What's Cooking, America?

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 3, 2007; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for a red, white and blue 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Welcome to the red, white and blue edition of What's Cooking, my fellow citizens and citizens of other planets. There's always an interesting calming lull just before the Fourth of July, no matter on which day it falls. It's like getting a permission slip to let loose a little bit extra, to run around without your shoes and stay up late. Fun. What plans have you got cooked up for this year's midweek celebration? In today's blog space, I offer up some tried-and-true ideas for outdoor feasting, sort of a one-stop link shop, so check it out, and please add to the list. We all can use a little extra help with such a brief Fourth reprieve this year. And now, let's get to the reason we're here ... what to cook tomorrow and through the weekend. I'm all yours....

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Baking the Buns: Hey Kim:

The sesame buns recipe in the blog today ends with the kneading of the dough. And then what? Does it rest? Does it go straight in the oven? Can you form it into a hot dog shape? How hot does the oven have to be to cook it?

I tried to make a cherry pie this weekend, and I butchered the crust -- I don't think I used enough shortening/butter. But the fresh pie cherries from the market were so delicious it completely distracted me. I'm thinking a buckle and some homemade buns might give me some baking redemption this weekend.

Kim O'Donnel: Doh. That was an oversight. Just added the rest of the recipe details. Thanks for catching that. I think you could definitely shape them into hot dog shapes. Re cherries: I added them to peaches the other for a cobbler, and it was FAB.

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Make-you-own buns: Dumb question, perhaps, but could the Make-Your-Own hamburger buns be reshaped to serve as brat buns? Bear in mind, I am writing from Wisconsin, though I am a transplant from Md. Here, I am told, there is definitely such a thing as a brat bun, which is NOT to be confused with a hot-dog bun. The distinction seems to be that they bun is a bit more dense than a basis "Sunbeam" hot dog bun, and wider. More like an elongated oval than a skinny rectangle....

Love the chats. Happy 4th to all, and peace to our world....

Kim O'Donnel: I don't see why not. You'd probably get fewer "brat" rolls than round burger buns, but it's worth exploring. Keep me posted on your adventures. And thanks for the reminder about peace.

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Red, white, and blue: Hi Kim,

I'm a softie for themes. So tomorrow is red-white-blue of course. Dessert is easy -- raspberries and blueberries with fat free frozen yogurt.

For a main dish that's veggie friendly, could I grill eggplant (sorta blue colored) and place it drizzled with olive oil with tomatoes and white corn? Any other suggestions?

Thanks very much!

Kim O'Donnel: Potato salad is sorta white...and so is vinegar slaw, which you can jazz up with streaks of julienned red peppers. Blueberry lemonade (see link in blog) is a DIVINE themed drink....

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July 4: Private Celebration: As irony has it, July 4th is our anniversary. I'm thinking about having a picnic with a nice fruity wine though I have no idea what to pack, and how much to pack for a two-person picnic. Shrimp salad and rice salad seem to cross my mind. Are there any ideas you and the peanuts would like to toss out? I just want it to be perfect.

Oh, and thanks for the blogs; they are awesome!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, congrats! Love the idea of a picnic for two. How about a peach/berry cobbler that you can tote along? The only thing I worry about w/ the shrimp salad is that you promise to keep it cold in a cooler, okay? I like the idea of a noodle-y salad as well ... or some cold pulled chicken ... green beans....

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Washington, D.C.: Kim,

I hope you can get to this right when you start, because I need to get cracking! I'd like to make a summer pudding for dessert tonight, but know it's supposed to set overnight. Do you think that if I had it together by 2 or 2:30, it would be okay at around 9?

Kim O'Donnel: I think it's worth a try. Put it in the back of the fridge, where it's coldest.

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Vegetarian BBQ?: We're having a BBQ tomorrow and keep debating how to put veggies on the grill -- directly on there or use foil?

We're also going to grill veggie burgers this year since we're trying to eat healthier. Do these typically cook faster? Should we thaw them first, or put them on there frozen?

We're new to vegetarian grilling and would appreciate any advice. Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: If you don't have a grill basket or wok, I would suggest a liner of foil, yes. And you'll probably need to lather up the foil layer with a bit of oil as well. Frozen veggie burgers take about five minutes to grill, and no, you needn't thaw. Check out my recipe for grilled tofu skewers in today's blog, FYI.

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As American as Apple Pie: Hi Kim,

I have a recipe for an apple and cherry pie. It just calls for cherry canned filling with real apples. I was wondering how to adapt it in order to use fresh cherries. Do I need to make other adjustments besides just throwing the cherries in?

Kim O'Donnel: Add a few tablespoons of flour to thicken things up. I like a little almond extract, here. A little booze is nice, bourbon if you have it. Taste for sweetness, you may need a wee bit of sugar, depending on your fruit.

