What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 19, 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: Happy Juneteenth! And if you're unclear on the reason for celebration, check out today's blog space, with a dish to commemorate emancipation from slavery. Something to chew on this hour and all week, for sure. This Thursday, summer officially rolls in, according to skygazers. Who's having a solstice party? What a wonderful time of year. Got any good midsummer night's dreams to share?


Kim O'Donnel: P.S. Wanted to make a correction to something I mentioned in last week's special chat on New Orleans: Dooky Chase's Restaurant is NOT yet open, but just a few weeks away. Sorry for the confusion; it's all the anticipation that got me turned around.


Virginia: Hi Kim,

Do you (or any of the chatters) know where the cookware for sale at IKEA is made? The Web site doesn't say, and I'd like to know before hauling myself all the way out to College Park. They have some terrific prices on enameled cast-iron things.

Kim O'Donnel: Good question. Anyone out there with details on IKEA's cookware extravaganza?


Baltimore, Md.: Thanks for taking my question. I'm looking for a way to pep up the traditional tuna casserole. I already put in bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. I've thought about adding some garlic. Any other suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Well, I might fry up a whole bunch of shallots in place of the can o' French fried onion rings. Maybe a chile. Who's got thoughts on updating ye olde tuna casserole?


Please help!: Hi Kim,

I've submitted several times about a Mexican sweet cream sauce, but no replies.

Any ideas?


Kim O'Donnel: Well, it's the first time I'm seeing it. I get lots of questions, but thanks for your persistence. What do you want to do with said sauce?


New York, N.Y.: Hi Kim -- I have some leftover crab meat. Maybe 1/2 cup, maybe 1/3. I'm not exactly sure, since it's sold by weight. Any thoughts on what to add it to? Could I use it to garnish gazpacho, maybe? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You most certainy can garnish up that gazpacho. You could also make a fab salad with avocado, a bit of cilantro, lime, red onion.


Wahhington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I'm not sure if you have experience with this, but I'm hoping you or the chatters can help. Is anyone familiar with the Calphalon Kitchen Essentials stainless steel line, and if so what are their reviews? I cook a fair bit (but by no means professionally) and am looking to register for an inexpensive set of pots and pans that is dishwasher safe and will hold up well. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I own not one piece of this line, so I'm going to throw it out to readers who might...


Chevy Chase, Md.: Submitting early because I won't be available tomorrow. I plan to go strawberry picking on Friday and am looking for an easy and fast recipe for preserves/jam/jelly. I don't necessarily want to go the whole canning route. Any help you can provide will be deeply appreciated.

Kim O'Donnel: Funny, I was just looking at a recipe for strawberry preserves last night, from "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. It oges something like this: Put 2 pounds of fresh berries in a large sieve and gently run cold water over them, taking care not to bruise fruit. Drain well, then turn onto a clean towel and allow to drain 15 minutes longer. Remove caps and cut berries into quarers. Put berries in nonreactive pot. Pour 1 pound granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt over them and allow berries to sit for at least two hours, until berries release some of their juice.

Set pot over medium heat and gently shaking pot (rather than stir berries), until berries come to a simmer. Cook at a simmer, skimming off scum that rises, 12-15 minutes, just until fruit is tender and syrup clear. Don't overcook. Remove berries from stove, set aside to rest overnight. These are the steps before canning.


Washington, D.C.: I've been dying to try the "On a cedar plank" cooking method for some salmon, but do not have access to a grill. Can this be done inside without turning my apartment (with a pretty sorry excuse of an exhaust fan) into a smokehouse? Also, what other kinds of fish could I use besides salmon? Thanks! Love the chats.

Kim O'Donnel: Sorry to break the news, but no. Got a friend to team up with for this adventure? In addition to salmon, scallops would be wonderful, as would halibut.


Washington, D.C.: I noticed on a D.C. blog that there is a vendor selling fresh fruit at 20th and M St. Has anyone else spotted other fruit sellers downtown? I'd love to be able to pick up fresh produce during the week but that is a bit of a hike from my office.

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds like a wonderful idea. Who's in the fruit stand know? I miss popping into little fruit shops like I used to in Philly.


