What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, April 29, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hey folks, do you believe May is almost here? I had a great eating adventure in Los Angeles last week. I bet many of you are thinking how to fete Mom next weekend, and I hope to offer some suggestions in the coming days. What's on your mind these days? Has anyone been reading about the Farm Bil or what's happening to the price of rice oveseas (and ensuing shortages)? Let's hear what's on the burners, front, back and center.

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Silver Spring, MD: Hi Kim -

I'm delighted you made it to Hermosa Beach and Martha's! While it is not haute cuisine, it is a wonderful neighborhood place to have a lovely, sunny breakfast on a lazy morning. This type of breakfast place is all throughout the south bay and is part of what makes it a great place to live. I'm so glad you had fun in LA - so many people don't enjoy visiting. I think it is key to be there with a local, or at the very least, solicit suggestions for where to go and what to do.

All the best!

KL

Kim O'Donnel: KL, I loved the neighborhood feel of Martha's, and I agree, the reason why my trip was so fruitful is because we had tips from local folks.

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Vienna, VA: Hey Kim!

The husband and I will be married 20 years on Tuesday! We're planning a tour of France in the Fall so I'm thinking of making a French-themed dinner for him. Any ideas? Wolfgang Puck has a shrimp dish with a mustard sauce that I'm considering but I am open to anything.

Kim O'Donnel: congratulations!! Way to go, vienna. Ever make a souffle? This would be theatrical and fun to serve for a romantic supper. Here's a link to my how-to video/recipe that might be fun to try. For dessert, what about a tarte aux citrons (lemon tart)? Let's hear what other Francophiles have to say.

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Omaha, Neb.: Hope a "cleaning" question is okay. I have some silicon muffin tins that I love (easy removal of baked goods!) The problem: I can't seem to get them clean. Since the first time I used them, they feel coated and somewhat greasy. I'm pretty sure the 'pan' instructions said to use cooking spray, but am wondering if I misread them. Is there hope for cleaning these pans, or are they just permanently gross?

Kim O'Donnel: It is certainly okay, Omaha. Have you thought of giving the "tins" a white vinegar wash? White vin tends to de-grease almost anything in the kitchen. I know my silpat (silicone baking mat) tends to feel coated as well, so I sympathize.

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Terp in the Kitchen: Kim, I'm going to attempt my first risotto this week. I'm comfortable with the whole idea of stir, add, stir, absorb... question is about flavor - I have it in my head that putting a parmesean rind in there somewhere would add flavor (have read it does for soups?)...would this work? If so, when would I add it?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Terp, if you wan to add the rind, why not add it to the stock that you plan to use for the risotto? No doubt this will flavor stock but will stay out of the risotto itself. For seasonings, you'll start with lots of finely chopped onion, so fine almost like baby food...although here's a twist on that idea, using leeks and green garlic. I love lemon zest in my risotto just before serving, and a smidge of fresh herbs is nice too.

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Austin, TX: Hi Kim! Today is my birthday and I decided to celebrate by making the chocolate Guinness cake you had blogged about last year. What a fantastic cake! However I found that I wanted a bit more punch to it; could you suggest an additional ingredient for more zing? Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Happy Birthday! I would suggest maybe some cinnamon and/or cardamom, but it might get lost against the intensity of Guinness...You could try a little espresso powder, that might be nice.

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Springfield, MA: Hello Kim. Any ideas on a way to use beautiful orange and yellow peppers as a side dish - possibly to salmon. Other than using the peppers in fajitas and salads I have no ideas. Believe a friend of my mom's used to stuff them with corn or rice? Thanks for any ideas. Thanks for your chats, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Stuffed peppers are indeed lovely, Springfield. Other ideas that come to mind: roast'em, and serve with goat cheese or feta, a sprinkling of pine nuts and fresh oregano. You can roast, then puree peppers, as a lovely soup by itself or puree with a can of drained white beans for a super fab dip for crackers. Let's hear what others might do...

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Bread crumbs:: I bought a box of pankeo bread crumbs and would like to try it with fish. Do I need to flour and egg wash the fillets first or just pat the crumbs onto the fish? I'd like to avoid a too heavy feel.

