What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, May 20, 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, it's still raining here in DC and I do wonder when summer will come. Today's show is dedicated to the memory of Joan Hisaoka , a local hospitality/dining public relations pro and a lovely lady to boot, who died last week of cancer.

So I've got an update from today's blog post : I've secured an interview with cookbook author and Sichuan cuisine expert Fuchsia Dunlop, who's in Shanghai this week. I'll keep you posted. The long holiday weekend is just a few days away -- what are the plans? This Thursday, I'll dish up some home-grown barbecue thanks to this wacky guy in Richmond, Va., by the name of Buz Grossberg. He offers me tips on rigging up my Weber grill into a serious pit. Stay tuned...

So I've got an update from today's blog post : I've secured an interview with cookbook author and Sichuan cuisine expert Fuchsia Dunlop, who's in Shanghai this week. I'll keep you posted. The long holiday weekend is just a few days away -- what are the plans? This Thursday, I'll dish up some home-grown barbecue thanks to this wacky guy in Richmond, Va., by the name of Buz Grossberg. He offers me tips on rigging up my Weber grill into a serious pit. Stay tuned...

The long holiday weekend is just a few days away -- what are the plans? This Thursday, I'll dish up some home-grown barbecue thanks to this wacky guy in Richmond, Va., by the name of Buz Grossberg. He offers me tips on rigging up my Weber grill into a serious pit. Stay tuned...


Yuck -- cast iron help!: Hi Kim --

Love your chat and I get so much good advice but now I'm in need of advice! I have a cast iron skillet which I LOVE. My wonderful husband made us filet mignon (last week) with a pepper crust. He then cleaned the skillet later in the night.

This weekend I went to make a pineapple upside down cake in the cast iron. Turned out great until I had dinner guests comment it tasted funny. When I tasted it all I could taste was pepper. (the recipe is 1 box yellow cake mix, 3 tablespoon butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar brown sugar, pinapple and cherries in the pinapple hole). Needless to say I was dissapointed and very embarassed.

How can I clean the cast iron making sure to get the previous dinner taste out. I've bought a scrub brush from Target but it's just not helping.

When I cleaned it after the cake I wipped it dry with a paper towel and the paper towl was black.

I'm frustrated. Help!

Kim O'Donnel: You know what might help? A little alcohol -- preferably vodka because it's most neutral -- wipe out bottom with vodka, then scrub, even add a wee wee bit of soap, rinse out, then put over fire to let dry. See if that helps.


Vegetable stock in Vienna, Va.: Kim: I have various and assorted vegetables sitting in my freezer that I would like to make vegetable stock with (they were fresh at one point, I froze them as they were on the verge of going bad).

Do you have a tried and true recipe for making v. stock? And what types of vegetables do you recommend using?

Many thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Onions, celery, leeks, carrots are all good stock choices. Don't use anything too strong, like broccoli or turnips. Herbs such as parsley and thyme are good, as are black peppercorns. Add just enough water to cover vegetables -- don't fill all the way up. Bring up to a boil, reduce heat, cook at a simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, you've got stock.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: I'm making naked chicken this Sunday. I am so excited :D I have never baked a whole chicken, so this is a big deal for me.

Question: the chickens I am seeing are organic broiler-fryers. Is that okay?

Also, planning to pair with some spicy greens like arugula (likely wilted with a bit of lemon and mustard and shallots), and some naan bread and raita. What else should I add to the menu?

Kim O'Donnel: Naked Chicken how-to , for anyone who's interested....Sounds like you've got some nice companions lined up, Brooklyn... maybe local strawberries for dessert?


Turkey burgers for the grill?: Kim,

Loved your blog entry on spicy black bean burgers, and bought the ingredients this weekend so we can try them (my hint of the day: I discovered that a 30 oz. can of black beans sold in the "ethnic" section of the mainline grocery store was less expensive than two 15-oz cans on sale in the main bean section. And this was a well-known brand. Go figure.)

So, my question. Should it warm sufficiently this week here in the Midwest, we want to do a little grilling. We'd like to try burgers made of ground turkey. I am interested in ideas on seasoning, and also on whether these will hold up to grilling, or if there are tips that will help them hold up.


washingtonpost.com: A Bean Burger Worth Biting Into ( A Mighty Appetite, May 16 )

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Midwest: ground turkey likes strong mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, chiles, garlic, chopped parsley...you might want to use a binder, particularly since you're grilling, either an egg white or bread crumbs. I like adding grated Parm to the mix as well...


