What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 23, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Happy fall! Today I dish up Nine Reasons to Say Yes to Fall. How are you feeling about the change of seasons? Just looked at the calendar -- Thanksgiving is 10 weeks away!! This Thursday will be a long overdue veggie chat, at 1ET, by the way. Did you get a chance to check out the first Meatless Monday? Those zucchini meatballs by the way are great as cold leftovers. Had some for lunch yesterday. Holler my way.

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merluvs2cook: Hi Kim! Do you have any suggestions for the use of chile paste? I bought a small jar for a recipe and now I don't know what else to use it for. Any tips would help!

Kim O'Donnel: Do you know what kind of chile paste it is? Next time you have a chance, take a look at label and tell me what's in the paste.

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Baltimore, Md.: Submitting this early because I have class -- I made hummus over the weekend (chunky but really good!)and now I have a lot of leftover tahini. Do you have any suggestions for what to do with the rest of it, besides making more hummus? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Keep the tahini in the fridge and it will last you a good long while. It makes a great salad dressing, by the way -- a tablespoons of tahini, thinned out with juice of one lemon, a little water, a smidge of olive oil -- great on greens and roasted cauliflower. Sounds like you may have pureed your hummus in a blender -- any chance you can get your hands on a food processor? Will give you a much smoother result.

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Maryland: Great idea for the Meatless Monday, and I was pleased to see zucchini (one of my favorite veggies) take a starring role in the first one. It'll be Meatless Tuesday for me, though. No time to cook yesterday!

washingtonpost.com: Meatless Monday: Zucchini "Meatballs" With Red Sauce ( A Mighty Appetite, Sept. 22)

Kim O'Donnel: Maryland, glad you like. Doesn't matter what day you make it meatless -- the idea here is to try just once a week and find what works for you. Stay tuned for more!

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Wheaton, Md.: I asked last week, I'll try again. When I make a cake in a 13x9 pan, the middle is really high, and the sides less than 1/2", making it impossible to split and fill. What is causing this? The oven, or the way I prep the pan? How can I get an even layer so I can split and decorate(like Costco does)?

Kim O'Donnel: Hard to say without being there. To help you remove the cake, line the pan with parchment so the cake comes out in one piece. Let it cool completely. But wait -- isn't a 13x9 cake usually just icing on the top?

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Pesto question: Hi Kim -- looking for an easy/simple pesto recipe so that I can use up all these basil leaves. Also, can I freeze once made? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Here you are: Basil Pesto recipe details. You can freeze, but many people suggest leaving out cheese and adding when thawed.

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Tempeh: Kim, as a vegetarian 7 days a week, I'm really excited about the Meatless Monday feature. I'm just sitting down to a tempeh-lettuce-tomato sandwich -- I know, you've mentioned you're not a fan, but I hope you'll give this protein another shot in the coming weeks! I used to hate it too!

Kim O'Donnel: My pal Liz Kelly recently made me a BLT with tempeh bacon and it was pretty darn good, I must say. Glad you're excited -- now tell all your friends!

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Pacific NW: Hi Kim --

My lawyer, an avid hunter, has given me a lot of venison. I have some "back-strap" venison which I'm told is the meat along the back bone and is a "choice" cut.

My wife and I once cooked a roast saddle of venison and it turned out well, but I'm not at all sure how to handle this cut.

My idea was to make: well....venison "a la bourgeoise." Maybe an odd idea but will it work?

What's your suggestion -- I'm over my head here.

Thanks for your help.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, where in Pacific NW are you writing from? I'm not super familiar with cuts of venison, but what I want to know is, how much fat is there? I have a few game books here and will take a look today. Stay tuned, and folks if you've got ideas, share'em with our friend.

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Laurel, Md.: Your post today reminds me of the question I've been afraid to ask: I recently inherited a yellow Le Creuset and am babysitting an immersion blender while its owner flees winter on a 6-month midlife crisis tour of South America. So I have the toys. Now, talk to me about soup.

It sounds easy but I simply don't know where to start. The Future Mr. Me moves in at the end of next month and is a huge fan of Mom's soup (and my cooking!), so I know I can score healthy points if I get my act together now. Help!

Kim O'Donnel: It's your lucky day! You'll love both of these toys. To get you started, check out the Mighty Appetite soup archive for ideas and inspiration. Decide what you want your flavor to be and we can help steer you in the right direction.

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RE: 13x9 cake pan: If you go by Michaels or AC Moore and go to the cake decorating section, there are strips you can buy that wrap around the pan to help them cook evenly and save you from having to cut off the top of the cake!

Kim O'Donnel: That's a great tip. Thanks so much!

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D.C.: Re the 13x9 cake with the hump in the middle, low at the edges -- possibly the oven is too hot and you overbeat the batter.

Kim O'Donnel: Another thought for cake baker...

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Not exactly meatless, but:: Kim, I'm sitting here eating lamb stew leftovers from a local Turko-Mediterranean restaurant, and thinking both "Wow, this is REALLY good." and "Yeah, I could make this." Any thoughts on a good lamb stew? I've never cooked it before, but I've braised beef and pork cuts. My impression is that the right cut of lamb would be fairly tough but would be awesome after 6-8 crockpot hours or so, like short ribs. What should I be looking for in the meat dept. or butcher? Any thoughts on appropriate seasoning?

Kim O'Donnel: You might want to try some lamb shoulder. this is a muscle-laden cut that likes low, slow heat. As far as seasonings go, you have lots of options. You could curry it up, you could do something Irish-y, with lots of leeks, you could go French and add red wine, Provencal herbs. What's your pleasure?

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Arlington, Va.: For the tahini leftovers person, make cookies!

Eating Well

Kim O'Donnel: Intriguing. How are they?

