What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 19, 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.

It's Day 15 of Kim's road trip as she checks in from Buffalo, Wyo., after having spent a rainy weekend in Denver to take an early look at the local dining scene and see how things are shaping up for the Democratic Convention next week.

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.

A transcript follows.

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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Greetings from Buffalo, Wyoming! Hang on just a sec, will right with you.

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Kim O'Donnel: Okay -- I'm back. I'm typing to you from the Occidental Hotel, a 19th-century building on Main Street of Buffalo, Wyo., which is Yellowstone country! Yes, indeed, I'm surrounded by Little Bighorn and fresh mountain air. It is just breathtaking. I drove up highway 25 yesterday from Denver, a long drive but what a nice place to lay my head for the night. After lunch in town, I'll make my way to Red Lodge, Montana, where I'll meet some friends for supper then meet Mister MA tomorrow, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SIX WEEKS. Hope he still likes me. Today's blog post should be available for consumption in just a few minutes, but for now, let's hear what's on your minds, travel or otherwise.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Doubling Your Buckle Recipe -- I'd like to double your recipe for berry buckle, but I know that with baking you can't always just double the ingredients and have it work out okay. Do you have any tips on this?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Atlanta: Never have doubled the recipe for the batter, but I think it would work. To increase chances for success, I'd double the size of the pan. I know for sure the topping will be fine doubled.

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Washington, D.C. : No question this week. Just wanted to let you know I am thoroughly enjoying hearing about your road trip! I hope you are having as much fun doing it as we are reading about it.

washingtonpost.com: A Mighty Appetite: On the Road

Kim O'Donnel: It makes me very happy to hear you're enjoying the dispatches. It's hard to know -- I realize it's a different offering than my usual recipe and home-spun kitchen mix, but I hope it's been fun reading. I am having a blast. It's grueling -- I've been on the road for 2 weeks now -- but I am learning so much.

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Pine nut storage: I bought too many pine nuts in bulk at Whole Foods this morning (watching my toddler and not the dispenser). Should these be stored in bag or plastic bag, in cupboard, fridge or freezer?

Kim O'Donnel: Take care when freezing -- they don't like zip-loc bags, as I've discovered -- airtight container will keep them safe from freezer burn.

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Langley, Va.: Hi Kim,

Hope the road warrior(ess) is doing well!

Basic questions -- can I freeze hard-boiled eggs? Mayonnaise? Pesto sauce? Do fresh veggies need any prep besides washing before freezing (like green beans or corn)? I have some free time this coming week and wanted to stock our freezer, and these items are head scratchers.

Thanks so much....

Kim O'Donnel: Pesto: Yes to freeze.
Hard-boiled eggs? I have no idea. Anyone know?
Mayo? Er, um.

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Okra overload part 2: Hi Kim,

Several weeks ago I wrote in about my problem with too much Burmese okra. Thought I would fill you in on things. In short, we have tried okra in everything!

Okra pancakes (yummy!) traditional fried okra (of course) fried okra, buffalo style (I'm a fan of anything with blue cheese and buffalo sauce) okra caserole (meh) salted, roasted okra seed (very good, but a pain in the tail to deseed) okra in marinara sauce (good! Although this was the night I comfirmed an allergy/intolerance to fresh tomatoes. boo!) Okra and tomatoes and sometimes corn(traditional, but good as always. Have made it both with Mexican spices and traditional file powder. Okra pasta salad (very good! But again, the Burmese okra is less slimy and quite palatable raw). Okra straight up (YUM! But my coworkers look at me odd when I munch a raw okra pod). Okra tacos (meh. I'd do them again, but it needed something)

My next task, adapting something like zuchinni bread for okra! And working on a baked-fried okra that isn't soggy.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, you've been busy! I love all these ideas. I think okra tacos, by the way, have promise. I bet they'd love some jack cheese in a corn tortilla...

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Alexandria, Va.: Kim, Your local insight will be missed, but I'll still be a faithful reader of the chat and the blog. Now, my question. One of my neighbors made a mistake and finds herself growing habaneros instead of jalapenos. Any suggestions on how to use the extra-hot stuff.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there: Habaneros are probably my favorite chile pepper. I use them in curries. Careful -- you only need a wee bit -- but they've got a fruitier flavor than other varieties. I love a smidge in fried rice, too. You can dry them, by the way.