New Orleans, La.: My wife doesn't like onions. She'll admit it's more of a psychological thing than anything else. Her mom was allergic to (but liked) onions, so my wife grew up in a household where they were outcasts.

So when I cook for both of us, I often replace onion with green pepper in, say, spaghetti sauce or chicken fajitas. What do you think of this strategy? She'll eat scallions, but those aren't always a good replacement. Shallots can work sometimes, too. Do you have other suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmmm. If she doesn't mind shallots, that's probably the best all-purpose substitute in sauces and soups. The shallot is a cornerstone of Thai cooking. Has she been to explain what she doesn't like about onions? Is it a texture thing -- or flavor? I wonder if she'd like the sweeter varieties.


Gainesville Greens: I have never had collard greens before until last Friday at a lovely cajun resturant in Manassas. They were awesome! A little on the sweet side which I liked and they were perfectly cooked. My first thought is I want to make these myself but I've never seen anyone make these before. Where should I start? I've seen a ton of recipes online but I'm wondering how do you reccomend making them? I'm not a vegitarian but I have friends that are so if I make these for them how do I adapt here and still get a good flavor? Thanks for the help!

Kim O'Donnel: Collard greens need a bit of time in a pot but not forever, as some cooks contend. They like to be braised, in a flavored stock...and I've done equally tasty batches with both bacon/pork and no meat at all. An onion is a big part of the flavor, and in my opinon, the heat from some fresh chiles and pungency of garlic. You'll pull the leaves away from the stems, put in a pot, add water plus the above and let them cook, til desired tenderness. My preference, if using bacon, is to render, remove lardons, use at end just before serving. Any other collards tips?


Springfield, Va.: Hello. I wrote in a couple weeks ago about a Bulgarian eggplant appetizer I had tried and was delicious. It was in a small toasted pastry shell and the eggplant was like a tomatoe-y dip, without much seeds and with a piece of feta cheese on top. Any recipe ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: I would roast an eggplant, halved lengthwise, which will take at least an hour, maybe more. Remove seeds, puree, with garlic, tomatoes, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some lemon, too. Taste, see what you think. At the very least, you'll have a most magnificent eggplant "caviar."


Naked chicken rocks!: I made it two weeks ago and it was amazing! I used the leftovers picked off the bone in a peanut noodle dish with asparagus, and then made stock from the carcass. Yum!

Kim O'Donnel: I love happy customers...


What did I do wrong?: I tried to do something different and broil some radicchio --thinking, "Well, it is good grilled, right?" I chopped it into large chunks and tossed with olive oil and s and p. It turned into a hideous brown mess. Do you have any recommendations for cooking radicchio (or should I stick with using it in salads)?

Also, I am trying to eat more fish and have been purchasing frozen fillets from Whole Foods. Baking and adding a vinaigrette has worked so far, but I'd like to try pan searing for more flavor. Any tips so I won't over/under cook?

Kim O'Donnel: I've roasted radicchio -- and it's pretty darn wonderful. Pull it apart, leaf by leaf, place in a baking pan, very light addition of olive oil, salt and a smidge of blue cheese in the center of each leaf. LOVELY.

Re: your fish query: As convenient as those frozen fillets are, they don't really translate well for searing as you describe -- unless you have time to let the fish completely thaw and drain of water. You could try finishing under broiler after you've roasted fish, for some browning.


Washington, D.C.: A friend of mine from New England raves about fiddleheads but I have never seen them in any of the local stores or farmers markets. Are fiddleheads available in the D.C. area or is this a lost cause?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, it's been a long time since I've come across a fiddlehead round these parts. Anyone with a recent fiddlehead sighting?


My pineapple sage run amock in D.C.: Hi...I planted some pineapple sage ealier this spring and with all the rain, it is going crazy? I bought it on a whim because I liked the sweet sent of pineapple I got when I rubbed the leaves. Any suggestions for usage?


Kim O'Donnel: My sage is going crazy this spring as well...Here's a link to a piece I wrote about sage last year, with lots of ideas from readers. I've been thinking about doing a sage-y pizza thing of late...


Arlington, Va. : Made the bean burgers you described in your blog... rather, made a variant -- I meant to make a half batch, but then ended up using the two eggs in the orginal recipe so I finished up with an extra half cup of bread crumbs and cooked. Good texture. To help out one of the people asking in the comments, I think the end product could be cooled, brushed with oil, and then reheated on the grill. Perhaps the extra egg firmed things up? I don't think this affected firmness, but I also made them square (3x3?, had some homemade sliced bread and I didn't want empty corners) and they held up well.

