What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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

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: Hey folks! Happy to be here after a wacky weather weekend in Atlanta. One of the wildest weather experiences of my life. Did anyone cook for St. Pat's? But what I really want to know: Does anyone celebrate St. Joseph's Day? Spring is official in the wee hours of Thursday morning, so stay tuned for ways we can have a sense of renewal in the kitchen. So what's on your mind? Tell me everything.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim --

I made a new recipe last night for a sauteed salmon over lentils and leeks. The meal tasted quite good, but I really had a problem cooking the fish. The recipe called for sauteing the salmon in butter 'and' finishing with a mustard herb butter. I skimped on the butter a bit, both in the pan and the topping. But the fish, Atlantic salmon, was so fatty, I still ended up with a pan full of grease. I took the fish out, scraped out the pan, blotted the fish, and returned it to the heat. Is it the variety of salmon that resulted in so much grease? Could I have skipped the butter in the pan all together?

Kim O'Donnel: Salmon, by nature, is a fatty fish, but I find farm-raised salmon (aka Atlantic salmon) to be even fattier. Next time, you can skip butter in pan, add a wee bit of oil instead and doing your herb butter. But can I throw in an eco-friendlier choice? Try Arctic char which gets an "eco-best" rating from Environmental Defense. I think it tends to be less fatty as well.


Washington, D.C.: Hi -- Is kosher Coke an urban myth? I cannot find it anywhere!

Kim O'Donnel: With Passover coming up, this would be the season when Coke Kosher for Passover would be available. Let's ask if anyone has seen it lately...I for one would like some made with sugar instead of corn syrup...


Washington, D.C.: I would love some new ideas for protein at breakfast. I can't do flour or sugar. I've been doing oatmeal and an egg or yogurt.

Kim O'Donnel: What about a fruit smoothie made with soy yogurt or with silken tofu? A bowl of fruit? when you say flour, can you do alternatives to wheat?


Duck Stock: Hi Kim and thanks for a great chat. Last night I broke in my new french oven by making braised duck. I'd never done anything like that and so it was, well, bland. I'll experiment with some seasonings on the leftovers to see what might be done in that realm. But, my question today is what to do with the carcass? I cut pieces off a whole duck to braise, but this still left me with the carcass and neck bones, liver and kidneys. I put them in a plastic bag and tossed them in the freezer with the idea that I will make stock. Can I, should I include the liver and kidneys in the stock or is there another use for them? Is the process of making stock out of duck the same as making chicken stock? I've never done that either so I suppose it doesn't matter. I assume that I should put the carcass into my new pot add water, onion, celery, carrot and a bunch of herbs and let simmer for a while. That's about as much as I know on the subject and I'd appreciate any advice you could give.

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, you can put those roasted bones into a soup pot and add those aromatics and herbs and simmer for a few hours. Keep the liver and kidneys out this -- you always want to keep a stock as clarified as possible. I would make pate with those leftovers instead.


Agave Nectar Question: Hi Kim! Enjoyed reading a previous post concerning agave nectar. Here is my question for you, can you use the nectar when you would use honey? Would it be an equal substitution (i.e. 1T of nectar for 1T honey), and where in the grocery store would you find it, near the honey? Thanks for your insights!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, glad you enjoyed and are finding useful. According to Ania Catalano's book, agave nectar is a 1:1 substitution for honey. For 1 cup sugar, however, you'd use 3/4 cup agave. Yes, you'll find near honey or sugar at the supermarket.


Please help me find an old recipe of yours!: Hi Kim,

In the fall, a woman wrote in asking for help making homemade hot pockets. You gave her a suggestion of how to make your meat pasties, and a spinach one from your creative loafing column. I can't for the life of me find these recipes, one of which -- I don't remember which one -- has a wonderful, smooth, high olive oil yeast dough recipe associated with it that makes beautiful turnovers. Can you point me to this dough recipe?


Kim O'Donnel: The olive oil dough is for the spinach pies. You're right - it's a goodie.


Brisket?: What happened to it?

Kim O'Donnel: Oh man. Time got away, and it didn't materialize. I am planning, however, to test a few brisket recipes in time for Passover. Stay tuned.


Re liver and kidneys: Thanks! Now about that pate? I don't need to get a live goose do I?

Kim O'Donnel: Nope. You could saute the duck liver and kidneys with some shallots, butter and booze, then puree. It'll be rich, but would be nice.


Kosher Coke: It's not a myth. The college I went to was situated in the middle of a Hasidic neighborhood (the college was there first). Every year around Passover, the vending machine would be filled with "Kosher Coke." The taste was off. Kind of like Coke that had been set out in the sun to bake. The first time I had it, I thought it might be stale. But, then I noticed the Hebrew letters on the top of the can and deduced that it much have been special for Passover.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in, dear.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I have a banana cake recipe that calls for a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Can I substitute yogurt, not so much for health reasons, but because I don't know what to do with leftover sour cream (although heathier never hurt either). Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, you can use plain yogurt, no problem. Check out the vegan banana bread I baked last week.


