What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 19, 2008; 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.

A transcript follows

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! I'm sorry I'm late. Getting right on things. Be with you in a jiff.


Culinary School: Kim, With little experience in a professional kitchen but plenty of experience in a home kitchen I am thinking of going to ICE or FCI. However, is a 6 to 9 month program enough, and will it really benefit me? Also, I am 27 and don't know if it's too late.

Kim O'Donnel: It's definitely not too late to go to cooking school. In fact, most people are career changers and often are in their 30s and up when they decide to cook for a living. I was 30 when I went to ICE (then Peter Kump's) and I was the mean age -- there were plenty of folks into their 40s and up. Six to nine months of intense study is enough, yes. Both programs are fulltime which means 40 hours a week. You will be breathing and sleeping this experience, much of it on the fly. The bigger question is, do you have the means to do it? Cooking school is more expensive than ever these days...


Alexandria, Va.: The crumb cake looks fantastic! And I love the fact that you don't have to haul out a mixer for it.

Kim O'Donnel: For those curious, here are the recipe details for the crumb cake the reader mentioned. It is such an easy one to whip up...let me know what you think.


22305: I'm still lamenting the closing of Indian Spices and Appliances on 10th Street in Arlington. I haven't found a local replacement for it, and I need to stock up on Indian spices (not appliances, though!) and other fresh/frozen ingredients, like paneer cheese. Any suggestions in Northern VA? My "orbit" includes McLean/Tysons and Alexandria/Del Ray. Prefer close by, but happy to drive.

Kim O'Donnel: I go to this little place on Lee Highway called A-1 Indian Grocery. It is a good little market, with all the staples. Give it a try.


kind of broccoli: I picked up some broccolini the other day - at least I think it was broccolini - it has the florets of broccoli, but longer thinner stalks and more leaves. Anyway, I steamed some of it for dinner the other night and it was incredibly bitter. Any idea on how to prepare whatever this is? Thanks

Kim O'Donnel: Next time, blanch it -- cooking in boiling water for a minute or so, then rinse under running cold water for a few seconds. Then saute it with some garlic and olive oil. Tasty treat, less bitterness. Broccolini is one name; you may also know of it as rapini or broccoli raab.


Potatoes or flour: Hello. Just saw a nice cauliflower and potato soup on a cooking show. She used the potato to thicken and make it more appealing to kids (potatoes being more attractive than all cauliflower). I was thinking of doing a roasted red pepper and tomato soup, but most recipes use a roux or flour for thickening. Do you think sauteeing potatoes and onions, then adding the roasted peppers and tomatoes will work with that soup as well? I'm not a big fan of "flour" filler for soups.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I do. Potato acts like a wonder thickener. By the way, more soup-y ideas in tomorrow's Food section; I'm one of four folks who share ad hoc soup ideas from what's in the pantry, and potatoes are def. part of my repertoire.


Washington, D.C.: I feel like I'm in a rut. I bought some ground turkey but don't want to do turkey burgers or a meat sauce for pasta, my two staples... any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Gee, we've got lots of people in a rut this week! What's going on, folks? How do you feel about a turkey chili? In fact, Mister MA and I whipped up a bunch over the weekend with Goat of the Eye beans from Rancho Gordo. The turkey part was tomato based, but he seasoned the meat first with onion, garlic and bell peppers, plus cumin seeds and smoked paprika...we added tomato puree to the turkey, and when beans were near tender, we combined everything in one pot. It came out great. A little chipotle chile for some smoke, too.


Kim O'Donnel: Oh, by the way, my editor just informed me that today's blog post is up and for your eyes: A Buffet of Food Memoirs
And now back to our regular programming...


cooking for just me?: My fiance is moving away for a job, and I'm already feeling discouraged by cooking for just myself. Any tips that could you give me would be greatly appreciated. Also, since the move is happening this weekend, any mac n cheese recipes to comfort my sad heart?


Kim O'Donnel: Sorry darling. This has got to sting. For starters, here are the details for some fine Mac and Cheese. But going forward, don't stop cookin', ya hear? This will keep you grounded, keep you off the ledge. See recent blog on Cooking: The Next Happy Pill?


Arlington, Va.: Broccoli/Broccoli Raab/Broccolini - according to a recent show of Good Eats, Alton Brown says that Broccolini and Broccoli Raab are not the same thing. If it has leaves, it is most likely Broccoli Raab and the most bitter of the broccoli. Who knew?

