What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, April 10, 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.

For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite. You may catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.


Kim O'Donnel: I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw snow falling last Friday night, and was feeling kind of sorry for myself, but when I heard from my pal in Dallas, where snow made an April appearance too, I didn't feel so bad. Weather misery always loves company, n'est-ce pas? I have no pity for brother Tim, who claims it was 'cool' in Key West -- whatever bro. You're drinking lemonade and we're drinking hot cocoa. Yeowch! I REALLY am looking forward to warmer days and tossing the indoor booties! The cooler temps have inspired me to cook pots of beans, the details of which I'll be sharing in the blog on Thursday. Has the change in weather brought on a hankering for stews and braises? Do tell. In fact, tell me all that is simmering in your worlds...


Vienna, Va.: Hi Kim, thanks for taking my questions. First, do you know of a good restaurant supply store in the area that sells to the public? Second, I'm looking for a good cake recipe either vanilla or lemon that would work as a birthday cake (and would be easily adaptable to 6-inch cake pans) do you have any ideas?


Kim O'Donnel: Hey Vienna, I think you may have to head up to Baltimore or Philly for such a store. Anyone who can prove me wrong? Re: cake: HOw do you feel about yellow cake?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim, fish curry question: I made one for the first time last night, and it was good but not great. I used cod, and a sauce of tikka paste, doctored with yogurt, low-sodium chicken stock, cardamom seeds, lots of fresh cilantro, cayenne, and cinnamon. I think I could have added a little more salt, but it was just a little blah. Any suggestions? I'm trying to incorporate more fish in my diet and I love Indian food!

Kim O'Donnel: Did you crack open those cardamom pods, so the seeds could do their magic? How old was the cayenne? Cilantro in this case should be used as a garnish at end. I might try coconut milk instead...and use yogurt at end, to swirl in, for extra richness. I think it's a little tricky to get the yogurt thing down the first time 'round. You have to worry about curdling. Also, did you drain the yogurt of water? Talk to me.


Rhubarb fool?: You mentioned that the rhubarb was pureed but I don't think I saw that step in the recipe -- so are you supposed to puree the rhubarb mix in the bottom?

I like rhubarb but not it's texture so that would be great! Thanks, Kim!

washingtonpost.com: Fooling With Rhubarb ( A Mighty Appetite, April 9)

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm...to me, the rhubarb is nearly pureed after being stewed, and I go over it with a potato masher to smooth it out a bit more.


Van Ness, Washington, D.C.: Kim, I made a nice lamb for Easter and we have a lot left. The leftovers are very rare, so I wonder whether I could simply roast the roast again. What might be a good temp? Should it be covered in foil or bare? Or is there another way to use that way -- pink lamb?

Kim O'Donnel: You could make a minty yogurt sauce and drizzle over meat after it's been reheated, and wrap into a naan or lavash, for a killer sandwich. You could mix with rice pilaf and make some spinach with pinenuts and raisins. If you decide to reheat, go easy, like 325 and keep an eye on it.


Penzey's Update: From Falls Church; I called Penzey's yesterday because any mention of their new stores in Falls Church and Rockville had disappeared from their Web site. Rockville (1048 Rockville Pike) is opening April 20th and will be open on Sundays. Falls Church (on West Broad, west of PO) is opening in late May.


Kim O'Donnel: This is great news and very useful. I need to get in touch with the Penzey folks so I can get a preview and share with y'all! Thanks much.


Kitty Hawk, N.C.: Good morning -- thanks for taking my question. I've been a very limited vegetable eater all my life -- I tried your Spiced Roasted Cauliflower recipe and I'm hooked! Do you have a similar magical recipe that will help me like broccoli?

Kim O'Donnel: You can roast brocc, too! Chop up some ginger and garlic and toss in with florets. Cayenne, salt, cumin, olive oil. Brocc gets all lathered up. 400 oven. Baking tray. Cook til desired tenderness. You'll love it.


Re: stews: I made Virginia Country Captain (curry chicken) from James Villas' book "Stews, Bogs and Burgoos."--River City

Kim O'Donnel: That's a good book that disappeared from my shelf a while back. So glad you warmed up with some Captain!


