What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 18, 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 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.

Catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

The transcript follows.

Kim O'Donnel: Hello, and top of the autumn afternoon to you! We've got sparkly weather here in the nation's capital, but when the sun goes down, ooh, it gets chilly. I've been playing with field peas and enjoying the last of the local cucumbers and peppers. Peaches are in their home stretch this week, so I'm told, as is corn. How are you making the most of the season's end? Later this week, Jews will be observing Yom Kippur, and today's blog focuses on breaking the fast. Share your ideas and recipes here or in the blog space. And now, let's hear from you.


Washington, DC: Kim, I'm looking forward to the apple season, but can't seem to find any local farmers who have organic apples. They always tend to be inundated with pesticides, so I'm hoping you can help.

Kim O'Donnel: From what I understand, it's a very costly undertaking to grow tree fruit without some degree of pest management. It's best to talk with tree fruit farmers when you go to market and ask for more details. Anyone out there who knows first-hand of farms doing organic tree fruit?


Washington, DC: Kim, I've just returned from a fantastic trip to Italy, where I enjoyed so many rich pasta sauces and antipasti. I'd like to be able to recreate some of the dishes I enjoyed there back home. Can you recommend an authentic, not-to-difficult Italian cookbook? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Where in Italy did you go by chance? This may help zoom in on cookbooks if you're looking for help on a specific region's specialties.


Seattle Visitor: Hi Kim, Just wanted to let you know that we went to the Fremont Market last week and Theo's (where they had your blog entry posted in the wall near the door) and loved them both. Thanks so much for the tips! Off to eat some yummy free trade chocolate now!

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful! So glad you made it to market and to Theo. Isn't the chocolate just dreamy?


Abundance of Apples: Kim, I went apple picking this weekend and although I love apples, I can't eat them plain anymore. I have about a dozen Gala and Jonathan apples. Is there anything I can do with them besides a dessert?? I'm not a big fan of sweet foods and would like something savory to cook if possible. Love the chats as always!!

Kim O'Donnel: Have you thought about making applesauce? You don't need to add any sugar whatsoever. Great to have on hand in the fridge, as a snack, topped on oatmeal or as a quickie side at dinnertime. I am particularly partial to apples and rosemary.


Arlington: Kim,

I have a ton of Thai basil growing on my balcony that I need to use. Are there any Asian variations on pesto? Do you have any other suggestions for how to use this fabulous basil? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You certainly could try making an Asian sort of pesto, although it might be stronger than you're used to. Thai basil is just wonderful with rice noodles, peanuts and cucumber. A little sesame-soy-ginger vinaigrette on top.


Vienna, VA: Kim, I have turkey kielbasa in the fridge for dinner tonight

and wondering what to do for a side dish. I'm thinking

something with sweet potatoes. Do you have any

suggestions? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You could cut up sweet potatoes into smallish hunks and roast, with salt, pepper, olive oil. Add herbs and/or unpeeled garlic cloves, which will soften up and be nice and buttery in under an hour. I love mashed sweet potatoes with garlic and chiles. It's a nice change from sweetening them up.


Oakland, CA: Hi Kim -- I just wanted to reassure the people who asked you about canning last week that it is very possible to do it by yourself -- I've canned by myself for the last few weekends, and it's been lots of fun! The important things are to not plan on doing too much at once (the most I've done in a day is 5 pint jars, or 4 quart jars -- though when I did jam in the tiny jars, I think I did 7), to go slow, and to plan out everything very well ahead of time. I now have 11 4 ounce jars of jam, 11 pint jars of tomatoes, 5 quarts of tomatoes, and 4 quarts of bourboned peaches, and I'm planning on making more jam tonight. This was my first time canning, and I'm really enjoying it!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks Oakland for your first-hand report. You are braver than I am!


Southern MD: Hi Kim,

I made some chili last night (because it was chili) and it was so tasty. I love autumn, fall, cooler temps. What's your fav chili recipe? ground beef, ground turkey, vegie?

Kim O'Donnel: Earlier this year, I whipped up an improv turkey chili with barley, which really blew up my skirt. I am a big fan of white beans, sage and ground turkey. But I also can't resist black bean chili.


Wash, DC: Kim, what's up? Your chat is not opening or updating/refreshing.

WASHPOST: Is the link blocked or something?

