What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 2, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Happy October! Despite the parched conditions and mild days, it's starting to feel like fall in the evenings. Soup weather. Last night was carrot soup with sage -- a wonderful way to make good on my sage overload! -- a recipe from "Out of the Frying Pan," the forthcoming memoir by DC chef Gillian Clark, who has been my cooking mentor since our days together at Cashion's Eat Place more than 10 years ago. Infusing sage in a simmer liquid -- genius idea. And I've got an 18-box of plum tomaters in the dining room. What should I do? Quick! I need to do something, send all suggestions pronto. And now, let's hear all about it...

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Cookie Time: Hi, Kim. Baking question more than a cooking question, but you and your panel of pros are the go-to team...

Any recommendations on a book that would explain cookie baking science?

Specifically, I am looking for a good recipe for a chewy peanut butter cookie made with natural PB. I am tinkering with the standard recipes, which all call for the highly processed, corn-syrup-added peanut butter. I've done pretty well so far in adapting the recipe, but I want to PERFECT it, as PBCs are my husband's favorite (read: only) cookie.

I have to believe people made peanut butter cookies before the advent of processed PB with corn syrup additives. But, I've yet to find a recipe.

So, short of an outright recipe, I am looking for a book that might help with the "tinkering" process on this cookie, and with tinkering on cookies in general -- making them chewy vs. crispy, softer, more cakey or less cakey, etc., by varying ingredient quantities.

Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Shirley Corriher is the queen of cooking science. Her "Cookwise" is a huge tome of valuable nuggets on the whys and hows of food chemistry. For the past few years, she's been working on "Bakewise," which I understand is coming out next year. If anyone can perfect a cookie and explain, it's her. But while you wait for her expertise, I wouldn't worry about the recipes that call for peanut butter with corn syrup added. I never have that stuff around, and have never noticed a difference when cooking with it. The corn syrup is sweetening and perhaps stabilizing the peanut butter but it's unnecessary. Perfection comes by trial and error; you can be the maestro!

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim --

I purchased some broccoli yesterday and it had very long stems. I snipped the florettes off but didn't want to throw away the stems -- I knew you'd have some yummy suggestion as to how to use them. I'm particularly interested in ideas that might appeal to my toddlers. Thanks so much.

Kim O'Donnel: You can make soup. Cook the stems with onions in water or stock, maybe a potato for body and puree. Add a small amount of fresh peeled chopped ginger while you puree. Season with salt, pepper and some fresh herbs, maybe thyme. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim,

Love the blog. I want to make muffins, but make them a little healthier. I tried using Splenda and didn't like the taste. If my recipe calls for a cup of sugar, what's the most I can reduce it by without totally messing up the chemical process?

Kim O'Donnel: Have you tried agave nectar or natural cane sugar? I also like local honey, which will inject a healthy dose of allergen fighters from our friends the bees. Heidi Swanson in her "Super Natural Cooking" does a great job offering naturally sweet alternatives.

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Cookies: Hi Kim,

To the person that asked about tinkering with her peanut butter cookies. She should check out King Arthur Flour's Cookie Companion. It has recipes for different cookie styles crispy, chewy, etc. and a little of the science behind them. If you use butter, you'll get a crispier cookie than if you use shortening. Just a thought so she doesn't have to wait for Bakewise.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent idea. King Arthur book is FAB. I don't own a copy but it's been on the to-do list.

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Cravings: Hi Kim,

I'm pregnant and seriously craving Hot Pockets, store bought soups and other processed foods -- all of which are generally not a part of my diet. I have managed to avoid them for now but my usual lots of salads and raw veggies fare is just not cutting it. Any quick and easy way to make a homemade hot pocket? I seem to remember you had a dough with cheese in it -- would that work? Any quick and easy soup recipes -- minestrone, maybe? I'm emphasizing the quick and easy because I feel miserable and have a 2-year-old to chase around. I'd love to have a few comfort foods that I can make batches of when I have some energy and have in the freezer (and yes hubby has been pulling way more than his weight in feeding us all lately) I eat meat and chicken, don't like fish or stew -- and at the moment the thought of curry turns my stomach.

Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Pregs,

check out the how-to details for individual spinach pies, which are ten times better than those hot pockets. Best of all, you can freeze them and pull out -- JUST LIKE the ones from the store. You're gonna love'em. I have details for Jamaican beef patties too, which also freeze well. Let me know if that's of interest.

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Bethesda, Md.: Does anyone have a great recipe for beef stew? It is one of my favorite cold weather foods and am thinking about trying my hand at it!