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Falls Church, Va.: Can you recommend a dry rub for pork ribs, and the best way to prepare/cook the ribs for charcoal grilling so they are moist and not overcooked?

Kim O'Donnel: See what you think of this dry-wet rub created by Mister Mighty Appetite. It was quite tasty.

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Sass in Arlington: Hi Kim! This is for the nuts, too: does anyone know of a local source for salam leaves? I have an awesome new Malaysian cookbook ("Cradle of Flavor") which I am using to make a July 4th meal, and that is the only authentic ingredient I can't track down.

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Good one. Have you tried any of the Asian groceries in the area? there are so many -- from Super H to Lotte to Grand Mart. Let's ask the others. Salam leaves, anyone? I like that book, too.

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RE: Grilling veggie burgers: If you are grilling veggie burgers for vegetarians, please do use foil if you have already grilled meat on the grill!

Kim O'Donnel: Duly noted! Good call.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, Kim

Not a 4th question.... I was looking for a recipe that I think you posted last year. It's for a spicy, ground turkey dish that you rolled in lettuce. It was very similar to Thai larb gai. Can you link to that? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Here you go: Vietnamese-style lettuce rolls, with ground turkey.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm trying to think of a new way to do pasta salad for the 4th. So far, I'm thinking of doing a citrus vinaigrette instead of the traditional version, but I'm not sure what else to put in that would work with the citrus. Somehow all I come up with are tomatoes and chickpeas. Maybe make it with lemon and do it with olives and ... something?

Kim O'Donnel: Oh gosh, citrus vinaigrette works with practically everything. Add shallots or scallions and you'll broaden its versatility even further. In addition to tomatoes and chickpeas, add a bit of garlic, fresh herbs, lemon zest, diced cucumber or zucchini, shredded carrots, snow peas, green beans....

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Allentown, Pa.: Hi Kim, I have questions about your blueberry buckle, which I've made twice (it's always a hit). The last time I made it, with all brown sugar for the topping, I noticed that the butter was too soft -- although I doubt that's because of the sugar. It was a warm day. The topping was a globby mess and I had to strew it about the cake batter. It sort of melted into the cake and it came out look like a swirly cinnamon sugar streak through the cake. Is that supposed to happen? Or is it supposed to be crunchy? I kind of want it to be crunchy. How would I get it to be like that? Freeze the topping first? Thanks! Love your blog.

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, if butter is too warm, it will do a melty thing rather than stand on its own. However, I will say, if you want a little crunch, you may want to add a bit of rolled oats to the mix. You could also freeze topping, yes. Keep me posted.

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Veggies & Tubing: Kim, I am going tubing down the Potomac tomorrow with friends. Do you have any good ideas for snacks that could sit in my floating cooler all day? Also, we are going to a BBQ afterward and I'd like to bring a veggie dish for all of my vegetarian (non-seafood eating) friends. Any ideas for something fun and easy to whip up between tubing and the dinner? Love the chats, as always!

Kim O'Donnel: So, will you be doing this advance at home, or on site at the river? Holler if you can.

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Boston, Mass.: Question about my wife's slow cooked, St. Louis style ribs: We get up in the morning and sear the ribs on the grill and then place them in a pan with BBQ sauce (cut in half with water so that their is liquid in the bottom of the pan to add moisture) and cover with foil. We let that go on low heat for about 5 hours, pulling them out to baste, and cover with more BBQ every hour or so. If we've keep enough cut BBQ fluid in the pan, the ribs generally fall off the bone. Are we missing any steps, or is there any way to improve it?

Kim O'Donnel: Another way to try it is to cook for about three hours in oven, on low heat, about 200, then finish off on grill for final 30 minutes. We tried this last year and loved the texture.

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Culinary Student in Honolulu: Kim,

I got "The Cake Bible" and "Bread Bible" for Mother's day, and am enjoying attempting most everything in them! Question: several of the bread recipes call for baker's dry milk, which I can't find on my island (not even the restaurant supply places have it). Can I use regular dry milk, and how will it affect the outcome?

Kim O'Donnel: I know only of dried milk -- nothing special for baker's. I've used nonfat dried milk in lots of recipes with great success. Give it a try, girl.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim. I'm going to a pool party/BBQ tomorrow and wanted to try and make a quinoa salad. Do you have any recipes for a quinoa salad that (1) do not contain any cheese (feta, etc.), (2) do not contain black beans, and (3) have a minimal amount of oil? Most recipes contain dressings that use a significant amount, so I'd like to minimize this. Do you have any such recipe (and one that includes nuts)? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I love quinoa or cous cous with chickpeas, lots of lemon, herbs, garlic, shallots, cuke dice. Try little tomatoes, diced mango.