Kim O'Donnel: Yeouch! There was a technical glitch. Sorry bout that. All better now, thanks to Paul Williams.


Reston, VA: Hi Kim,

Cooking for one here. I find that I'm often overwhelmed by the choices at the farmers' market or grocery store, and can't seem to come up with actual meals that I want to cook. I don't want to do anything particularly fancy or labor intensive (as in washing lots of pots), so all too often I find myself heating up another packaged dinner. Any advice on how to break out of this rut?

Kim O'Donnel: If freestyling is hard for you, then maybe you'd benefit from planning out a few meals before doing your food shopping. Decide on a few options, with flexibility, and put together your shopping list accordingly. Make stuff you can have a second night or for lunch the next day. Leftovers are wonderful, really...and a whole lot better than dinner out of a box.


Roseland NJ: Hi Kim. Here's a puzzler for you: Back in late June, we had a party for friends to celebrate our impending trip to Europe. I bought a quart of heavy cream, intending to whip it for dessert, but it turns out most folks had to leave early so it just didn't get used.

So we left, had a great time, and now I'm working my way through the freezer and I find that same unop-ened quart of cream. My in-laws were house-sitting for us, and not knowing what to do with it, stuck it in the freezer the next day.

Can I still thaw it in the frig and use it? Will it separate, or curdle? If it does, is it salvageable?

Kim O'Donnel: Dairy, for the most part, doesn't like the freezer, particularly milk and cream. Yes, it's true you can freeze butter, but liquid dairy never really resurrects in the same way. I know folks who have frozen milk and survived the adventure, but I reckon that it's not salvageable.


Pickles: Your blog about pickling brought to mind my mothers wonderful freezer pickles. SO easy! Unfortunately, I don't have the recipe handy but one basically slices the cucs, puts them in the hot brine, lets them cool then freezes them in ziplocs, brine and all! I have some in my freezer right now from last falls efforts and I'm thinkin' it's time to defrost!

Kim O'Donnel: When you dig up the recipe, please share in the blog space. would love that as another option. cheers.


RE:Abundance of Apples: Applesauce is a good suggestion...but I have to throw apple butter into the mix as well. Nothing like homemade apple butter on your breakfast toast, english muffin, or croissant. Plus it works very well warmed up as a sauce for pork!

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent idea. Do you have a recipe?


Freezing milk: Don't know about cream, but I freeze milk all the time when I go away, sometimes for three weeks (just stick the partially-full container in the freezer). It takes forever to thaw, but I've never had any problems.

Kim O'Donnel: I knew one of the milk freezers would come out of the icebox. Thanks for chiming in.


Washington, DC: Is there a substitute for veggie broth, like water and a boillion (sp?) cube? I have trouble finding the broth, and then I never finish the box, and it sits in the fridge for weeks, and then I have to throw it. Such a waste at $4 a box.

Kim O'Donnel: I agree. Better to quickly whip up your own veggie broth, which takes all of 20 minutes to make. Add a quartered peeled onion, a few cloves of garlic, a few sprigs of parsley and some black peppercorns. Add water, bring up to a boil, let simmer for 20 minutes. Hey, you got veggie stock! And it costs hardly anything to make.


Washington, DC: Do you have a recipe for stuffed peppers (vegetarian) that does not include raisens or currants or anything sweet? I can do couscous or rice, but trying to figure out what mixture of veggies and spices to add.

Kim O'Donnel: I like rice in my stuffed peppers, and I'd add onions, garlic, celery, herbs, lots of black pepper, parmigiano or a little goat cheese...


Veggie broth: If you don't want to make your own, Knorr's makes vegetarian broth cubes (warning -- SALTY!!!)

Kim O'Donnel: Yeah, that's the other issue w/ prepared stock. Make your own-- it's so easy!


Virginia: Frozen milk, cream. Thaw and cook with it. Soup, spoonbread, etc.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's another vote for freezing milk and cream...


Canning:: I have over 50 pints of tomatoes in my basement and would

like to second the reader that said one person can (haha -

pun) do it. Organization is the key - line all equipment up,

shoo the family out of the kitchen and focus. Talk yourself

through the steps to make sure you have everything you

need. Do one batch at a time, every other day.

I love my tomatoes in soups, sauces and other dishes. It is

so worth the effort!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, what canning soldiers in our midst! I may be doing some canning of tomatoes later this week, but with two helpers.


