What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 10, 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: Steamy greetings! I've been thinking I need to put my cast-iron skillet on the front steps and see I can fry an egg properly. If you're breaking a sweat while sitting still, have a look at today's blog space, for a terrific list of cool ideas from hot food writers from the country (and abroad). And what are YOU doing to cool off? I know folks are keen to get the 411 on the tomato salmonella story -- and I'm working on it. Stay tuned. Father's Day is this Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled this Friday for a collection of your kitchen stories featuring D-A-D. Now, let's get this popsicle party started...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Interesting piece yesterday. I find if I eat a good breakfast, I am more balanced for the rest of the day. But it's a struggle, as I'm rarely in the mood for more than coffee. So, since I've got a stash of strawberries from the farmer's market, any thoughts on how I could use them in some sort of breakfast treat? I'm wanting a crisp or crumble or something, but want to keep it on the healthy side, so it's not too dessert-y. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: What about a corn muffin studded with those berries? You can reduce the sugar content down to 1/2 cup, by the way.


Scapes!: I found garlic scapes at the Lake Anne farmer's market in Reston. made your pesto and put it in quinoa, coated a pork loin with it and grilled, had with asparagus, greens, berries also purchased at market... yummy!! all purchased at market... well... quinoa bought at Trader Joe's on the way home. wonderful meal. LOVE having access to your recipes on my Treo to use while preparing. Note to self: read recipe THEN chop scapes... lost my fingertip but oh so worth it! thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, it's that time of year again! I LOVE that you're keeping my recipes on your hand-held device thingy. Cool!

For those who haven't yet had the pleasure of a great garlic scape, here's all the details.


Ellicott City, Md.: Hello, Kim! I made vegetable lo mein last night - even the kids agreed it was yummy. I had toasted some sesame seeds in a small skillet to garnish the dish, but never used them. (I forgot!) I placed them in a small plastic container. Will they keep in the pantry, or do they need the fridge? How long will they stay fresh?

Kim O'Donnel: Keep'em in the fridge, Ellicott-- they'll keep longer. A few weeks, at least. Now I want that lo mein recipe!


Rockville, Md.: I have finally come up with a good solution for using all of the vegetables that seem to be left in my fridge at the end of any given week. Bean salads! This week it's black-eyed peas with roasted asparagus, scallions, cucumber and red bell pepper in a spicy vinaigrette. Last week was black bean, corn and avocado. I'm trying to think of other good combinations. Ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Bean salads are also great for this steamy weather, Rockville. Got any chickpeas in the house? Check out last week's blog space for instant couscous improv.


Vienna, Va.: Hi there; tried out the recipe for Jamaican patties you'd posted some time ago. The only problem I ran into was that the dough was a disaster to work with -- Stickier than it should have been and nearly impossible to roll out. I tried reducing the water slightly, since I'm used to doing that with breads in muggy weather, but no luck. Help!

Kim O'Donnel: Was your kitchen warm at the time? You can always put back in fridge to chill and firm up. What about butter? Was it diced? If it was hard to roll out, sounds like it was overmixed...tell me more.


Capitol Hill: The CSA fairy struck yesterday with garlic scapes and summer squash/zucchini. Please remind me what I can do with the garlic scapes. And can I do anything with the squash that doesn't require cooking it? The last thing I want to do today is turn on the gas burners!

Kim O'Donnel: Scroll up this page just a tad for the link to garlic scape pesto -- and you'll be in heaven, my dear. You can grate the squash into slivers and mix in with some instant cous cous or bulgur wheat...I'd add plenty of lemon, garlic, parsley, even mint.


Potato City: Hey Kim! I've just been asked to bring potato salad to a party. Problem is, I've never made it before. I know aren't a big mayo person, but do you have a go to recipe? Thanks! You're the best.