Scapes and Cherries: Kim, I had a great Mighty Appetite cooking weekend that I wanted to share with you. Bought garlic scapes for the first time on Saturday at the U St. farmer's market. I made scrambled eggs with them, then tossed some with olive oil and poured over roasted potatoes for dinner and made a compound butter with the rest (butter, lemon zest, scapes ground in a food processor, salt) to put over grilled fish. The butter was really strongly flavored because of the scapes, so it just took a teaspoon per fillet to make a really flavorful fish. The rest of the butter went into the freezer so we can continue to enjoy garlic scapes once they're gone.

I also made your cherry clafoutis, also with farmer's market cherries, and it was amazing!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. I'm flattered. So glad you grabbed some scapes; I too played with them over the weekend and made a batch of pesto, one of Mister Mighty Appetite's faves. A compound butter is a splendid idea to prolong their life, very nice. I spread some pesto on bread yesterday and scrambled an egg on top, for one helluva sandwich!


Greens Guidance: Hi, Kim!

I joined a CSA for the first time this year (I love it!) I've been getting a lot of greens -- kale, spinach, collard greens -- and I am having problems cooking them. I've found several recipes to saute the greens with oil, onion and garlic. While the taste has been great, the greens have browned/crisped up/burned much more than I expected. I am wondering what I am doing wrong. I have the heat on med-high (per one recipe), but is that too high? Should I add a little water? Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Of the three greens you mention, spinach is the quickest cooking and can handle the sauteing. Depends on which kind of kale, some tender varieties can handle as well. Yes, heat is probably too high, and yes, add a little water. Collards usually need a little more coaxing, in a pot of liquid, to tender up.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I wanted to chime in on Calphalon. A few years ago I bought one of their low-end nonstick products (I think it's called "Simply Calphalon"). I was really disapointed with it. With my normal careful use, it still lost its nonstick finish within a year. In contrast, I've had two of their frying pans from their mid-range collection (professional or contemporary I think they're called) for five years and they're still going strong. If the stainless stuff is low-end, I'd recommend avoiding it in favor of something from their mid-range price sets. Just my two cents.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. Very useful first-hand report.


Fruit stands: The vendor at 20th and M is very convenient -- but his fruit is not very good. I think you'd be better off bringing from home, or popping over to Trader Joe's 5 blocks away.

Kim O'Donnel: Ah. Although I'm less than impressed by fruit selex at TJs...


Minneapolis, Minn.: I found garlic scapes at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market last week and bought five huge bunches to make a ton of pesto to freeze and have on pizzas or pasta all season long. Thanks for such a GREAT recipe! We did the same thing last year and it was like gold in the freezer!

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful news, Minneapolis. Another garlic scape pesto fan who's found a way to keep the garlic luvin' all year round...


Baltimore, Md.: Do you have any suggestions for grilling for a Hawaiian themed party?

Kim O'Donnel: You mean besides a suckling pig? Gosh, skewers of pineapple, chiles, onions, bell pepper, for starters. I would probably do coconut rice, to fit in w/ tropical theme. Something banana-y, for sure. Any other thoughts?


Help finding an ingredient: Just got back from my vacation to Australia and was able to clip some recipes from a local health magazine. One stir fry recipe calls for an ingredient called Sambal Oelek. Do you know what this is and where I can find it?


Kim O'Donnel: Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chili paste. Don't know where yo live, but in DC area you can find at area Asian groceries. I also know you can buy online.


Calphalon: Well ... I have only two things to add. One is that I think that Calphalon is expensive for the quality -- their pots are thick the whole way around, which is not necessary -- you only need a thick bottom on a sautee pan, so you'd be unnecessarily paying for extra metal.

The other is that I've heard that putting pans in the dishwasher can screw up their conductivity. I might try an online place -- the name of my usual haunt is escaping me at this time, though ...

Kim O'Donnel: More thoughts on Calphalon. I have a thing about putting pans in dishwasher as well and would rather wash by hand.


Speaking of strawberries: Every summer we go up to Maine and pick flats and flats of delicious strawberries. I like to make jam/preserves to give away for little presents, but I am looking for something a little more interesting that straight-up strawberries. Last year I added ginger. Any other ideas? Also, you do or the chatters have a fool proof recipe for jam or preserves? Last year I think I ended up needing to add double the pectin (tasted good still though). Thanks!!

Kim O'Donnel: See what you think of the recipe I offered up for preserves without the pectin or canning. I'm all for learning how to can, just need to get an expert in my corner. Stay tuned on that. Strawberry and rhubarb of course is heavenly, but I also like strawberries with herbs -- basil, rosemary, lemon thyme...