Cold in D.C.: I am in agreement with you on cooking some food to keep warm. I found a recipe for a Chicken Balti with Lentils and it was absolutely delicious and it kept me warm and satisfied this weekend. And I have to say living in Silver Spring makes it so easy to find the ingredients for various ethnic dishes.

Kim O'Donnel: I think you need to share this recipe, dear. I'm intrigued.


Alexandria, Va.: Interesting short piece in the N.Y. Times on Sunday about Nancy Silverton, quintessential California chef (Mediterranean-focused restaurant, student of Alice Waters, etc.) just publishing a cookbook focusing on the use of canned and other convenience ingredients to encourage people to start cooking at home again. This makes me wonder how some who have ragged continuously in many places (not just here) on Rachael Ray (who I agree is highly annoying) and other "convenience" chefs will take to this news. If one is trained by Alice Waters and doesn't use baby-language and acronyms does this make it okay? Or will she be subjected to the same fallout? And what is that line? Canned beans and tomatoes seem to be standard ingredients on this forum and for high-end home chefs; what is this difference between those and canned chicken?

Kim O'Donnel: Great point, and one I plan to discuss in my blog next week. Part of me thinks it's a great hook for a cookbook and that's what drove Silverton all the way to the bank. I wonder though if this is really the way she cooks on her day off. It's an interesting point of conversation; I certainly keep canned tomatoes and beans in my pantry, and I don't make my own viengar or butter. I hope to continue this thread in the blog. Stay tuned, and thanks for speaking up.


Charlotte, N.C.: Hi Kim, I just wanted to share my seasonal excitement with you. I know it's been a bit chilly the last couple weeks in D.C., and it has in Charlotte too, but my visit to my local farmers market this weekend got me very excited. There were some fantastic carrots, lots of different lettuces, delicious collard greens, green garlic, and the first aspargus of the year! It's a great time to hit the farmers market, as we can get some of the last of the cooler weather crops and some of the first of the warmer weather crops. Oh, the great recipes to be created!

Kim O'Donnel: That's the spirt, Charlotte! And that's the best way to inspire a bored cook. Thank you for your first-hand report. I am eager to get to the market this week and see what's happening.


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Because of the cold weather, I made your yummy mac and cheese with stewed tomatoes. It was hot, creamy, and really hit the spot. I used panko breadcrumbs for the first time as the upper crust, and they were fluffy and very delicious. Now I have some leftover panko, and wondered if you had a favorite recipe that will help me use the rest of my bag. Perhaps the upcoming veggie tempura?


Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, dear. If you eat meat, the panko is great as a crust for fish or chicken, and I love it sprinkled atop pasta as well as roasted cauliflower. I won't reveal too much, but I tried the panko on my tempura, and it was less than wonderful. Will fill you in tomorrow.


Oatmeal!: Kim, I'm sorry you're not feeling the oatmeal love! This is my tried and true way of getting even my oatmeal-hating husband to eat it.

First, I use at least half skim milk along with water when cooking (more milk is better but if you're looking at calories too go with a 50-50 ratio). You can use rice or soy milk too. I also use quite a bit more liquid than called for, about 50 percent more. Add a teeny pinch of salt and a generous dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Cook on the lowest heat possible -- my mother used to do it in the top of a double boiler, even. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, adding more liquid if needed until it's creamy like rice pudding. Add a good slug of vanilla.

Stir in chopped fresh or frozen fruit (frozen raspberries are my fave!), nuts, plumped dried fruit, whatever suits your fancy. Top with a bit more skim milk and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Steel-cut oats rather than rolled oats may make you happier if it's texture you don't like.

Kim O'Donnel: Well, if you must know, I had me a bowl of oatmeal this morning. and thanks for checking on me!


Wiengarten chat: Thank you for producing the Weingarten chat yesterday! That must have been quite a chore. Any thoughts of your own?

Kim O'Donnel: Gene is a force unlike no other. I had to lie down after that whopper. Oh wait, I couldn't, because I was producing Travel immediately thereafter. I think he still loves Liz more, though.


