What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 11, 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: Hello on this rainy day. There's sadness in the air, with remembrances of what happened on this day six years ago, and there's cause for celebration, as Ethiopia celebrates its millennium -- with all kinds of festivities later today at the Washington monument. I am slowly mentally preparing myself for the transition of the seasons, as autumn officially arrives next week, but there's still a window albeit brief to enjoy tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cukes and basil, so chop chop and get right on it! For kicks, I pickled cucumbers earlier this week, an easy project I encourage trying at least once. With summer waning and fall ready to step in, how are you making the bridge between seasons? Do tell.


Kensington, MD: Kim - After your Seattle Chocolate writeup last week, I looked for Theo Chocolate at the Silver Spring Whole Foods and was rewarded with a Theo 3400 Phinney Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate bar. Wow! That's some good chocolate. I can't wait to try the other selections.

I don't think that the SS WF carried the entire line, though. Do you know if there are any other stores in the area that do?


Kim O'Donnel: Hey Kensington, I'm fairly certain that the WF in Clarendon was carrying one of the larger single origin bars, but can't verify that at the moment. I'm told that Theo responds to customer e-mail, so maybe it's worth asking?


Alexandria, VA: Thanks so much for the hummus recipe/suggestions from you and the other chatters last week. I just want to say that the tahini is awesome. Where else to you suggest trying out this ingredient?

Kim O'Donnel: Glad to hear of your hummus success. Tahini paste is really nice as part of a vinaigrette, with lemon juice, garlic and a smidge of olive oil. Wonderful on tomatoes and carrots.


Arlington, VA: Hi Kim -- Will sweet corn still be available this weekend at area farmers markets? I'd like to make a dish this weekend with sweet corn but realize that its season is coming to an end...

Kim O'Donnel: I did not ask farmers last week how much longer we can expect local corn, but I would venture to say perhaps one more week. Anyone hear any differently?


Rosh Hashanah recipes: Hi Kim,

Did I miss these? Do you have any?

Kim O'Donnel: I haven't done a special blog on Rosh Hashanah, no, but I was thinking that the ratatouille I featured in yesterday's blog space would work well, and you can make it in advance. I welcome folks to share their Rosh Hashanah favorites and I'm thinking of doing something next week on breaking the fast.


Theo Chocolates: The Tenleytown WF had 3400 Phinney Dark and Milk Chocolate bars last week. I didn't see any of the single origin chocolates though.

Kim O'Donnel: Well done, dear. Thanks for checking in!


canning: Hi Kim -- any advice for us would-be canners who live in tiny DC spaces? Is it a project that can be tackled in very limited spaces?

Kim O'Donnel: Now that I've got one canning extravaganza under my belt, I would say limited spaces are off-limits. I have a small kitchen myself, and I'd be hard pressed to do it there, not just because of a small range and counter area, but because of little room to move around. Canning requires three people, ideally, and lots of elbow room to move huge pots of boiling water, so find a friend with a larger kitchen and team up for this very fun project.


Wash, DC: Love your chats!

I have a great lentil sausage "salad" (served warm) recipe that is one of my new favorites. But I can never figure out how to serve it -- with mashed potatoes? Rice? Those options seem weird, but I feel like it needs an accompaniment in order to qualify as a real meal. What would you serve with a warm lentil sausage salad? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I love the idea of roasted potatoes with a warm salad as you describe. A quick-cook cous cous would be nice, too. A salad/vinaigrette would complement fat of sausage, not to mention give you a dose of greens.


Washington, DC: My bridge from summer to fall involves learning to make paella. Got a good recipe and tips for me? My efforts so far have tasted like rice with stuff in it rather than that yummy blending of flavors that I get when I eat restaurant paella. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: This here link takes you to a Paella how-to video/recipe for paella, which I learned from Jaleo, etc maestro Jose Andres. It's a good, reliable recipe. Enjoy!


Washington, DC: I can't stand the taste of eggplant in various Italian stews, and I've tried several. It just seems to have a mealy taste. It's good in eggplant parmesean, but that's fried (no wonder it's so good). How else can I cook eggplant so it doesn't have that, well, eggplant taste?

Kim O'Donnel: I understand, I do, and was thinking similarly this weekend while I made ratatouille. I go back and forth on eggplant, but have fallen in love with an eggplant curry dish that I whipped up earlier this summer. I get none of the mealy thing when i make this. Give it a whirl.


bulgar wheat: I bought some bulgar wheat from whole foods (loose) to make taboule. What is the water to bulgar wheat ratio, and how long do I steam it for? THanks so much for these great chats!

Kim O'Donnel: If you're making tabbouleh, there's no need to steam that bulgur wheat. It just needs to be soaked. Take a look at how-to details that I learned from Lebanese home cook Nada Kattar.