Peanut Butter Frosting/Glaze?: The mister has requested his favorite yellow cake/chocolate frosting for his birthday. I'd like to make it a little more interesting by incorporating his other favorite -- peanut butter. I'm thinking that I'll fill the cake with some sort of peanut butter frosting, but then I thought it also might be fun to do two layers of frosting -- peanut butter, and when it sets, chocolate. Any thoughts? Recipes for a peanut butter frosting that will set enough for me to do a second layer of frosting?

Kim O'Donnel: Was just looking at a recipe for peanut butter mousse-filled cupcakes in the earlier mentioned book by Ania Catalano. For the filler, you could do the peanut butter -- silken tofu, agave, peanut butter, vanilla and salt...and the the top layer would be chocolate, with chopped peanuts as garnish. Let me know if you want those details.


Salad dressing: Hey Kim,

I am no longer allowed to eat sugar in my diet and I have found that all of my salad dressings have fructose, sucralose, or high fructose corn syrup in them. So I've decided it's just easiest to make my own. I have tarragon vinegar, mayo, dijon mustard. Can I make anything out of any of these, or use as a base? I'm a little hesitant to use fresh herbs because I think they're supposed to be consumed fairly quickly and I would like to make a batch of dressing to last the week. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Making your own salad dressing certainly does give you that control, good for you. Mayo-based dressings will not last as long as vinaigrettes, so if you want something to last the week, hold off on the mayo. A vinaigrette is an emulsion of a fat and acid, with salt and usually some additional flavoring like the mustard you mention. You can always add fresh herbs just before serving; it will taste fresher and only take two seconds.


Arlington, Va., S: I've recently figured out the best way (for me, anyway) to make plain white rice that isn't overcooked. Using the proportions written on the container, I bring everything to a boil, then cover, turn it off, and let it sit the required cooking time. Perfect every time. Needless to say, my pot is very thick and heavy (all-clad).

On a related note, I'm trying to figure out good applications of leftover rice, once I've let it get cold or even refrigerated for a day or two. Can you help me out?

St. Josephs -- my parents, recently returned to Italy for retirement, tell me that it's considered father's day for their area (north of Milan). We don't really celebrate so much, but I do wish him a happy fathers day when I call on/around that date.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your tidbits, dear. As for leftover rice, you gotta do fried rice! Don't worry, it's not the super greasy Chinese take-out kind, it's homegrown and chockful of veggies and flavor. Most wonderful way to use up rice, thinking that's what tonight's dinner should be....


Coke made with sugar: Hello Kim, I am sure there are other sources as well but just randomly, I was at the vet's office in a strip mall in Springfield (on Backlick, south of the Mixing Bowl, where Backlick divides off into Amherst; there's an Outback there as well); at the south end of the mall is a so-so deli but with delightful staff and sugarcane Coke in bottles. Maybe not worth a trip but a good source for those nearby.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Sugarcane coke, y'all, right by the Mixing Bowl!


St. Joseph's Day: We always celebrate St. Joseph's Day. It's a huge deal in our Sicilian/Italian family. The breads are a large bread in the shape of a toolbox with more breads of carpenter's square, hammer, etc., inside the toolbox. The only thing I hated was the pasta with breadcrumbs and anchovies in the sauce.

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic. Where are you from? Tell me more! Who made the bread?


For person needing breakfast ideas....: My sister who can't do wheat or sugar loves natural peanut butter or cream cheese on celery for breakfast.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you. I'm also thinking peanut butter on dates, bananas, apples...


Washington, D.C.: Interesting isn't it that when we can no longer have something we start reading labels and find out that many salad dressings are filled with sugar (high fructose corn syrup) and what does sugar do? It adds pounds. Reading labels on food products is oh so important isn't it?

Kim O'Donnel: You're preaching to the choir here, my dear. It's a good practice no matter what's going on in our lives.


Washington, D.C.: I made the chocolate Guinness cake this weekend. I made it as cupcakes so it would be easier to distribute to the neighbors. So as not to lose the Guinness look I gave the cupcake pans a good spray with PAM and they just tumbled out of the pans.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh...were you pleased? This is great to know.


Re: salad dressing: So what can I add to my tarragon vinegar to make a tasty dressing?

Kim O'Donnel: Well, tarragon vinegar can be strong, so I'd go easy. Start with the vinegar and salt it. Then whisk in a smidge of mustard. Then whisk in your oil. Taste every step along the way for salt, acid.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim --

I recently discovered a love for brussel sprouts. So far I have only steamed them. I am getting bored with this. Any ideas for new ways to prepare my new favorite veggie?

Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: Roast them! Cut in half, lather with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees. Heavenly.


NoLo, D.C.: This is a Jewish leap year (a whole extra month!) and Passover is quite late -- still a month off. You might have more luck finding Coke produced with sugar instead of HFCS in another couple of weeks.

Some stores have bigger pesach displays than others, but pesadik Coke is pretty widely available. Look for 2-liter bottles with bright yellow caps...

Kim O'Donnel: More good info on the pesadik (Kosher for Passover) Coke. Thanks!


Fairfax, Va.: Please, please help me. I want to bake a lamb cake this year and waited too long to buy the mold online. Where can I buy one in Northern Virginia? They are difficult to find. Struck out at Michael's -- does anyone know who has them? Many thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Try Fran's Cake and Candy Supplies in Fairfax City. She has tons of cake molds.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hi Kimberly, it's Valerie from Tranquilspace -- I have loved your chat since its early days in the late 90s and I am so glad I get to run into you when I'm back in D.C.

A few quick questions for you:

1. Do you have a mailing list one can be added to?

2. Primer on potatos? -- I am on a mashed potato kick and always partial to yukons, but trying to branch out. Some potatos seem a lot waxier than yukons, other harder. What are your general thoughts on what types are good mashed potatos and also potato pancake situations (that's the kick coming on)?

3. Acorn squash -- is it too late in the season? I am dying to try a recipe I saw on Smitten Kitchen for Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette.

Many thanks for your chats and blogs. They are some of my favorite reading :D

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Valerie, nice to hear from you.

1. Yes, e-mail me at writingfood@gmail.com with subject line "Mailing List" and I'll get you added for my weekly newsletter.

3. It might be too late for the squash. Best place to find out is your nearest farm market.

2. Potatoes: We'll need to do something in the blog space that covers varieties. Yukon golds actually are waxier than say, the Idaho baking potato. I think it's about personal preference; I find red potatoes boil strangely and are better roasted, for example. Let me ponder on a blog theme here.


St. Joseph's Day: Northeastern (Scranton) Pa. The bakery made the great breads. We don't have that talent in the gene pool. The younger ones dress up as Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus and have a little play of the family looking for a place to stay. It's neat.

Kim O'Donnel: Cool. Are you still living there?


Oatmeal and peanut butter: Oatmeal Breakfast -- have been making oatmeal pancakes recently -- oatmeal, egg whites, tofu, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg in blender. Good to make ahead and reheat, too.

Peanut butter -- not the original poster, but I'd love the peanut butter-filled cupcakes details.


Kim O'Donnel: Nice! Clever idea. I'll get those peanut butter filling details this week, promise.


Cheesy pasta: Hi Kim,

I have a craving for a baked cheesy pasta dish tonight. I have a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano at home. Any great suggestions? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I like penne best when doing something alone those lines. Are you looking for something closer to mac & cheese (with a chese sauce) or an Italian-style baked number with a little red sauce? Holler.


No sugar no wheat breakfast: Besan Cheelas-Savory chickpea flour pancakes. Mix besan (chickpea flour), salt, cayenne, turmeric(optional) and fennel powder. Add chopped onion, tomatoes, cilantro. Add water to make a thin (but not too runny) batter. Put some oil on a griddle, pour batter and cook on both sides. Eat with ketchup, cilantro/mint chutney, or tomato chutney.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you for this! I love the diversity of breakfast options you've shared today.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Kim -- welcome back and I hope you had a great time. I just finished reading "A Taste of Britian -- Britain's History Through Its Cooking." Do you know of any place that serves "historical food"? A place other than Colonial Williamsburg? I think it would be fascinating to see how the food we now evolved.

Kim O'Donnel: Is there nothing right in Philly? That would be my first thought. Anyone with historical food notions? Interesting idea.


Homemade salad dressing: My favorite is lemon (I always keep some on hand and make this dressing as I'm making the salad), olive oil, salt, pepper, and a drop of honey. It doesn't taste sweet, but the honey does something wonderful to temper the bitterness of the lemon and the whole dressing really does taste better with it. You could use lime too with some cilantro.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm with you -- much prefer citrus fruit as my acid over vinegar.


Brussel sprouts: Cut into fourths, sautee with sliced shiitake mushrooms or creminis with a little olive oil and a little water. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil at the end. I've gotten the oil from Wegman's.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, and a little sesame oil in the pumpkin seed oil's place would do nicely as well.


Kim O'Donnel: Already time to run. Girl scout's honor, I'll have some Easter-y ideas later this week in the blog. A big shout out to spring -- she's almost here! Thanks for dropping by.


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