Washington, D.C.: I plan on making a Moroccan-themed birthday dinner for a friend in a couple weeks. The main dish will most likely be a lamb tagine with cous cous. Perhaps start off with a couple cold vegetable salads. I am a bread baker and would love to make a traditional bread, but might just buy it somewhere. Would love to make a bistilla, but don't think I want to do something that labor intensive. Dessert -- perhaps oranges with cinnamon? And mint tea of course, already have the glasses. Do you have any additional thoughts or guidance?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, it's really fun to make your own Arabic flat bread. I know it's not Moroccan per se, but I think it would work beautifully and everyone would be so impressed. Lamb tagine is great. I want something with chickpeas here. I want date cookies, perhaps. I want some olives...


College Park, Md.: For my warm-up after the unexpected storm I roasted eggplant, broc, red and green peppers, and served it up over spaghetti squash with a lemon sauce. Yummy, filling, and boy did it warm me up!

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, College Park. Keep these kitchen reports coming!


Cauli, FL: OOOOOHHHHHH, can you please direct me to your cauliflower recipe? We've been on the lookout for a cauliflower recipe that we'll like ... Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Actually this link will give you not one but two cauliflower recipes. Check it out.


Alexandria, Va.: There is a large restaurant supply store on Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria. It is on your left as you are driving toward Van Dorn, just before the UPS depot (on the right).

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. I did not know this. And it's open to public?


Balti Chicken and Lentils: Here it is and it's delicious!

Balti Chicken with Lentils

1/2 cup chana dhal (split yellow lentils)

4 tbsp canola oil

2 medium leeks, chopped

6 large dried red chillies

4 curry leaves

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp amchur

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp salt

3 1/4 cups chicken, skinned, boned and cubed

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Wash the lentils carefully and remove any stones.

Put the lentils into a saucepan with enough water to cover, and boil for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not mushy. Drain and set to one side in a bowl.

Heat the oil in a medium karahi or deep round-bottomed frying pan (skillet). Lower the heat slightly and throw in the leeks, dried red chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Stir-fry gently for a few minutes.

Add the amchur, tomatoes, chilli powder, ground coriander, salt and chicken, and stir-fry for 7-10 minutes.

Mix in the cooked lentils and fry for a further 2 minutes, or until you are sure that the chicken is cooked right through.

Garnish with cilantro Serves 4 - 6.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Now tell the class what amchur is...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim. Any ideas on what to do with a bag of pine nuts sitting in my freezer? I bought them for a pasta dish but only used a small portion. I'm planning to make another big batch of the pasta but would love some other ideas. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I love pine nuts in rice, in cous cous, atop pizza, with sauteed spinach, thrown into green salads...


Washington, D.C.: For leftover panko: cut chicken breast into strips. marinate 10-15 minutes in buttermilk (or yogurt, or even sour cream thinned w/water or milk). Pat strips dry, season with salt and pepper, roll in panko for crust. Bake at 350 for 10-15 mins or until done. Delicious chicken nuggets!

Kim O'Donnel: thanks for following on the panko thread, dear. Much appreciated. Dijon-style ustard and yogurt is a nice combo as well.


Reine de Saba: Oh, I'd love to see an Arabic flat bread recipe! I have a new friend who's all about lamb, and this would be great for the leftovers. I have been making pita bread with good success but something flatter and wider would be great. Do you have something?

Kim O'Donnel: At your service: Arab flatbread.


Wahshington, D.C.: A Moroccan lady I know boils chickpeas and just sprinkles them with cumin -- they're very good, and very simple. She says it was a street-corner snack in her hometown.

Kim O'Donnel: You can take those boiled chickpeas, then drain them, dry them and roast them in oven, with spices. Very nice indeed.


Washington, D.C.: Tell us not only what Amchur is (and where in the District to get it) but also -- what are "curry leaves"? I thought curry was an amalgam of many different powdered spices. Am I hopelessly confused? Love balti, though. Would be nice to have it outside of Birmingham, U.K.

