What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, April 15, 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, a beautiful spring day here in the nation's capital, with bright blue skies and lots of sunshine. And yet it's Tax Day, when many of us are bemoaning the state of our finances and what we've got in the piggy bank. I'm curious: What are you doing in the kitchen to cut corners? Have you got an under $10 meal that tastes like a million bucks? I'm working on a blog post about this very topic. If you've got a thrifty tip to share, please send it me at kim.odonnel@wpni.com and it may be selected for publication. In the subject line, please type: "Getting Thrifty" and in the body of your e-mail, please type your name, city & state, and size of your household.

I was in Atlantic City over the weekend for the first time in more than 20 years, and it was weirder than I can remember. I have many fond memories of riding my bike on the boardwalk from Ventnor to AC during school breaks in the 70s and early 80s, and it was tacky then, but man it's beyond tacky. It's downright shoddy. I played the slot machines for the first time in my life, and I don't need to do that again. Unfortunately the line at white house subs was really long, so I couldn't relive the experience of eating one of those amazing sandwiches, but walked across the street to Formica Bros. Bakery for tomato pie and a good whiff of the rolls.

So let's hear from you. Are you finding the Eco-Bites in the blog helpful? Are you craving something that we haven't gotten to just yet? I'm all eyes and ears.


Anonymous: I have an idea and don't know if it has merit or is obviously a bad idea and I just don't know it. Here goes: risotto made with a broth from shrimp shells I've saved, maybe throw in a little dill at the end. Steam/poach tilapia filets (they are thin) on top of the risotto at the final minutes of cooking.

Will it work? Will it be edible? Bad idea? Worth trying?

I saw your tilapia recipe the other day, and will try it. We eat fish at home at least twice a week, and maybe it is just the end-of-winter-I-want-to-grill blahs, but I am looking for something different to do. Another option would be to try the countertop-ala-Foreman grill tonight.

Thoughts welcome. Love the blog. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, making a stock from the shrimp shells is absolutely worth trying and is quite thrifty of you, my dear. Use the dill just before serving your risotto -- I think you'll lose it if used in the stock. All you need are those shells to make a briny stock. I would cook the tilapia separately and add at the very end -- trying to steam on top will be cumbersme and get in the way of your beautiful rice.


Chevy Chase, Md.: I'm submitting early as I won't be available during your chat. Has anyone tried the brisket recipe from Friday's blog? I think I'm going to make a switch and prepare yours, Kim, but would like to hear some comments from anyone who tried it out over this past weekend. Was it too salty? Is the cooking time about right? Etc.

washingtonpost.com: Bring on the Brisket ( A Mighty Appetite, April 11)

Kim O'Donnel: Bring it on, folks...


Alexandria, Va.: Thanks for the matzoh lasagna recipe; it looks like a great break from those messy lasagna noodles and I'm looking forward to trying it. Another alternative,though not Passover-friendly, is a riff on Real Simple magazine's "last minute lasagna" (available on their Web site). They substitute cheese ravioli for the noodle and cheese layers, and I've had great success taking their basic concept, but experimenting with various filled noodles and seasonal vegetables and my own sauces, rather than just assembling their pre-packaged, off the shelf components. It's a great concept that allows for quick creativity in the kitchen.

washingtonpost.com: A Vote for Matzoh Lasagna ( A Mighty Appetite, April 15)

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Alexandria, thanks for chiming in. I am now part of the Real Simple family, by the way, writing an online food column three times a week.


Terp in the Kitchen: Kim, I'm hoping you can help...

I made broccoli with a cheese sauce over the weekend...it turned out beautifully, smooth, velvety, cheesy sauce, except that the sauce tastes a little floury. I started with a roux -- equal parts (not measured exactly, just approximate) Smart Balance and flour (I know, I know, margarine, but it's all I had, and I figured, since it's essentially vegetable oil, it should work just fine). I used 2 percent milk, a little bit at a time, as each bit was incorporated and thickened, I added more. Emmenthaler and monterey jack at the end, along with some pre-grated parmesean (again, processed, but it's all I had).

