What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 17, 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: Hi. Just polished off a bowl of chocolate sorbet (check today's blog space for recipe details-- and all I can say is WOW. Mixed it in with some fresh local cherries. Friday night is the summer solstice, teh beginning of my most favorite time of the year. Anyone doing a solstice party? Holler at me and tell me what's on those burners...


Washington, D.C.: Good morning. Do you have any idea where I could find non-fat dried (powdered) milk? I haven't seen it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and the boxes at my local ("Soviet") Safeway look like they were actually taken from abandoned 50's bomb shelters - not a little old and dirty. I would love to make tea in my office without running to CVS for milk on a weekly basis (and using the stinky communal refrigerator). Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I've seen it at My Organic Market in Alexandria. Anyone else with dried milk sightings?


Non-Dairy Ice Cream!: As a severly dairy allergic person who looves frozen treats, I kiss your feet for today's non-dairy frozen treat blog entry! (Props to Liz for asking, too!)

Here's my question: How would one make a chocolate "soy"-cream? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed. I think what I'd do is melt about six ounces of bittersweet chocolate, let it cool a bit, then add to the food processor when you're pureeing everything.


Arlington Gal: A story and a question. I was feeling blue, and turned to some Asian-noodle improv. Veggie broth, sauteed onions, carrots, frozen peas, and soba noodles loaded up with ginger and garlic- and a dash of soy and tabasco. Aromatic and comforting and perfect for a veg like me. Question: loved the post on frozen treats today, but I lack the cash (and kitchen space) to buy an ice cream maker. What options for something cold and sweet do I have? I've heard of something called semi-freddo(?), but I think that has dairy. Something non-dairy would be better. Thanks, Kim!

Kim O'Donnel: Granita! Here's a link to details for coffee granita, and I've had great fun making lemon, as well, which is quite refreshing. This requires no special equipment except a fork -- and about four hours of your time.


Rockville, Md.: My 5-year-old requested homemade macaroni and cheese and stewed tomatoes for dinner tonight. I usually bake the mac and cheese in the oven with egg in it, but it seems a little warm outside for that today.

How would I make creamy mac and cheese? I've got lots of good cheddar and some nice pasta shells to make it with.

Kim O'Donnel: In my take on Mac and cheese, I don't use a stitch of eggs. Have a look and see what you think -- I don't think you'll miss the huevos one bit. You'll need to make a mornay sauce, but the how-is in included in recipe.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I'm planning on making tacos Thursday evening. I'm going to slow cook the chuck roast during the day with onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and jalapenos. Any suggestions for what liquid I should add? Water, beef broth, some kind of juice? I'll shred the meat and serve it in corn tortillas with roasted corn, guac and cheese.

Kim O'Donnel: A beer might be nice as your liquid, along with some beef stock, but water instead of stock will be okay, too. I want to see some bay leaves and black peppercorns in this mix...


Lothian, Md.: Kim -- posting early since I won't be here on Tuesday. Regarding last week's post about juicers -- you guys made me really want one (especially with all the fresh produce now) -- I went to Macy's online to check out the one the poster liked and, after reading reviews, decided on the Jack La Lanne juicer. Macy's online is great -- you get to see actual customers' reviews of the different products. I walked across the street to Macy's at lunchtime and bought the juicer. Wow -- this thing is SO quiet. I made a carrot, apple, beet, ginger juice (I know you don't like beets, but this is good!). It was amazing that drinking juice for dinner filled me up -- the only downside was that I wasn't sleepy at my normal bedtime. Will definitely be drinking a lot more juice this summer.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice first-hand report, Lothian! So glad you are enjoying your juicer. I'm craving some blackberry juice right about now...


Granita Question: The coffee granita sounds great. How do you make the lemon version? And, how does it keep a week? I would think it would freeze solid after awhile. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Lemon Granita video I did about five years ago -- yes, if kept in an airtight container, this stuff keeps for up to a week. Great with vodka!


Arlington Gal: You. Are. My. Hero.

I love coffee ice cream, this looks like so much fun to try!

Kim O'Donnel: You'll love it. And check link to lemon granita just above...


Arlington, Va. S: I have a copy of "The Whole Scoop" myself. I've mostly made berry sorbet (and a mango one - delicious). Usually I steep a half cup of mint leaves from the garden in the simple sugar solution for about 30 minutes after I've taken it off the heat. I also add a quarter cup of vodka so that it doesn't freeze too hard.

I've been getting into sherbert lately, which I never really see in the store or ice cream shops.

Good stuff, and plenty of recipes for people with food allergies.

Kim O'Donnel: I agree-- Lebovitz's book is prob. the best resource out there on frozen treats.


Mac and cheese: My homemade mac and cheese is pretty similar to yours, Kim, esp the overall process. But I saute chopped onions in the butter before adding flour, which adds a nice flavor. I also throw in a LOT of veggies, including sometimes edamame. And instead of plain bread crumbs, I use a mix of panko and grated parmesan for the top crust.

