What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, May 6, 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: Greetings! I hope all is delicious in your respective camps.

Don't forget, I'm still looking for your kitchen or food-related stories about your mother, grandmother or maternal figures in your life. Send 'em my way at kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com no later than Wednesday, May 7. In the subject line of your e-mail, type "MOM" and in your note, please include your age, city and state, and where you grew up, size of your family. I'll select a handful of entries for a blog-stravaganza that will be published on May 9. Oh -- and if you've got a cool pic of Mom, send that along too.

Tell me what's on your minds and burners...

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Centreville, Va.: Hi, recent chat-follower and fan here -- I just moved to the area and this past weekend was my first visit to one of the local farmer's markets (Saturday's in Burke, Va.). It was great -- lots of healthy produce and herbs, a bakery, plus two dairies selling cheeses and yogurts and another vendor selling pork and buffalo products. It would take me all summer to go around visiting every m arket. So, I'm asking for info from you and the chatters on local farmer's markets: Aside from the produce, tell me what your favorite farmer's market has that makes it great. The produce at all is probably great, so I'd be especially happy to find milk, butter, and any other meat products or anything unique. Thanks in advance for any help!

Can I have a second question? Where can I buy good buffalo mozzarella?

Kim O'Donnel: This area is really getting robust in the way of farmers' markets, Centreville. Check out this cool interactive map of Washington area farm markets that allows you to search by day of the week. One of the questions I'd like to ask you is how far are you willing to travel? And readers, what say you? What makes a farm market great? Share your luv here.

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Breakfast query: I have been tasked with bringing in food for a 12-person breakfast meeting. Donuts and bagels are the obvious, but I'd prefer to stay away from the (sad but true) temptations of that fare. I'm willing to make something but won't be able to reheat or toast on site. Other than a fruit salad, any thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: What about granola and yogurt? Instead of donuts, what about homemade muffins? thoughts, folks?

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Clifton, Va.: Burke,

Avoid the one in Fair Lakes held Sundays in the Whole Paycheck parking lot. Produce is vastly overpriced for a farmer's market and the quality of the beef is no better than than Shoppers but at premium prices. Much better deals at Burke. The one in Manassas on Saturdays is pretty good and the prices are great.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's one vote from Clifton on farm markets...

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McLean, Va.: Kim, you mentioned on your blog recently that your husband is not so good at cooking rice, so you usually do it. What are some tips to cooking rice well? I'm also terrible at it. I even bought a rice cooker, but that doesn't work so well for me either. Please help me not be afraid to cook rice any more!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey McLean: Here's what I do and it always works. However, as soon as I post this, you can be sure that a zillion other people will chime in with their fail-proof method of cooking rice. Happens every time. For 1 cup of rice, I add 1 1/3 cups water. I bring both up to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and check at 8 minutes. Usually it's just about done.

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Virginia: Hi Kim!

I just bought my very first tub of Earth Balance spread. What should I do with it? Usually I use margarine for toast, cooked veggies, pancakes and waffles-that's about it.

And should I tell my husband or let him be pleasantly surprised? He is somewhat conservative about food...

Kim O'Donnel: Virginia, I have more experience with the Earth Balance sticks rather than the tub. The sticks are great for baking, and from what I understand, the tub contains more water so is more appropriate for the applications as you describe.

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Great Falls, Va.: Hi Kim, thanks for all your great ideas. I'm posting ahead as I'm not sure I can be with you live. I'm hosting my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her mother-in-law for Mother's Day lunch. (Of course, husbands and one kid will be there.) For part of our dessert, I want to make chocolate-covered strawberries. As I am the queen of prepping ahead, I was wondering how far in advance I could make them. We will be gathering around 11:30 a.m. and I was wondering if I could make them the night before or should they be done right before serving? Thanks for your advice.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Great Falls, if you've got extra, uninterrupted refrigerated space, I'd say go ahead do the dipping on Saturday. You can make a tent of parchment or wax paper on top, but they really need to be left undisturbed. Even better, if you've got a deep, wide plastic container.