On another note, let me pose a question. Despite its use as a side dish "vegetable" in the south, I like my mac and cheese as a main course. I'd be interested in hearing what is your (and the chatters) favorite side dish for mac and cheese. I'm eating some with a sauteed side of cabbage today.

Kim O'Donnel: You are absolutely correct. I kicked myself after submitting my answer. Broccolini is also known as aspiration -- and is a hybrid. Rapini and the raab are the same thing. I think they both kinda taste the same.
As for mac as a main, I'm with you. In above link I share details for stewed tomatoes, and I think braised greens are great here, too.


re Turkey Rut: We use ground turkey in tacos. We like it so much that we won't go back to (greasier) beef.

Kim O'Donnel: thank you!


RE: Ground Turkey: I love ground turkey and one of my favorite dishes to make is a vegetable soup with turkey meatballs. Start the soup as you would any soup and after the veggies are starting to get soft and the liquid is bubbling, I toss in my seasoned turkey meatballs to cook in the soup.

Kim O'Donnel: Another good idea for ground turkey...


Anonymous: What about gumbo file as a thickener for tthe roasted pepper and tomato soup? I find that when I buy it (Penzey's) for jambalaya or gumbo, I always have a lot left. It works well in richly seasoned dishes, since the taste of the file itself (sassafras) is not strong. Also avoids adding the calories of potatoes. I use it in spag sauce, sloppy joes, veg chili, etc. Wonder if it would work OK in this type of soup? Or would you have to add too much? Just curious.

(I have also used leftover rice in soups that I am going to puree -- wonderful thickener and indistinguishable after the pureeing.

Kim O'Donnel: It might. You need to watch the potential of resulting stringiness of the file, but if you cook it out, you'll be fine. Leftover rice is also a nice idea for bulk...


Popovers: When going through my mom's old cookbook I came across my great aunt Elsa's popover recipe. I made them, thinking they'd be like muffins for dinner, but alas, I guess i forgot about the fact that they are somewhat hollow. My daughter put cheese in hers and let it melt before eating.

We loved the popovers plain, but I think I'm missing out on something grand. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting topic. I'm curious to hear what other popover bakers do...


Shaw, D.C.: Hi Kim--

I'm amazed at the number of comments on the bean blog entry! I'm only halfway through and find it so enlightening. I love when everyone weighs in and swears by their own method or family secret, etc. Basically though there's no consensus on soaking or when to add salt. I suspect it all depends on the variety of beans, their age, one's source for buying etc. My favorite tidbit thus far is to add a carrot when cooking to absorb the oligosaccharides that cause gas.

Kim O'Donnel: That thing went viral. It was CRAZY. Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo emailed me that his phone has been off the hook, too. I thought about y'all over the weekend as I cooked a pot of beans. Sando likened bean cookers to martini makers -- they think their way is the only way! But I love it -- and all the enthusiasm...
And if you weren't one of the 154 people who posted a comment, have a look at people are saying about 14 Things to Know About Cooking Beans


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

Is it possible to get broccoflower here? It's a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It looks like a green cauliflower. I used to get it all the time when I lived in Los Angeles, and I have a taste for it... Any ideas? I haven't seen it at Whole Foods.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I've seen it, but off top of my head, don't know its season. I can find out this week.


Yum.....popovers!: Haven't thought about them for a while...but when I was a kid we ALWAYS had popovers with our breakfast on Easter Sunday. Which consisted of fried brook trout (which my Dad caught the day before), fresh strawberries and popovers. Yum! We would open the popovers up, smear them with butter and top with homemade jam. Now I'm homesick!

Kim O'Donnel: Hmmm...sounds like a blog in the making... you may need to email me your popover recipe, dear...


Cooking for one: When I was cooking for one (or occasionally two), I would make a meal for four, then I would use individual tupperware to freeze one to three portions and would take these to work later in the week or use them some night when I wasn't in the mood to cook. After several nights' cooking, there were always several choices in the freezer.

Maybe it's a guy thing. I know that my wife and other women I know don't like leftovers as much as guys do.

Kim O'Donnel: How organized! I love leftovers as I morph the original dish into something else throughout the week.


cooking for just me...: Start thinking of all the things you love, but haven't eaten for awhile because they aren't your fiance's favorite. Whether it's a stop for take out at -your- favorite restaurant (sorry, Kim), or dusting off an old recipe, it can be a nice way to take advantage of the time apart. (I have a tendency to roast garlic...or eat anything with garlic, sans worry, when I'm left to my own devices!)

