What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at noon for 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: Ahoy, kitchen mateys! As hot as it gets in the afternoon, I"m loving these midsummer early morns, when the sun is just peeking through the trees and the birds are singing their hearts out. Nothing better than a cup of coffee in the company of nature, even if pavement is just 50 feet away. At this point in the season, there are so many local produce choices. It's almost hard to pick, and my eyes are often bigger than my stomach. I picked up my first melon of the season, hoping to cut into it today, so I'll keep you posted, and I also have my first batch of sungold tomatoes, which are DEEEEEEvine. Sweet, sweet, sweet. Tell me what you've been up and what's rocking your world these days.


Ropas Viejas: Can you recommend a recipe? Or a good Cuban cook book? My mister will thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: I have a Puerto Rican cookbook, an old standby for home cooks, and I'm happy to share details later today if you e-mail me: kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com


Columbia, MD: I tried to make chili this week, but it was missing something. It doesn't have the depth that I was looking for, any suggestions. Also, I can't use onions b/c they upset my stomach.

I used: 1 can kidney beans; 1 can black beans; 1 lb ground beef; 2 minced cloves garlic; 2 diced chilis; 1 chopped green pepper; chili powder; red pepper flakes; 1 can chopped tomatoes (28oz); 1 can crushed tomatoes (28oz).

Kim O'Donnel: Next time, I wanna see a spice paste cooked in the oil -- cumin, cinnamon, even a little cocoa powder, plus that cayenne. This will definitely add flavor depth. I also want to see some oregano, fresh if possible. Too much tomato in my opinion. What about a flavorful stock instead?


Washington, D.C.: This may be more of a Travel guru question than cooking question, but I know you produce their chat and know everything.

I am flying to Boston next month to visit family. I would like to bring a homemade cake with me. When I did this a couple of years ago, I packed the two well wrapped cake layers and a tub of frosting in my carry on bag. With more severe restrictions, I am wondering if I'd be allowed through security with the food. Or do I risk packing the cake and frosting in checked luggage and hope they survive the bowels of airport?

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Kim O'Donnel: Don't check the cake in your luggage. Yes, do carry-on. If it ain't liquid, you'll be fine. One concern is the icing because it's a pseudo gel thing. You may want to check that in your luggage, sealed up.


Farmers Market Inspiration: Kim, I was inspired by a farmer's market find of poblano chiles, and made the best chiles rellenos! I charred them on the grill, stuffed them with a little goat cheese and rice spiced with cinnamon, cumin, fresh oregano, dried cranberries and pinenuts. Then I dipped in them egg, dredged in flour and corn meal, and fried. SO GOOD!

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful! Sounds grand. I love stories like this.


Redneck Tandoori Report: It worked! I mixed half-and-half plain nonfat yogurt with my extra-hot sauce and marinated boneless chicken thighs in it for about nine hours. Then I mopped them off (didn't dry them completely) and grilled. Totally moist all the way through. Not quite an authentic tandoori taste, but it opened up a lot of flavors in the sauce.

I'd definitely do it again -- maybe bone-in-legs next time.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going! And yes, you'll get more flavor with the bones. Soaking chicken in buttermilk with seasonings is also pretty wonderful, fyi.


Zucchiniville, Md.: Help! I'm being overrun with zucchini, and I just don't have enough ideas. We've done lots of zucchini breads, we've cubed and roasted, we've done a meat and rice stuffing. What else can I do? Save me, Kim!

Kim O'Donnel: Ever make a chocolate zucchini cake? Or what about zuke-a-mole?
Just two nights ago, we marinated a bunch of zukes in Vietnamese-style bath, which was heavenly.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim.

Can you recommend something to do with radishes other than salt and butter? There were beautiful radishes at the supermarket this weekend and they were wicked cheap, but now I don't know what to do with them (I already cooked the greens).

Kim O'Donnel: I love radishes with goat cheese and a little lemon zest in a salad with bitter greens, such as escarole or arugula. Other radish-y thoughts?


Greenbelt, Md.: Because venting will make me feel better.

I visited five grocery stores over two days looking for liquid pectin. Not a one of the stores had any. Special shout-out to Safeway for having said liquid pectin on sale, but not having any in stock. Way to go on that one! Thanks to Shoppers for having plenty of the powdered pectin and canning lids.

Kim O'Donnel: Please, vent away. I might also consult some of the cookware shops in your area, particularly if they selling canning supplies.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Kim,

Not so much a question, but a comment. I read your blog yesterday and it was perfect timing. My wife ask me to cook dinner last evening so I was trying to think what I could make "different". Enter the Viet-Grilled Chicken. Yum! That combined with corn on the cobb with a "seasoned" butter, a mixed greens salad and grilled slices of sweet potato.