Not a great flavor profile for me. It could've be the extra bread crumbs. In any case, I think next time I'll modify to include freshed chopped serranos/jalapenos, and probably some lemon zest. I think this recipe will lend itself well to experimentation.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, thanks for following up. I agree, this recipe lends itself to improv...


Blog Topic Request and Chocolate Request: Any way you could do a blog column on camp cooking? As in, cooking over a campfire with only the ingredients you can fit in a cooler and plastic bag or two? I do great planning the first night's dinner and first morning breakfast, but after that, it seems to go downhill, so would like some more ideas!

Also, do you have a low-cal chocolate comfort food recipe you could share? I am having a really crappy day (everything that could go wrong is), and would like to make myself a really yummy desert tonight, but don't want to totally ruin my diet. I've lost 15 lbs so far, but still have another 15 to go! Thank you! You're the best!

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm...I like it. Yes, I'll put on the list. Re: your chocolate request: Well, here's a link to flourless chocolate cookies . These are not low-cal, given their nut content, but there's no butter or any other kind of dairy. You could make half a batch bring the rest to work tomorrow...


Fiddleheads: I am from Maine and live now in D.C. My dad would go out and pick fiddleheads during the very brief window when they come out. They are wild and are ferms that have not yet "opened up." They are so very tasty. I saw some recently at Whole Foods, but there were about 15 of them in a container and they were expensive and didn't look too fresh. Meanwhile, in Maine during fiddlehead season you can buy them from cars on the side of the road or at a local general store. I did find some online a few years ago. They were very good but also expensive. I would never tell my family in Maine what I paid for these "weeds" you can get for hardly nothing up there!

Kim O'Donnel: Great stories! Thank you. Yeah, the last time I saw them they were v. expensive, that's all I can remember. You either love or hate fiddleheads.


Collards: We sometimes used smoked turkey wings. I smoke the wings myself, either in the smoker or in my weber kettle over indirect heat, with some wood chips(apple or cherry)added to the hardwood charcoal. Not a lot of work, but the difference in store bought and home smoker hocks or wings is huge.

While I am cleaning the greens I put the hocks or wings in a heavy pot add some H20, a little crushed red pepper, a touch of sugar and a little kosher salt. I cook that covered for about an hour or so. I than add the greens in batches, until each batch is totally under water. I turn the heat down to a med simmer and cook for another 2-2.5 hours or so. The secret to tender greens, add a pinch of baking soda, after all the greens are in the pot.

Kim O'Donnel: thanks for your tidbits!


New Orleans, La.: Regarding the wife who doesn't like onions, it's more of texture thing. She'll eat them in a restaurant if they're diced small enough to be ignored, cooked down, and don't overwhelm the dish.

So you recommend shallots as a substitute, but what should a ratio be? Let's say a recipe calls for 2 cups of sliced onion, how many shallots should go in it? Also, what can I do to replace the other aspects I'm missing from leaving out onion? As I said, green pepper is the best substitute I've found so far, but it's not ideal.

Kim O'Donnel: You'll need a handful of shallots to equal two onions. You might want to try green garlic or young onions -- not scallions, but onions before they grow up and develop the texture your wife doesn't liek.


Another naked chicken: I really want to try the naked chicken recipe, but by the time I get home from work and have some QT with my little babe, it's too late to marinate and then roast. Would it be OK to apply the marinade in the morning before work and then pop in the oven when I get home?

Kim O'Donnel: YES. It's all good.


Grape tomatoes: I have about a pint too many grape tomatoes (buy one get one free!)...they're starting to go bad. Anything I can do with them tonight to keep from tossing them? Can I cook with them? Any suggestions would help.

Kim O'Donnel: You can do a quick saute, no prob. I like'em with garlic, herbs, spinach, with an omelet...


No Inspiration, Md.: Hi Kim!

I usually love to cook, but took a break within the last month while finishing my final grad project. Now I can't seem to get my cooking mojo back!

I go to the store and just wander aimlessly with no good ideas. I usually follow recipies, but also want to be able to come up with things on the fly. Any suggestions?


Kim O'Donnel: go to your nearest farm markt this week. There's nothing like a local market that will shake that trunk out of its funk. The colors, the perfumes, the energy, it's all inspiration.


Another happy customer!: Our CSA radishes are now going to good use! Sliced on homemade sourdough, a light layer of cream cheese, salt, pepper, mmm. I roasted the rest with cauliflower and spring onions and then ate on top of a salad. Thanks for your help!

