What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Tuesday, March 27, 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.

The transcript follows.


Kim O'Donnel: Hello there! feels like summer here today, and I'm almost tempted to pull out the grill. A coupla spring holidays coming around the bend -- Passover, which begins at sundown this Monday, which segues into Easter week. In today's blog, I've got a great recipe for a Passover cake that doesn't break a tooth, so have a looksee. And I hope to offer some more ideas this week as folks make preparations for either feast in the coming days. Also, this Thursday, at 1ET, I've my monthly meat-free chat-a-rama, so stop by if you can. And now, let's hear what's on your minds...


Boston, MA: Hey Kim, just picked up some berbere spice mix. I'd love to make those tasty lentils they have at Ethiopian restaurants. What kind of beans should I use (I was thinking red lentils)? Cooking liquid/cooking times? (I won't be online for the chat.) Thanks for the help!

Kim O'Donnel: You can certainly use red lentils, but it all depends on the texture you're looking for. Red lentils practically puree themselves, so you'll have a soupier result than say, if you chose green or brown lentils. I'd add some garlic, fresh ginger and onions to the mix, as well as some cumin, in addition to the berbere, which usually includes chiles, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice...for starters. Lentils, if not old, take no more than 40 minutes to cook through, sometimes less.


Arlington, VA: Hi Kim,

Due to a lobotomy performed on my computer, I have lost the fabulous blueberry buckle recipe. I tried WP's new recipe search, but no luck. Could you post it once again, or, better yet, get it added to the Post recipe data base? Thanks so much.

washingtonpost.com: Recipe: Mama's Blueberry Buckle

Kim O'Donnel: I'm hoping that in coming months, the recipes from my blog will be included in the Food section's new whiz-bang recipe finder. I will keep you posted on that front. Meanwhile, you can keep current with Mighty Appetite recipes in a hand-built index that I created.


Washington, DC: I picked up some turnips recently, because I had some recollection that they were healthy veggies. I roasted them in a bit of oil - not bad. But any inspirations for other recipes? I realize they are out of season, now.

Kim O'Donnel: Turnips are still here; in fact, I've some golden turnips in my fridge that I need to use. I like them mashed with potatoes...and I like to slice them thin with other root veg, and do a gratin thing in a small cast-iron skillet.


DC - espresso powder?: My question is about espresso powder. I have my own coffee grinder with an espresso setting... if I grind a Tblspn of my favorite coffee on the espresso setting, can i use that in place of that gross crystallized stuff you can buy at the supermarket? would it be ok to just sprinkle that into your banana muffins or a chocolate cake recipe instead of buying something different?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, it's ok, but I'd probably adjust amounts, as the real-deal espresso will be more potent. Reduce a smidge.


Glover Park, DC: So, I have a whole chicken brining in the fridge as of about 9pm last night, but given the temperature today, I am reluctuant to have my oven on for an hour roasting the chicken, and would rather use my grill for the first time this season! Problem is, every brining recipe I see lists the maximum time for the chicken to brine as 24 hours. Would it be safe to have it stay in the fridge one more night and roast it tomorrow? Or do I really have to cook it tonight? Thanks for any advice, love love love the chats!!!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, it's fine to wait til tomorrow; the brining buys you a little extra time. Is it that hot out already?


Organic Gal: Found the most absolutely beautiful baby bok choi at my co-op yesterday. I generally chop and stir-fry them with a bit of rice vinegar, soy, and sesame oil. But, as wonderful as that tastes, I'm in the mood to expand my horizons. Do you have any baby bok ideas for me?

Kim O'Donnel: Baby bok choi-- that could be a great name for a band. I cut some up as part of a veggie fried rice last night, but I'm guessing you want something outside of the wok universe? It's wonderful in soup -- and the green parts are tender enough to steam on their own in a hot broth.


New York, NY: In honor of Passover, do you or any of the other chatters have a recipe for Sephardic charoset made with dates instead of apples (a combination of nuts and friut mixed with wine)? We had some made by our Yemni teach awhile back, but I've never been able to find a recipe online.

Kim O'Donnel: Just thumbing through Marge Piercy's book, "Pesach for the Rest of Us," (mentioned in blog today) and she's suggesting any combination of almonds, pistachios, dates, raisins, dried figs, sesame seeds, ground ginger, cinnamom and cardamom, depending on your tastes, arguing that "there is no correct Charoset." Others have thoughts?


Arlington, VA: I have a cauliflower. I was thinking of roasting it, but I'm not sure how. And what other veggies can I throw in to roast with it? Help! It was one of my impulse veggie purchases.