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Expat now repatriated: Our family did cross-country in the winter in 2006 -- 5 days from Sacramento to D.C. I envy you the time and the advance knowledge of places to go. We want to go back to the High Desert (N.M., Ariz.). Are there places you want to return to? Are these for food or scenic reasons?

Kim O'Donnel: I already can't wait to do another trip. I would love to get back to the midwest and dig deeper into Wisconsin and Colorado, return to New Mexico after a long absence and finally make my way to Texas. The food is always a reason, but it is also the medium through which I communicate, and way to talk to folks.

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D.C. works in Baltimore: Hi Kim, I'm really enjoying your dispatches from the road. Quick question - I just bought curly kale from my farmer market for the first time and need some advice for how to use it tonight. I also got zucchini and beets... All that comes to mind is adding lots of garlic so any advice you have is much appreciated!

washingtonpost.com: A Mighty Appetite: On the Road

Kim O'Donnel: Hi ya: Kale is wonderful roasted or grilled -- be sure to brush with oil and yes, garlic is lovely here. You can serve it with some white beans seasoned with chopped rosemary and cayenne, a little lemon zest, and you'll be in good shape. 400 degrees for the roasting. I wish I liked beets more; the only way I can really do them is if they're roasted, with walnuts and a smidge of goat cheese.

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For freezing eggs: Hard cooked eggs don't freeze -- the whites go rubbery and very unplesant to eat. Mayonnaise separates and will not re-emumlsify. (I did this when I was a kid -- for a science project).

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks!

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Organic Gal: So, I have to ask, where did you eat in Lincoln? The Oven or Tandoor? Those were my two favorite Indian places. And if the Oven, did you go to Ivanna Cone around the corner for dessert? Or across the street to The Mill for coffee and people watching on the loading dock?

And, if you were at the Oven, you were a block away from my old 5th-floor walkup! Yeah, I still sometimes miss my old home town, but I'm glad to know the MA readers there showed you the love that everyone on a long road trip needs!

Kim O'Donnel: Ate at The Oven. It was quite tasty. Lincoln is one of those places I'd like to return -- there just wasn't enough time and too many things I wanted to try. And yes, the MA readers were quite hospitable!

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Doubling the Buckle: I do it all the time (a single recipe is not an option) and it works fine. I bake it in a 9x13 glass dish.

Kim O'Donnel: Good to know! thanks for chiming in.

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Vienna, Va.: I've doubled your blueberry buckle recipe. It was delish, the only issue is that the middle was a lot paler than the edges, but it was cooked through. I used a 13x9 pan.

Kim O'Donnel: More on doubling the blueberry buckle...

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Food safety question: It's in the news that most of the dried chilis we get come from Mexico, and that the food inspectors haven't been good at keeping contaminated peppers out of the USA. How do we deal with this? Do we trust the big spice makers? Do we dry our own (knowing that heat in chilis increases with heat in the growing area, so local chilis will be less hot.)

Kim O'Donnel: I think if you've got the time and inclination, it's always better to dry your own. Don't know where you are, but one way to go about this is to talk to producers at your farm market for tips on drying and what you need to know.

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Mayo: Kim

Did you move, or is this vacation?

I just thought I'd let you know that 3 weeks ago, friends and I ate chicken salad with Miracle Whip that was 18 months past "best by" date and didn't get sick.

When we discovered that the salad was made with an old bottle (in a beach house fridge) we were all rather panic stricken though.

Kim O'Donnel: Neither. Sort of. It's not vacation -- but it's a whole lotta fun. And although we've packed up our place in Arlington, I've still several days before I arrive in Seattle. I'm glad you didn't get sick -- but be careful!

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Old Town: Can you please give a link to your berry buckle recipe?

washingtonpost.com: Recipe: One, Two, Buckle My Berry

Kim O'Donnel: Rocs, my producer, is ze best....

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New England: Greeting from Central Maine where we have had record rainfalls this summer. My garden has never been so happy. I have lots of summer squash, Japanese eggplant, HUUUGE butternut squash, flowers, lots of varies of tomatoes including heirlooms and tomatillas. We fed the birds all of our new blueberries. Sigh. Now, the time has come to harvest. Any advice on the tomatillas? When to pick? How to prepare? I assume they are for salsa, but not sure what to do with them.

