What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 24, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hello! How's tricks in your world? Don't have a weather map handy, but my goodness, the skies sure have been friendly in these parts (although we really could use some rain)...the air has been so uncharacteristically free of humidity that I got inspired to dust off an antique picnic basket and prepare for a moveable feast. Alas, the al fresco event never did take place, but I'm still in need of picnick-y (not persnickety_ ideas. Take a look at blog and chime in, won't you please. The month of July is quickly coming to a close, which means veggie chat is upon us -- this Thursday, July 26 at 1ET. It also means that August is almost here, and summer more than halfway over!!! I'm eager to hear about your latest bites, nibbles and taste tests since last time we talked; fill me in, why don't you.

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Burke, Va.: Kim, I have a jar of tahini that I'd like to use, and while we're making hummus regularly, I thought it'd be nice to branch out. Only restrictions are that we're trying to eat healthy and non-spicy food. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: There's a healthy helping of tahini in baba ghanouj, the Middle Eastern eggplant puree, which I highly recommend trying now while eggplants are at their peak. I also love using tahini as part a salad dressing -- one tablespoon with lots of lemon, a bit of garlic and olive oil. Delicious.

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22101: I want to try gazpacho, but I'm allergic to dairy and gluten. Any suggested recipes to try at home?

Kim O'Donnel: Gazpacho is one of the few things on earth that contains neither dairy nor gluten, so you're in business. Get a handful of vine-ripe tomatoes, now in season, a cucumber, a mix of fresh basil and parsley, 1 or 2 lemons, a bell pepper, an onion, a few garlic cloves and start pureeing. Season as you like -- spicy, salty, more emphasis on herbs, however you like. Check out recipe details in this gazpacho how-to video from a few years back.

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Cubeville: Yoza! Those zucchini "crab" cakes were amazing! My question: they seem somewhat healthy until you fry them up -- would it be possible to bake them? Anything as to not soak up all that yummy grease into the bread crumbs? (I'm convinced that's not what is making them so tasty in the first place.)

Kim O'Donnel: Reader is referring to "crab cakes" made from grated zucchini that I wrote about in last week's blog. I think you think some browning action, and that if you just baked them, they would not be as savory. You could brown, then finish off in oven, but really, they take only a few minutes to cook in the first place.

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Arlington, Va.: I traditionally steam green beans, but I'm looking for another way to cook them which will jazz them up. I have kitchen staples at home -- garlic, vinegars, lemon, butter, olive oil, etc., but nothing more radical than that. Do you have any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Have a look at a recent blog entry on ad-hoc snap beans, which include walnuts, herbs and baby tomatoes. Readers offer additional suggestions as well.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim, just was noting you seem to post a lot less on your blog than you used to. Are you working on some big project?

Kim O'Donnel: You're kidding me, right? I haven't taken a day off since my wedding in March. Are you having a hard time finding it on the home page? I will say in advance that this time next month I am going offline for about a week to recharge the batteries and take in different scenery.

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Centreville, Va.: Does anyone have experience with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription in this area? If so, was it easy to use, and what type of produce did you receive? Was it worth the money? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I am going to let readers chime in, as there are many who go this route during growing season. Because I love the experience of going to market every week, I opt out of a CSA, but it's one I've always wanted to try out for size.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you know where I could buy large bags/sacks of beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.? I've been eating a lot of these lately, and am tiring of having to buy the regular sized bags over and over. I can easily find huge bags of rice at grocery stores, but I'm not seeing the sacks of beans. Do you know of any places in D.C., or within a 30 minute drive, where I could buy these? Maybe Costco or something? I'd be willing to sign up for a membership for this. ...

Thanks, love the chats!

Kim O'Donnel: I would try Indian grocery stores before heading to a Costco.

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N.J.: I like to think I know my way around the kitchen BUT not the campfire. Going camping with the boyfriend this weekend and looking for campfire cooking ideas/tips that will impress.

Kim O'Donnel: I have no clue around the campfire, my dear. Let's ask those with more expertise...and maybe I'll learn a thing or two as well.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim! I've been taking baby every Saturday to the Arlington (Courthouse) Farm Market to pick out fruits and veggies to puree for him. I was surprised to find that most are not organic. And while I still feel produce from the farm is better than from a megamart, I'd really like to find organic offerings. Am I just missing the organic farmers?!

