What's Cooking Vegetarian

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, June 5, 2008; 1:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for a vegetarian edition of What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), O'Donnel spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

Catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page. For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hello! It's been a few months since we last got together, and I apologize. For those of you just getting acquainted, welcome to my monthly (mostly) hour on meatfree eating, cooking and shopping. I'm enjoying your feedback on today's blog post about upping one's meatless intake as a heart saver, and I can't thank you enough for the amazing tips for my upcoming cross-country road trip! Wowee, zowee, you guys are the best.

By the way, I'm still accepting submissions for the upcoming father's day feature that will run on next Friday, June 12. I am accepting your kitchen stories that involve your father or fatherly figure until Monday, June 9. Send them -- and photos, if you've got'em to: kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com

Now, let's spread some mustard...

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Upstate N.Y.: I got my first CSA shipment yesterday! It had beautiful radishes, a bag of spinach, leaf lettuce, baby bok choy, some other sort of braising greens, and cilantro. I also got an egg share, so I decided to make a frittata. I was hoping the order would have some garlic scapes, but it didn't. No asparagus either. So I made it with the spinach, sliced boiled potatoes (which really made it a Spanish tortilla and not a frittata), some chives from the garden, and fresh grated parmesan. Delicious! The kids said they wouldn't mind a CSA frittata every week, with whatever came in the box. They don't care for raw radishes so I braised them in a little butter with sauteed shallots, a little veg broth, and a tablespoon of honey. Also delicious! And they come out such a lovely shade of pink. They looked beautiful next to the frittata. It's a recipe from Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day book. He also has a recipe for roasted radishes with soy sauce and sesame oil. I'm sure I'll be making that next week. Just wanted to share the veggie joy!

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you so much for surfacing from your CSA box, Upstate. Sounds like a delicious blast. Maybe the kids will want to get involved with that weekly CSA frittata and help you in the kitchen?

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Gazpacho without bread: Hi Kim! I hope you're doing well this week. I love to make Gazpacho, but I've never made it with bread. My issue with Gazpacho is that mine always seems too watery. Would the bread help absorb that? Is there another option besides bread? Thank you!!!

Kim O'Donnel: The bread will definitely help absorb some of the extra liquid, yes. Check out the link in today's blog space to gazpacho. Sometimes no additional liquid is necessary, particularly if your tomatoes are good and juicy.

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D.C.: Hi Kim -

I'm a horrendous cook, and need to purge my old 'skills' and start afresh. Do you recommend any novice-friendly cookbooks, as well as local cooking classes?

Thanks

Kim O'Donnel: About two weeks ago, I compiled a list of beginner cookbooks, and readers have added even more titles. This might be right up your alley.

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Washington, D.C.: Now that it's hot and sticky out, I don't feel like firing up the oven or stove for dinner. Any ideas for vegetarian salads (or other no-cook dinners) that don't include cucumbers or tomatoes, which my S.O. doesn't like?

Kim O'Donnel: Right now is local romaine season, which means prime time for homemade Caesar salad. I've been thinking this weekend might be the time. I also love to cook up quinoa, then make a salad out of it -- with chickpeas, red onions, herbs, whatever floats your boat. You can make it up as you go along.

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Rockville, Md.: Being a vegetarian is pretty easy if you eat lots of eggs and dairy, but I don't like those products, so I've been investigating other sources of protein. Some non-traditional ones are quinoa (a grain), tempeh, and nutritional yeast. Are you familiar with any of these and do you have recipes?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Rockville: Quinoa, as I just mentioned, lends itself to all kinds of improv. It cooks like rice, and you can flavor it however you wish. I'm not crazy about nutritional yeast, but the kids who love it put it on their popcorn as a cheezy substitute. I'll let the nootch lovers chime in. You didn't mention beans as a protein source! Are you game?

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D.C.: I found some wonderful "young radishes" at the Korean market this week, at least they were labelled "young radishes." Not daikon, smaller, and tan in color on the outside, white on the inside, and bulbous on the bottom. About the size of a child's fist. Whatever they are, they are fantastic and spicier than the usual red radishes I buy! So far I've sliced them into a sandwich and into a salad, but plan to saute the remainder tonight, and maybe eat with pasta and poached eggs and grated parmesan.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, how nice! They would be lovely grated, with sauteed greens as well -- bok choy or arugula, spinanch. I love produce discoveries like this.