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Arlington, Va.: I am going to have a party Memorial Day weekend for all the poor souls that can't get away. It's going to be a Latin American-themed party with the obligatory margaritas and sangria. It's starting at 5:30 so I want to make sure the food is going to be substantial enough. Planning on a twist on pigs in a blanket using puff pastry and chorizo, salsas and dips, perhaps a ceviche. Could use help coming up with a couple more things that can be made in advance. Does anyone have a good quesadilla recipe? Any other ideas? The margaritas will be following so I want to make sure everyone has a full tummy! Thanks Kim you are the best.

Kim O'Donnel: A black bean salad would be great here, with red onions, cilantro, corn -- you can do a lime vinaigrette, it'd be a nice meatless offering and would hold up in warm weather. Quesadillas are fun, but could be a lot of work depending on how many guests you anticipate. You could make them in advance, keep in fridge and then cook to order...Who's got a favorite filling?

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Dads and cooking: Say, will you be doing the same for Father's Day? I have many great parental cooking memories but with my father, not my mother. Will fathers be getting a look-in? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I am taking note of your suggestion. Thanks for your feedback.

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Rice and steam action: Remember that you're not just boiling the rice, you're partially steaming it. Do not lift lid for the 8 (or 10) mins. This part is vital!

Kim O'Donnel: Here come the rice tips...

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Re: Cooking Rice: Don't forget to wash the rice. It gets rid of some starch and it cooks much better.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Redmond, Wash.: Good morning, Kim. Could you point me to your naked chicken recipe? I had it saved for a time, but seem to have lost it.

Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Naked Chicken, at your service...

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Pizza grilling: We have fired up our gas grill, inherited from the previous owners of our house. My husband has been cooking meat on it, but I am a vegetarian and would like to try other things. I think I can figure out how to grill veggies, but what I'd really like to try is grilling pizza. Do you have any tips? Should I just make the pizza like I usually do for the oven, usually a 12-inch round, with tomato sauce, onions, and cheese, and just place it on the grill rack and close the lid? Any recommendations on time/temp? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a link to tips for grilling pizza from the blog two years ago. Have a looksee...

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What are some tips to cooking rice well?: Don't stir it while it's cooking.

Kim O'Donnel: that's right, NO PEEKING!

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Non-butter: I've found Soy Garden to work really well with cooking and baking. And true meat-and-potato dinner guests I've had are always surprised when I mention at the end of the meal that it was totally phony butter they were using.

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

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Instead of donuts, what about homemade muffins? thoughts, folks? : I want donuts! With chocolate icing. I look forward to that at work meetings. Sorry.

Kim O'Donnel: Another thought on those breakfast meetings....

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Washington, D.C.: Kim, I have a bunch of mint that I won't need as planned. How would you recommend freezing it? (individual leaves, or chopped in an ice cube tray, or ....?) Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You could definitely do the ice cube trick. Basil lovers swear by it.

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Cooking rice : I always cook rice in the microwave and it's foolproof. One cup of rice, two cups of water, 5 minutes on high, 15 minutes at 50 percent, fluff with a fork. Perfect every time.

Kim O'Donnel: More rice tippy-poos...

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Memorial Day Fiesta: I had a similar party for Labor Day and made this black bean salad from the Post's database. It was fantastic and is even better when made ahead of time. Southwest Black Bean Salad

Kim O'Donnel: Fab. thank you!

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Washington, D.C.: For the Breakfast seeker:

Boil a dozen hard-boiled eggs, and serve with sliced baguettes and strawberry jam

Kim O'Donnel: The breakfast meeting menu ideas are starting to roll in...

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New ideas for ground beef in Alexandria?: Any ideas for what to do with a pound of lean ground beef that does not require a grill, and that does not involve heavy carbs (rice, pasta, potato, bread)? We are fixing up our deck, so the grill is not available. And, we're trying to stick with a strict low-carb routine. Please no meatloaf! Extra points for something spicy!

Kim O'Donnel: Have you ever had Joe's Special? No carbs here. Eggs, cheese, ground beef and spinach. See what you think. All in one skillet, too.

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Annandale, Va.: Some of the local kebob places serve a wonderful side dish of chickpeas in a delicious sauce. I have tried to find a recipe on the Web but to no avail...anyone have a recipe for these?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, I just did a piece on chickpeas, and the recipe attached is spicy and got a nice gravy, see what you think. Not quite the Pakistani version you're looking for but it might fit the bill. Stay tuned, I may have a recipe for Aghan chickpeas soon...