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Newton, Mass: Happy 4th. Any suggestions for a cold, not made with cream, spinach soup? I bought more than I can use for salad and would like to make a relatively low caloric soup.

Thank you in advance.

Kim O'Donnel: I would boil potatoes and puree, adding plenty of cooking water for fluidity. You'll need no cream here, but you'll need to tinker with consistency as you move along. Lots of lemon, garlic, healthy sprinkle of nutmeg.

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Culinary Student in Honolulu: Another question. I'm making ice cream for tomorrow night and can't locate my recipe for vanilla ice cream -- do you have one you could share? Has to be vanilla as son and hubby are purists when it comes to ice cream.

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Do I ever. This recipe comes from my friend Bill Addison, who I call Mister Ice Cream. Nobody knows ice cream better than him.

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Calgary, Alberta: For anyone looking to really kick up the flavor for chicken, ribs or shrimp -- a fabulously tasty dip recipe was published in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Lucy Waverman is the author/chef.

1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 2 tsp. chipotle peppers, 1 tbs. adobo sauce, 1 tbs. lime juice, 2 tbs. chopped cilantro, 2 tsp. honey, and 3/4 cup red onion.

I processed the whole thing in the Cuisinart, but you can just chop up finely and mix if that works for you. It is amazing with a buttermilk coleslaw, chicken, and ribs. Happy Fourth!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks Calgary. I've done something similar with all yogurt. Cheers.

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Veggies & Tubing Here!: I'll be making the food for both in advance. The cooler food is to eat on the river and then I'm going to run home and grab whatever I made for the BBQ. So I'd like to make both tonight if possible. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: For on the river, I'd do a batch of hummus with raw veg. It's low maintenance and will satisfy growling stomachs after your river run. It also will be able to handle being tossed around in a cooler. As for later, I'm a big fan of black bean salad with chopped red onion, cilantro, red pepper, diced mango or pineapple ... make a vinaigrette ... it's killer on its own or with rice.

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Adapting two pies for two people: Thinking about making an apple pie (all-American) and an blueberry pie (hubby's fave) tonight so we can enjoy them tomorrow. Anything in particular I should do to adapt baking times if I do two small pies? I am thinking of baking them "deep dish" in small-ish (4 inch diameter or so) Pyrex bowls rather than buying disposable small pie pans. Other thoughts?

If it comes to it, I can make two big pies and share with the neighbors ... but since Mrs. Neighbor has to be gluten-free, I always feel a little bad about sharing something she can't have.

Thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: Don't change cooking temp. But do keep an eye on the oven, as the smaller guys will cook faster than their larger counterparts. Hard to say how long it will take, but start checking after first 15 minutes.

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Blueberry Buckle in Del Ray, Va.: Hi Kim, quick question regarding the blueberry buckle. I made it this past Saturday for a bbq and everyone loved it. However, the topping was less crumbly than I had anticipated. I used the amount of butter from the recipe, but instead of a crumbly texture, I got more of a paste. What happened? Also, I was wondering if you've ever experimented with doubling the recipe, and if so, did it turn out well? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Colder butter will help with this, as I mentioned earlier, but this recipe won't yield a real crispy or crumbly topping. Another suggestion from a reader is to chill topping for a few minutes before adding it to the buckle.

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Washington, D.C.: What inexpensive appetizer or dessert can I bring to a party where the food is supposed to fit a 4th of July/patriotic theme? I'm trying to think of things that are red, white, and blue, but fresh fruit is too expensive.

Kim O'Donnel: Ever play with blue potatoes from Peru? That's fun. You'll get a sorta purple-y potato salad. There's also blue corn tortilla chips, which you can serve with your very own pico de gallo for the red part...

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Sass in Arlington: You're fast! I looked at a couple of Grand Marts and Super H Marts, but from what I can tell they're more Korean and North-Asian than Southeast Asian. I did find frozen pandan leaves at one, but no salam yet.

Kim O'Donnel: Have you looked online yet? And maybe it's worth exploring a few of the area's Indian groceries -- there's one over on Lee Highway called A-1.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim.

Can you provide a kick-butt idea for a cold salad to take to a BBQ tomorrow? No mayo or cilantro please. Oh, and I have no cooking experience, or imagination, so please provide some measurements. Great chats!

Kim O'Donnel: Get a couple of cucumbers, peel them and cut them up, put into a bowl. Add a few diced colored bell peppers. Add diced carrot if you like, or tomato. Throw in a bunch of fresh oregano leaves, and if you can't find, use a combo of basil and mint instead. Squeeze the juice of one lemon on top. Then a few glugs of olive oil. Stir. Add salt. Taste. Add feta if you like, and bring along some spears of romaine lettuce. There you go. You are now, officially, kick-butt.