BTW, I am an avid reader of your blog and the weekly chat. Thanks so much for your fine work!

A satisfied fan.

Kim O'Donnel: Yay! Isn't that a goodie? I was so pleased with the results. One of the easiest methods for grilled chick that will rock the house. Cheers.


Re: Chili: Thanks for the suggestions, I'll try that next time. We have some fresh oregano -- do I just chop it and add it to the paste?

For the zuchinni -- they can oven bake/fry it. Dip slices into milk or egg whites then in a mix of flour, parmesan, paprika and breadcrumbs, mist with oil then bake at 425 for 30 min or until crispy. Sort of a cross between zuchinni chips and fries.

Kim O'Donnel: Pluck it off the stem and throw in leaves. I don't think it's necessary to chop. Thanks for the zuke tidbit!


Milwaukee, Wis.: Thanks for the wonderful thoughts about food writing in your blog. You really do share a gift with all of us everyday.

We're looking forward to grilled steak tonight as a mid-week indulgence (hard week before vacation!). I am trying to think of the right combination for the other menu ingredients. (Completely okay with serving them all simply and separately, but if there is an interesting way to mix them, I am all for that). We have a bit of blue cheese on hand, lots of lovely mushrooms, red onion from the farmer's market, new potatoes from the farmer's market, and an ABUNDANCE of green and yellow beans (little miscommunication at the market...). Very likely we'll also pick the FIRST of our homegrown tomatoes.


Kim O'Donnel: Okay, Milwaukee, I think I might do a salad combining a bunch of those farm goodies. Boil those new potatoes in salted water and remove when fork tender. Set aside, spritz with a little olive oil. Hold onto that cooking water, and add those beans -- steam or boil in salted water until al dente -- and drain, adding to the taters. A little red onion here will be nice, and so will lots of lemon and dijon-style mustard! It will be a great foil for the fat in the steak, a lovely combo.


Laurel, Md.: Hi Kim,

My local farmer's market (Spicknall's, in Beltsville) had some lovely "raspberry beans" this week. They were so beautiful, I bought some despite not knowing how to cook them, other than they are similar to limas. Any ideas for me?

Kim O'Donnel: Never heard of these babies. I will have to do some homework for you -- anyone with knowledge on fresh raspberry beans?


Rosslyn, Va.: I have a bumper crop of Cayenne peppers on their way in my garden this year (so much for the "variety" seed pack). Any ideas for recipes besides the usual drying them or using them in soup, chili, or pizza?

Kim O'Donnel: Have you ever dried them, then grind them into powder for later use throughout the winter?


Houston, Texas: Hi, Kim,

Thanks for all the great cooking inspiration. I love oven roasted potatoes and I make killer roasted red potatoes but have had less success with sweet potatoes. I parboil the red potatoes cut into quarters, and them pop them onto a baking sheet, sprinkle salt and pepper, and spray with pam, and cook in a hot over (425) for about 25 minutes. The red potatoes come out crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. But when I do sweet potatoes cut into wedges, they stick to the baking sheet and aren't as pretty or yummy. Come to think of it, I typically don't parboil the sweets. Is that the trick or can you make any other suggestions? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I think it might be worth a try doing a parboil, but I'm going to throw this out to the readers for tidbits...


Radish idea: I had a great salad over the weekend at a barbeque -- it was radishes, watermelon, feta cheese. Sounds strange, but everyone liked it.

Kim O'Donnel: No, that sounds wonderfu! Not strange at all.Thanks for sharing!


Laurel, Md.: Kim,

As for the question on canning supplies, Wal-Mart is a good resource. I detest the store but will go there for that because I know they usually have what I need. But remember, this time of year, the canning supplies fly off the shelves!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, Laurel, for this useful info...


Camp Treats: Hi, Kim! I enjoy your chats and wonder if you can give me some ideas.

My kids are headed off to sleepaway camp next week. I usually bake some treats for them to take and share with their bunk mates (typically chocolate chip cookie bars). When we come to pick up the older one, we will spend some time with the younger one and I'd like to bring him a "refresher" for his snack collection. However, we will be in Italy up until the day before. What could I make for him that would freeze well that I could keep fresh for Camp Part B? Nothing too chocolatey (is there such a thing?) that would melt in the cabin, and something that he could share with the other kids.

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer!