St. Paul, Minn: Hi Kim,

I have an herb garden with the usual (sage; thyme; rosemary; mint; parsley) and when I cook I often throw in the herbs in the beginning when sautee'ing onions. What's the real answer for sauteeing w/ herbs? Is it best to put them in right at the end or what? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Delicate herbs such as mint, cilantro and basil, and to a lesser degree, parsley, should be added at the end, just before serving. Heartier stuff such as thyme and rosemary can be added at beginning. Sage, I find, needs to be chopped well before cooking and then can be added early.


Veggie Broth: Once you open the $4 box, put what you don't use into an icecube tray and freeze it. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Use as needed. An icecube is about 2 T, I think. Or, freeze in larger containers for later use.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a resourceful idea...


Freezing heavy cream: Whoa! I freeze it all the time and it works wonderfully. I freeze it flat in a zip lock though and then when I need a 1/4 cup I just whack the zip lock and add the chunks, frozen, to whatever I'm cooking. Perfect way to use it for sauces, added to mashed potatoes, etc... I've tried pouring the leftover cream into an ice tray before to portion it out but it's a mess to get out -- the flat in a baggie trick has worked for me for years.

Kim O'Donnel: More on freezing cream...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim, I was watching Giada's show while home sick yesterday, and she did a recipe for an uncooked pasta sauce with equal parts ream cheese ("for tart"), goat cheese ("for tang"), fresh baby spinach & garlic. Basically just blended in a food processor & put over penne, with some of the pasta water for thinning. Any thoughts on what I could replace the goat cheese with, since I'm not a big fan? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I guess you mean cream cheese? What about drained ricotta as a sub?


Apples: I don't have recipes, but it seems like apples would work as an ingredient in an entree with pork, butternut or acorn squash. Especially with a little sage.

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely. Good call.


Savory Apple-cations: I love apple-picking season, and every day after the big haul, I make myself a Waldorf-inspired salad. The ingredients vary, but the constants are apples, nuts/seeds, raisins/craisins, and either celery, or my more favored substistute, fennel! The dressing is a simple mayonnaise thinned with a splash of vinegar.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely. Nice ideas.


Apple Butter Recipe: 3# apples cored & peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces

1 cup apple cider

1 cup light brown sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 tsp each ground cloves, ground allspice

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan on low for 1 1/2 hours, stirring and mashing the apples occasionally. It should be very thick and golden brown when done.

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful! I will be making for Mister Mighty Appetite. He loves apple butter.


can't can: I don't have the time, energy or inclination to can tomatoes, but I would love tomatoes during the winter. Can I just stew and freeze them?

Kim O'Donnel: I haven't done it, but understand that you can do this as long as you store them properly.


Washington, DC: Two things:

For the apple owner, I like to cook apples with pork. Roast apples along with a port tenderloin. Or make a pork and apple stew. Or saute sliced apples with onions with pork chops, and even better, throw some apple brandy in. Yum!

Second, I have discovered Better than Bouillon. Have you had it? It's super concentrated and the flavor is way better than canned broth, and is very convenient.

Kim O'Donnel: I have heard about Better Than...have some in the cabinet, actually. And thanks for more apple-y ideas...We eat an apple a day in this house right about now.


Bethesda: Thanks to your blog and my CSA I have done lots of experimenting this summer. Last night I made fried green tomatoes. They turned out great!

I think one of the farmers at the Bethesda Farmer's market in Woodmont Triangle (Tuesday and Saturday) has organic apples.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in, Bethesda...and for the heads up on organic apples.


Which really blew up my skirt...: Is that good or bad?

Kim O'Donnel: How could it be bad?


Steubenville, OH: RE: Cooking for one

I also cook for only me. I make it a point to NEVER resort to a "TV dinner" type of a meal. (Too many mystery things in there).

I cook fresh and it is much better. Sure, there are left overs, but freezing is an option for most. Finally, I have found out how to cook in smaller quantities, too.

As for the applebutter thing. I use cider

as any liquid added and use apple pie spice for the spices (sometimes, you need a little more cloves, taste is the best guide). It turns out really good. Some cookbooks have good recipes for it too.

(My parents used to make it outside in a copper kettle over an open fire. I still have the kettle and the stirrer my dad made for it.)

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, Steubenville, for your insight...


