What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 24, 2008; 11:30 AM

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! Happy Summer. After the most AMAZING double rainbow last night (check out my snap, today is just gloriously sparkly. Thanks for joining me a tad bit earlier than usual today; I'm running for a train up to New York to attend a blogging conference tomorrow. It's been several months since my last visit to NYC, so I'm looking forward to it. Let's cut to the chase and find out: What are you cooking tonight?


Des Moines, Ia.: A food and beer-pairing question for you and the chatters... There was supposed to be a beer festival here two weekends ago, but it got flooded out. So, my husband and I decided to try our own version, with some friends -- round up a bunch of beers we're not familiar with and see what tickles our beer fancies.

So the question: What to prepare for dinner? We're apartment-dwellers, alas, so no grill option. We're not being purists about the beer tasting, so I'm not overly concerned about food competing with the beer, but would like to prepare some dishes that won't fight the beers completely.

All ideas greatly appreciated!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Des Moines: I'm hoping to pass through your town in August, as part of my cross-country trek. First question is: What kind of beers have you got lined up? Beer is as complicated and nuanced as wine, some might argue, so it'd be helpful to hear what you'd like the food to pair with.


Edmonton, Canada: Hi Kim! We're getting chilly, rainy days mixed with blistering hot summer days here. Last time we had a rainy day I got creative in the kitchen! Heated a bit of olive oil, cooked some onions and garlic until they were nice and fragrant. Then added chopped cauliflower, celery, and garam masala. A splash of chili oil for some heat. Once that was nice and paste-y, I threw in a big can of diced tomatoes and an undrained can of chickpeas.

Covered, simmered, cooked about 20 minutes till it was nice and blended. Then poured in a can of coconut milk and added a bunch of chopped kale. Simmered another few minutes until the kale was nice and green and then salt and pep to taste. Ate with crusty bread. It was amazing!

Thanks again for these great chats!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Edmonton, I would have stopped before the coconut milk, but it all sounds pretty darn tasty. I like your spunky sense of creativity. Keep cooking and let us know what's happening up north.


Fairfax, Va.: Kim, I know this is a two part question, but if you have time, I would love to hear your response.

I would really like to stop eating meat that has not been raised and slaughtered in a humane fashion. Because I feel like this describes little of the meat that I can affordably purchase, I am interested in becoming a "mostly" vegetarian. What cookbooks would you recommend? Quick note: I can't eat dairy, which seems to limit a lot of my options.

Second, when I do want to eat meat, where/what should I buy that I can feel comfortable was treated in a manner that I feel comfortable with? Thanks

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Fairfax: Take a look at Peter Berley's books (he even has one called Flexitarian Table), titles by Dana Jacobi, Deborah Madison and Heidi Swanson. Do you like eggs? Maybe this is your less expensive answer to buying locally raised animal products under more humane conditions. Head to a farmer's market this weekend and talk to the farmers who raise animals for slaughter and egg-laying chickens. They can tell you all you want to know about the process, their diet and the land on which animals are raised.


Takoma Park: Hi Kim. A quibble with your advice. A couple weeks ago I asked you to recommend the cheapest fruit available these days. You said "Fresh local strawberries because they are in season."

But still I haven't seen any non-California strawberries at the supermarkets. And at the farmer's market local strawberries are $4 for one pint. A pint of strawberries weighs 3/4 of a pound, so this fruit costs six dollars per pound! Kim, six dollars per pound is not cheap.

So to ask again -- if you want to buy some fruit and $$ is an issue for you, what would you buy?

Kim O'Donnel: I'd still buy local, Takoma Park. To me, supporting local farms is more important to me than saving a few bucks to put my money towards bigger agri-biz farms. When you spend your money at the local farm market, your dollars go toward the local economy. Essentially, you're paying the farmers to grow their stuff and keep local farmland agrable. Those folks are not getting rich, believe me. But hey, I understand where you are coming from, I do. It's just me and my husband, so we don't have many mouths to feed, and maybe I'd feel differently if I had a big family. Or maybe not.


Washington D.C.: I remember reading about two ex-chefs from DC who were tired of the poor quality of produce in DC grocery stores so they opened a produce box delivery service and pulled from local producers. They offer veggies, fruit, and even cheese and herbs. I can't seem to find them anywhere. Any chance you know who they are? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Is this a new service? There are a handful out there -- anyone know?


Healthy Chicken Parmesan: Well, I cooked yesterday for both then and today, and I came up with a healthy version of Chicken Parmesan (one of my wife's favorite).