Kim O'Donnel: You can brush the fish with oil first, then try rolling in the crumbs. Only thing to keep in mind, though, is that panko are generally coarser and may not stick as readily as finer crumbs.

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Food and relationships: Re your blog today. People are taking this way too seriously. You'd really not date someone because they eat different things? Seems really narrow-minded to me to reject someone just because they like to eat steak. And in case you're wondering, I'm a no meat/no fish/no poultry vegetarian.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your comments; I think it's a fascinating thread because food is so very personal. For me, it makes no difference whether or not my partner eats meat, but I will say this: I would have a real problem becoming committed to someone who eats fast food as a rule rather than an exception.

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Washington, D.C. : Hello, Kim,

My question is about substituting water or veggie broth for chicken broth. A vegetarian house-guest loves soups and most of mine have a chicken-stock base. I know that using anything else will alter the taste, so I wonder if it's a wiser choice to go with tasteless water, or with a different taste altogether like vegetable broth or mushroom broth? Or should I get a vegetarian non-chicken broth? Thanks in advance!

Kim O'Donnel: What about making your own veggie stock? It takes less than 30 minutes to simmer up a pot of leeks, parsley, garlic and onions, and you'd be amping up the flavor of your soups much more than water, for sure.

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Risotto: I made your green garlic leek risotto last week and thought it was fabulous -- the lemon zest definitely adds the right touch. Are there any other springtime risotto recipes you recommend? I'm thinking asparagus, but feel like it would need something else.

Kim O'Donnel: Asparagus would def. be grand, and you can pair it up with mushrooms. Have you ever played with morels? Whatever you choose, do the veggie saute separately, then add to the cooked rice.

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Panko: With panko, I find it easier to first coat with flour, then whatever liquid you're using, and then the panko. It sticks better that way.

Kim O'Donnel: Cool. Thanks for chiming in.

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Pepper Confit: For the chatter who needs pepper ideas, I like to saute slices of pepper with chopped onion in olive oil. 10 min for crunchy, to 30 min for more caramelized and sweet. You can add whatever other spices you like, I like fennel seeds myself. And after it's cooked, you can add feta cheese to the warm mix so it gets all gooey and delicious. I also like to serve the mix on toast, topped with a poached egg for an easy meal. The possibilities are really endless...

Kim O'Donnel: Yes! I love the idea of fennel seeds with peppers --and yes of course, peppers and eggs make a sublime combo.

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Austin, too: Dear reader and Kim,

I've made the truly wonderful Guinness cake twice. The first time I used Young's Double Chocolate Stout. My son, the chocolate freak, swears it was better than the second version, with the Guinness.

Just a thought.....

Kim O'Donnel: Great to know! I love it when you experiment on your own...

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Peppers: Right now I'd stuff them with a mix of rice, wild rice, cheese, spices, any grains, raisins...

When it's hot I'd dice them and put them in a balsalmic vinegerette wiht some onions, olivies, for a salad side

Kim O'Donnel: More yummy applications for peppers...

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Arlington, Va. S: The food price issue accross the world is shocking (it's probably more accurate to say affordability issue). There are far too many variables for my non-economist mind to grasp.

I have noticed more people complaining about the costs of food. I'm a vegetarian and read with some interested the back and forth comments on some of your blogs debating the economics of different diets. Personally, I cook a lot from scratch and never really pay much attention to price changes/differences until it gets very large. I make my own bread (6? 8? loaves from a 5 lb bag) and with other ingredients it's still probably less than $1 a loaf. Even with the increase in rice prices, lentils/rice/onion (Mujadara) is a bargain, as are many of the other dishes I make. I think the biggest bargain saver for me is not that I eat vegetarian, but that I scratch cook most everything and hunt for seasonal produce. Since I like Italian cheeses, I probably blow the same amount of money on cheese that some others might on meat.