Kim O'Donnel: I think Lulu's Cookies are in order. You can make the dough before you go away, freeze it and then drop them on trays the night you get back. They are a filled with seeds, oats, raisins and choc chips, loaded with protein. Wonderful snack and a name kids like.


Philly: I made an apple pie this weekend and after took a slice it got extrememly watery in the pan. Why does this happen? It doesn't always happen when I make an apple pie but I can't figure out what I'm doing to cause it ... wrong choice of apples? I used granny smiths. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Add a few tablespoons of flour to your filling next time. This helps tremendously.


Washington, D.C.: Since we used to watch videos of you cooking in your old kitchen, do we get to see a snapshot of your new kitchen? Does it feel like "your" kitchen yet?

Kim O'Donnel: The new kitchen is very different from the old. A little better, a little not. It's galley style, so that's the biggest adjustment. I have lots more storage, but I'm still working out the kinks and am already whining about breaking through the wall for an expansion...


Chili: Try something along these lines.

Brown 1 1/2 lbs ground beef and/or pork with salt & pepper. Add 2 chopped onions & 4 chopped garlic cloves to cook when meat is 3/4 done.

Chop 2 each pobalanos, anaheims, jalapenos, and cubanelles plus 1 each green & red bell peppers (all peppers should be roasted & skinned) and add them to cook for a minute.

Add 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1-2 tbs ground cumin, 1-2 tbs oregano, and a ground dried pepper of any variety and cook for a minute or so. Add 1 8 oz bottle of beer. Thicken it with a small can of tomato paste. Let cook over med-low heat for 10 minutes or so then add a drained can of tometoes, give it another 5 minutes, add a drained can of pinto or black beans and cook until beans are heated. Eat with cornbread.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you! I'm sure the chili poster will be thrilled.


Rosslyn re: Cayennes: Sorry Kim, I was hoping for something besides just drying them and using them as a spice. I'm looking for something interesting that would use the fresh ripened or green peppers as an ingredient. They tend to be a bit narrow and misshapen to be good for stuffing though maybe with some patience.

Kim O'Donnel: I don't know if it's worth the trouble to stuff cayennes, honestly. I love making curry so I'd probably go gangbusters with a bumper crop of those peppers.


Re: Raspberry beans: I googled after submitting my inquiry to you, and I think maybe I mangled the name: they look remarkably similar to cranberry beans (borlotti.) Any ideas for them?

Kim O'Donnel: Ah. Yes, cranberry beans. Wonderful flavor. You can boil them until tender, and honestly I'm not sure how long it will take, maybe up to an hour. Then drain and do a pan saute, with garlic, onions, butter or oil, herbs. You'll be in heaven.


Zucchini crab cakes: My husband is allergic to shellfish. So I was thrilled when one of the stands at the farmer's market had a recipe for zucchini "crab" cakes. I don't have the measurements, but it's a mixture of shredded zucchini, mayo, seasoned breadcrumbs, and Old Bay. Honestly, the cakes taste just like crab cakes!

For another zucchini idea, I made the zucchini cookies in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (recipe on www.animalvegetablemiracle.com). My 2-year old LOVED them.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, brilliant idea on the crab cakes! Strange coincidence, was just looking at that cookie recipe this morning and was thinking, hmmm....worth a try.


Overrun with sage in D.C.: Kim, I need your sage (haw!) advice. My sage plant is giving and giving. I need to move beyond pork with sage and pasta with brown butter and sage. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: I have a lot of sage right now too -- and am kind of ignoring it. You can flavor scones and possibly foccacia with onions...are you in the mood for stuffing?? That too me is the best partner for sage. It's such a strong herb, almost too strong for rice. Anyone with further sage advice?


North Port, Fla.: Re: Cayenne peppers. Put a handful in plain vodka, wait a few weeks, or months, it will be a very warm drink this winter and remind you of your garden.

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic. Well done, North Port...


Sweet potatoes: I think sweets should either be cooked in the skin or else pureed- doing naked wedges/chunks of them always ends up too sticky or too watery.

Kim O'Donnel: I think the skin issue is key. You're right. Slice into wedges, SKIN ON, and roast accordingly. Good call.


Westminster, Md.: I visited my local farmer's market Saturday and saw some squash I'd never seen before, it is called "Pattypan" and is shaped like a UFO. I bought some, but have no idea how to cook it. The woman I bought it from said she cuts it up and fries it, but I'm not big on fried food; do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: She probably meant saute or pan fry. Yep, cut it up, as weird as it may seem to cut through a UFO, and cook in butter and/or olive oil, with some thinly sliced onions, and garnish with fresh chopped basil and mint. Nice.


washingtonpost.com: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


Sungolds: I have garden full of sungolds and need ideas on how to use them beyond the salad with olive oil and fresh basil. Could you tell me more about your sungolds with corn and cilantro?