Kim O'Donnel: Beef stew, coming right up...

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Washington, D.C.: Any idea where I can find buffalo meat? I'm from Colorado where every single grocery store seems to have it, but am not sure where to look here. I got some frozen patties at Trader Joe's, but I'd love to find it fresh. Is this a farmer's market type thing or is it not that popular in the D.C. area.

Kim O'Donnel: I've seen buffalo at the Whole Foods (Coleman brand, I think, which you may be familiar with since you're from Colorado)...but locally raised buffalo -- and bison -- is available from Cibola Farms, a Virginia farm that sells at Dupont Circle farm market, Falls Church, Mt. Pleasant, Reston, Penn Quarter.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim, I made lemon curd over the weekend to go with some scones. The scones are gone, but I still have a lot of lemon curd. I'd like to use it in some kind of dessert before it goes bad. Can I use it in some kind of lemon tart? a pie?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely. Tart dough was meant for lemon curd.

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Washington, D.C.: I was looking through my pile of recipes I have collected and came across one for a tart made with a cornmeal crust and a goat cheese and zucchini filling. I'm worried that the thinly sliced zucchini will give off a lot of water. Do you think I should sautee the zukes before hand?

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, I do. You could also grate the zukes and drain out the water...then use it in the filling.

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Charlotte, N.C.: Would love to have the Jamaican recipe you are referring to. Please post.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, these are so nice: Jamaican beef patties

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Omaha, Neb.: Submitting early because of work. I have a friend visiting from out of town for a few days, and I'd like to have a simple yet "special" (e.g. nice) dinner for the night she arrives (Wed). Any suggestions for what I can do with a couple of eggplants? Also, I'd like to have a bread-type dish that I can make ahead of time and then bake when she gets here (as I will be at work all day). Any suggestions there? Thanks for your help!!

Kim O'Donnel: What do you think about an eggplant curry, Omaha? It's a Malaysian dish -- and could be made the night before, served with rice. Let me know if that is of interest.

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Tart made with a cornmeal crust and a goat cheese and zucchini filling: recipe please!

Kim O'Donnel: a call for the recipe, please...

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New Orleans, La.: Kim,

Hello. I am in the process of moving to NOLA and was there over the weekend to take care of some things. While there I tried to find Kitchen Witch bookstore but was unsuccessful. Do you know if they are still in business and if so, where are they located? Thank you so much!

Kim O'Donnel: Kitchen Witch is located at 631 Toulouse Street in the French Quarter. Their number: 528-8382. It's such a treat.

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New Market, Md.: Do you know whether or not the Whole Foods on P Street carries pomegranate molassas? I cannot find it anywhere near where I live, and I'll be in the area tomorrow...

Kim O'Donnel: I've seen it in the Arlington store, but don't know about P Street. Best bet is a Middle Eastern grocery, like Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington, Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria. I've heard reports that Trader Joe's carries it, no?

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Bethesda, Md.: Corn Syrup -- I know you don't keep it around... I don't either and I make a concerted effort to not buy anything that has it in it for myself or my family, especially my toddler. How long do you think it will be before the general populace wakes up to the scourge of our nutrition that is HFCS, in particular, and corn syrup in general? The major difference between our dietary habits and those of European countries where diabetes and obesity are not nearly the same problem as here, is HFCS -- it's in all of our food and barely any of theirs. I wish the same anti-transfat fervor could be used towards this!

That said, I love Pecan Pie and every recipe out there calls for corn syrup. Do you have a sub or a recipe without?

Any chance the post could do a feature on HFCS and how it is ubiquitous -- in things that are supposed to be healthy, as well as he bad stuff -- in breads, yogurts, juices, condiments, etc.

(Did you note that Heinz now makes Organic Ketchup -- HFCS free!)

Kim O'Donnel: The only time I ever use the stuff is when I'm making candy, and I hear you about the pecan pie. That's a really good assignment for me. Let me get cracking on that. Thanks for your commments.

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Stressed Out!: What do you like to eat after an especially stressful day?

Kim O'Donnel: Good question. I'm always comforted by a bowl of black beans and rice. Simple stuff. Yesterday, my pal Karla whipped me up a quick bowl of fried rice with a shredded egg, some onion and hot sauce. I was all fixed up after that. I like a grilled cheese and an apple. Curry, when it's cold. Chickpeas.

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Spice Question...: Is there any nutritional value in spices -- e.g. cumin, curry, etc. I made a dish wish several spices last night and was wondering if they are good for me in any way. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Spices such as cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, turmeric are all great for circulation and some have antioxidant properties, as well as digestive aids. They are important in an Ayurvedic diet and can help regulate body temperature and temperament. Spices are wonderful things for your health.