Kim O'Donnel: Always like to hear about the variations -- keep'em coming!


dried milk: We get our dried milk at Wegman's or Bottom Dollar Food.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's one sighting...


chocolate sorbet: I've never liked chocolate ice cream because I don't think it tastes a thing like chocolate. But I discovered chocolate sorbet recently, and it tastes exactly like chocolate. I haven't tried making my own, but I'm tempted now.

Kim O'Donnel: I was expecting watery, or diluted results, and I am simply blown away by how rich this sorbet is. Run, don't walk and go make some!


Silver Spring, Md.: I have a recipe for a stir-fry packed full of different kinds of veggies. The recipe says to cook until the veggies are "crisp tender." As a novice cook, I am having trouble telling when that point is. I seem to either take them out too quickly and the veggies are basically warm-but-raw, or they end up too tender, without that crisp bite. Help! How do I tell when a veggie (such as broccoli or carrots) are "crisp tender?"

Kim O'Donnel: Ah. This would be a great exercise in a cooking class. Crisp tender is past that raw stage, but then it falls onto the palate of the individual, a very subjective matter. One person's "crisp" may be raw, another's may be overcooked. For broccoli, i like to parboil it, then add to stirfry so it needs little time in the pan and doesn't hold up the works for the other veg.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Kim. I have a lunchtime meeting tomorrow and I'm not sure what to have for people to eat. We've done pizza, Chinese, Saladworks, but I thought maybe I could make something simple or pick up something pre/partially made at Whole Foods. Any ideas? It's at another office so no microwave and I'll need to transport it so if it needs to be really cold or warm I don't think it will work. Thanks for any tips! I just don't want to grab people for lunch and then have them leave hungry!

Kim O'Donnel: What about instant couscous salad? Did you see it in last week's blog space? You could transport to meeting, no need to reheat and it will be satisfying. Serve with some prepared rotisserie chicken.


Mommy's coming: My mom is coming to town and I wanted to make a frittata-type casserole. I was thinking potatoes, garlic, rosemary, spinach, eggs, tomato-basil feta cheese: will this hold together? I dont know about feta (but it's her favorite). At least you know with a good mozz the stickiness factor is there!

Kim O'Donnel: Usually when I make a frittata and add cheese, I sprinkle it on top and let it brown a bit under broiler. if you're keen to use feta, you could top each slice when serving -- no need to deal with broiler. If it's crumbled enough, you could mix it in while cooking.


NE D.C.: Hi Kim,

I have a loaf of whole wheat French bread that has been sitting on my counter for over a week. It is pretty hard. Any ideas for what I can make with it? I was thinking of bread pudding, but since it is whole wheat, I am not sure how that would turn out.


Kim O'Donnel: I've used whole wheat bread for bread pudding in the past and was quite happy with results. Depends on how hearty the bread is. You can also pulverize it in a food processor and make bread crumbs, keep in freezer when you need.


McLean, Va.: Hi Kim,

We lost power yesterday from about 4 (I think) to about 8 pm. I opened the fridge once for about 10 seconds. Did things start to spoil? What should I toss out?

Kim O'Donnel: I'm not a scientist so I can't verify, but as a fellow cook who's been in your shoes over the past few weeks, I offer this: Meat and fish are most vulnerable. Everything is most likely fine. When in doubt, throw it out, but in all likelihood, your food is probably still in good shape.


20581: I found some garlic scapes at the Silver Spring farmers market on Saturday and so I made your garlic scapes pesto last night. It was amazing! I was wondering, however, if I would be able to freeze the rest and how I should freeze it (spoonfuls or in a single container)?

Kim O'Donnel: You can freeze, yes indeed. I would do it in a single container.


Nashville: Hi Kim,

Our CSA cup runneth over with summer squash! I have the yellow crookneck kind, and then the green and yellow ones that look like big pattypans. Last night we ate grilled squash on wholegrain pizza with blue cheese and wilted arugula. Tonight I am making a pasta with chunks of grilled squash and asparagus, a white wine-olive oil sauce, pine nuts, and capers. Tomorrow I am planning to make Mark Bittman's shredded vegetable pancakes. But I still have more squash and need something to make on Thursday and Friday before CSA pickup on the weekend. Please give me some more ideas! Can I make zucchini bread with yellow squash?

Kim O'Donnel: Sure you can make zucchini bread with yellow squash. I like me a zucchini boat, roasted in oven, stuffed with tomatoes, herbs, garlic and bread crumbs, but since they're funny shapes, you could some variation on that, a la ratatouille...What else folks? Let's help out Nashville.


Burke, Va.: Love the chat! I didn't want to heat up my kitchen last night by turning the oven on, but wanted "roasted" sweet potato. So I peeled and cubed a potato into bite-sized pieces and microwaved them for 5 mins (baked potato setting), then tossed them with orange-infused olive oil, salt and pepper and finished them in a grill basket on my grill over medium heat for about 10-15 mins. They got great color, took less time than oven roasting and they tasted great!