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Ellicott City, Md.: Can we talk super-inspiring potato salad recipes? What do people suggest?

Kim O'Donnel: I am a member of the mayo-free club. So usually what I do is Dijon-mustard, lemon, scallions, garlic, lots of herbs, olive oil, maybe a splash of cider vinegar. Plenty of salt in the cooking water.

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Baltimore, Md.: For a beautiful, yummy red, white, and blue dessert, I recommend a trifle in a glass bowl. You can make it as hard or as easy as you want, depending on whether you use store-bought cake or madeleines, make your own custard, or sabayon, etc. If you have wild berries (it's starting to be time!) it's a great way to use them up without turning on the oven.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, hon. In today's blog, I suggest throwing those berries into one of America's great homey desserts -- buckle, cobbler, crisp or a freelance tart. Can't go wrong.

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"Grilled" Veggies: As I sit here eating my lunch containing grilled summer squash a scapece (courtesy of Mario Batali, though I opted to grill rather than pan fry), I must confess that I don't get the idea of cooking veggies on the grill sealed in a foil pack. Aren't you actually steaming the veggies? Is there any charcoal flavor? I guess the flavors would meld nicely as you're not introducing additional water, but I like grill marks and grill flavor. BTW "a scapece" is a great way to do the veggies ahead and let them marinade in the sugary vinegar dressing to which I added red pepper flakes, garlic, basil, mint, and parsley. Easy to do ahead and fine to serve at room temp at a picnic/BBQ!

Kim O'Donnel: Point taken. I meant lining the grill with foil, and making a few slits. You're right; a foil pack steams those veg.

I like the marinade idea, nice.

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Princeton, N.J.: Any suggestions for a spicy pork filling for wontons? I'm getting tired of the same old potstickers, and want to add a little kick.

Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Check out the link to the recipe I shared earlier for Vietnamese lettuce rolls, which use ground turkey, but you certainly could use ground pork instead.

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Re: Purple Potatoes: I just bought some and haven't used them. Am I right in assuming they are waxy and not mealy?

Kim O'Donnel: Correcto-mundo. Make great potato salad.

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Fourth BBQ request -- for the GUINEA PIG: OKAY, so I'm invited to a BBQ tomorrow, where I will be meeting lots of my boyfriend's co-workers, and friends for the first time. I really want to bring something to WOW them, but the buckle/cobbler idea may not be the new thing for me to try tonight. Any suggestions on something sweet and light ... or something BBQ-worthy that I can take with? Thanks so much ... really.

Kim O'Donnel: What about berry lemonade? Link in today's blog. Why ixnay on the obbler-cay? Talk to me. Are you nervous?

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Columbia, Md.: We live in a condo, so we can't grill. Is there a way we can do ribs in the oven instead?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, yes, yes. You need about three hours and an oven at about 200 degrees. Check link earlier in the hour for details. You can do tonight and gently reheat tomorrow, FYI.

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Report from the new Roots store in Olney: I was there this past Saturday in the late afternoon. The really big news (and if you live in Montgomery County, you know what I mean) is that they sell beer and wine. The wine department manager was there and said that they were still getting in more stock. The wines are interesting and well chosen: both domestic and international. Many are organic. They had lots of "specialty" foods, lots of organic stuff and beautiful fresh vegetables. The fruits looked fine, but there was less variety. This is a fabulous alternative to Whole Foods and Trader Joe "on the Pike".

Kim O'Donnel: I was there this past Saturday too. Loved it. Wish Roots would open in Arlington. I'd give up WF in a flash.

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Report on Earth Balance: As a follow-up to last week's chat, thank you for recommending Earth Balance as a substitution for butter in cookies. I made the switch this weekend, and the cookies were slightly softer and definitely more cakey -- but that's a good thing. My only complaint is that the batter was slightly more difficult to roll into balls than with butter. In any event, I am deeming the experiment a success!

Kim O'Donnel: I've been experimenting with it as well and really like it in baking. Will be sharing the outcome of those experiments in a Food section story in a few weeks, FYI.

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Washington, D.C.: Here's a question about phyllo dough -- I'd like to make spanokopita for my 4th of July party, but I'm desperately trying to watch my fat intake. Can I use olive oil instead of melted butter on the dough? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I can't answer that off top of my head. I think yes, but would need to check.

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Kim O'Donnel: It is already time to run. Whew. Thanks for checking in, folks. I've got to step to it and whip up some dessert and other vittles for a little gathering with family tomorrow. Whatever you wind up doing, be safe and take care. It's also nice to take a moment and think about why we have this day in the first place. Blog takes day off tomorrow, back on Thursday, and I'm back next Tuesday for the regular hour.

Happy Red, White and Blue!

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