And on that note, is the price of meat spiking? Grass raised may not, but most cattle (90 percent?) in this country are raised on grain if I remember correctly.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks so much for your thoughts, Arlington. I agree with you, the fact that you're taking the DYI route is the reason your food bills are lower than those of who buy prepared, processed and frozen food. But time is money too, and so it's all about what works for each person depending on schedules, priorities, family size. The cost of beef is spiking (don't have figures at this very second) and yes, the cost of grain has a lot to do with that.

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Risotto Follow-Up: Thanks, Kim, for answering so quickly.

I have to admit, I'm using boxed stock (low sodium to be able to control). Funny you should mention "baby food," becaused I have a 9-month-old and that's the primary reason for using the stock. Just don't have the capacity to make it 'and' the risotto (and stew her apricots -- yum!).

So I'm thinking ix-nay on the ind-ray this time, and save it for when I can make stock?

Kim O'Donnel: Oh yes, save that rind and make soup later! You can freeze it, too.

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Arlington, Va.: Cream of tartar -- where can I find it? This weekend, I went to Whole Foods, Giant, Safeway, and Shoppers Food Warehouse. I spent over ten minutes in each store's baking aisles to find the darn thing. Is this a special order item, or am I just not seeing it?

Kim O'Donnel: Weird. Try Penzey's over at Falls Church.

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Canning books: Kim, I've gotten inspired to start a garden and do some canning after reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm planning on some tomatoes for sauce and cucumbers for pickling. I have 3 dozen canning jars from my husband's grandmother and I'm wondering if you could recommend any books on canning. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: It's not a canning book, per se, but Greg Atkinson, a chef in Washington state, covers a lot of canning in his "West Coast Cooking." I also have the Blue Ball book which you can order,worth having for the basics on food safety, using equipment, etc.

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Veggie Stock and Soup: To the reader cooking for a vegetarian houseguest: I am vegetarian and whether I use a veggie stock, or water, to sub for chicken stock depends on the soup. For hearty, thick concoctions like bean soups or like stews, I usually use water. There is enough going on that I do not miss the extra layer of flavor (or sodium). For a broth-based dish (e.g., tortellini in brodo) or a lighter soup in which the broth flavor is important, you probably would want to use a veggie broth/stock complementary to the ingredients in the soup. Mushroom stock is not always complementary -- and can be very overpowering, in my experience.

Your friend will appreciate you, either way.

Atlanta Veggie

Kim O'Donnel: Great tips, thanks much Atlanta! I'm with you, sometimes I use water, sometimes I use stock, depending on what's simmering that day.

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Collards: Made collards last night for the first time on my own. I followed a vegetarian recipe that seemed pretty good and was reviewed well on the Web site from which I got it. We liked them, but found them a bit bland. We talked about kicking them up with some hot sauce -- and hubby did that for the second serving, which he thought helped. Wondering what other ways we might make this better -- more flavorful, not necessarily hot/spicy.

What I did: saute 1 small onion with 3 large cloves garlic in a butter/olive oil combo (not a lot). Added 1 tsp red pepper flakes (actually a "zesty" spice blend that mostly featured red pepper flakes but was what we had on hand). Added the chopped, cleaned greens, 12 oz. veg broth and about 1 c water. Simmered +/- 40 minutes, then added a can of stewed tomatoes.

Just looking for some ways to brighten this up, give it some better flavor, so we can work collards, kale and the like into our veg routine a bit more, especially as they become locally available.

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Going forward, I might add fresh chopped chiles of choice for the heat you were missing.. Lots of folks love vinegar with their greens, and it may also be a matter of giving them enough salt. Soy sauce is a nice alternative to regular old salt.

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Arlington, Va. S: To the pepper person -- a recipe for Italian Pepperonata should be the thing you're looking for. It's a stew of colored peppers with chopped tomatoes and sliced onions, salt/pepper, maybe vinegar, maybe parsley, and depending on the region, potatoes. Quite tasty and easy to make, though it takes 30 or 40 minutes of cooking time (you don't need to watch it much). It freezes well and can also be useds as a sauce for penne pasta or polenta.

Most Italian cookbooks should have a recipe for it.

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds about right, Arlington!