Kim O'Donnel: I do! mayo-free potato salad


Louisville, Ky.: Strawberry breakfast: make an omelette with eggs, chopped up strawberries, finish off with cottage cheese folded in, then more strawberries on top with a dollop of sour cream. Really yummy.

Kim O'Donnel: Now this sounds like a breakfast of champions, after all that talk yesterday about how so many of us are not making time for a morning meal. Thanks, Louisville.


Arlington, Va.: I'm making enchiladas tonight with a tomatillo sauce. However... the tomatillos at the store were shriveled and no good. Any suggestions for what to replace them with? Muchos gracias.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there Arlington, in a recent blog post, I mention using a can of drained tomatillos in a pinch -- even jarred tomatillo sauce that you could doctor up. cheers.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim.

I'm hoping you'll plug the upcoming Brainfood Grill-Off this Thursday at the Decatur House. Brainfood is a DC youth organization that uses cooking as way to teach life skills. The website is www.brain-food.org. Lots of food and drink and all for a great cause. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I am planning to plug, yes indeed. Stay tuned for blog item tomorrow!


Richmond: I know the heat wave will soon be over, but I need more hot weather dinner ideas.

Kim O'Donnel: RICHMOND! The heat is giving you tunnel vision. Check out today's blog post: Cooling Off With Hot Food Writers. You'll get about a dozen new tricks to put up those sweaty sleeves.


Potato Salad: The Apartment Therapy food blog, thekitchn, just did a post on potato salads.


Kim O'Donnel: Cool! Thanks for sharing. Apartment Therapy is good stuff...


Richmond, Va.: Kim, I'm with you on the whole breakfast thing... I need at least an hour of wakefulness before I can put food into my stomach. It's just not appealing, even when I try to make myself eat it.

Quinoa is my new favorite food! I'm 5 months pregnant, and find most meat-products unappealing right now. But quinoa has all the same nutrients and stuff, plus it's super easy to stick in my electric steamer and forget about! My go-to recipe is cooled quinoa (cooked in broth instead of water) with kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese. Hubby doesn't like that dish though... any ideas on other ways to fit it in to a weeknight meal?

Kim O'Donnel: Scroll up and you'll get link to post about instant cous cous improv which I think you could apply to quinoa. I added feta and chickpeas to give it some bulk. Really light and refreshing on a day like today. Could he grill up some chicken thighs and help contribute to your quinoa feast, perhaps?


Catfish success!: Kim, I made the best dinner last night and just wanted to share. I had a craving for stir-fried catfish, and so I cut a filet into chunks, dredged in corn starch. I stir-fried it in 1/4 cup peanut oil. Then I turned down the heat a little and stir fried a couple of cloves or garlic and 5 1-in. chopped green onions. Served the whole thing over white rice with a simple drizzle of soy sauce. So Good! And fast!

Kim O'Donnel: congrats, my dear. Next time you can add a wee bit of spinach or chard in with the garlic and green onions, and you'll get a meal complete with veg!


end of the week: Sunday nights I make veggie juice with the veggies that are about to go bad. My husband and I get a vitamin boost and I don't feel guilty for letting some veggies spoil before I use them. I save up trimmings (tough end of asparagus) all week and throw them in for a yummy green juice (add some ginger and apples for taste).

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, that's a handy idea. What kind of juicer are you using?


Vienna, Va.: Hi Kim, I'm envisioning a grape, or maybe grape and strawberry salad to go along with some spicy steaks and the Post's Arroz Veracruzano recipe. I'm thinking sliced grapes, parsley, lime, what else? Mint? I guess it would be almost a cross between a salsa and a salad? Thoughts? I know you've been down a savory strawberry road recently... Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Mint is always a nice idea with fruit. And local strawberries are in season -- as are blueberries! You'd have yourself a merry little fruit combo, darlin'.


Stromboli: Hi! I made stromboli last night and used sliced salami and ham and then some provolone. It was delicious, but heavy! Anyway to lighten up those stromboli? Could I use sliced chicken or turkey? Or shred it?