Kim O'Donnel: Many farmers are practicing organic farming but often cannot afford all the steps to become 100 percent certified organic. Best thing to do is to talk to the grower, who will be very happy to share details on his/her growing methods.

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Sarasota, Fla.: I am a dietitian and would like to take part in this forum. This is my first time as I would also like to stay with the Lean Plate Club at 1 p.m.

Are we supposed to just read or is there dialogue that we can listen to while we work? How do we access it? Thanks so much, cheers.

Kim O'Donnel: You can submit questions like you just did or you can read along throughout the hour. You can also make additional comments to already posted questions/answers. Your choice. And as far as access goes, you've got it. Sally's Lean Plate is on another page, to which you can link from this site's home page. Cheers to you.

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Re: You're kidding me right? I haven't had a day off since my wedding ...:... LOLOL. I just had to write Kim because that was a great line!

You have had NO time off and keep up with your blog regularly but I will admit finding the blogs on washingtonpost.com is not all that easy. Thanks for the blog and chats and recipes!

Kim O'Donnel: Please let executive editor Jim Brady know how hard it is to find blogs. His email: jim.brady@wpni.com

And thanks for checking in!

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Colorado Springs, Colo.: Kim,

I hate to harp on this mainly becuase I know that you have little control over this ... but, it is very difficult to find your discussions. I just spent the last 17 minutes looking for you. Can you please pass my message on to the Webm asters?

BTW: I loved today's blog.

washingtonpost.com: A Date With the Picnic Basket ( A Mighty Appetite, July 24)

Kim O'Donnel: Another comment on how hard it is to find Web-only content on this fine site. PLEASE e-mail washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady. See his address in above post.

But P.S. -- they are bringing back discussion schedule in entirety and doing away with the pulldown!! I am waiting to hear when. Will keep you posted.

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Garden dinner: Last night I thin-sliced some yellow summer squash, a sweet onion and a red and a green pepper, and some dried herbs (my herb garden is not doing well this year), tossed in olive oil and sauteed. Delish! I had grilled chicken to go with, but some tofu would have made it a veggie meal.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks dear. I am a big fan of summer squash, mint and some kind of nuts. Love it.

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Camping: A great camping dish is Campfire Stew. It's not exactly gourmet, but it's delicious. There's lots of recipes online. The version I remember uses ground beef, onion, rice and cans of soup.

Also, foil is your best friend around a campfire. I remember a concoction that involved bananas, chocolate chips and marshmallows wrapped in foil.

Kim O'Donnel: Foil is your best friend. Got that, folks? I'm taking notes.

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22191: Kim -- thanks for your chat -- while Safeway recently had cherries on sale for 1.99/lb, I grabbed several bags and FINALLY made your brownies with cherries. The first batch was exactly to your recipe -- Fantastic! Second time, I used bittersweet and semi sweet -- still a crowd pleaser -- but noticeably sweeter. Both times, after the brownies cooled in the pan, I cut and stored them in a Gladware for a few days. Would that change the texture to be more dense? suggestions for storing? THANKS!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, I'm hearing two things -- one, that second batch was sweeter, and 2) that texture was more dense. As brownies cool and "set up," they will get dense, but this is a very fudgy brownie recipe, no doubt about it. Talk to me if you're still online.

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Lothian, Md.: For the person last week asking about patty pan or "spaceship" squash -- I responded, but don't think it was soon enough -- slice those squash, do an egg/milk wash, dredge in seasoned flour, then saute (I use olive oil). This is a childhood favorite. Years ago, I saw my father wrap a patty pan in foil and place it on the grill -- I gasped! Turns out, once grilled you can pop them open with a fork, add butter and seasonings and they are wonderful. You can probably do this in an oven as well.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, dear. And in case you missed it, readers shared some of their zuke faves in last week's blog space because we all know, you can never have too many zucchini recipes...