Kim O'Donnel: Have a look at this recipe for spiced roasted cauliflower, and make sure you check the link on that page to a recipe I adore, that includes anchovies, garlic, raisins, pinenuts, white wine...


College Park, MD: When I cook beans at home (say black beans for Cuban beans and rice, or pinto beans for beans to serve with chili) they are never as good as restaurant beans (I mean the beans they put on your plate at almost any Mexican or Cuban restaurant). I don't expect to recreate every restaurant dish at home, but c'mon ... beans?? I've tried lots of different recipes, and I'm always disappointed. Is it a secret ingredient (lard, lots of salt) that cookbook writers avoid (or possibly I've ignored recipes that use these), or is it because they keep the bean pot bubbling for days? or something else?

Kim O'Donnel: One thing that always helps is to salt those beans close to the end of cooking. If you do it early, the beans harden up like marbles, and you'll be sad. I also think a hearty beginning with onions, garlic and fresh chiles is helpful, plus ample spices stirred into the aromatics. Too much liquid screws up a pot of beans, but then again, you need enough to keep from drying out. I am planning a big bean extravaganza, as I've just ordered a bunch of heirloom beans online for testing and experimentation. Stay tuned.


Washington, DC: Easter also makes me think of coconut cake...any "to die for" recipes that you would recommend or in your back pocket?

Kim O'Donnel: I did a coconut cake back in the winter, but it's chocolate on the inside. Still interested?


Baby Bok idea: Could you not slice down the middle, brush with oil, and grill? Sort of a coastal Mexican feel...

Kim O'Donnel: You most certainly could...and I'm thinking sesame oil would be lovely.


Rockville, MD: Help!! It's my friend's birthday this weekend, and I was thinking of baking her a cake (or some such). But the problem is that she is allergic to EVERYTHING: nuts, eggs, lactose, and gluten. Oh, and she's supposed to be "watching her sugar" too. Thoughts, ideas, comments?

Kim O'Donnel: The first thing that comes to mind are these brownie bites that are not only gluten-free but vegan. And they are pretty darn tasty. Now don't tell me she's got issues with chocolate...


Mediterranean Veg: Kim -- I'm chowing down on the fruits of this chat -- arab flatbread, and lamb kebabs, tabbouleh, and hummus made from the book you or a chatter recommended (Rodin's Arabesques). I'm loving the flavors, but find two things:

1. The lemon-heavy dishes can leave my tongue feeling sore the next day (know any remedies?)

2. Aside from the pureed-style appetizers, there aren't many veg dishes in the book, and I crave them. Any suggestions for an easy mostly-veg middle eastern side dish to complement these lovely vittles?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there -- wonder if there's a reaction to all the citrus...is there a budding allergy? A great accompaniment to Rodin's book is "mediterranean vegetables" by Clifford Wright,who's a culinary historian as well, so you get lots of great background info on dishes and ingredients.


Arlington, Va: I am cooking my own Birthday Dinner, in an attempt to prove to my dad that I can actually cook. I want to make some sort of roast beast and root veggies. I am thinking Lamb, my question is bone in or boneless? I am leaning towards boneless, but I want to way my options. Do you have any recipes you recommend? Thanks a bunch!

Kim O'Donnel: I am going to be roasting a leg of lamb -- without the bone -- this week. It's a recipe that I plan to share in blog space. Can you wait a few days?


Dayton, OH: Hi! I've started getting flatiron steaks every couple of weeks, and am looking for new marinades or dry rubs to use before I throw it on the grill. I did mustard seed and home-grown dried basil, but that was only so-so. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: See what you think of this take, using an Asian-y marinade. It's one of my go-to combos for steak, particularly for the flatiron, which needs a little coaxing. Glad you discovered this cut of meat!


Columbus, OH: I always make this cake for seders. Very moist and NO MATZO involved.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

7 oz semi sweet chocolate

1/2 cup unsalted margarine

7 eggs, seperated

l cup sugar

1 teaspoon Passover vanilla

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and margarine over barely simmering water.

Stir until smooth.

Whisk the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until pale yellow and fluffy - about 5 minutes.

When chocolate is cooled, stir into yolk mixture.

Add vanilla.

Beat the whites with the lemon juice until soft peaks form.

Add the remaining sugar, slowly, l Tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff but NOT dry.

Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture.

Pour 3/4 of the batter into a 9" springform pan.

Cover and refrigerate the remaining batter.

Bake the cake at 325 F for 35 minutes.

Cool completely, but cake will fall.