Kim O'Donnel: What about adding olives or roasted peppers or spinach next time? Roasted turkey I think would work, yes.


Arlington: Kim, I want new pots and pans and I want to upgrade from the 8 year old set I have. I can use my credit card reward points and get the Emeril Stainless Steel set associated with All Clad or I can spend the money and actually purchase the real Stainless Steel Set by All Clad. Do you or any of the chatters have any words of wisdom? Thank you and good luck with your move!

Kim O'Donnel: Personally, I shy away from sets and buy individual pieces so that you can mix and match and get what you really need. Figure out what you use on a regular basis and see how that fits into the scheme of the sets you have your eyes on...


eating soup, again: I need your help! I will not be here during the chat so I hope you can answer this without further info from me - Because of my latest failure in this area, my family and I will be eating lentil soup once again, with this 90 degree heat, which is just completely culinarily inappropriate. The goal was lentil salad but although I have tried various combinations of limiting the amount of water and shortening the time and using different varieties of lentils (regular old Goya brown lentils, red indian lentils, etc), I keep ending up with a mush suitable only for soup. Beyond standing watch over the pot for the entire time, what can I do?

Kim O'Donnel: for future reference, those red lentils practically puree themselves, so they're not a good option for salad...Try some green lentils next time; they hold up really well in a pot. AS for water level, barely cover your lentils. The good thing is that lentils are super cheap, so if you're not up for lentil soup tonight, you could keep in fridge for another day and get another container of lentils - this time, green.


Fairfax Station, Va.: Summer dinners -- I made tilapia with a really good roasted red pepper sauce from one of the cooking mags. Basically you salt, pepper and oil then roast 3 red peppers, 1 red jalapeno pepper, and 1 clove of garlic over the grill. Once they are cool enough to touch, put them into the blender with little more oil, 1-2 t coriander and 1-2 t cumin and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Very good with some lemon squeezed over the fish. I think the sauce would be good with any seafood.

Kim O'Donnel: that does sound good! Thank you for sharing, dear.


Arlington, Va.: I have an old family recipe that I'm trying to decipher, and I cannot tell if it is a baked custard, a souffle, an angel food cake, or something else:

Queen Of Kentucky Pudding

7 eggs, beaten separately

1 Quart sweet milk

Tumbler of sifted flour

Pinch of salt

To the beaten yolks add gradually the flour

and milk - last fold in the whites - Bake in a buttered and floured pan - almost half hour

Kim O'Donnel: with the folding of the beaten egg whites, it sounds like a souffle...but there's no real flavoring except the eggs, which of course, sounds like a custard...is there any sugar in the recipe?


For Arlington--New Pans: I have the Emeril stainless set. One HUGE caveat--they are HEAVY!! Like a couple pounds heavier on average than comparable pans. I like mine fine for cooking, but they are cumbersome to hold and move. Just because of that, I wouldn't recommend them.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you so much for weighing in! First hand reports are always so helpful.


What kind of juicer are you using? : I read lots of reviews, borrowed a friend's and ended up with a Breville (on sale at Macy's!). I've been very happy with it and LOVE making juices without sugar and salt. You can even use the leftover pulp to make muffins, but I haven't done that yet, I put in in my compost pile. I know it doesn't replace vegetables, but to replace sweet fruit juice and high-salt V-8.

Kim O'Donnel: good to know. I love making my own juice as well. Feels so restorative.


Tomatillos: Just chiming in to agree canned tomatillos are fine--especially for enchilada sauce. Whole Foods and the mexi-mart in Arlington have them, I imagine most big grocers do. The WF brand salsa is pretty good too (the "medium," fire roasted one).

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, remember those ethnic groceries for goodies like tomatillo sauce!


Virginia: Hi Kim,

my husband has finally decided we need to eat more healthfully! What are some healthy lunch-bag friendly snacks we can whip up in this nasty heat?