I took boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trimmed the remaining tiny bit of fat off. I lightly coated four breasts with a dusting of about 2 tablespoons flour (it helps the "glue" and breading stick better). I mixed egg whites with a little 1% milk for the "glue". I made a breading by crushing whole wheat Ritz crackers and my spices of choice (I used paprika, a dash of cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano and a touch of dried mustard), dipped chicken in "glue", then in breading, put on a rack set in a baking sheet. I sprayed with EVOO and baked for 20 minutes on one side, then 15 minutes on the other. Put half a slice of low-fat mozarella cheese and baked 5 more minutes. I served with whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce (okay, I cheated this time and used jar sauce, but sometimes I make my own). Served with a salad of mixed greens, cauliflower, blanched broccoli and shredded carrots and vinaigrette.

Very healthy and we loved it. I guarantee that this was better than what you get served in restaurants.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for sharing. I'd argue that when we put our minds to it, what we make at home can be infinitely more satisfying than what we get out and about. Just a thought.


Seattle, Wash.: Hi Kim - I just read that you are moving to Seattle! How soon, and do you have some cooking-related gig lined up? Looking forward to seeing you around here!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, indeedy, I am moving to the Emerald City. Mister MA will be there in just a few weeks, and I'll be driving to our new home, with a scheduled arrival of mid-late August. For now, I plan to keep doing what I do here at washingtonpost.com and RealSimple.com, and I've just started contributing to Portland, Ore.-based Culinate.com

thanks for the welcome -- and see you at market!


Produce Question: I think the poster is referring to Washington's Green Grocer: http://www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com/

I just got my first delivery last week - an all organic box of fruits and vegetables - and it was awesome. And they try for local wherever possible.

Kim O'Donnel: They've been around for at least 10 years. Happy to let readers post their thoughts on the service.


Humanely killed meat: Although it is a bit more expensive, you'll find that kosher meats are humanely killed. You won't want to do that a lot, but I would suggest that when you "splurge" for meat, you visit your kosher butcher and you'll do fine.

Also, I believe that the poultry dealer up at Lexington Market in Baltimore, raises and slaughters his own poultry humanely. I haven't been there in about 15 years, but he was a great guy (I think his name was Dave). His prices were pretty good, too. He was just out of the way.

Kim O'Donnel: Great point. I bought chicken last week from a local Halal butcher, and the stuff was extremely clean and much much less expensive than what I'd find in the supermarket.


Providence: I do a lot of bone-in chicken breasts on the grill in the summer, and I'm running out of interesting marinades or rubs so we don't get bored. Any suggestions? As a guide, my latest favorite is lemon zest, garlic, and parsley rubbed under the skin, and salt and pepper on the skin.

Kim O'Donnel: Try this: Viet-grilled chicken. you'll never look back, Providence.


pet peeve:"EVOO". NOOO! Let that be OVER and we return to simply saying "olive oil."

Kim O'Donnel: I'm with you. Or what about olio?


affordable fruit: check for Pick-your-own! Fun, fresh and affordable.

Kim O'Donnel: Another brilliant idea. Nice going.


Omaha, Neb.: Hey Kim. I normally hate pasta salad...too much oil, too much tang from the vinegar, soggy vegetables, ick. But the other day I had a great one from the grocery store: al dente pasta, fresh grape tomatoes, bits of bacon/prosciutto, fresh Parmesan cheese and red onion. Wonderful. And the marinade had just a little zip, but was subtle. I'd like to recreate the salad but am wondering how to create the marinade. I've never made pasta salad and so am a bit of a loss. What would you suggest? Thanks and have fun at the conference!

washingtonpost.com: Slate.com's summer series this week includes a Pasta Salad Manifesto that seems to have good advice.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Omaha: Elizabeth, my handy producer and an avid home cook herself, suggests the following link. Always undercook the pasta, by the way. Stay away from mayo. Make a vinaigrette you really like, season it separately before you start dressing the pasta. What else, folks?

p.s. might also be stopping in Omaha -- or maybe Lincoln...


Icing: Seeking a very quick icing recipe (will have to make in the morning before work). I so prefer from scratch and don't want to use canned just cuz I'll be in a rush.

Kim O'Donnel: What kind? Cream cheese? That take about three minutes to make. Talk to me.


Park Rd Gal: Hi Kim,

I also wanted to share a recipe that recently turned out awesome. I was craving Chipotle-style carnitas, and googled various recipes until I came up with this hybrid. It was insanely delicious.