Kim O'Donnel: We aim to serve, here, dear. So glad you are eating well!


Ricotta -- : I have a tub of ricotta cheese that is sitting in my fridge. I don't want to waste it, but can't think of a single thing to make outside of lasagna. Any ideas (savory, not sweet)? Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: arugula pesto is calling you, and you'll need some ricotta to mellow it out. See what you think...


Washington, D.C.: Fiddleheads: I bought them at Balducci's on Old Georgetown Road over the weekend -- very fresh and, as always, wonderful. Hefty price, though: $9.99/lb.

Kim O'Donnel: Another fiddle-di-dee sighting...and ouch! you're right, expensive...


Meat ravioli: Hi Kim

Hubby only likes meat ravioli. Since we try to limit our red meat, I thought I'd try ground chicken seasoned Italian style and stuffed in wonton wrappers for ease.

What else would work with the meat? Hubby doesn't like ricotta either, but I was thinking maybe some parm for flavor?


Kim O'Donnel: Spinach, chard or arugula make great ravioli companions. Mushrooms, too.


Neither organic nor breads with fruit in them are always healthy: One of the things I love about this Internet age is how many more people I can share my food obsession with!

I came across a great new food blog that had two posts I totally loved -- but both very different. The first was an awesome recipe for banana bread that included both mini-chocolate chips (for the yum factor) and almond meal (for the health factor). The second was on the fact that folks should start to be leery of the word organic: "Many people continue to equate the term "organic" with "healthy" even though "organic" simply means that a food contains ingredients grown without the use of certain pesticides or herbicides. (Let's not forget that you can buy organic junk food.)

It's really great to see a mix of great recipes and musings on food, thoughts on nutrition and some Michael Pollen-esq social commentary all in one place; in fact, Kim, it reminded me of your blog.

Definately worth checking it out: 5 Second Rule

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent -- I am always looking for tasty new blogs. thanks much.


Freising, Germany: If you had some white beans in the pantry, what would be your first thought about what to do with them at this time of year?

Kim O'Donnel: I love to puree white beans with a roasted red pepper, some garlic, cayenne or paprika and rosemary. Makes such a pretty and tasty puree that can be used as a dip for parties or as a spread for sandwiches.


Camp Cooking: Check out a Girl Scouts of the USA Web site and you'll find a ton of recipes. One of my troops favorites is omelettes -- Boil a big pot of water, crack two eggs into a baggie and squish them around, throw them in the pan and when they're "hard" remove them, dump them out of the bag, sprinkle with grated cheddar, serve with bananas. Little mess, fairly quick, and REALLY good!

Kim O'Donnel: Fun. thanks for the tips!


Former onion-hater: Hi,

To the husband with the onion-hating wife, take this advice from a fellow (former) onion hater: chop and sautee the onions and garlic. put them in a blender/food processor and puree. Add back to whatever dish you were cooking. You'll get the wonderful onion flavor without the texture. This trick was used on me by various people in attempts to get me to like the taste of onion -- and I have to admit, it worked!

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, brilliant. In fact, this reminds me of how I was taught to make risotto -- chef instructor insisted on very fine onions so the texture would be secondary to the flavor. Well done.


RE Camp Cooking: This topic also would be very useful to all of us Boy Scout moms who have to help our sons figure out how to cook on weekend camping trips, when cooking is secondary to the other activity.

My son's troop camps once a month, fall, winter and spring, wet or dry, hot or snow on the ground (they were in Antietam one year when it never got above 10 degrees F with snow on the ground).

Their menus need help. I think even MREs would be better than some of the stuff they have!!

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, you're on!


RE: really yummy desert tonight, but don't want to totally ruin my diet: I am on a diet as well, and what I like to do when I'm craving my favorite dessert -- ice cream with hot fudge sauce -- is to instead slice up a banana and sprinkle with some dark hot chocolate sauce (I love the Whole Foods sauce). Sometimes I sprinkle a few peanuts on it. It's good, and I don't feel guilty eating it. I also sometimes do a sliced banana with peanuts and maple syrup.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's one way to do the choco diet thing....


Onion Hater: My dad hated onions, so we rarely ate them growing up. My mom would never saute them before adding them to things, and they'd always have a horrible crunch, which I hated. Her "solution" was to cut them smaller, which never helped.

What got me to like onions? Carmelized onions first, then slow/low saute before adding to a dish. Works every time.

Kim O'Donnel: Another take on the onion issue...


Kim O'Donnel: Time to go already. Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned for updates on Fuchsia Dunlop and Chengdu in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite . All best.


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