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Reston, Va.: Hi Kim,

I have two huge vidalia onions sitting in my kitchen. I have no idea what to do with them. Do you have any healthy, low fat ideas for what to do with them? Or quite possibly a yummy recipe for onion tart? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Well...an onion tart is certainly luscious but low fat it is not. One option is to make a pizza dough or thin crust and slather on caramelized onions, with lots of fresh thyme or oregano. That said, caramelized onions are slowly cooked in either oil or butter, so again, not a low-fat option. You may want to consider roasting.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim,

You've mentioned several times that you prefer Hensperger's Bread Bible to Levy Berenbaum's, and I'm just wondering why? I have both, and find that Berenbaum's recipes always yield a near perfect loaf, while Hensperger's always seem sort of flat, the crumb isn't as light and airy, it's more mushy and dense, and the crust isn't as crispy. Why do I get great loaves from Berenbaum, and dissapointing loaves from Hensperger? Am I missing something? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I love both, but I relate more to Hensperger's prose. It's an easier read for me, and that is just as important as the accuracy of the recipes. This is why there's vanilla and chocolate, as my father used to say. There are many choices. Another fave is Peter Reinhart.

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Brownies: Yes -- both batches seemed to turn dense with refrigeration. Did I forget to mention that they were stored in the fridge?

Just fyi on sweeter brownies -- substitutions weren't a prob -- recipe still worked.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, you forgot the part about the fridge. That would do it, methinks. But in warm weather, some time in the fridge makes sense. What say you?

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Re: campfire cooking: Rirst of all ... why cook? Bring salad stuff and chop, buy local fruit. But if you must ... tin foil is your friend. Wrap a potato and throw it in the fire for 20-30 min. Soak corn in water WITHOUT husking, wrap in foil, toss in the fire for 15 min. Take it out, unwrap and husk --- perfectly steamed. Bring a frying pan and let BF fry up hamburgers or steaks (that's the manly thing to do). Dessert --marshmallows, s'mores, banana boats (peel bananas, slice and stuff chocolate inside, wrap in foil, stick in fire a few minutes).

Kim O'Donnel: Some very toasty ideas...I may be gathered 'round a campfire out in Washington state next month, so I'll keep these in mind.

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Alexandria, Va.: What cuts of meat are good to grill that are "steaks" (i.e., t-bone, ribeye, etc.) since they are sooooooo expensive. I'm always worried the wrong cut of meat grilled will be dry or impossible to chew, so I have not grilling larger pieces (aside from skirt steak, which is easier). What do I look for in the store? Trying to maximize grilling time while not breaking the wallet ...

Kim O'Donnel: You're right; t-bone and ribeye are quite costly, but there are very tasty, less expensive, grillable options. That skirt as well as the tri-tip are wonderful on the grill; the trick is that it needs a bit of time in a marinade bath to tenderize and coax the surrounding muscle. Have you tried a hangar steak? That's a goodie as well.

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Washington, D.C.: Some follow-ups to last week's discussion, which I didn't see live:

1. Radishes -- make a salad of thinly sliced radishes with lime juice, jalapenos, and cilantro.

2. Sage -- use in saltimbocca, or with turkey or chicken cutlets.

3. For too much zucchini -- try zucchini spaghetti, recipe was in the food section a few weeks ago.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. I love follow-ups. I've got a bunch of sage calling my name, gotta do something with it...

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Alexandria, Va.: Roast the peeled and quartered onions with some whole garlic cloves and a head of fennel (all drizzled with olive oil and disted with black pepper). Puree all together in a blender with broth of your choice. I make soup this way all the time. In the fall and winter I add some root veggies. Could not be easier. I also sometimes throw in a block of tofu (seasoned or no) while pureeing. Add herbs as you wish

Kim O'Donnel: YES! Brilliant idea. thanks for adding this one!

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Substitute for Old Bay: I plan on trying the zucchini 'cakes' tomorrow, but I really dislike Old Bay. Is there a good substitute, or should I suck it up and give it a try again?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, I'm not crazy about it, either, but I really liked it in this recipe. How do you feel about celery seed/salt -- that's one of the main ingredients. This could be culprit. I might look at a can, take note of ingredients and make your own spice blend without whatever bothers you.

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Re: caramelized onions: They're not non-fat, but I think they take very little oil. I usually use just a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of the pot and fill up the pot with sliced onions. You do have to cook them very slowly and carefully so they don't burn, but that's really a question of heat, not fat. A heavy-duty pan helps.