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River City: I saute peppers with garlic, olive oil and smashed anchovies and serve over fetticini.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, yes, anchovies with peppers is a lovely idea!

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Veggie Stock: For the person with the veggie houseguest: Wolfgang Puck's stocks are wonderful, and this avowed carnivore actually prefers the vegetable stock to chicken stock for my soups. It's super rich, flavorful, and works well in soups (i'm eating some split pea that I made with it this week!)

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a vote for a store-bought brand of veggie stock...

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Cleaning a burned pot in D.C.: Hello! Yesterday I spaced out and forgot I'd left the wooden steamer on top of a Revere-ware pot in order to steam broccoli. When I remembered, the steamer and the broccoli were both charcoal, the water in the pot was long-gone, and the pot itself was pretty yucky. So far, steel wool isn't enough to get the pot clean although maybe if I use an entire box I'll get there. Do you have any advice? I feel so lucky not to have burned down the house, but I would like to rescue this pot if possible. Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, that stinks. Sorry, dear. Have you tried a baking soda soak yet? Who else has an idea for burnt pots?

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Cream of Tartar: Does the poster understand that it comes in a very small jar stored with the herbs and spices? I just wonder if s/he was looking in the section with flour, sugar, and other large-package baking items. Someone just starting to bake and to look for this sort of thing might not expect to find it with the herbs. I'd be stunned if four mainstream groceries really didn't have it. Possible, but I just pose the question, as your chats attract and welcome people of all cooking experiences and levels --this might be a "newbie" question that seems obvious once you know the answer, but isn't obvious at all on its own.

Kim O'Donnel: Good points you offer.

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Veggie stock: When I don't have homemade handy, I use Rapunzel vegetarian bullion cubes, unsalted. They provide just enough flavor, no strange color or weird boxed taste. I get them at Whole Foods.

Kim O'Donnel: Great to know, I've wondered about this brand.

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Washington, D.C.: Re Panko crumbs -- I use them all the time without any flour. I mix in a small bowl some turmeric, garam masala, Mrs. Dash spicy no salt season and some olive oil to make a paste. I brush it on the fish then sprinkle on the Panko crumbs and press into the fish with a fork and do the other side. I bake in an oven they stick and the fish is quite tasty. By the way, I use whole wheat Panko bread crumbs which are very good.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent! Thanks for your first-hand panko-crusted report...

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Shaw, D.C.: For the pepper eater:

I like to make a Mexican-style stuffed pepper with a lightly sauteed combo of corn/onion/jalapeno/touch of sour cream filling. I usually char and remove the skins of the peppers before baking and then cover with a good salsa verde (green) or salsa roja (red) and a bit of cheese.

I also like to make a "salad" by cutting in half a head of romaine, endive, and/or radicchio, drizzling with oil and then wilting them on the grill. Peppers cut in large pieces or rings can also be grilled until tender. Cut the veggies to bite size, add some cherry tomatoes, cucumber etc. and dress with a fresh balsamic or red wine vinaigrette. Yummy!

Kim O'Donnel: Great stuff, Shaw. Thanks for checkingn in. And local romaine will be here very soon...

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burned pot: Barkeeper's Friend is good at getting off burned on food. It's safe for pots and the environment.

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, excellent...and here are a few more ideas...

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For the burned pot in D.C.: I seem to recall a remedy where you fill the pot with warm water and sprinkle in borax or baking soda. I think the borax would work better, it contains oxygen which would react with the carbon on the pot.

Kim O'Donnel: And another...

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Baking-soda soak: Is that a paste I apply to the burned area of the pot and allow to dry? Or something to do over heat? Thanks for any details!

And thanks for the sympathy over the burned pot, broccoli and steamer.

Kim O'Donnel: I've done it with a paste, let it sit for a while, then scrub like hell, then rinse. It may or may not work depending on how intense the burn is. Hope one of these methods helps...

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Pepper person: Thanks so much for all the ideas!

Kim O'Donnel: And thanks for the feedback on all the rest! Great to catch up and hear what's happening in your worlds. There are many leftover questions in the queue, so I hope to post some in the blog space this week. Take good care.

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