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Kendall Park, N.J.: Dear Kim: I bought a 2.7 lb. first cut brisket and followed a recipe that I found for a 3 lb. brisket -- I baked it, covered, in 1 1/2 cups low sodium V-8 juice mixed with 1/4 cup Worcester sauce for 3 hours at 325 degrees. It was fantastic! I went back to the supermarket for more brisket, but all there was was teeny-tiny ones. I bought two briskets weighing about 1 1/2 lb. each. How long should I bake them? Should I put them in the same pan and bake them for 3 hours? Should I put them in different pans but put them in the oven at the same time, and if I should, how long should I bake them?

Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: If you've got a roasting pan big enough, by all means put both of them in the same pan and wing it. You'll be fine. Sounds like you are having fun, Kendall Park.

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Vienna, Va.: Hi Kim! I just had a quick question, which I'm sorry if you've addressed before...when you get bagged salads that says they've been pre-washed, do you still wash them? I was just wondering the consensus on that, because some still wash it and others don't...Thanks!!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, you most absolutely should wash those bagged salads. Remember what happened with the so-called pre-washed spinach just a few years ago?

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D.C. via Mississippi via New Orleans: According to my Mississippi grandmother, who learned to cook in New Orleans, the way to cook rice is to bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil and add about a third of a cup of rice per big serving. Let it boil for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse in a colander, fluffing the rice with a fork while you rinse. Then put a little water back in the pot and the colander full of rice on top, with a paper towel over the rice itself. Let it steam that way while you finish cooking everything else and setting the table. Voila! The fluffiest rice you've ever had.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice! Thanks for your tip, darlin'.

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Ground beef ideas: How about adding some garlic, ginger, fish sauce and lime juice and wrapping the cooked meat in lettuce leaves?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. I love me some lettuce rolls...

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Terp in the Kitchen: Thanks, Kim, for your risotto help last week. Attempted on Friday night, and it turned out pretty well for a first timer. V creamy (hubby asked reminded me to "cook lighter" for him -- he thought there was cream or cheese or some such in there, and was surprised when I told him the only fat was rendered pancetta). I rendered about 4 chopped up slices of pancetta, added the super diced onions, sauteed. Then rice, let go for a minute or so, and started adding the stock. The only official mistake I made was not having the stock warm - just room temperature on the first add - I rectified after that,adding 1/2 cup at a time and absorbing, like your recipe says.

While flavorful and creamy, it turned out too mushy -- individual grains of rice are gone, for the most part.

What can I do better next time?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Terp, having the stock warmed up really does help with absorption, and may help prevent those mushy grains next time. Is is possible, too, that you overcooked rice? You want a little toothy-ness to the grains. Holler.

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Without an oven: Our oven won't heat up. Until we get it fixed, suggestions for dinner menus that don't use the oven?

Kim O'Donnel: Does this mean the stove top is out of order too? Talk to me. Also, do you have a grill on hand? Portable burners?

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I live in an apartment with no balcony or other outdoor space, so sadly I am unable to use a grill. I'm wondering if a grill pan would be a worthwhile investment. I generally cook chicken and veggies in a normal non-stick pan, but a friend says his grill pan produces far better results. Thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: I think it's a worthwhile investment, yes, partic. if you're without the outdoor space. Shop around before you make the purchase. Folks got preferences for grill pans?

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Rockville, Md.: Thanks for yesterday's enchilada recipe -- I've been looking for a good sauce recipe. Question -- I'm trying to think of appetizer ideas involving goat cheese. I understand that red peppers and goat cheese go well together, so maybe something with that combination? Any other ideas? This is to take to a party at a friends house. I'd like something that could stand on its own and not involve bread/crackers, etc., if possible.

Kim O'Donnel: So you're thinking of some kind of edible container rather than a dip on its own? Yes, red peppers, particularly when roasted, are wonderful with goat chese. I am a fan of mixing nuts with goat cheese -- walnuts, pecans, pine nuts....

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Without an oven pt 2: The stove top works, also have a 12" electric frying pan, microwave. No grill.

Kim O'Donnel: A wok would be a good investment and set you back about 20 bucks -- you could use it for everything from stirfries to fried chicken, curries, scrambled eggs. It could be your work horse.