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Seattle, Wash.: First off, as a faithful reader since I lived in DC in 2001, I am so excited that you're moving to Seattle! As you already know, I'm sure, the food scene out here is just wonderful and we welcome you! Second, I'm going to make your strawberry rhubarb upside down cake for a dessert party this weekend. I got a whole lot of rhubarb at the farmer's market and was wondering if I could go heavy on that, light on the strawberries, and have it still not be too tart? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey! Thanks for the welcome wishes. I'm very excited for the change of scenery. Re: the upside down cake: the one thing you want to keep in mind with rhubarb is the water content. Even when you drain (and you want to do that well, maybe even pat dry), some water will be released. Just something to think about. If you really want something more rhubarb-y than strawberry, have you ever made a rhube-straw fool? You could up the rhube ratio, no prob.

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Egg allergy: Is there an egg substitute for baking? How about for eating (e.g., scrambled eggs). Found out my 15 month old twins are allergic to eggs, which at the time didn't seem like a big deal, until the doctor informed me that egg/egg byproducts are in most things.

I checked our local supermarket in Hagerstown, Md., but no luck. Do you know of any stores in Frederick/Montgomery Counties or D.C. that would carry such a product?

Kim O'Donnel: sounds like you need to get a copy of "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who thinks eggs are superfluous, even when baking. She's got tons of dessert ideas without eggs. As for egg replacement at breakfast, you may want to try scrambling tofu, with herbs, veggies and some sauteed faux sausage.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi! Do you have any good recipes for a tasty, home-made veggie burger? (Preferably easy to make!) I had an amazing one in Chile, of all places, that was filled with rich grain flavors, sweet corn, and a moist texture. I'd love to be able to make that at home!

Kim O'Donnel: I recently had great success with a black bean burger that is packed with flavor and holds up on a bun. There are no grains in this recipe, but I'd be open to hearing what others have discovered along the way.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: Help! I'm desperate for new, easy lunch options. I bring my lunch every day, and I have a fridge and a microwave available at work. I'm not actually vegetarian, but I often enjoy veggie options more than meat ones. My only caveat: I really don't like "entree" salads. I do love non-American foods (Thai, Chinese, Indian, etc). Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Check out today's blog space for a list of very satisfying vegan dishes, many of which would work great as a portable lunch. The red lentils may be right up your alley.

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Arlington, Va.: I've seen a lot of fretting about all the radishes in people's CSA boxes, so I hope this salad helps: Saute some corn (frozen is fine), scallions (or something similar), and radish slices in butter, season with salt and pepper, thyme, and a splash of lime juice, then serve at room temp or chilled. This really brings out the sweetness and the crunch contrasts the corn nicely.

Kim O'Donnel: This sounds lovely! thanks for being a pal.

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Rockville, Md.: I do enjoy beans. I cook lentils Indian style. The key is toasting cumin seeds, onion seeds, and mustard seeds and adding them in the beginning and fresh cilantro at the end. I don't add much ground cumin. It's also a great way to make canned lentil soup more interesting.

Nutritional yeast has a very strong flavor, but works well with other strong flavors, like tomato sauce. I've made dumplings out of pizza dough bought at Trader Joe's stuffed with pre-cooked eggplant with tomato sauce and yeast. People tend to like them until I tell them there's nutritional yeast in it.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm with you on the cumin seeds -- love them with my lentils. thanks for dumpling idea -- nice one.

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For Egg Allergy Mom: When your doctor said that eggs and egg byproducts are in a lot of things, did the doc tell you what the varying names for these byproducts are? I know for milk, I look for casein, whey, lactose anything. I'd love to know the egg equivalents.

Kim O'Donnel: Good point. This calls for a nutritionist to join the conversation.

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East Coast: Hope your West Coast trip went well. What would you pack for snacks and easy lunches while on vacation (driving, not flying)? I love all the salads and fruits that Whole Foods carries. Just a bit pricey.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm a big fan of unsalted nuts and dried fruit when I travel. Protein rich, energy boosting, portable. If you've got a cooler, you could pack choppped carrots and bell peppers, even a container of hummus until it runs out. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches is a personal favorite. What else, folks?