Pork Carnitas

-pork butt (aka Boston Butt)- approx 2-3lbs.

-salt and pepper (lots)

-vegetable oil

-3/4 lg. onion, chopped

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-3/4-1 c. white wine

-1 c. beef broth

-2-3 c. milk (not sure exact measurements: enough to cover the meat halfway AFTER you've added the broth)

-3 bay leaves

-4 cloves

-4-6 juniper berries (optional, but they're good)

-1 tsp. dried oregano

-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

-1/2 tsp. ground coriander

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-chipotle pepper, jalapeno (fresh not pickled), or hot pepper sauce, to taste

Liberally salt and pepper the roast on all sides. Brown well in a deep oven-safe casserole dish on all sides (this takes about 10 min.) Remove roast. Add sliced onions to the rendered fat. Cook until translucent. Add garlic, cook until fragrant (don't brown). Deglaze pan with white wine and broth, scraping up brown bits. Return roast to pan. Pour over milk (it may turn a funny texture, don't worry). Add in the remaining spices. Bring to a boil. Cover.

Move to oven. Cook covered on low heat (250F) for 3-4 hrs. Baste occasionally. When meat is falling apart, remove from pot using tongs (leave fat and broth). Shred into bite-size pieces on a large cookie sheet. Broil 8-10 min. until beginning to brown and crisp up.

Serve in small tortillas with diced tomato, salsa, crema or sour cream, and lime wedges to squeeze over. This serves at least 4.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, Gal. I have a carnitas recipe somewhere in my files, I should dig up. Glad you had fun!


Smoothies: Hi Kim,

I've been craving smoothies (yogurt, frozen fruit and juice), but am not much of a morning person. Is this something I can make ahead (at least the night before) or will it sour? Could I make a pitcher to last 2-3 days?


A fellow Philly transplant

Kim O'Donnel: Philly: I've tried making smoothies the night before, and I'm always disappointed. The stuff breaks down, and the consistency is just not as good. Do you have an immersion stick blender? It's much less mess than a bowl blender and you can make a smoothie in about 60 seconds. You game?


Washington D.C.: Hi chowhounds, need some dinner ideas for tonight from you guys. I got fresh ears of corn and shrimp, plus a pretty well stocked pantry. I was thinking some sort of shrimp salad ?

Kim O'Donnel: With all that corn, I think I'd do a corn salad -- with red onion, lime, bell pepper, curry powder...and grill those shrimps on a skewer on the barbie.


Not a Stalker, BUT...: Kim, thanks for the Culinate.com plug. I have your three (that I know of) blogs bookmarked on my computer. I'll miss knowing that you're on the east coast with me/us, but at least we can keep up with you and your food adventures online!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, that's the beauty of the Web, no? You guys are used to me traveling a lot anyway, so I don't think you'll feel that much of a difference.


Carnitas: That recipe looks great, but for a much easier one I always use the Post's pressure-cooker carnitas and just add more pepper. It's really really good.

washingtonpost.com: Pressure Cooker Carnitas (Washington Post Food Section, Feb. 21, 2007)

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent! Thanks much.


Pregnant woes: I know this probably is odd -- but I'm dealing with horrible all-day sickness (morning sickness is a crock!) I can only eat a few bites of anything before I feel ill -- which makes me not want to eat. I know chicken is completely yuck to me now -- just the actual meat, not the flavor like broth. But I'm really tired of ginger ale, gingersnaps, and ginger chews. Can you think of anything I could try to tempt my appetite? I'm supposed to eat every few hours -- something small. But honestly, yesterday I ate a small bag of chips (supposed to help with nausea) and gingersnaps. Not exactly the healthy diet I'm wishing for. I would be so grateful for any ideas!!

Kim O'Donnel: Rice, my dear, with some sliced cucumbers, a spritz of sesame oil and soy sauce. A papaya. Banana and yogurt.


Washington, D.C.: I tried the garlic scape pesto last week and it just didn't work. I'm suspicious that using my stick blender is what screwed it up (chunks and "strings" in the sauce). I have more scapes this week from my CSA box -- do I need to make sure that I use my food processor this time?

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, I can confirm it was indeed the stick blender botching up the works. If you've got the food processor, yes please, use it.


Grad school, Midwest: Hi Kim. My farmer's market has just started carrying peas, one of my favorite summer foods. I have been shelling them and eating them plain (YUM!!), but am curious about what else to do with them. Do you have any suggestions for something light and springy that will let that sweet, fresh pea flavor really come through? Pea risotto, maybe? Bonus points for something cheap and easy (ie, graduate-student-friendly). Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Pea risotto -- and some green garlic, my dear. Would be lovely. I'm also a fan of a quick blanch of fresh peas, then tossed in a saute pan with a wee bit of butter, thinly sliced carrots, mint or parsley -- and thrown over rice.