Tahini paste is really nice as part of a vinaigrette: I second this! I recently made a dressing similar to this suggestion, but instead of lemon juice, I squeezed a bit of orange juice into it. It was good on a salad with orange slices and fennel.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh. Lovely! There's something about the way tahini coaxes acid, it's like magic. Thanks for this idea.


eggplant: I used to hate it too and then I tried a morrocan chicken recipe from Bon Appetit on epicurious.com and it is AMAZING. The trick? Cube the eggplant. Heat a cookie sheet with a good splash of olive oil in a 425 oven for about 5 minutes. Throw the eggplant cubes on that and roast for about 20 minutes.Yum, yum, yum. It's crunchy and lovely.

Kim O'Donnel: Another eggplant trick for the list...


New Orleans, LA: Kim,

Hello. I am a DC resident who is moving to New Orleans in a few months. I would really love to take a cooking class or two once I move there to become better acquainted with the regional food. Any recommendations? Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: Indeed. Check out Savvy Gourmet on Magazine Street, a very cool cookware shop/cafe and cooking school rolled into one. They have a regular lineup of classes featuring local chefs, and if I were in your shoes, that'd be one of the first places I'd check out. Watch out; you'll fall in love with the people of New Orleans.


Fairfax, Va: Totally agree with your advice on canning as a multi-person operation. Another advantage is that you can can a variety of stuff, then share it so each gets some (but not too much) of everything. Like a Christmas cookie exchange!

kim: yeah, it was a good lesson learned. I might be canning tomatoes over the next several days, and one of the first things I lined up is the brigade -- we got 3 folks and a large kitchen, and now I'm sorting out the rest of the details.


Washington, DC: I would learn how to make some Thai vegetarian food. I'm a bit intimidated by lemongrass, but I thought I would try anyway. Would eggplant work in a thai dish (I saw the other post). I liked the sauce in beef panang, but wondered if eggplant could be substituted for the beef?

Kim O'Donnel: the curry dish I link to earlier is Malaysian, with wonderful complex flavors. Thai but better. Check out the recipe, see what you thick. Don't be intimidated by lemon grass; you need a sharp knife, though.


RE: Lentil Sausage Salad: What's the recipe? Sounds delicious!

Kim O'Donnel: Reader, if you're still with us, do us the honors...


Seattle, WA: We had a zuke-a-mole adventure this weekend! Like everyone else we have zucchini from our p-patch coming out of our ears. Sick of the multitude of variations (and a freezer full of chocolate zuke cakes), I gave your zuke-a-mole recipe a try. Unfortunately it was not a hit for this crowd... the texture just didn't quite work for us and it still tasted more like zucchini than anything else. But I had made alot. To salvage it we added some regular and rice flour and egg and my husband fried them up into pancakes/fritters! Mighty tasty with all of the herbs and a Korean dipping sauce!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, I never said the zuke flavor went away when you pureed the roasted zukes! But zucchini is such a versatile veg. If you've still got me, grate a bunch with an onion for more fritters. I like to add garlic and capers and a little lemon zest.


Arlington, VA: I've done canning in a shoebox kitchen -- the biggest problem was finding storage space for the canning supplies when not in use. I canned banana jam, and lemon curd, and pear butter -- but small numbers of small jars, not 12 quarts of pickles. As an example, the lemon curd recipe usually makes 3 1/2-pint jars. There are cookbooks giving small volume recipes, and you can find canning supplies year-round at Fischer Hardware in Springfield, VA.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your first-hand report, Arlington. You're braver than I am. So good to know about Fischer Hardware for supplies.


Tomato Tornado!: Help Kim!

My neighbor deposited a dozen be-YOO-tiful tomatos on my doorstep last night and will return with more in a few more days. Do you have a quick cold tomato soup recipe that I can whip up (or, will you please point me to a recent poster/chat with tomato ideas)? I have some awesome cold chicken in the 'fridge that could garnish it...


Kim O'Donnel: Ah, what a wonderful problem to have. I'm envious. Check out this link for a Creamy Tomato Soup Not Out of a Can, featured in the blog space this time last year. It's a goodie.


Thai curry: Hi Kim!

I need help getting my Thai curry right...I'm using a red curry paste, coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, and a pile of holy basil. I've tried it in a variety of proportions, according to different recipes, but it's alway missing a certain depth of flavor that the restaurant curries have. What am I doing wrong? Or is it just the addition of butter?


Kim O'Donnel: No butter necessary. I want a little shallot action to start, plus a wee bit of chilies, which you cook in oil in a skillet. then you can add the curry paste, and let it cook out a bit, then add coconut milk, but make sure you've shaken it...and don't use the whole can. Bring up to a boil, add a wee bit of sugar and fish sauce, simmer. And add basil only just before serving. See if that helps. And taste for salt.