Washington, D.C.: Kim, girl, you are so FLY! Happy Juneteenth to you, too. And let me encourage those who are trying to get/stay properly hydrated but get super bored with water. I have started experimenting with adding more flavors other than lemon wedges and it really works. Takes some practice to determine your preferred tastes but I am much more hydrated since I started doing this (and who needs to pay for fancy flavored water when you've got stuff at home to make your own). Lately I add juice from half a lemon and about 6oz of apple juice to about 32 oz of water. Honey and ginger are delicious, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks darlin. I agree, adding a wee bit of fruit to water is definitely a great way to keep the engine running.


RE: tuna casserole: I like to bake up some tater tots -- when they're pretty much finished up in the oven, use them to create the top layer of your tuna casserole along with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Then put the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes to let those tots brown/crisp up. yum yum ...

Kim O'Donnel: Here come the tuna cass ideas...


Washington, D.C.: For those downtowners looking for fruit stands, I think the Penn Quarter farmers market is still going on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. at 8th and D Sts NW. Not an every day stand, but should be more impressive ...

Kim O'Donnel: Indeed! And if you work by USDA down by L'Enfant, there's a market at least once a week...


Arlington, Va.: Good morning, I like to make my own salad dressings for my lunch. I usually make them in the morning using olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Since I keep both the olive oil and the vinegar in the cupboards, does the salad dressing need to be refrigerated for the few hours after I make it until I use it? I haven't been and they seem fine but I'd like to know for sure if it's safe. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Nope. You're fine. Good eatin' to ya...


Tuna Casserole : I would also love any tips people have for tuna casserole. My grandma used to make it, and it never tastes as good when I try. Any tips for how to make the mushroom sauce without the horrible cream of mushroom soup?

Kim O'Donnel: I believe potato chips were all the rage at one time as a topper...


RE: Planked Salmon indoors: A possible alternative for the person craving cedar planked salmon would be to use a stovetop smoker with cedar chips. They're not terribly expensive and if you really enjoy smoked foods, it's probably worth it. Not quite the same as planked salmon on the grill, of course.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. Good call, dear. Thanks for chiming in.


Brownsburg, Ind.: For the poster with the question about Calphalon ...

I have had a set of Calphalon (stainless, not non-stick, don't know if it's the same line as the stuff you're looking at) for about 3 years now, and it's great! It gets heavy use in our house and it's holding up very well.

My only complaint about the set is that the pots are missing a couple of sizes that would be useful in my kitchen (1 qt, 4 qt), but I've plugged those holes with other pieces and I imagine that's a common issue with cookware sets.

Kim O'Donnel: More on cookware...thanks Indiana!


Hawaiian grilling: Mmmmmmmmm. We do slices of pineapple dipped in coconut milk and then cinnamon sugar -- I think that sounds Hawaiiany (at least to me)... and definitely grill up some sort of fish...

Kim O'Donnel: So, do you grill pineapple after the dipping or visa versa? Or is there no grilling at all?


Arlington, Va.: I feel like I'm struggling to come up with an idea for dinner tonight. (Or every night) I'm feeling meatless quesadillas but with enough bulk to feed my hungry boyfriend. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: For tonight? Two cans black beans. Saute half an onion in a pot, add a few cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, stir to combine. Add beans. Add chiles or hot sauce to taste. Keep on simmer and let thicken up. Meanwhile, prepare some spinach leaves for sauteeing in garlic. When assembling, place beans, cheese of choice, that spinach. Put in oven until it's cheezy-weezy. For add-ons, buy salsa or make your own.


Tuna casserole: My husband puts curry in his.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...


IKEA: Do not purchase cookware from Ikea. It is cheap but falls apart almost immediately. Don't do it!

Kim O'Donnel: I had a pot from IKEA that I quite liked...


RE: IKEA: While I can't say for sure, but I believe their cookware is made in Sweden. As that is where the IKEA originated and where their furnishings and such are made. I have some of there cookware and it has held up very well. They also have a online tool on their Web site that you can use to ask questions in a chat format, so you can try that if you want to be sure before taking the drive out there.

Kim O'Donnel: More notes on IKEA cookware...


Red rice question: Hi Kim,

If I want to make your red rice dish but am eliminating all white rice (as well as white potatoes, white flour, etc.) how should I adapt the recipe to brown rice?

