies.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, here's a vote for the freezer bag of soup scraps...

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Washington, D.C.: What to do with leftover cornbread from our Super Bowl party? It just doesn't taste as good after the first day ... any suggestions? Can I freeze it?

Kim O'Donnel: It's probably not worth freezing. You could make a stuffing, to go with poultry, or with roasted veg..hmmm, who's got leftover cornbread ideas?

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Hopkinsville, Ky.: You wouldn't believe how I found your blog ... by searching Key West Blogs. I too just returned from K.W. and am freezing. Your Pot Pie will be on our table tomorrow night believe -- it sounds wonderful.

My question is I'm planning my herb garden, another way to mentally get warm and I need to know the best way to preserve herbs for use in the winter. Is there another way besides drying them?

Kim O'Donnel: wonderful! Welcome to our online fiesta, Hopkinsville. Keep me posted on your pot pie plans. Re: preserving herbs in winter: some folks prescribe to the ice cube method -- and keep a freezer bag handy of "basil cubes" as well as cilantro, lovage, etc. I just rescued my rosemary plant a few days ago and brought her indoors and use as I need. Let's ask the others what they do to keep the herb luv alive in the winter...

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Silver Spring, Md.: Kim,

Made a yummy winter meal yesterday and thought I'd share --sauerkraut with apples and smoked sausage. Thinly slice one onion and saute until quite brown in vegetable oil (or bacon fat if you'd rather). Add one pound of sauerkraut; two apples, peeled, cored, and thinly slice; one teaspoon caraway seeds; and 1/4 c. water or apple cider. Simmer for a few minutes, then add smoked sausage (kielbasa or the like) cut into chunks and nestle in the kraut. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Before serving add brown sugar to taste (1-2 tablespoons) and check for seasoning. I served this with boiled potatoes and a green salad. Make sure your sausage is a good one. I used a full fat pork kielbasa from Whole Foods, which had wonderful flavor. I just used less of it to keep the meal more heathy. Wonderfully warm and comforting meal.

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds like a sure-fire warmer upper, Silver. Thanks for your first-hand report, good stuff.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Hi Kim, my wife and I could not cook when we got married five years ago. But we made an effort to become better cooks. We have gotten better with each year. I have developed a passion for gourmet cooking and I see a lot TV chefs use chicken stock. What exactly does using chicken stock do to help a dish? I want to try something different for Valentine's day instead of going out into crowded busy restaurants. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: The key really is a seasoned liquid -- whether it's made from chicken or from veg, or anything inbetween. Chicken stock is more neutral than beef stock and tends to be richer than veg stock. But I'll tell you, I use veg stock a lot more frequently than I do chick stock -- and here's why -- it takes about 30 minutes to make, in very impromptu fashion. And it's clean, no fat, no scum. It's nice.

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Alexandria, Va.-leftover cornbread: Crumble up and mix with some brown sugar ... perfect topping for a peach or apple cobbler to warm you up on these dreadfully cold days.

Kim O'Donnel: Oooh, that's a lovely idea...

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Washington, D.C.: To settle another food storage question ... How long is it safe to keep cooking meats (like chicken) out at room temperature. Say, if I have cooked chicken at lunch ... Can it stay out until dinner time?

Kim O'Donnel: It's not a great idea, even when it's cold. The danger zone is 40-140 degrees. Your lunch chicken will probably hover in the 40s after a while, and it's asking for opportunities to party with food-borne bacteria.

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For leftover sweet potatoes: Sweet potato quesadillas! Saute some onion with a jalapeno or red pepper flakes. Mix onions & mashed sweet potatoes with shredded monterey jack or cheddar, crumbled blue cheese and cilantro. Use this mix as filling between two tortillas and bake at 350 til cheese is melted. The basic recipe is from the Whole Foods cookbook. I don't really use or remember exact measurements but you could check there if you like to be more exact. I know the sweet potato quesadillas sound a little strange, but I never liked sweet potatoes before I tried them like this, and now I eat sweet potatoes in lots of ways.

Kim O'Donnel: This is a tasty idea...and I'm envisioning black beans tucked inside, as well...

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Iowa City, Iowa: Hi Kim. I have recently given up gluten and am wanting to experiment with polenta, but have no idea where to start. Is the stuff in tubes at the store acceptable, or is it worth making it from scratch? What are good toppings/pairings for polenta to make it a meal? We do eat meat and dairy.

Thank you so much for your help -- I'm anxious to explore the world of gluten-free dinner options!