Kim O'Donnel: Curry leaves are different -- a green pointy leaf that is used a lot in stews and rice dishes, offering depth of flavor. One doesn't make curry powder from these leaves. Used much in the same way as a bay leaf, but you can eat curry leaves. My friend Ravi uses them frequently in his cooking. He likes to fry them too.


Washington, D.C.: The Sicilian style cauliflower looks great! Is there anything that can be substituted for the anchovies? Or can they be left out?

Kim O'Donnel: Leave'em out. Make the recipe your own, and be happy!


Re: Silverton, cans, etc: One of the reasons I try not to use things like canned beans, etc., is the sodium content. Yes, it is more of a pain to soak beans night before (or boil them for an hour the day of) but you cut a LOT of sodium out. I do keep canned tomatoes on hand all the time, but they are no-salt-added. Check out the sodium on cans for yuks and you might be surprised (especially when you calculate what you actually will eat instead of their listed 'serving size')

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for adding to this thread.


Amchur is ... : Amchur (amchoor) powder is also referred to as "mango" powder. It is made from dried, ground mangoes. The spice imparts a tart and slightly sour flavor to many Inidan dishes including fish, meats, vegetables and curries.

Kim O'Donnel: That's right! Thanks for the reminder. I think I've seen it spelled the second way.


Fairfax, Va.: My vegetable-phobic preschoolers are suddenly obsessed with dipping everything and eating buckets of carrots and peapods (thanks be to Grandma who started the trend). But I'd love to move away from the ranch dressing and find something a little healthier. Do you have any easy dip ideas that are kid-friendly but still healthy? Hummous wasn't a big hit, so the chickpea family is probably out.

Kim O'Donnel: See what you think of the Sikil pak, the Mayan dip I wrote about in today's blog. Made primarily with toasted ground pumpkin seeds. If kids are averse to spicy, remove habanero from recipe.


Steubenville, Ohio: Kim:

Would the chickpea roasting trick work with the canned chick peas? (It sounds good)

Kim O'Donnel: Yes. Rinse well, dry thoroughly, before proceeding to roasting. I've done it, and it does work.


Arlington, Va.: Kim, this is kind of a broad question, but I hope you can help me:

What are the best substitutes for vinegary products? I have never been able to bear the taste of vinegar except when it's overpowered by other strong flavors (ketchup, mustard, salsa). Mayo and salad dressings are pretty much verboten on my plate.

So what do I do when I see a recipe that looks intriguing, but includes vinegar, dressing, or mayonnaise? I figure I could use plain yogurt for mayo, but what are other alternatives?

Kim O'Donnel: Start with citrus. Not just lemons, but limes, oranges, grapefruit, blood oranges. Acidic berries, like raspberries are good, too, in vinaigrettes and sauces. I don't think there's a hard and fast rule here; you've got to be willing to experiment and see what works. This is coming from someone wh runs for the hills in the presence of mayonnaise. But, I must ask, ever make your own? A big difference.


For the Cake Lover: I was JUST looking at the free recipes that Cooks Coutry rotates and they have a fabulous looking lemon cake that they say 'roars' with lemon. It's at Cook'sCountry.com.

Kim O'Donnel: Great sleuth. Thanks!


Pine nuts: Are also an ingredient in pesto; that's what we bought them for. My husband also makes pesto using horseradish leaves instead of basil. Makes a slightly spicier pesto, he uses it on lamb, pork. (I can't eat pesto, parmesan gives me migraines; that's why he makes it!)

Kim O'Donnel: Well done. I like your husband.


Washington, D.C.: My recipe for challah makes two loaves of bread and I'd like to freeze half the dough. At what point would I freeze the dough? The dough rises twice. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: After second rise. That's my hunch. You will need to bring it back to temp after removing from freezer, but I wouldn't want to count on second rise, so do a simple thaw and bring up to room temp before placing in oven.


Restaurant Depot: It's not open to the public per se. If you work with a non profit however, they can join. You just need their tax id form. I did that for my church a while back to buy supplies for our retreats.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. I've got to get my details straight on the Balto and Philly stores. Promise to follow up in coming days.


Balti: Technically a balti is made in a specific type of container, a bit like tandori needs a certain oven ... Ah, memories of many balti meals in Birmingham - sigh.