Kim O'Donnel: Love to hear from you, Central Maine! Make tomatillo sauce! Here's a recipe.

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Upstate, N.Y.: For the person with too many habaneros, I made this tabasco sauce recipe when I had a bush full of tabasco peppers last year that were too hot to use for cooking. I'll bet it would work great with habaneros. I even included a jalapeno or two in mine. I was worried about the fumes, so I put the parakeets and gerbils out on the porch and opened all the windows, but it ended up not being a problem. I didn't do the whole canning thing, I just put it in a bottle that I had boiled, along with the lid, in a pot of water, and I keep it in the fridge.

Homemade Tabasco Sauce

12 large Tabasco chile peppers; stemmed 1 clove peeled garlic ½ cup vinegar ½ tsp salt ½ tsp sugar

Boil the chile peppers and garlic in vinegar in a small, non-metal saucepan until tender. Puree in a blender with the salt and sugar. Run through a metal sieve if necessary.

Dilute this paste with more vinegar until it is the consistency of rich cream. Pour into a non-metal saucepan, bring to a boil, then pour into a hot, sterilized bottle to within ½ inch of the rim.

Run a sterilized knife around the inside of the bottle to release air bubbles. Wipe the rim clean and seal with a scalded top. Store in the refrigerator once opened.

From: Red Hot Peppers by Jean Andrews

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic! I am going to make this when I get to Seattle. Thank you so much.

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Okra again: Yes, quite busy. But that's what we get for having 24 okra plants. We had no idea how much they produce! Probably half a dozen pods are ripe per day, each the size of a large carrot. We have yet to resort to leaving them in mailbox, but we may start that soon. LOL. We chopped 6 trees (they are really almost trees!) down the other night, just to give ourselves a break and open the garden up some.

Note to any gardeners out there contemplating okra. NO MORE THAN FOUR PLANTS, EVER!

Kim O'Donnel: I LOVE it! What a great story.

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West R.I.: Hi Kim. We picked 6 pounds of 'delicious' blueberries this weekend. I'm enjoying my Cheerios, a crisp, and looking forward to a buckle. I'd really like some muffins, but preferrably something with some nutritional value -- fiber, whole grains, that sort of thing. Any thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: Corn muffins can be pretty wholesome when you make yourself. I need to dig up the recipe. raspberry corn muffins

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Washington, D.C.: What can I make (besides the buckle, which I love) with an excess of blackberries? Or raspberries? I got a little carried away picking this weekend.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh man. What a treat. I would make raspberry lemonade. Blackberry juice. Jam. put'em in pancakes. salads. eat with cheese. I am so envious!

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Rockville, Md.: I want to grill some tuna steaks for supper. Any suggestions? I think about five minutes ought to do it. How about a sauce? Do I need one? Butter?

Kim O'Donnel: A green sauce would be nice here -- pureed parsley, basil and/or cilantro, with lime and garlic, even the heat of chiles. Or chopped tomatoes and corn kernels. Leave the butter in the fridge. You could also do a soy sauce-y/sesame-ginger dipping sauce. Two-three minutes per side is all you need.

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The drive from Cody to Red Lodge: has some interesting history - I did the drive with my parents about 15 years ago. WY 120 turns into MT 72, left at MT 308 to go thru Bear Creek to Red Lodge. About halfway, we saw some old remnants of buildings and fences, along with a plaque -"Smith Mine Disaster". My parents flipped; it was big news in 1943, and here were the remains of history we just stumbled upon. There were coal mines around Red Lodge, but the shut down after the disaster. There still are some ghost towns in MT, your friend should be able to take you to some. On a food related note, have you had any good local berries? I'm headed to Yakima next Sunday for tomatoes, and I'm crazy for berries. What's your favorite recipe?

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, thanks! Great stuff. I'm going to be in Yakima on Saturday. I had stellar blueberries in Michigan - but looking forward to huckleberries in Montana!

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Kim O'Donnel: Sorry to cut this short, but I've got to check out of my hotel. Thanks so much for stopping by. Next Tuesday, I'll be typing to you from my new home in Seattle. Stay tuned for more roadside adventures this week: A Mighty Appetite on the Road. Westward ho!

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