Kim O'Donnel: that's a handy idea, Burke. Thanks for sharing.


D.C.: Kind of an urgent question. I'm making a tomato tart on Thursday, and I usually make it in a tart pan with pate brisee crust (Martha Stewart's recipe). This time I'm making a large rectangular one, and I'm planning to use puff pastry. Any tips on how to use the puff pastry so it will work out well? Specifically, how to prebake? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Funny, I'm a little scared of puff, too. I always doubt that it will in fact puff up and layer, and it always does. There's little you need to worry about. The stuff needs to be thawed, and you'll need to work pretty quickly. Any other tips out there, folks?


Washington D.C.: Hello Kim, What ingredients are best used to make a great stir-fry sauce? I usually add some chicken broth, soy sauce, and fresh ginger, is there a better way to go? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. I like to start my dish out with garlic, shallots and chiles, and if I were to add ginger, I'd do it at the beginning. I use a mix of neutral oil and sesame oil, too. All this to say if you create a foundation with many layors of flavor, you don't need to fuss much with a sauce. Soy sauce is sometimes all you need. I agree that stock is useful, but water works well, too. A little acid, in the form of a lime or a little Shaoxing rice wine, is nice. For so long, I overthought my stirfry sauces and when I let go, they immediately improved.


Centre of Nowhere: Ciao Kim!

I have a question about hard-boiled eggs, specifically how to peel them without taking half of the white with the shell.

My sister-in-law and I have this problem when we use farm-fresh eggs (from the farmer's market) OR the organic eggs that you purchase in the grocery store. The regular store-bought white eggs never have a problem losing their shells. Our method of cooking is the same: cover eggs with cold water, heat to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Cool eggs, peel, then use.

It's really more of an aesthetic problem when it comes to something like deviled eggs; otherwise, they certainly taste really good! Thanks for any tips that you or the chatters have...

Kim O'Donnel: I rarely find myself in a position of boiling eggs (can't stand'em) but here's how I'd do it: bring water up to a boil, turn off heat, add eggs, cover. I wonder if this would help matters. Thoughts from boiled eggers out there?


Reston, Va.: Hi Kim,

I love your blog and your chats! I'm a cooking newbie and have learned a lot from you already! My daughter's Brownie Troop is hosting a "Great American Bake Sale" in a few weeks (proceeds go to Share Our Strenght to help fight childhood hunger). I'd like to bake and freeze some things so that I'm not up all night the night before. Are there baked goods that freeze better than others? I was thinking of scones and/or muffins.

Thanks Kim! You're the best!

Kim O'Donnel: Brownies freeze really well. Muffins freeze just okay -- too much surface area. Cookies are good freezer contenders, too.


Shaw, D.C.: Kim--

Long time no chat! Work does get in the way sometimes!

Can I just say that I made the most satisfying curried lentil soup/stew on Sunday? The recipe was from Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table and it called for a few things I'd just gotten at the farmers market including potatoes, sweet peas, and rhubarb! The rhubarb in a savory dish intrigued me so I had to try. It added both texture and flavor really, and just for kicks I threw in some garlic scapes that I got at the 14th and U Farmers Market as well. What a beautiful confluence of ingredients! Love those cookbooks that are organized by season!

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, Shaw! I am intrigued by the addition of rhubarb in your stew. I've been thinking stewed rhurbarb with caramelized onions would be interestng...


Raleigh, N.C.: This isn't exactly a cooking question, but a food storage question. My daughter bought me some potato sausages (old family food) sent from a place in Wisc. last Mother's Day (2007). What's left are still in my freezer. Are they still edible, and if so less tasty or harmful (should I just throw them out)? Food storage times baffle me.

For example, I bought a small watermelon two weeks ago and put it in the refrigerator. How can I tell if it's still edible? Thanks in advance!

Kim O'Donnel: I would say, Raleigh, that it's time to give the potato sausage the heave-ho. While they're probably not unsafe to eat, they're in all likelihood less tasty and have a thick layer of freezer burn at this point.

Two-week watermelon will taste sour, kinda off and eventually will emit a foul odor.


Arlington, Va.: For the hard-boiled egg question. You have to put the eggs into the cold water and then bring it up to a boil or the eggs will crack when you put them in the pot. I've found the key to easy peeling is immediately putting the eggs under cold tap water (just leave them in the pot) and then fill the pot with ice until it cools down.

Kim O'Donnel: You're much more schooled at this than I...


Arlington, Va. S: The boiled egg problem with shelling has to do with the freshness of the eggs. I've seen this mentioned in a couple of cookbooks.

As eggs get older the membrane detaches from the shell. The chatter should use the oldest eggs on hand for boiled eggs. It makes sense that locally available eggs are fresher than the supermarket ones since they take time from farm to distribution center to ...

Kim O'Donnel: Another reason I don't eat hard boiled eggs....


Kim O'Donnel: Time's up! Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. All best.


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