Last week I made a beautiful caramelized onion tart/pizza, as you suggest, with part-whole-wheat pizza dough; the onions were seasoned with a little thyme, and I threw a bunch of goat cheese on top of it with some pitted kalamata olives. Amazing!

Kim O'Donnel: Very nice idea. Love olives in that combination. Making me crave a pissadeliere...maybe it's time to whip one up.

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Re: Campfire: I think your grilled chicken from the other day is a possibility too or something like it. They could roast over the fire. We also used to make foil packets filled with all sorts of things (meatballs, turkey, green beans, etc.). Also if she uses a pot, rubbing the outside bottom with soap ahead of time greatly reduces the effort and time needed to clean. We also use to make pizza macaroni (macaroni noodles, pasta sauce, other pizza toppings topped with mozzarella)

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. Yep, I guess much of one's campfire menu hinges on refrigeration access and what the bears won't get into...

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Fairfax, Va.: Vidalia uses:

Use like any onion in stir-fries (sliced), kabobs (wedges), salads, sandwiches. Especially on grill, they're nice because if they don't get completely cooked they are not so strong as ordinary raw onions (which I hate!). When they are in season, I cook mostly with Vidalias.

Kim O'Donnel: I agree, those Vidalias are simply marvelous all grilled up...

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Reine de Saba: I'm obsessed with cornbread this summer and wondered if you have any thoughts on: fresh vs. frozen corn? sweet or savory? other hints? One problem I've had is that I don't seem to get that nice brown top on it.

Got a good recipe?

Kim O'Donnel: My husband is from Kentucky, and he scorns all cornbread with even a drop of sugar in it. He considers it blasphemy of some kind. I'm a Yank, so sweet cornbread is not an act of violence, but I think I prefer the savory stuff anyway. I am also partial to cornbread spiked with a little jalapeno. I like making me in a cast-iron skillet, using buttermilk. Send an email and i'll get you details.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi! I'm going to entertain omnivores, and I'd like to have a killer vegetarian dish for them to try. What do you recommend for 8 people?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Something along the lines of zucchini cakes makes for a great presentation, by the way. You need not do it with Old Bay, but instead could season the grated zuke with capers, garlic, lemon zest and dill...and serve with a yogurt sauce, for example. This makes for a beautiful presentation. What kind of supper are you planning?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim,

In honor of Bastille day a few weeks ago, I made steak frites. The steak part was wonderful -- I seared it on the stovetop, and put it in the oven to cook a little further (husband likes it on the more medium side of medium rare). The frites part ... not so much. They weren't bad, but they weren't crispy. I did two fries, one at 325 and then again at 375, in canola oil. It is possible that I wasn't able to maintain these temperatures when putting in the potatoes. Is that the problem? Also, have you ever made pommes souffles? Any hints there?

Kim O'Donnel: Did you soak potatoes in water? This is one of the tricks passed down to me. I would have probably started at higher temp, then for second fry, reduce. I might have used peanut oil as well, which has a higher smoking point.

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Germantown, Md.: Where, oh where, can I purchase hanger steak? Used to cook it on the line at a restaurant I worked at and miss it. Can't seem to find it at any of the usual grocery stores (Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter).

Kim O'Donnel: It's worth ringing the bell and asking the butchers. When you ask, sometimes miracles happen. I also would check Whole Foods and head to a farmer's market like Takoma Park on Sundays. Other meaty ideas?

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Campfire: I totally agree with your posters about the aluminum foil, but if you must use pans then rub dishwashing liquid on the outside before they go on the fire -- much easier to clean later. And speaking of the fire: you want to let it burn long enough to make coals and place your food in/over the coals. Keep the flames on one side of your file pit, but use coals to cook.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for all the fab camping tips! I feel like a Girl Scout already...wait, I was a Girl Scout.

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Virginia: Are people missing the fact that all you need to do to reach the chats is to go to news, disussions? Easy as pie!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, nobody likes change. When the homepage design changed after several years, it was difficult for readers who got used to finding things in the same place, year after year. BUT, I must admit, it IS more difficult to find all chats and blogs on a given day.

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Kim O'Donnel: Already time to run. Join me if you can this Thursday at 1 ET for this month's veggie chat. In the meantime, you can find me at my blog headquarters, A Mighty Appetite. Stay swell, talk soon.

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