Kim O'Donnel: Oh gosh, so easy. I cut the kernels off the cob -- about four ears' worth, put them into a small pot of boiling water and cooked for about a minute or so. I drained and ran under cool water, to stop the cooking. Put kernels in a mixing bowl, added a bit of olive oil and salt, then squeezed some lime, added cilantro and some halved sungolds. Oh, and a little cayenne. One of my favorite salads in summer.


Knoxville, Tenn.: For oven roasted sweet potatoes, try peeling them and cutting into fairly large square chunks. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe a little red pepper or cumin. Put them on a foil lined pan and roast at a high heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, no more. If you shake the pan about half way through the cooking process they will not stick. This also works well in a convection oven and the cooking time is even shorter.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a recipe for roasted sweets WITHOUT the skin.


Alexandria, Va.: Re: Pattypan -- I have cut them into quarters, rubbed olive oil, salt & pepper on them and grilled them (maybe on skewers?). They were very tasty!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh yes indeed. Nice going!


That potato-bean-onion salad: Love the idea, and plan to "steal" it from your suggestion for Milwaukee. What about some fresh herbs in there?

Kim O'Donnel: Most definitely! You are the creator, my dear.


Too much sage: Fried sage leaves. And they keep a few days.

Kim O'Donnel: Now I'm remembering that I like sage with sweet potatoes...


Re: Sage advice: Mm ... I love sage. Mix sage, butter, cream, and salt and pepper, add some nuts, and serve it over butternut squash ravioli (I had this in a Linda McCartney frozen dinner and it was, I kid you not, amazing). Put sage and and shredded cheddar cheese into biscuits or scones. Flavor sausage and rice with sage and black pepper. I like it with eggs and cheese, too, for a good dinner omelet.

Kim O'Donnel: I think we have a winner here! Thanks for the many good ideas...


New York: Can I roast or bake the Viet-Grilled Chicken? The recipe looks great!

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, I think so. Cook on fairly high heat, though; at least 400.


Alberta, Canada: The chili-maker should add some lime juice and chopped cilantro just before serving.

Kim O'Donnel: More ideas for chili...


Re: Sungolds: Thanks for that. Any other sungoldy ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: I LOVE them with pesto and short pasta, like penne. Love them with eggs and basil. Love'em with cukes, feta and oregano...


Re: Sage: I put a leaf of sage, 1/2 slice of bacon, small wedge of onion and black pepper on a thin turkey cutlet, roll it up and secure with tooth picks. I brown them in olive oil on the stovetop and finish them covered in the oven with some white wine poured over.

Kim O'Donnel: I see. Sounds like dinner...


Pattypan squash: Also, it's ideal for grilling. Slicing through the UFO horizontally makes discs that are easy to handle on the grill -- just a little oil, salt, and pepper and yum.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent point. Thanks for chiming in!


Arlington, Va.: Regarding sage...

I find it's a good match for potatoes. For Thanksgiving, my mother usually makes pan fried potatoes: put butter and olive oil in the pan, and then a stem (leaves attached of course) each from a rosemary and sage bush. After they've softened a bit, add the potatoes (3/4 inch dice), and periodically rotate them when they turn brown on the down side. Salt and eat. Yum.

This type of treatment works well for pan fried chicken (on the bone, legs and breasts), though it's been awhile since I've done this as I've been vegetarian for 12 years. It would also work for a turkey loaf (not ground up, but the tied up loaf of boneless white turkey meat), though you could finish that in the oven after browning.

Kim O'Donnel: Who woulda thunk...so many wonderful ideas for sage...truly a wise crowd.


Kim O'Donnel: I must leave you promptly today. Thanks for checking in and for all the inspiration. Enjoy what summer has to offer because soon enough we'll be talking about back to school....yeow. Talk to you next time, and in between snacks at A Mighty Appetite. All best.


Arlington, Va.: Whoops -- just submitted the item about sage and rosemary potatoes.

Should've mentioned, that's also a good technique with those cranberry/boroltti beans. After heating the herbs in the fat, add some tomatoes (cubed or puree) until cooked like you like them (but they should be farily liquidy). Using already cooked beans, add them an heat through. If the beans aren't cooked, add them and some water and simmer until done -- this only works if they're fairly fresh.

Kim O'Donnel: And one for the road for our cranberry bean friend! Ciao.



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