Kim O'Donnel: tell us more about your meals in Birmingham, please!


Cooking Inspiration: I was inspired to make spaghetti alla carbonara using yogurt instead of cream. It was FANTASTIC. Not quite the same in taste and texture but wonderful. It's actually a little lighter and fluffier than with cream, which I like.

Full disclosre -- this was with Brown Cow cream on top yoghurt (yum!)

PS - works well with scrambled eggs of course

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Interesting. Did you do the egg as well?


Do you have any easy dip ideas that are kid-friendly but still healthy?: Babba ganoush? Just don't tell them it's eggplant. Or is it the heavy garlic in hummus they didn't like?

For cut up apples and other fruit, they can dip them in applesauce.

Kim O'Donnel: A few goodies for kiddie dips...If kids aren't allergic to peanuts, a Thai-style peanut sauce would be fun, too.


NYC: For the cake baker: the baking911 Website has a section that lists pan sizes and their volumes which can be helpful when adjusting a recipe.

Re Silverton: the recipe included in that N.Y. Times article had a ton of butter in it. That seems to be a problem with chef- created cookbooks -- they can't get out of restaurant mode. Restaurant style cooking, i.e. with tons of fat and salt, just

isn't appropriate for everyday cooking.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. I like the baking911 site as well, quite useful.


CSA question (Ohio): Hi Kim --

I'm interested in trying a CSA this year. Do you have any opinion on which of the 3-4 CSA databases that the USDA links to is more reliable than the others?


Kim O'Donnel: I haven't looked at latest USDA list, but I'm a fan of Local Harvest, for starters. I think it's localharvest.org

This is a subject near to my heart, and if I had a pile of money, I'd create a killer site for this kind of info, constantly updated.


Horseradish pesto: Can we please have the recipe, if the poster is still here?

Kim O'Donnel: Let's ask...


Cake Catastrophe!: Hey Kim!

Well, the carrot cake that I had planned for Easter dessert completely bombed: the center of the cake didn't cook! I've made this cake before, to rave reviews but this time, I substituted 1 cup of applesauce and 1/2 cup of oil for the 1 1/2 cups of oil called for (to lower the fat a little). That is the only thing that I did differetly. Would that do it to the cake?

BTW, I baked it for 20 min at 350 and then another hour at 325 per the recipe, in a 9" springform pan. Still the center was liquid. I finally cut it out and hid the remaining 2 inches of baked "ring" of carrot cake to be consumed by my husband and I after our company left. At least it tasted good.

Thanky, for any light you can shed on this conundrum! Oh, and what can I do with 16 oz. of cream cheese that I now have laying around (that I didn't make into icing)?

Kim O'Donnel: Hard to say. I've used applesauce so many times as a fat substitute, but never have had this problem. Did cake rise, by the way? Tell me more.


Bethesda, Md.: To the writer with the leftover lamb, try making a nice shepherd's pie with it (assuming you have a food processor, meat grinder, etc.) You can use tomato sauce instead of a beef gravy if you like.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, that's a nice idea...


If kids aren't allergic to peanuts, a Thai-style peanut sauce would be fun, too. : or tahini.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed.


To the Fairfax Mom: Don't give up on ranch dip altogether. My very picky husband will only eat veggies with ranch, but I was dreading all of the extra calories from the prepackaged dips on the market. Now we make our own with non-fat sour cream and the Hidden Valley ranch mix, tastes just as great, with much lower calories. It makes getting my husband to eat veggies and dairy much easier.

Kim O'Donnel: Well, that ranch dressing can be made with plain yogurt, too...and then the kids are getting some good bacteria to boot...


Cook in D.C.: Restaurant suppliers in Alexandria:



George's Restaurant Equipment

415 E Raymond Ave

Alexandria, VA 22301

(703) 836-1800


Quality Restaurant Equipment

6437 General Green Way # B

Alexandria, VA 22312

(703) 750-2260

Kim O'Donnel: How nice of you. Thanks.


Kim O'Donnel: Time to run. Thanks to all of you for the lively to-and-fro. Come see me during the week in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. Til next time! Bye.


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