Kim O'Donnel: Iowa, I would venture into homemade polenta on the weekend; it takes time and a bit of elbow grease which you may not up to during the week. Think it's worth trying, though; but let's ask the group its thoughts on store-bought tubed polenta...

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No freezing the cornbread?: I froze my lefovers. Is it going to be yucky when I use it?

Kim O'Donnel: No, I just meant that if it was stale already, why freeze?

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Washington, D.C.: Do you know of any Mediterranean grocery or specialty stores in the D.C. metro area?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. There's Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria and Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington. There's also something in Tenleytown, Mediterranean Deli, I believe...

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Puff Mama : Hi Kim,

Last week when I asked what to do with the Belgian endive I bought you suggested a dip, a mousse-y dip. Now, I make a mean tuna dip but somehow I don't think that's what you meant. Can you point me in the direction of a dip like that?

And even when I don't have a question I never miss a chat. I've learned so much from you and everyone else. Thanks for saving us from frozen dinners and take out!

Kim O'Donnel: Puff, I was thinking something salmon-y or trout-y, using a combo of smoked and poached fish...you could use butter and make a rillette-style spread..or you could use whipped cream and do more of a mousse...what's your pleasure? I also think it might be fun to try hummus in endive, as well as an eggplant-y kind of spread...

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Leftover dried chiles: How about what to do with my leftover dried chiles. I used a bunch in my chili this weekend, but now I've got about 6 dried chiles negros to use. I don't want anymore chili for awhile.

Will they keep for awhile? Or should I make a dip or sauce with them?

Kim O'Donnel: Keep them stored airtight and yes, they will keep. It's always nice to have a dried chile at your beck and call when you need it...you will need to toast and/or rehydrate before using...

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Left over cornbread: I like stale cornbread as cereal,just crumbled in a bowl and covered with milk.

Kim O'Donnel: The cornbread club is coming out of the woodwork...

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Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C.: Re: the leftover veggie bits. Soup is a great idea. Another option: I throw my slimy lettuce leaves and less desirable veggie scraps into my compost canister, which is later deposited into my compost bin. But I guess that works only if one has the yard for a compost bin!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. I pine for a yard big enough for such a bin...

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Re: refrigeration: Can you give us a rule of thumb on how long food should cool? It isn't safe to leave it out and forget about it either.

Kim O'Donnel: No, it's not. Depends on what you're making. Ideally, you should get that food down to 39 degrees, which can only happen if you place your hot dish into an ice bath. That's the safest way but not always realistic. short of that, keep taking its temperature. If you're well below 60 degrees, it can go in fridge.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Serving dishes:

One idea is to go to antique or thrift stores and buy platters/serving dishes from a certain era or part of the world.

Another (which is what I do)is to use family pieces. Nothing matches except for the fact that iss from the family.

Kim O'Donnel: I would prob go that route as well. sounds like reader wants something newer, tho. Hope she'll chime in.

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23112: I'm eating chicken pot pie RIGHT NOW. My wife's recipe is actually taken from Betty Crocker and is simple, hearty, and delicious. Peas, carrots, onion, and chunks of chicken, with a Pillsbury crust, and I could eat half a pie by myself if given the chance.

Kim O'Donnel: Serendipity! Thanks for sharing your lunch with us.

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River City: For this cold snap I made a southwestern soup with cubed chicken, pinto beans, corn, hominy and tomatoes.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for adding to the frosty thread. I love a soup that's chockful of stuff. Sounds good, River.

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Arlington, Va.: Cornbread pudding? That would be fantastic. Also, sweet potato biscuits as long as it's pretty much just the mashed sweets.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, cornbread pudding is a nice idea...

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Reston, Va.: I am thinking of joining a CSA for this year, and I know there are lists of available ones all over the Web. Is there any place that posts reviews of them, though? I have heard mixed things from friends who have joined them in the past, so I would like to hear what customers have to say before I shell out a rather large amount of money in advance.

Kim O'Donnel: This is a great idea, Reston. Of course there should be reviews of CSAs. Brilliant. Maybe we ought to get something started in blog space...right now, I know of no such source...

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Vienna, Austria: About leftover cornbread -- I've made a tomato sauce with lots of mushrooms, onions, herbs ... warmed up the cornbread in the oven, and ladled the sauce over slabs of the bread for a very comforting and quick meal.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed, Austria!

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Washington, D.C.: Belgian endive makes a fancy-looking but super simple appetizer if you put a dab of goat cheese and an orange segment into each leaf, then sprinkle with almonds and reduced balsamic vinegar. The hardest part is segmenting the orange and it is both impressive and delicious.

Kim O'Donnel: That sounds glam and a snap to make. Thanks!