Pickling: Thanks for the info on pickling in your blog. I always thought it was much more involved, but now I'm inspired to give it a try! Pickling seems like something you could really experiment with - adding different peppers and spices to change the flavor. I love pickled okra - do you think I can use the same recipe you used for the cucumbers?

Kim O'Donnel: Totally agree that pickling is something you could have fun with, mixing and matching seasonings, types of vinegar, etc. I guess you need to ask yourself if you want to have okra on hand for several months or just a wee bit...and I'm not as certain about the longevity of okra without cooking it. Send me an e-mail and I'll look into it.


Chocolate in DC: For those of you still looking for your fine chocolate, head to Biagio on 18th St. (across and one block north of Lauriol Plaza). They've got everything from your single-origin bars for cooking to chocolate covered tortilla chips and that bacon chocolate bar that lingers in my dreams...

Kim O'Donnel: Terrific. Thanks for the reminder.


Alexandria, VA: It is a somber day, and the weather doesn't make it any better. I did some pickling over the weekend as well...eggplant, vidalia and pearl onions, grape tomatoes, shrimp, salmon, and scallops...just about anything I could get my hands on! Pickled seafood is really neat to do..must be from my Scandinavian heritage! I encourage folks to try it!

Kim O'Donnel: Maybe you can illuminate on pickling okra. Ever done it? The reader who just posted wants to know the details.


Lentil Salad: I don't recall the exact amounts, but it's something like this:

1 lb French green lentils -- cook for about 20 min

chop and saute an onion and a couple carrots and celery sticks

whisk a vinagrette of dijon mustard, vinegar, oil, maybe some garlic

brown sliced kielbasa

mix it all together -- voila!

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds like a plan. Thanks!


tomato ideas: tomato tart the way my french houseguest made it: dijon on the bottom of the precooked pastry shell; slices of tomato, pepper, parmesean. Bake. Viola. No gloppy piles of cheddar like the American version.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooohhh....sounds nice. What about gruyere, though? Can we have some gruyere?


Anonymous: Do you watch any cooking shows ? I can't get enough of Top Chef but always need to make a snack sfter watching !

Kim O'Donnel: We are a cable-less household, so one of my treats whenever I'm staying in a hotel is to flip through the channels and check in on what FTV and other networks are doing in the kitchen. The PBS shows are good to watch on a wintry Saturdya afternoon, but more often than not, I find myself using my free time away from the tube.


tahini use: Chicken Shawarma Recipe

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (thinly cut)

1 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup vinegar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon allspice

juice from 1 lemon


1 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons yogurt

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic. That might be dinner tonite.


Steubenville, OH: This time of year I get what I call the "Squirrel Syndrome". Canning and freezing for the winter to come. At this stage of my life, I really don't need to put up a lot of stuff (there is only me and my Westie), but it is so satisfying to go to

my shelves or freezer and pull out ingredients for soups, stews, etc., when it is cold and blustery outside and I have taken a "vacation day" from work.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks Steubenville. I'm thinking that tomato canning adventure will pay off just as you describe.


Washington, DC: What other veggie dishes can I make with basil, other than pesto?

Kim O'Donnel: I use basil as often as I can right now. Tuck it into sandwiches, grilled cheese, eggs, atop rice, as garnish, wonderful with grilled veggies and fruit, just before serving.


Greenbelt, MD: PS

Can we have a canning special?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Is there really that much interest to devote an entire hour? I suppose I could contact the experts at Ball.


Washington DC: Hi Kim,

I'm looking for something asiany to do with halibut for tonight. I have soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and lots of chili peppers at home, plus garlic and lots of other pantry items. Any suggestions?


Kim O'Donnel: Some ginger would be nice in the marinade...scallions on top. I want a squeeze of lime or lemon, too. What about sesame oil -- a little dab will do you right.


washington, DC: My grape tomatoes are picked perfectly, but the next day, after sitting on the counter top, they have busted open. Is this just the humidity, and is it still OK to eat them? I have been told not to refriderate tomatoes as they lose their taste. What can I do?

Kim O'Donnel: It is still okay to eat them, but do so quickly. If you're worried, cook them in a saute pan for a few minutes.


Fall transition: Am having a welcome the fall party the last weekend in September. Will I be able to find good tomatoes then, or is it too late?

Kim O'Donnel: It is likely not too late, but I would inquire with your local farmers and find out what they're anticipating vis a vis the weather and the state of the harvest.


angel food cake: Can I make an angel food cake in a bundt cake pan? No room for another pan in my tiny kitchen!

Kim O'Donnel: Typically an angel food cake is baked in what's called a tube pan, and a bundt pan, similar in shape and function, is a fine substitute.


Kim O'Donnel: Already time to run. Thanks for your questions and terrific tidbits, as always. Type to you next week, but in meantime, you can find me in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. All best.


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