Washington, D.C.: About smoothies prepared beforehand - I always blend and freeze any extra. That preserves consistency much better.

A question - if a dish is too spicy hot, anything you can do to reduce the heat? Would adding additional vegetables help?

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, good to know on the smoothies.

Some folks say adding a potato helps, but others think that's hogwash. Making a side of rice and serving with your spicy fare might help.


Mostly veggie predicament: I'm with the other poster who expressed a desire to use less of the meat produced in an inhumane fashion - so I buy less and buy local. It's more expensive than grocery store meats but I use less of it (more as an accent than the focus of flavor) and incoporate more veggies.

Last night I baked a spaghetti squash. While that baked, I sauteed turkey bacon till crisp, added some chopped green scallions, continued on med high heat, then added the white part of the scallion on low heat with chopped shiitake mushrooms.

Poured in some chicken stock and a splash of Dogfish IPA, scraping up all the tasty bits from crisping the bacon and let it cook on high till it reduced. Removed from heat and swirled in some cream to finish the sauce. By this time the squash was cooked, so scraped all the squash out and into the saucepan. It is so yummy - almost like carbonara except healthy. Only fat used is from turkey bacon and cream.

Kim O'Donnel: Thought for the day: Using meat as an accent rather as focus. A good one to chew on. There are lots of cultures that think this way, out of necessity, but it doesn't mean the cuisine suffers. Thanks for sharing last night's supper!


Chicago, Ill. - Blender: Target.com sells a single serving blender that has a sippable lid so you can carry it with you. I just add 1 c yogurt, 1 c frozen fruit, and 1/4 c juice and the blending doesn't take more than a minute. You can just take it with you after that.

Kim O'Donnel: Another suggestion for non-morning smoothie person...


Washington's Green Grocer: I used them on and off for several years. They provide very good service. I found them to be extremely accomodating if I didn't like something and easy to use. I don't use them now b/c I am trying a CSA through Olin Fox.

Price: both the CSA and GG are about $40 per week.

Value: GG seems to give more produce, probably because I think they try to meet an average pound target per box.

Quality: Both are good, with the CSA being a bit better with a little less bruising etc. However, GG always made accomodations if I wasn't completely satisfied with something.

Kim O'Donnel: Great first-hand report. Thanks so much for chiming in.


ISO Non-alcoholic summer drinks: I'm pregnant (yay) so no gin and tonics (or any other alcohol or caffeine) for me this summer (boo). Any suggestions for some fun, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh you must try berry ade! Here are the recipe details, using either blueberries or raspberries Divine.


Omaha again: Sorry, but I am at a remedial level when it comes to making vinaigrettes. I've done it for green salads on occasion, but really don't know where to start with the pasta salad. I guess specifically, what type of vinegar should I try? Would balsamic be too overwhelming? What's a good oil to vinegar ratio to start with? Thanks to Elizabeth for the suggestion, I will definitely check out the manifesto. And as far as road trips go...come to Omaha! We have a really great dining culture (from fine steak houses to bistros to hippie all-vegetarian restaurants) and of course, great farmer's markets.

washingtonpost.com: The Slate article recommends lemon juice rather than vinegar.

Kim O'Donnel: I would agree about using lemon juice over vinegar. With vinaigrettes, always start with the acid. I'd squeeze one lemon, then salt it. I might even chop a wee bit of shallot for good measure. Taste -- you will pucker. But that's okay -- is it salty? Good? Then whisk in the oil, very slowly, until you arrive at a balance that you like. Will let you know when my plans to Omaha firm up.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim - Any suggestions for good spots to look for delicious mayo-riffic recipes? I know you're not a fan (more for me!), but since you can't help when I want a creamy cole slaw recipe do you have advice on other good sources to turn to? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Calling all mayo lovers!!


For Fairfax: I too questioned the food I ate and became vegetarian in September 2007. I've had several fish lapses (sushi) but don't regret going vegetarian at all. It is much easier being vegetarian than I expected. As for eggs, even 'cage-free' might conflict with Fairfax's values since the chickens share a barn with 1000 other chickens and still don't have space to move about. The word to look for is "pastured". I have yet to find eggs from happy chickens at grocery stores (not even Whole Foods). Your best bet is to join a farm buying club for your meat and eggs. Although I'm vegetarian, I belong to Polyface Farms for their eggs. I just started to buy meat for my parents in hopes they will see/taste the difference and commit to clean meat. There's also a farm in Prince William county that sells meat at a farmer's market -- possibly Burke or Wakefield.