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Chicken pot pie: I love making my chicken pot pie in a casserole dish that goes from oven to stove -- I do a drop biscuit topping on the top (not too fussy and easier than the pastry topping) -- it is really good. To me, fresh veggies are the key though!

Kim O'Donnel: I agree on the fresh veg, dear. And thanks for adding a variation to the topping...

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Cooling off: I've never used an ice bath, just wait an hour or so until cooked food gets close to room temp, 70ish, then put it in the fridge.

Waiting for it to reach 60 degress would never work, except for today when room temp in my office seems to be about 50 degrees.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm telling you guys what I learned in cooking school, and how it was used in some restaurant kitchens where I worked. Best thing is to your common sense.

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Snow Hill, Md.: Hi Kim,

I enjoy your column and will probably make your pot pie (with stuff in my own pantry/fridge) tonight. How about using puff pastry for the crust?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, of course! The idea here is to improvise, break out of the box. Keep me posted.

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Herbs in winter: Or any time, really. There's always three times as much in that clamshell from the supermarket as I need. So I prepare the whole package (wash, stem) and put whatever I don't use as whole leaves into those half-sized ziplock bags. I remove all the air (by sucking on the bag -- it looks silly, but it works) label, and toss in the freezer.

This works great for sturdy things like sage, thyme, oregano. Not sure how it would do for delicate basil leaves.

Kim O'Donnel: Great tip. And it doesn't sound silly at all...

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Food safety info: JIFSAN is a cooperative between the University of Maryland, the Food and Drug Admin and food safety industry experts. They sponsor a site for consumers at

( FoodRisk.org)

I'm not affiliated, and haven't researched it closely, but came across it a while ago.

Might be a good bookmark for all of us Kim-chatter-fans

Kim O'Donnel: I will look at it, too. Thanks for sharing.

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Washington, D.C. (a state of mind): Quick pot pie tip -- a handful of rice in the filling absorbs excess liquid and helps the pie keep its shape.

Kim O'Donnel: More good pot pie ideas...feel free to share these in the blog, too!

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Re Serving Pieces: Places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx have wonderful serving bowls and platters at reasonable prices. I would suggest buying mostly white, and add color with brightly colored or patterned linens, which can be coordinated with the event/season. Fresh flowers are always nice as well. I've found that I'm actually less bored with my white pieces, as they can be dressed up or down, than I am with the trendy pottery patterns that look dated in a few years.

Kim O'Donnel: This is the beginnings of a blog post, methinks...stay tuned.

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Washington, DC: Hi Kim, is there a way to make Tahini? I've been to several Giants and they don't seem to have it. I'll continue to look for it, but I have a falafel recipe I'd really like to make soon. Is there another substitute?

Kim O'Donnel: There is a way to make tahini, but it would be very time consuming and probably fairly unsatisfying. If your Giant doesn't carry it, check on Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, for starters.

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New Market, Md.: Hi Kim,

This cold weather has me in the mood for some really good roasted veggies. Other than potatoes with some onion chunks, what can I add that won't add liquid and turn it to soup?

Kim O'Donnel: Sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, celery root, carrots, herbs, olive oil.

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Terp in the Kitchen: Funny you should post the pot pie today...it's what I did while "working from home" yesterday. For some reason, people keep giving us whole turkeys. So hubby and I set aside dark meat for soups, etc., and then roasted the breast last week with a compound sage/rosemary butter. Yummy. Leftovers went into a pot pie yesterday:

Butter, olive oil in a hot pan.

Add very coarsely chopped carrots, onions, and celery. After a while, add a few bits of red potato. Let them get just barely soft, then remove from the pan.

Add the leftover butter/turkey gunk from roasting pan last week to pan. Once that's melted, add spoonfuls of flour as needed to make a roux.

Add stock (I used chicken) as necessary, flour, if needed, to make a whole bunch of sauce. Add white wine, if you have it. I also added some fresh thyme, again, 'cause I had it.

When you get the amount of sauce you want to the thickness you want, dump the veggies and chopped up leftover turkey to the sauce & mix thoroughly. Put in a casserole or baking dish, and top with whatever type of prepared dough floats your boat (I don't care how "bad for you" it is, I love Pillsbury crescent rolls). Bake until the top is golden, and YUM!

Hubby loved it.

Kim O'Donnel: Great first-hand report Terp...seems like great minds were thinking alike! And thanks for the details of yet another pot pie variation.

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Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for all the tasty tidbits. Time to run, however. Stay warm, and you've got love on the brain, shimmy on over Thursday at 1pm for a full hour of romantic notions. Til then.

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