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Veg protein: Tempeh is great sliced and sauteed in olive oil, with sauce of your choice (homemade or bottled). Eat with veggies or on a sandwich. You can do the same thing with tofu. This makes brown bagging it a lot easier. Also, if you stick to whole wheat pasta, that will up the protein a bit. I agree with Kim that beans are incredibly useful, not just on their own of course, but made into veggie burgers, in enchiladas with baby spinach and salsa verde, pureed into soup, etc etc.

But you're right, if you eat dairy and especially eggs, it's easier to get protein without meat. I love eggs, and while giving up meat, poultry, and fish was absolutely no problem for me, I don't think I could give up eggs!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for the tempeh tips. I think everything is worth trying once-- and if you don't like, you move on. I'm with you on the eggs -- particularly if you have access to farmstead eggs. I recently learned that eggs are the number one source of choline, an essential nutrient for all kinds of cell functions...and as such, the choline factor was put to the test in a recently published NIH study that links choline intake and reduced incidence of breast cancer. Cool, huh?

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Maryland: We are trying to have a meatless dinner once a week to help lower food costs. We eat beans quite a bit as my 2 1/2 year old loves them, but I'm looking for some other quicky and easy dinner ideas.

Kim O'Donnel: You're not the first person to tell me that the economy has had a direct impact on your menu choices. Veggie kebabs on the grill are a great summertime treat, served with rice or a quick-cooking pot of orzo. And back to those eggs: Even with the rapid rise in price, the egg is still a bargain, and a frittata for four will cost less than five bucks.

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Washington, D.C.: Kim, I'm going to share with you and your readers an easy and tasty meatless recipe that I love, even as a dedicated carnivore.

1 can garbanzo beans

2 medium zucchini

2 medium or 1 large onion (vidalia or sweet)

1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

1 package of angel hair pasta

Open can of garbanzos and drain. Toss with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano and salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking tray and heat in a 400- oven, stirring occassionally, until a little crunchy (30-45 minutes).

Cut onions and zucchini into large 1" chunks and saute in olive oil in a skillet until translucent.

Prepare pasta.

Add the pasta sauce to the skillet with the onions and zucchini and stir to warm up mixture, add garbanzos and mix before spooning over pasta.

Enjoy.

Kim O'Donnel: Love it! Thanks for sharing the luv, dear!

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Centre of Nowhere: Hi Kim!

Firsthand report: the black bean burgers are da BOMB.

My husband, ever the meat 'n' potatoes guy, ate two of them at one sitting. We served them up with sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese. Scrumptious!

And, good luck in Seattle!

Kim O'Donnel: Woo hoo! So glad you enjoyed. Mister MA really liked them, too. We were thinking how great they'd be with a slice of avocado next time...or maybe some roasted corn salsa?

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Rockville, Md.: Granola bars, fruit/nut bars, and other food bars - How can I get granola or other foodstuffs to stick together without adding lots of sugar or fat from butter, oil, honey, or syrups? I want to make bars cheaper than buying them at the store and maybe a little healthier if I can manage. How could I elevate the protein content?

Kim O'Donnel: You don't need lots of oil or butter, but you will need to use maple syrup or molasses or agave to help with the stickiness. By the way, have you ever made Lulu's cookies?

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Bread: Do you have any cookbooks you'd recommend for a novice bread baker? I want to try to make bread, but it makes me nervous (the yeast seems so temperamental...) and my results are never very good (maybe the yeast can sense my tension...). I made focaccia using a Martha Stewart recipe (part whole wheat flour) and it was kind of a flop. Anything good you can recommend that is not too technical (in other words, I don't want to weigh ingredients)??

Kim O'Donnel: I really like Beth Hensperger's books for novices. Her recipes are reliable and don't read like a science book. Check Peter Reinhardt too, if nothing else for his great stories and deep knowledge.