Could it have plain old been too much flour (it was about 3-4 T), or maybe the parmesean?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Terp, the Smart Balance part is not what tripped you up -- it's all fat, after all. What I want to know is how long you cooked the roux. Sometimes it needs a little time to cook "off" its flour-ness. Next time, make sure you are more exact, as in measure out 3 tablespoons fat and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir, stir, stir, even after the two combine.


Passover: Just wanted to say thank you for the Passover recipes. Given how late in the year it's coming, I've moved from traditional (lamb, brisket, etc.) to lighter -- Apart form the seder plate and gefilte fish, am roasting a chicken with a wine-orange-butter glaze, dried cherries and apricots, side of asparagus, and (ok, not so light) potato kugel. A strawberry mousse and choc-dipped matzoh for dessert.

Kim O'Donnel: It's my pleasure. It was a lot of fun to play with recipes I've long been curious about. I think this weekend, at least in D.C., it will be in the 70s, so I know what you mean about lighter. I like the idea of a roast chicken for your Seder supper.


Kalorama, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim, happy spring!

My husband and I were hoping to cook some South African food soon to celebrate Trevor Immelman's Masters win last Sunday (yes, we're big golf nerds). The trouble is, we don't know anything about South African cuisine! Any suggestions for dishes that might be an easy transition?

Thanks a bunch!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, that's a cool idea. Did you know I lived there for a while about 15 years ago? First question is: Do you like meat? South Africans love their braai (aka barbecue). There are lots of ways you can go -- bobotie is a kind of meatloaf, with Cape Malay origins -- with raisins, baked custard on top...and then there's sosatie, a curry/stew with lamb...pap/mealie meal is a staple among black S Africans, it's kind of like polenta but often stiff enough to pick up with your fingers and use as a utensil. This is often served with a kind of tomato gravy with onions. On the east coast, by Durban, Indian food is prevalent; curries, samosas, biryanis are common fare. The super-hot Peri-peri chicken is a holdover from Portuguese settlers...dessert could be a melktert or the fried koeksisters...


Omelette fillings: What are your favorite omelette fillings? I make an omelette for dinner about once per week, because it's so quick and easy. But I'm getting bored with my usual fillings. I typically do green pepper, onion and cheddar since I always have those on hand. Lately I've been using asparagus and cheese. Any creative ideas out there?

Kim O'Donnel: I love a thin omelet with herbs and chives. Or quick wilting-greens such as spinach or arugula and a smidge of goat cheese. Chiles -- I love a little hot stuff with my eggs.


Silver Spring, Md.: Yay, spring is here, spring is here, spring is here! The Silver Spring Farmers Market opens Saturday and I can hardly contain my joy. The guest chef is Odessa Piper -- everybody come on down and make it an even bigger success.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow! That is exciting. I may have to make my way over there. Thanks for the news, dear.


Annapolis, Md.: How do I find an agent for a cookbook I have written and would like to publish?

Kim O'Donnel: I too am looking for an agent to send a cookbook proposal. Do you have any friends who have written books and could refer you to their agent? That's how I'm accumulating names.


Chard: Kim, what do you like to do with chard? I've got a bunch that needs to get used in the next day or two. All the recipes that are appealing to me are loaded with fat and calories and I'd like something a little healthier.

Kim O'Donnel: I frequently cook with chard because it cooks so quickly. You can make a vinagrette of 2 scallions, a few tablespoons of lemon juice, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and some salt, whisk in oil, then heat it, then add your chopped chard and toss to coat. Great hot salad that takes all of five minutes. One of my favorites.


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Kim,

For Passover this year, I bought a new large stock pot and I'd love to make a scrumptious soup to enjoy at work all week. The problem is, beans, corn, and pasta are out because of the dietary restrictions of the holiday, and I am not a fan of potato or sweet potato soups. I do want something hearty and flavorful, and would prefer it to be vegetarian as well. Ratatouille is more veggie-side than the kind of stew I am looking for. Can you help? Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a link to a really nice recipe for broccoli puree, which works like a charm for weekday lunches.