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Rockville, Md.: Bagged salads: Hi Kim, I agree you should wash those, but remember in the case of the spinach (and some other bacterial food-poisoning episodes over the years) the bacteria were actually in the leaves (they get sucked up by the root system and thus are in the plant tissue). The only way to guarantee you are not ingesting live bacteria from leafy greens is to cook them. This is why (as you have taught us all so well!) sourcing is so important.

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely. Sourcing is a critical component, but for the reader in question, if supermarket bagged salads are a priority, it is key to wash. thanks for chiming in.

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Grill pan: I have a Lodge Logic cast iron grill pan, which is excellent. It was ten bucks or so on Amazon. The only thing is that it's a little hard to clean the grill ridges, but that's probably true in any grill pan.

Kim O'Donnel: Here comes the grill pan commentary...

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Grill pan: Be careful about using a grill pan in an apartment. Those things smoke, and apartment smoke detectors are notoriously sensitive.

Kim O'Donnel: and more...

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Terp followup: I was having trouble knowing when absorbed was absorbed. When there's no liquid left to bubble up through the grains? Before then? I will admit I wasn't 'quite' as vigilant as I could have been, but other than that, I'm not sure...

Kim O'Donnel: You don't need to go that far, but almost to that point. The key is to not overthink it. Zen, my dear Terp, Zen. The rice always knows when you're fretting.

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Farmer's Market and Mother's Day: Hi Kim! I'm hoping to swing by the Farmer's Market in Silver Spring for the first time this year in hopes of getting ideas to cook something for my mom on Sunday. Any ideas on what I might find at the farmer's market this Saturday and any suggestions for special dishes I can make for my mom on Sunday? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You'll see strawberries! Maybe it's time for a fruit fool or an upside cake with rhubarb, which has also come to market. Asparagus is here, too, which you know needs little adornment, even a quick roasting will make them shine. Are you doing brunch or dinner?

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For the breakfast meeting: Please bring donuts and scones and other delectable baked goods. Just because the poster wants to eat healthy doesn't mean the rest of her office must. He/she will be despised if no junky breakfast foods are present!

Kim O'Donnel: I see...

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Pizza dough: Hi Kim,

How can I use your pizza dough to make stuffed foccaccia, without the dough being too wet and not baking properly?

Kim O'Donnel: I've not fiddled with the dough this way. Tell me what you have in mind.

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NoLo, D.C.: For the person with extra mint, I like to throw it in the pot when I make simple syrup, let it steep for a while, and then discard the plant. The mint syrup will keep in the fridge for ages and it's wonderful on fruit salads, in iced tea, and all sorts of other ways.

Kim O'Donnel: This is a grand idea, particularly since lemonade season is just around the corner. Bueno!

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Bethesda, Md.: Kim -- I have a ton of leftover limes. I've squeezed and frozen the juice, now what? I'm not a big sweets fan and was looking for something to use them for other than ceviche or margaritas.... Help!

Kim O'Donnel: I can never get enough of limes --I'm either using the rind for rice, as part of marinades or squeezing over seafood. Exactly how many limes are we talking about?

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Springfield, Va.: Hi Kim! I went to the EU open house this past weekend and I had this eggplant finger food at the Bulgarian embassy that was just delicious. The eggplant "dip" was in a mini toasted pastry shell and on top was a small piece of feta. Can you suggest a recipe similar to this? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Tell me more about this dip -- was it pureed and kinda smooth like baba ghanouj? Roasted eggplant, which is seeded then pureed, makes wonderful dip. Do you remember any of the flavors in the dip, by chance?

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Grill Pan: I just got a Calphalon Kitchen Essentials cast iron grill pan and I love it. It is nice and heavy. It does take a while to get nice and hot, but once it does, it's great. I will second the comment about the pan smoking. I made seared ahi tuna tacos with homemade salsa last night for cinco de mayon, and they turned out perfectly!

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent! First-hand reports on kitchen tools are so very helpful.

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Last thank you on the risotto: Thanks, as always for the advice -- I know other chatters have said this, but you somehow manage to get people over fears in the kitchen...thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: It's my pleasure. Thanks to all of you for stopping by, and if you have a moment, stop by and say hello in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. All best.

P.S. Don't forget to send me your MOM stories.

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