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tempeh: I hated tempeh until I tried the "sausage" recipe in "Vegan With a Vengance". It calls for breaking up the tempeh into a pan, covering with water, and cooking until the water is absorbed. For me, this vastly improves the texture and flavor- I do it no matter what I plan on doing to the tempeh next.

Kim O'Donnel: aha. Excellent tidbit. I may try this myself.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd love to go meatless more often but my husband says that meals without meat (whether it be veggie stir-fries or pasta with tomato sauce) leave him hungry a few hours later. Suggestions for stick-to-your-ribs meatless meals?

Kim O'Donnel: Beans are serious stick-to-your-ribs chow. Check out my recipe for baked beans, which you absolutely do without the bacon. Serve'em up with corn bread. Do you think he'd go for the black bean burgers I mentioned earlier? If you guys go meatless once a week, you're diversifying your diet. Baby steps! And is he willing to help out in the kitchen?

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East Coast: Kim, Just a question? Since you write from home, or while on the road.....you will still continue the blog and web chat....Correct? What a change in the weather and scenery from Washington DC to Washington State. Good time to clean out and give away/throw away while you are packing boxes. Best Wishes!!!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I'm happy to report that I'll continue the blog and the Web chat. The scenery will definitely be different -- Lake Union is just three blocks away from our new place. I think what will be most challenging for me is the dark days of winter -- because of the latitude, winter means short days, but in summer, the sun doesn't set til nearly 10. But now when I'm craving sunlight, I can fly to Hawaii!!

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quinoa: All the quinoa talk recently makes me want to try it! Silly questions, though- is it something found at most grocery stores or is this going to require a Whole Foods trip? Would it be in the rice/grain aisle? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: It will be in the rice/grains aisle, and I don't know offhand if you can get it at more mainstream groceries like Safeway and Giant. Anyone ever see quinoa in the regular supermarkets?

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Winchester, VA: For the reader looking to make bread: I am new to the bread baking world myself and have had incredible success with the Cooks Illustrated 'Almost No-Knead' bread as a take off on the popular Bittman 'No-Knead' bread. It couldn't be easier and it bakes in a dutch oven!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in, Winchester. Cook's Illustrated is a good ole reliable...

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Ballston Dude: I got a lesson last night on proper basmati cooking from the nice lady at Delhi Bazaar (Duke/Van Dorn)she even picked out the rice for me (big green bag -- quella?).

saute onion with a little oil

add 1 tsp cumin seeds

add basmati that soaked for 30 min

add water just over 1.5 parts per 1 part rice

cook

It was a rice revelation. Never cooked it that way. It was so aromatic.

Had that with daal, yogurt sauce, onion naan and kingfisher.

what a meal!

Kim O'Donnel: dude, I love it! Do you think you'll repeat the experience anytime soon? How did you like the results of the soaked rice?

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Re: hungry husband: The problem may be that you aren't including enough protein in the meals -- certainly spaghetti with tomato sauce doesn't have much protein, nor does a veggie stir fry. Try incorporating eggs (omelets, fritattas, poached eggs on pasta with vegetables). Also, tofu in the stirfry. Bean sprouts are also good to include in a stir fry(like mung bean sprouts, not alfalfa sprouts).

Also, for the person asking for good veggie burger recipes, 101cookbooks.com has a great chickpea-based veggie burger recipe.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent points.

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Vegetarian Lunches: For the poster looking for lunches: I pack a lunch consisting of rice and veggies like corn, peas, broccoli, or squash. I add salsa or some ethnic sauces that I buy from Trader Joe's or a local Indian food store.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, this may be a good quick fix for our reader in need of new ideas.

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Rockville, Md.: Quinoa - Buy it in the bulk section. I know that Whole Foods and My Organic Market carry it in bulk. When it is in boxes, it costs four times as much.

I like to make curry with quinoa and add chickpeas. But I have to be very careful not to burn it. Quinoa burns easily without enough liquid.

Kim O'Donnel: Great tip about the bulk! I too love chickpeas with my quinoa. It might be time for some this weekend...

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Kim O'Donnel: Thanks so much for stopping by. Great to catch up with you -- and I may have some chat leftovers in tomorrow's blog space: A Mighty Appetite. Don't forget: DAD stories -- get'em to me by Monday, June 9! All best.

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