Kim O'Donnel: Virginia, here are some heart-healthy ideas and an interesting conversation about diversifying one's diet in the name of health.


further recommendation on the Breville: They have excellent customer service. The juicer I bought was missing a cleaning brush and rather than return it (travel, trouble) I emailed Breville, and they responded to my email that day and sent a new brush within a week.

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic. Mister MA has recently discussed the idea of a juicer, so I'll have to take a look.


Another red pepper sauce: I've been making a red pepper sauce for fish too--puree a jar (or roast about 4 peppers) with olive oil, garlic, honey, and vinegar (sherry is best, but any will do).

I asked you about frozen fish fillets a few weeks ago. Still not comfortable trying expensive whole fish yet, but after thawing the fillets like the bag says (overnight), they come out great--either baking or pan frying briefly then finishing in the oven.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for the tip -- and congrats on your success! One crumb at a time...


Juicing Feels so restorative. : IT DOES! We joke, but sometimes when my husband is sluggish, I make him a green juice (lots of spinach and ginger) and he's SPUNKY afterwards! lol

Kim O'Donnel: I can't tell you how great I feel after I ring out a pineapple core -- that stuff goes right into your bloodstream...spunky indeed!


New Pans: I have the Cuisinart classic stainless steel pans. I actually did buy the set, because I got a deal from Amazon (the set was about $30 more than I've seen for the large frying pan alone). So far, they are excellent, but you can always read reviews on Amazon before making a purchase.

Kim O'Donnel: thanks for your pots'n'pans vote!


Springfield, Va.: Kim, I've been dying to share how you inspired me. I made your "naked chicken" recipe last weekend. It was a huge hit (and very forgiving as I accidentally overcooked it, but it still tasted great, and not dried out). And using you as my inspiration, I got a little creative and made roasted sweet potatoes with some extra of the spice mixture. I thought the flavors of the naked chicken rub would blend well with the sweets, though I did add some extra ginger, about a tablespoon of brown sugar and another jalapeno, tossed with cubed sweets and baked. Yum!

I also made your Viet-grilled chicken. Again, a huge hit. My question on that is, could I sub something else for the fish sauce? Soy sauce, maybe? Although, cooking disperses much of the fish sauce smell, I am kind of sensitive to it.

Thanks for giving me the courage to try new things!

Kim O'Donnel: congrats, Springfield! sounds like you are on a roll. Yes, go ahead and sub out the fish sauce for soy sauce...


healthy lunches: try veganlunchbox.com. I think that's the site name, but google "vegan lunch box" if not.

Kim O'Donnel: I couldn't agree more...great resource.


Book club supper: Help! My book club is meeting at my house next week. I'm fairly new to the book club, and want to make sure the food is good. I would prefer that it be vegetarian, since that is easier for me (I don't eat meat or fish). And it's a weekday, so I won't be home until an hour before guests arrive. We usually have a "light supper." Here's what I'm thinking:

Two rectangular puff pastry tarts -- one goat cheese and mushroom shallots, the other roasted garlic tomato and fontina.

Edamame salad -- with baby spinach, grated radishes, salt, pepper, vinagrette.

Cheese and crackers.

For dessert -- a Trader Joe's frozen cheesecake.

Any other suggestions? Maybe add a green salad?

Kim O'Donnel: Hi there: You might want to keep an eye on the weather -- this is a fairly heavy spread and if it's any night like tonight is going to be, your guests may be feeling overwhelmed. You've got cheese twice, so think about that. What about fresh fruit for dessert?


easy way to cook lentils: I cook them in my slow cooker, and they always remain firm.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. One question, though: Given that lentils take less than an hour to cook -- do you set the slow cooker on a timer?


Kim O'Donnel: We are out of time, my friends. Please stay cool and take good care.

I'll be putting together something on the tomato scare this week, so stay tuned: A Mighty Appetite. All best. kod


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