Springfield, Mass.: Hi. Any new spice ideas for grilling chicken? We love it but have marinated in Italian dressing or barbeque sauce once too often. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Check out this link to a recipe for Viet-Grilled Chicken, which is one of the easiest and most flavorful marinades I have ever come across.


Whiskey Fennel Sausage, D.C.: I picked up some whiskey fennel sausage (in casings) at Eastern Market this weekend. Any suggestions for how to use best use it? The caveat being I went to WF to pick up some fennel and at $4.99/each, I decided against it. I was going to roast fennel, onion, etc., and mix with sausage but that is out now. My only other plan was to keep it simple and put on a sliced whole wheat baquette and serve with nice mustard, pickles, a salad, etc. Thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: I like roasted potatoes with my sausages, but your idea of a sandwich with all the accoutrements sounds tasty, too. Some homemade vinegar slaw with cabbage and carrots would be fun, too.


Falls Church, Va.: Thanks for your help. Am going to a dinner party on Saturday where the hosts are making fajitas. I am tasked with a side dish -- rice or beans. I'd like to incorporate the cherry tomatoes I've frozen from my last summer garden. I don't want to use a lot of onion or peppers which will be in the fajitas. Do you have any suggestions? I love garlic and spiciness is fine -- meat is not as my husband doesn't eat it.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Falls, it might be fun to make a red rice, which is flavored with tomatoes and is just good home cookin'.


Your e-mail address: Hi Kim. FYI, I just tried to send you some thrifty meals suggestions to the address you posted above, and it came back as undeliverable.

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. I just sent myself a test message and it came through...

here it is again:



Washington, D.C.: Hey Kim -- question/suggestion about the blog. A while ago you started a weekly/monthly section on herbs and spices, but I think there was really only one post about it. Can you start that up again? I really like learning more about different spices and herbs, along with basics, such as when to add during cooking, etc. Thanks -- love the blogs and chats!

Kim O'Donnel: I know, I've been remiss. I do hope to start it up again -- it's high on my to-do list. Thanks.


Chard: Hi Kim! For the person looking for something to do with chard, I like to cook it with a can of navy beans and chicken stock...also great if you smash some of the beans to make a thicker sauce and serve with grilled chicken! VERY low fat!

Kim O'Donnel: Great idea. Thanks for sharing.


Slow Cooker?: Hi Kim,

I've seen you mention using slow cookers/stockpots for chili, but could you give me an idea of exactly how one uses a slow cooker? Do you just throw all the ingedients in and let it cook? What about for frying onions in oil to add to chili etc- would you just skip that step? And how much water do you add? Help is needed!

Kim O'Donnel: It's actually your fellow readers who use the slow cooker. I don't have the space for it in my small kitchen. Let's hear from all you slow cookers out there...


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Good afternoon,

I plan to make a flourless chocolate cake for a seder dessert. Any suggestions or recommended recipes?

Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: Yesterday, I wrote about a chocolate cake made with quinoa flour. Quinoa is an edible seed that's ground into flour and is considered Kosher for Passover. The recipe includes amaranth flour, which, although has similar chemical composition (doesn't rise), there's been no official word on whether amaranth, a leafy green plant from the "goosefoot" group, is K for P.


M Street NW, Washington, D.C.: Omelette ideas...

I like a spinach, mushroom, and garlic filing, with some feta and finished with a reduced balsamic vinegar sauce or some sweet vinegar, like fig or pomegranate.

I've also made a delicious gruyere cheese, apple (or pear) and a salty ham or proscuitto.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. I'm also a big fan of mixing black beans and salsa with my eggs...


Kim O'Donnel: Already time to go. There are lots of lingering unanswered questions, so keep your eyes peeled in the blog space for some of the leftovers. Again, if you'd like to contribute to my "Getting Thrifty" piece, please send your ideas to kim.odonnel@wpni.com or writingfood@gmail.com

Take care, stay well.


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