Remove spring form pan and spread remaining batter on top.

Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Best made a day ahead.

Other options are chocolate or lemon mousse or chocolate dipped fruit.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, Columbus, and if you can, share this in today's blog!


Dublin, Ireland: Hello Kim! I'm a vegetarian having some trouble keeping things exciting with tofu. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can make flavorful Asian-style tofu dishes at home, without all the oil and MSG that goes into my favorite take-away dishes? Thanks a million!

Kim O'Donnel: Hiya Dublin, I think it's great fun to marinate cubed tofu and then put it on skewers, for the grill. Put your favorite vegies on other skewers, and then when it's time to eat, mix them up on your plate. It's key to drain the tofu before marinating, and some folks swear by freezing the stuff. More thoughts on tofu?


Chokes vs Gus: Are there ways to cook the artichokes on the grill that doesn't require them to be boiled/steamed first? Could I steam the 'chokes in the microwave? I love them equally. Thank gawd for Trader Joes frozen 'chokes.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting question. I would say if you sliced baby chokes in half, lengthwise, removed the fuzz, then lathered up with oil, you most certainly could give this method a whirl. Worth a shot.


New York, NY: This isn't exactly a cooking question, but I need an idea of what to buy for lunch today. I have a cold and am miserable, and I feel like I should be eating healthily to try and buck up my immune system. (I've been sick for a month straight, thanks to bronchitis.) I'll scream if I eat any more chicken soup. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Curry. You need curry. Chop, chop, there's no time to waste. Call me in an hour, and let me know how you're feeling.


Arlington, VA: For the person looking for a haroset with dates; here's one with dates, apricots and apples. I usually skip the kosher wine and add sherry or fruit juice.


4 oz dried apricots

4 oz pitted dates

2 oz blanched slivered almonds

4 medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and quartered

1 large navel orange, quartered

1 2" piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup Kosher sweet wine (or replace with sweet wine, sherry or fruit juice)

1 Tablespoon honey

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons matzo meal

In food processor; place apricots, dates, almonds, apples, orange and ginger in processor workbowl. Pulse until finely chopped; do not allow mixture to become a paste. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Add wine, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Add matzo meal, if necessary, to make a mortar-like consistency.

Refrigerate, covered for up to 6 hours.

Makes 24 servings (2 Tablespoons each)

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, and I think the original reader who wanted no apples, could just omit...


Baby Bok: My favorite style is right out of Deb Madison. You slice them in half lengthwise, rinse, soak in cold water for 15 mins, then simmer in water for 5-7. Top with a couple drops of sesame oil and/or soy sauce. Divine, and makes you remember that you're eating a VEGETABLE since they're nearly whole.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely idea. Thanks for sharing!


Vienna, VA: To the person w/ the chicken...why not butterfly it and cook it on the grill, or better yet, mount it on a half-full beer can and grill it that way?

Kim O'Donnel: The butterflied chicken is a genius idea. Good work, Vienna.


Baltimore, Md.: What might be a good side dish for supper tonight, korean short ribs? Of course white rice, but beyond that I want something I can pull together from the scraps at home. I have some kale, brussel sprouts, canned baby corn, romaine, frozen corn.... pickins are slim...

Kim O'Donnel: Kale would be nice, roasted...or brussels could be shredded then tossed with olive oil, thrown into a skillet and thrown under the broiler. I'll be over at six...


Re: Mediterranean veg: The cookbook "Fat-Free Vegetarian" (can't remember the author now!) has a great recipe for roasted vegetable lavash wraps -- roasted onion, fennel, squashs, and other veggies with a nice yogurt sauce served with lavash wraps for a sort of Middle Eastern fajita.

Also, any version (there are many!) of seven-vegetable couscous would be great here -- and it's obscenely easy. (I omit the meat, but you don't have to.) Big chunks of carrot, tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, onion, raisins, etc...all simmered with ginger, cinnamon, cumin, fennel etc until fork-tender, then served over couscous. Perfect with some harissa (hot tomato-onion sauce). I got my recipe from Sally Squires' Lean Plate Club, but there are a million variations.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, and to this list, I'd suggest Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian."


Chicago: To New York, New York, wanting to make a different charoset:

I don't know where you are in the city, but when I lived in NYC I bought my charoset supplies at Kalustyan's on Lex at 28th. They have an amazing bulk dried fruit mix that contains dates, figs, apricots, and a few other goodies. Also lots of different nuts in bulk. (I put pecans in my charoset, at the request of my southern mother-in-law.)