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Expat now repatriated: For Wheaton with the 13 x 9 cake problem I've read that this means the outer edges are cooking (and setting) before the inside is done. Best way to see if this is your problem: lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and lengthen the cooking time. See if this makes a difference.

Kim O'Donnel: Another tip for the cake baker. We'll get this fixed in no time!

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Slow Cooker recipes: Hi Kim, I'm looking for some resources for slow cooker recipes. The problem is I'm not a big fan of chilis, stews, etc. (although my husband is). I'm hoping to find some recipes for things like meatloaf or chicken so I can incorporate the slow cooker into my style of cooking. Do you know of any books or websites that can help me out? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Meatloaf is not something you'd want to throw into the slow cooker because ground beef would disintegrate in no time. What about something along the lines of chicken cacciatore? Lorna Sass has a few titles on the art of slow cooker-y, by the way.

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13x9er again: I want to split and decorate; just a simple decorated cake from Safeway is $15. Thanks so much about the overbeating and too hot oven. You clicksters ROCK!

Kim O'Donnel: And we now have a very happy customer...

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Freezing Pesto: Freeze your pesto in an ice cube tray. When it's frozen, pop out the cubes, wrap in Saran Wrap, then freeze in a freezer-safe Ziplock. Very simple and when you're ready to use, just pull out a cube or two depending on the size of a dish.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, this is the trick many readers like to use...always forget this one.

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Pear Overload: I've got about 15 pounds of unripe pears, courtesy of a family member's pear tree. Any ideas on how to use these, preferably something I can freeze to enjoy later this winter. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Was just talking about pears in today's blog space, and how they're wonderful poached (what an elegant dessert!), sliced up into a bed of greens and you've gotta try the Dark n' stormy pear crisp! I've got a Martha recipe for upside down pear gingerbread cake that will knock your socks off. Pears are also wonderful pureed, along the lines of apple sauce, and you can most definitely freeze that, take out when you need.

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Washington, D.C.: Kim! I got excited at the farmer's market and bought a giant head of green cabbage.

Got thinking about something vaguely Asian-y, shredding the cabbage and some other veg, adding a peanut sauce... but I'm worried it won't be substantial enough for a main.

Any ideas how to bulk up? Or something I could serve it with? Vegetarian or not okay, but prefer no seafood.

Kim O'Donnel: Stir-fried green cabbage is really nice, with red peppers, chiles, garlic, a little ginger. At the end, end some cashews for protein, and serve over rice. You could do a quick saute of a chicken breast and cut into strips, before you cook the cabbage. Sounds like a plan for tonight!

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washingtonpost.com: Nine Reasons to Say Yes to Fall ( A Mighty Appetite, Sept. 23)

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Arlington, Va.: I realize this is kinda early, but I'm looking for some super easy Thanksgiving-related drink recipes. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: as in cocktail sippy-poos? Pomegranates will be in season by then and they make killer garnish. How do you feel about mulled cider? Let's ponder.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Kim, I have a question about figs. I bought some for the first time yesterday, and cut a split in them, added some goat cheese and gorganzola, wrapped them in foil and grilled them. Yum! But I have about 6 left for tonight. Any suggestions on how I should enjoy them? Meat-free please.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, Rockville. Sounds grand. I love figs with honey and basil, no broiling necessary. You could also throw them into a salad -- some bitter greens such as arugula, with walnuts. I'm playing with a dried fig recipe right now. Stay tuned for that.

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Arlington, Va.: The Eating Well cookies using tahini are delicious. In fact, I may have to make some again today because thinking about them makes me want them.

Kim O'Donnel: I will have to check these out. Thanks for sharing recipe link.

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Thanksgiving Turkeys and Ham: Thanksgiving is only 10 weeks away? I wanted to order a fresh turkey this year and a local (to Va.) sugar-cured ham. I remember you talking about this in years past, but can't find the discussion on the Web page. Where can I order these from again?

Kim O'Donnel: Every year, the list is different, as farmers adjust to the economy, their situation. Best place to start looking for turkey options is your neighborhood farm market. Talk to the meat vendors there and find out what their holiday offerings will be. usually it's ordering in advance. As for hams, that'll require more research.

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Outer Banks, N.C.: We'll be going to the Outer Banks for our fall vacation and figs are a very big local food down there. Every family it seems has a fig tree in the yard. They sell fig pies and such down in Ocracoke, but I wanted to try making something myself with all the fresh figs, like a pie or bread. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: Fig tart!! What a treat. You could do an open-face tart with a flaky pastry crust...or a galette, which is a free-form, more rustic kind of pie. Let me get some basics for you on filling ingredients.

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Slow Cooker meatloaf: Here's a meatloaf recipe I've used and it turned out great. Particularly when you layer the cheese in the middle. Mmmm... Slow-Cooker Meatloaf

I cook it for the longer time on low when I'm working or on a Sunday I'll turn it on in the early afternoon for dinner and use the shorter time.

Kim O'Donnel: So it doesn't fall apart? Interesting...thanks for the link.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I have an acorn squash I picked up on a whim at the farmers market. I'd like to use it as the main part of a dinner for my husband and I this week, but am having trouble coming up with ideas. So, any ideas for a non-red meat acorn squash-focused mainly for two people? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: You can roast and serve with quinoa, which cooks like rice but is chockful of protein, making this a complete meal. I love quinoa with roasted peppers, which you could do while squash in in over. You can cook quinoa with water or stock of your choice. Leafy herbs are good on top. To speed it up, squash should be cut up. Lather it with some olive oil, season with coarse salt.

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Kim O'Donnel: Time to run already. Thanks for stopping by! Come back and see me this Thursday for my monthly vegetarian chat, and as always, in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. All best.

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