Kim O'Donnel: Good ideas...(And if you think I cook every night of the week, you're dreaming!)


Ground Turkey: Makes great stuffed peppers. Saute onions and tomatoes and mix with turkey and cooked rice (1:1 turkey to rice) and stuff into a pepper, about 5 or 6 peppers fit into a high walled pan, leave extra tomatoes and onions on the bottom and cook covered on low until turkey is cooked through. With a green salad, makes a meal in one pot.

Kim O'Donnel: Very nice...


How to cut butter?: Hi Kim,

I'm making some pastry for the first time for a party this weekend, and I think I can handle everything, except that the recipe says to "cut butter" into the flour, and I don't know what that means.

I saw a YouTube video that demonstrated it with a stand mixer, but I don't have a stand mixer. Another source suggested using one of those curved pastry thingies or two knives, but I'm still kinda lost.

Can you possibly shed some light on how to cut butter into flour by hand? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Finger tips, my love. Use dem finger tips. Basically, you'll lift the diced butter with your tips and work it through the dough. Remember, the lifting motion...


popovers: Maple syrup on top! and applesauce . yum....

Kim O'Donnel: The popover ideas are popping up...


Richmond, Va.: Eat popovers "plain", by which I mean wonderfully complex, creamy, tasty. Why have we come to not appreciate good tastes, take the time to savor them, but prefer to slather everything with tons of gloop that covers up the taste? Popovers are sublime just as they are.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...


D.C.: I LOVE your English Muffin recipe! I make them all the time, recently for my grandmother who broke her arm and needed some cheering up. (It worked.) I am so inspired by them that I am thinking of making one of my brunch faves, eggs benedict, with those homemade muffins. But I'm feeling a little intimidated at the thought of making my first hollandaise sauce. Do you have any tips, tricks, or favorite herbs for a hollandaise?

Kim O'Donnel: I can't take credit for the recipe, only for testing it and sharing it with y'all. It is a real goodie. Re: hollandaise: It's been a while. let me follow up later this week after I've discussed with a veteran hollandaiser...okay? Eureka! Homemade English Muffins


RE: Broccoflower: I saw some beautiful purple broccoflower (same thing?) at the Whole Foods in Old Town Alexandria a few days ago.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent...


Anonymous: I live in college housing where dishes are done once a week and the bar takes up more than half of the already small kitchen. How can I make a nice meal in this atmosphere?

Do you have any quick recipes for the college mind that aren't just spaghetti/rice, boil water type things?

Kim O'Donnel: Soup is your friend. Have a look at this: 20 Ways to Soup It Up -- Without Leaving the House. You don't need fancy stuff, just a stable of ideas.


cutting butter: try two knives (table knives, not sharp cutlery), one in each hand, cut across, cut across... turn the bowl every now and then. the butter/flour should resemble coarse meal when you're done, with some smaller butter pieces and maybe a few larger ones. using hands is fine, but I have found that the heat transfer from my fingers has melted the butter. Be sure to chill your butter/flour for 30 minutes afterwards if you do cut it up that way.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a more detailed version of what I was trying to say...thank you!


Lentil Land: I cooked up some lentils the other night, but I'm a bit afraid of them. I've never had a lentil before!! What do I eat them with, and how should I season them before eating them?

Kim O'Donnel: Wait. You cooked the lentils but didn't season them? Talk to me. What color? And why didn't you taste? No need to be afraid!


cutting butter into flour: Possibly the best tip I ever read was to start with frozen butter then put to through your box grater. Makes it soooo easy to incorporate into the flour. Works especially well for recipes that call for less than a full stick of butter, as you can fold back the paper and hold onto the nub while you grate. Otherwise, use two partial sticks so that you spare your fingers.

Kim O'Donnel: Another suggestion on "cutting" butter....


Re: Broccoflower: I have seen it at Wegman's. Can't remember when, but it's a start!

Kim O'Donnel: And another possible idea for sourcing the broccoflower...and that about wraps things up for today. Thanks for stopping by, and for your ever-hungry enthusiasm. Thursday at 1 is vegetarian chat, so stop by if you can. In meantime, come visit me at A Mighty Appetite


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