I miss that place so much and try to venture back whenever I'm in NYC.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for being a good virtual neighbor, Chicago!


Arlington, VA: Just wanted to weigh in on the Rodin book "Arabesque." I couldn't wait to check it out from the library, but I must say, I'm really disappointed. It's a lovely collection of recipes but not much more. I also have several Paula Wolfert book, and over the weekend, I sat down and compared tagine recipes. The Wolfert ones are detailed and exact -- Rodin's are vague. Same for the dessert recipes, which by their nature, should be detailed. A good cookbook to me is one that combines recipes with technique. If I didn't already know how to braise lamb, for example, Rodin's book wouldn't be much help. Just my two cents.

Kim O'Donnel: And your two cents are very valuable. I too like Paula Wolfert's titles...and fyi, Claudia's last name is Roden.


Chokes: I can vouch for the grilled choke method -- I usually quarter, remove the hair, douse in citrus to prevent browning, lather with oil and grill over high heat. The texture is different from steamed stuff -- it's firmer and creamier, but still amazingly delicious.

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


Washington, DC: If a recipe calls for minced or chopped garlic, is it ok to pound it with a mortar/pestle or sqeeze it through a garlic press instead of mincing/chopping? The garlic consistency is quite different, but isn't the taste the same in the dish?

Kim O'Donnel: I really like to pound with a mortar and pestle. I do it a lot if I'm concerned about garlic burning. The garlic press I am less impressed by -- it takes away a lot of the good stuff. Use that mortar!


Baltimore, MD: I am going to make a chicken curry for my chicken Passover dish. (It's make ahead and can be kept warm in a crock pot during the Seder.) I'm planning to do a mix of spring veggies and chicken with a tomato sauce base, but I don't know what to add to the dish to give it some richness and to help balance the spices. I don't want to do cream or yogurt because they are dairy and it wouldn't be Kosher. I also can't do tofu or any kind of beans for both Kosher for Passover and allergy reasons. So, any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: I have a dairy-free chicken curry that will knock those Kosher socks off. It's loaded with cilantro, garlic, chiles and ginger. Interested?


Baltimore, Md.: I can't make the seder but am sending along desserts, which I have to finish today. I already made Nigella Lawson's clementine cake (similar to your apple cake) -- it's in the freezer -- and I was wondering if a chocolate torte made from chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar could be frozen too.

Kim O'Donnel: Balto, that apple cake also comes from Nigella! I've never frozen a chocolate torte. Let's ask if anyone has done this with success...


Culinary Student in Honolulu: NY, NY might want to check out the Bon Appetit pod cast

from a couple of weeks ago about Passover where they

talked about Passover recipes - and I think the recipes are in

the April issue.

Kim O'Donnel: thanks, Honolulu!


Arlington, VA: To the chatter who wrote in about brining -- from what I've read, 48 hours is too long for brining a chicken. The bird will be too salty, and the long brine affects the texture of the meat. The cookbook "Charcuterie" has a nice piece on recommended brining times, and it always cautions to error on the side of too short than too long.

On the other hand, might be educational to go ahead and brine for the 48 hours and see what you think. After all -- you'll LEARN something, and then you can proceed w/out doubt next time.

Kim O'Donnel: You raise some good points. I guess I answered too quickly because a lot depends on the brine -- how intensely salty it is, for instance, and if it contains other aromatics. Also, size of bird. But I agree with you -- the only way to find out is to get your hands into the mix and find out firsthand.


Lothian, MD: For coconut cake -- Try the Barefoot Contessa's (Ina Garten) recipe for coconut cupcakes and make them as a cake instead. The cake is a wonderful yellow cake with coconut in the batter (also, 3 sticks of butter). You can find the recipe at foodtvnetwork.com and search for the above.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for following up on this thread...yikes! 3 sticks of butter?


Baltimore, MD: Yes, I am very interested in the dairy free Chicken Curry.

Kim O'Donnel: This lemony-cilantro curry is a staple in my house; I make it at least once a month, if not more.


Washington, DC: Any suggestions for wheat and gluten free meals or cookbooks? I am stuck in a rut and need a change. Love the blog!

Kim O'Donnel: The cake I wrote about in today's blog is made with almond meal, which makes it gluten free. In past few months, received a title, "Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating" by Jules E.D. Shepard, which I plan to future in coming days. Stay tuned.


Kim O'Donnel: Lots of unanswered questions, and I'm sorry to do that. Time to run. You've given me a few great ideas to follow up on in the blog space, so thanks and stay tuned! Take good care, and stop by Thursday at 1ET for meat-free medley. All best.


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