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Flax seed baking?: Hi Kim,

I read somewhere that flax seed can be used as an egg substitute in baking. Have you tried this? How would I make this conconction? How's the taste in the final product?

Thanks for taking my question.

Kim O'Donnel: When combined with a hot liquid, flax seed does have a mucilaginous quality that mimics the binding properties of eggs, but I am unsure if it works across the board. My Lulu's cookies include flax and hot water -- and it works quite nicely. Other flax seed stories to share?

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What do you like to eat after an especially stressful day: Mac n' cheese.

It can be traditional, out of a box, or gourmet, but it's still mac n' cheese. sigh

Kim O'Donnel: Mac and cheese, yes. I smell a blog post in the making...

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Bufflalo meat: MOM's on Mt. Vernon Ave. has it fresh and frozen, ground and in steaks.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Another reason to shop at MOMs.

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Home-made hot pockets: Do you think I could add some roasted squash to the spinach pie? Would it hold up?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. If you mashed it, yes.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Kim, I'm bored with everything I regularly make and have a house filled with food that I'm finding uninspiring. I made turkey meatloaf and Pasta alla Norma last week.

Here's a list of a few key things I have around -- can you suggest something fun to pull together? I'll swing by the grocery/farm market for additional ingredients if I need them!

chicken breasts

italian sausage

tortellini

chicken chorizo

tofu

Kim O'Donnel: Take the tofu out of the container and drain it with a plate weighing on top, to let water release. Cut in half, reserve the other half and place in a plastic container with a few inches of fresh water, back in fridge. Cut into cubes and marinate in soy sauce, chopped ginger, sesame oil, a little lime. Get your wok or skillet going, and when it's ready, quickly dip the tofu in corn starch and saute. Serve with scallions and cucumbers, garnish with sesame seeds and chili flakes. Just do it.

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New Market, Md.: I already tried Trader Joes -- no luck there.

Could I substitute reduced 100 percent pomegranate juice?

Kim O'Donnel: If it becomes syrupy, by all means. Good idea.

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Cake: Hi Kim,

So, I need to make a birthday cake, and want something that won't be sweet, but will also be enjoyable for the little ones in the crowd. Any suggestions from you or the others in the audience?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Vanilla? Choc? 2 or 1 layer? What kind of frosting? Talk to me.

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Rosslyn, Va.: Hi Kim, love the chat.

I found a recipe for a casserole-type dish that calls for 2 lb of 80/20 ground beef. Since the meat will not be drained after cooking, this seems like an awful lot of fat to me. I am hesitant to just substitute 90/10 meat, since this will reduce the amount of cooking liquid and I don't want the dish to dry out. Do you think that I could make the substitution if I also add a bit of beef stock or olive oil to compensate for the reduced fat? Thanks?

Kim O'Donnel: You can always drain off the fat, but subbing the 90/10 meat will be fine, and yes, you can always supplement with olive oil. Don't worry, all good.

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Pecan Pie: You can use molasses or I think it is called Steen cane syrup instead of corn syrup.

Kim O'Donnel: I have some of the golden syrup in those green tins, but the flavor is a tad too sweet. But we're getting closer, yes.

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Washington, D.C.: Not exactly a cooking question but... I have some old dull knives that I need to get rid of. I could donate them to the Goodwill if it weren't so far from my home (involves rental car). Any ideas on how to safely dispose of knives? Throwing them out in the trash just seems dangerous -- especially knowing the characters who hang out by our dumpster.

Kim O'Donnel: Know who might want them? Food and Friends. Or Brainfood. Or DC Central Kitchen. All Metro-accessible and then knives would go to good use. Give one of them a call. And let me know how it turns out.

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Non-Pumpkin dessert: I have to confess, even though 'tis the season, I am not a pumpkin lover. I also HATE sweet potatoes covered in butter and brown sugar and the like. Is there a non-pumpkin/sweet potato dessert that is seasonal?

Kim O'Donnel: Baked apples, baby. Oh-- and check out this one: Dark and Stormy Pear Crisp, made with ginger, lime and a little bit of rum. DIVINE.

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Kim O'Donnel: Time to roll out of here. Thanks for stopping by on this beautiful autumn afternoon. For inbetween meal snacks, you can find me in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite.

P.S. I'll be signing copies of my self-published holiday cookbook Sat. Nov 3 at Arlington Courthouse Market. For details on other local book signings, send me an e-mail at writingfood@gmail.com with the subject line: "Book Signings"

All best.

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