Greenbelt, MD: Another canner checking in, I canned tomatoes in my tiny galley kitchen on Sunday, and it was pretty much a snap. Peeling was the most involved part, and once you hit the zone for that, it goes quickly.

Kim O'Donnel: We have a very active solo canning community. I had no idea! Kudos to all of you!


Freezing Stewed Tomatoes: I'm with you! I don't can but I can quick boil, quick cool, peel the tomatoes, then chop up and into the pot to stew for a bit, salt & pepper. Cool completely, put into zip loc bags (quart size is perfect) and freeze. Use in spaghetti, chili, soups all winter long.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's the Plan B for those who don't wanna can...


annapolis: I'll second (or third) the argument that you can can by yourself. For years, I made jam or preserves to give as holiday presents - usually, 10-15 jars. I had no problem doing it by myself. (in fact, in our last house, my kitchen was too small to accommodate more than one cook.) I've also done tomatoes (but not that many jars. ) You just need to be organized, and clear off your countertops so you have enough space.

Kim O'Donnel: And a note from another ambitious canner...


Virginia again: Instead of goat use feta.

Kim O'Donnel: Another option for the raw pasta sauce person...


Takoma Park: I got some ginger at the farmer's market Sunday and it came with roots, leaves, and all. The seller suggested I make a stock with it--any tips (for other components, for example) or other suggestions? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Nice -- locally grown ginger. I want some! Fresh ginger is a staple in my house, I use it whenever I'm making curries and stirfries. Great with roasted broccoli.


Re: Vegie Stock: I'm guessing the answer is yes but to your onion, garlic, parsley and pepper, could I add some carrots and green peppers, for flavor or would it then be too much when I used the stock in a rice mixture?

Kim O'Donnel: Carrots will add sweetness. peppers may break down, as they're not as hardy, but in a quick-cooking stock, no harm in trying..


New Haven: Hi Kim,

On your homemade veggie stock--how much water?

Kim O'Donnel: Just enough to barely cover the veggies. You don't want to load up on water or else you'll have crayon soup.


Washington, D.C.: I second the vote for "Better than Bouillon" (available at Whole Foods, and probably other places). I've used the veggie & chicken ones. While I wouldn't necessarily use it for something major like soup or risotto, it's perfect when a recipe calls for just a bit of stock, or for things like poaching chicken where stock is an improvement over the flavor from regular water. Plus, the little jar stores well in the fridge!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. Yet another stock option...


Baked Apples: Baked Apples are also a wonderful alternative. Core them, drizzle a little honey and cinnamon in the hole. Add a couple of raisins and bake for about an hour - great hot breakfast. I prepare them the night before and then just have to bake them in the morning. OR, stack them in the crockpot at bedtime and turn it on. They're a little softer in the morning, but they sure are worth it!

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely! Grand idea...


re: Abundance of Apples: I always put chopped apple in my tuna curry salad. Just tuna, mayo, curry powder, chopped apple, chopped onion. It adds the right amount of coolness to contrast with the curry. You can eat it on a sandwich, dip tortilla chips in it, or as a salad on a bed of lettuce.

I also like to eat apple slices with cheese for an appetizer, with a glass of wine.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely idea. And I second the motion of apples and cheese. I like making grilled cheese with apples...and then of course, you can top a pizza with thinly sliced apples...


Rockville, MD: Hi Kim,

We have a mountain retreat home and our community is having an outdoor potluck this weekend. Any ideas for a covered dish that would be different? This is our first time we're going, so I don't know if anyone has a "specialty" or not... so I don't really want to do a potato salad, y'know?

Thanks a bunch!

Kim O'Donnel: How do you feel about lentils? Let me know in an e-mail (kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com)...


In only an hour: I learn so much from you Kim and your chatters. I love Tuesday's at Noon. Thanks to all for the great ideas, recipes, etc. I look forward to it every week.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, the chatters really are the meat of the hour. I'm just here facilitating. You all deserve a big high-five.

And that's my queue to sign off. Thanks for stopping by!

One last note: I'm in the midst of self-publishing a cookbook specifically geared for the upcoming holiday season. If you're interested in getting more information and want to join my mailing list, send me an e-mail to: writingfood@gmail.com and in subject line, type "Mailing List." A few book signings in the DC area are in the works as well. Take care, all best.


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