Kim O'Donnel: thanks for your report. Most useful.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim, speaking of eating locally, our neighborhood is talking about trying to get a small weekly farmer's market. Probably it would be one farm that could offer a variety of fruits and vegetables. Any suggestions on how to begin to identify potential vendors?

Kim O'Donnel: You should check out New Morning Farm, which does a Tuesday market in upper NW at a school. 36th & Alton, I believe. Just one farm, selling a variety of crops. Would be good for you to see in action.


kosher meat: Please don't fall under the illusion that kosher meat is more humane or healthier. It's slaughtered under a different system, but not necessarily a better one. The humane aspect of kosher slaughter is based upon what was considered humane a very long time ago. And animals can be raised in the same factory farm conditions as traditional meat and still be considered kosher. At this very moment, there is huge controversy in the kosher meat industry due to a recent raid at the largest kosher slaughter house in the U.S. Kosher meat needs the same close scrutiny as any other food system in the U.S.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your comment. I have not researched this issue thoroughly enough to add, but it certainly warrants further research.


Boston, Mass.: Kim, my 1 year old loves the Morningstar Farms veggie burgers. I bought them as a last ditch effort to get her to eat veggies since she just started refusing them pureed or steamed. I'd like to figure out how to make them myself since they are pricey.

I found a recipe online. I can tweak the ingredients to be what she likes but I was wondering if you could take a look and see if the method would work. Of course, if you have a recipe, I'd so use that instead! Thanks!

Directions Place bulgur wheat in small bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit for 1 hour (it will swell).

Steam the mushrooms 10 minutes or until tender. Set the mushrooms aside in a small bowl, then steam onion 10 minutes, until translucent. Transfer to a large bowl. Place oats in a third small bowl, cover with lukewarm water, and let soak about 10 minutes, until soft.

Drain bulgur wheat and oats, then place in food processor along with mushrooms, rice, cheeses, and spices. Pulse 4 or 5 times until ingredients are chopped but not pureed.

Pour the mixture into the onion bowl, add cornstarch, and mix well. Shape mixture into six patties.

Preheat oven to 300.

Over medium-low heat, warm 1 T olive oil. Cook the burgers for 2-4 minutes, until lightly browned, turn, and repeat.

Oil the baking sheet, place the fried burgers on it, and bake 10 for minutes. Turn them over and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately or let cool and then freeze, tightly wrapped.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Boston: Thanks for this. Did you get to take a look at the black bean burgers I wrote about a few weeks ago? They may also do the trick. I also wonder if it's worth trying falafel on her?


summer non-alcoholic drinks: Non-caffeinated iced tea!! Choose your fave types of tisane, buy teabags and go to town. Make a whole pot and adjust to your taste. It's easy, refreshing and you can mix and matach. I'm on a ginger iced tea kick right now. Also like mint and moroccan mint. (But that has green tea and therefore caffeine.)

If you crave the odd soda with a kick I love ginger beer (which actually is not alcoholic but much more gingery than ginger ale).

washingtonpost.com: My sister who's expecting a little girl next week (!!) has been getting by on San Pellegrino Limonata - refreshing, bubbly and not too sweet.

Kim O'Donnel: yes, yes, yes to all of these ideas.


All Day Sickness: I found hummus worked, or even just plain chick peas. Also, and this sounds weird, but it worked, an old woman friend of mine told me to try garlic soup. Roast garlic, blend with water or veg broth and stale bread and a bit of olive oil. It really worked. Also, peppermint tea.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks darlin'. I'm sure our ailing gal will be grateful for the ideas.


Rockville, Md.: For the pregnant woman with the all-day sickness, here's what got me through the first few months:

scrambled eggs

cottage cheese and fruit

berries and melon

cheddar cheese slices

mashed potatoes

pasta with red sauce or alfredo (depending on if the red sauce gives you heartburn)

I'm 18 weeks pregnant now and the all-day sickness is gone. Instead, I want to eat everything in sight. You'll get there soon.

Kim O'Donnel: And more ideas...


Kim O'Donnel: And now, I must skedaddle and head to Union Station. Thanks for stopping by! I hope to share my adventures touring the famed Consumer Reports lab in blog later this week! See you there: A Mighty Appetite. All best.


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