Kim O'Donnel: Brown rice will take a wee bit longer, but I'd do everthing the same. Just plan on liquid absorbing a bit longer.


Re: Flavored Water: A couple of Cloves or Cardamom are also great in iced water.

Kim O'Donnel: Grand idea. I am a fan of a cuke in my H20...


Oops -- the grilled pineapple ...: Hee. Yes ... Dunk in the coconut milk, dip in cin/sugar mix, and then grill for a minute or two each side ... Heavenly.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Sounds intriguing.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

A friend and I were debating the temperature and time for baking chicken breasts on the bone. I usually wrap individually in foil and bake about four to a sheet on 400 for 45 -- hour. Too long? They're never dry so it's not really a problem, but we've both seen lower temps and times so we got to thinking -- how long is long enough? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I'd say that's about right, but you could certainly get away with 375. Breasts on the bone take a while for juices to run clear, at least 40 minutes, so you're doing fine.


Boston, Mass.: Hi Kim!

I have two blocks of silken tofu staring at me from the fridge. I'd like to make something non-stirfy and non-soup for dinner. Any ideas for some kind of tofu dip? Or another way to use the silken stuff? I'm new at this type of tofu.

Kim O'Donnel: Puree with curry powder, garlic (or better yet, got garlic scapes?) and shallots or scallions, your favorite herb, some lemon zest. Taste for salt, it will need some. Great dip.


On tuna casserole: Try this wonderful epicurious recipe that my family loves. It's a great, summery take on the tuna and pasta combination.


Kim O'Donnel: And one more tuna cass thought for good measure...


Farmer's Markets: Kim

In the event that I can haul myself out of bed early on wkds, any farmers markets in the Reston or Loudoun area you'd recommend?

Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: How close is Fair Lakes to you? There's a new market on Sunday mornings out that way, in parking lot of Whole Foods. I'm going to throw this one to the readers in these necks for something more up to date...


Pimm's Cup: Hi Kim, do you know where I can purchase Pimm's Cup in the West End or Dupont?

Kim O'Donnel: Do I know you? Or do you know that I've been drinking Pimm's lately? Good question. I would try one of the hotels, perhaps Firefly in the Madera. If all else fails, get ye a bottle of Pimm's, a bottle of fizzy water and a cucumber and have your own little Pimm's party chez toi.


Baltimore, Md.: How about a salmon casserole to change things up? I like to make a white sauce with bow ties, sauted onions, garlic, peas, freshly grated parmesean and lots of fresh parsely. Add extra parm on top and bake.

Kim O'Donnel: More on the casserole theme...although this weather may call for some cooling dinner items, my friends...


I knew you'd come through for me: That quesadilla sounds excellent. The only thing I'm going to do is add some red peppers and maybe a veggie -- trying to get all our fruits and veggies in one meal since the boyfriend never eats lunch (hence why he's hungry!).

Yum, thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, red pepper, even broccoli florets would be lovely.


St. Paul, Minn.: Question -- Aren't the almond cherry minimuffins from last week kind of like financiers? I think they usually have ground almonds and unbeaten egg whites. But the method is different and the resulting texture is different too. What do you think?

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, it's quite like the financiers, with the browned butter, too. Hadn't thought about the similarity...good call. Texture is kinda spongy just like the financiers...


Fennel: Help! Fennel from the CSA, which I need to use PRONTO. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Fennel is great braised, with a bit of stock, lemon zest and white wine. I also like it grilled!


Tunaville: Try some dried mustard mixed in with the tuna. (Or spicy mustard if you don't have dry handy). Also some white pepper. Give it a kick!

Kim O'Donnel: More hot tuna. Wasn't that the name of a band in the 70s?


Pimm's: I had totally forgotten about Pimm's and fizzy water with fruit/cucumbers. Had it ages and ages ago at a boat race in Oxford. It's a lovely, sophisticated drink -- makes me feel like I should be wearing a giant hat and white gloves. Must remember to relive that experience sometime soon -- maybe tonight!

Kim O'Donnel: I loved getting reacquainted with Pimm's on my recent trip to NOLA -- after all the volunteer work, of course. A great spritzy start to an evening...


Kim O'Donnel: It's already time to sign off. Thanks for checking in; I'll try to answer a few leftover questions in the blog space this week. Stay cool, stay well. All best.


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