What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 1:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for another edition of What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

A graduate of 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. She was online Tuesday, November 4 at 1 p.m. to answer your cooking questions.

The 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: I know, it's hard not to talk 'bout anything but the election, but we'll try for the next hour...unless of course, you need Election Night Vittles ideas....or want to talk about how food will figure into the agenda of the next administration...or how folks around the globe are cheering on America in front of their respective television sets (heard from a friend in Copenhagen that pumpkin soup and chocolate are on the menu there)...or what to pack for your long wait in the lines at the polls....Okay, I've got one: SAVE THE DATE! I'm talkin' to you, Beltway area readers. Celebritology hostess with the mostest Liz Kelly and I are co-hosting an after-work meet-greet shindiggy kind of thing Thurs. Dec. 4 at M Bar in the Renaissance M Street Hotel in West End. Stay tuned for details, but we hope you'll come out and say hello. And, let's get this Election Day party started...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim. I wrote into your vegetarian chat last week looking for some interesting pumpkin dessert ideas. You gave me some great suggestions, and someone was nice enough to write in with a pumpkin wonton recipe. They noted that they had a problem with too much moisture in the pumpkin, so as a thanks I thought I would pass along the Cook's Illustrated method for getting liquid out of canned pumpkin (this method is used in their pumpkin cheesecake recipe). Simply line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towel, spread the pumpkin on top, and press down with another double layer of paper towel. It's amazing the amount liquid that comes out, and you can avoid the oozing pumpkin dessert syndrome. Thanks again!

Kim O'Donnel: Cool, thanks! Did you get around to making those pumpkin wontons yet?

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Hong Kong: Submitting early because, though I love the chats, I can't stay up until 2 a.m. waiting for it to start. I'm looking for a nice dip (something other than hummus) to serve at a party. I've also got a potato salad with vinaigrette, a lentil and couscous salad and an apple crisp. Have any suggestions? Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: How nice of you to join us from Hong Kong, dear! Check out the details for this fig tapenade, a delightful marriage of flavors... Muhammara, a Middle Eastern roasted red pepper puree with a surprise twist, is also a fave. Other thoughts for our friend in Hong Kong?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim -- Now that November has arrived I'm already starting to have the Thanksgiving jitters. My sister and I are responsible for our small Thanksgiving meal (3 people total) this year and seeing as we are such a small family we would like to make it intimate but special. I've already decided to make the tofu pumpkin pie, but we are not sure what to do about the turkey. What is the smallest turkey size I can get to still make it a wonderful centerpiece at our dining table?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Silver, toss those jitters out the window -- starting next week, there'll be two chats a week to deal with Thanksgiving questions, so take a deep breath. Re: size: All depends what kind of leftovers you'd like. I love having leftover turkey sandwiches and making soup and pot pie, so I usually go for a bird that offers more than I need on Thanksgiving. That said, you could explore an 8-pounder...and if that still seems like a lot, consider a turkey breast.

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Kim, I'm newly lucky to have access to farm fresh eggs. I like scrambled eggs, but am wondering if you might have suggestions for spices or spice combinations to make this kind of easy fare stay exciting. I'm thinking hot curry powder, or paprika ... fine herbs.... I have used these eggs to make popovers quite successfully, but prefer very simple-to-make ideas. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You are oh so lucky, Boston. The difference between a freshly laid egg and one that's been shlepped from a giant farm to a warehouse to the supermarket is huge. I love a thin omelette with herbs, as you mention, but I also love'em with black beans, scallions, pickled peppers, greens, cooked in wok with sesaem oil and into fried rice...

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Rockville, Va.: Can we talk about why your chat never has direct links to the day's other chats going on?!

washingtonpost.com: Sorry that the schedule isn't on the page! Meantime, you can visit our section front to see all the chats for the day.

Kim O'Donnel: Nothing malicious about it -- I've had tech problems doing so, but it'll be remedied, don't worry.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim - I thought we were going out for election night, but last night our plans changed and we decided to stay in and watch the returns at home with some friends. We are four 30-something adults. We can always order take-out, but I was wondering if you had any ideas for a fairly easy election night meal suited for a night in front of the TV.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there: Check out Election Snacks All-Nighter piece from yesterday. Right now, I've got baked beans in the works, some (blue) corn bread, and a beef brisket marinating, which I'll oven-smoke after the chat. For last-minute tricks, I'd suggest a bunch of dips -- look at links above for fig and roasted pepper dips, and check out the bean and artichoke ideas in yesterday's blog space. Other ideas, my fellow Americans?

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Hong Kong ... dip: I always like to make a type of kalamata olive tapinade. It's a great party piece. I throw into the food processor a jar of pitted kalamata olives, olive oil, lemon, roasted nuts and 'roasted' garlic.

The garlic and nuts have been 'roasted' on the stove top. I put them dry in my cast iron pan on a high-low heat. The garlic cloves are in their skin. It takes about ten minutes and you've got great roasted garlic and nuts. I do this for pesto too.

If you already have tahini, then baba ganoush is always nice.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for adding to this thread -- I'm a big fan of tahini -- it also works beautifully in a sweet potato "hummus."

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Mac & Cheese: Kim, my new boyfriend is returning on Friday from a business trip on which he was stricken with food poisoning. He's asked that I make him his favorite, macaroni and cheese, to recuperate. Do you have a good, classic recipe? Something super cheesy and gooey would be great -- but no meat. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: But he's okay now and his stomach is ready for prime time? Here you go: Southern Comfort: Mac & Cheese. This one's a goodie.

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Atlanta, Ga.: For Hong Kong - I recently made a roasted red pepper and feta dip (trying to recreate the fabulous htipiti from Zaytinya). Basically whirred a jar of roasted reds, feta, a little garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, S&P, and some fresh thyme or oregano in the food processor. Yummy.

I also wanted to report that I made an election cake recipe from Fannie Farmer that is almost identical to the one in MA. My cooking club meets tonight and thought it was too appropriate. My colleagues love it - so full of spice. My recipe used 2 loaf pans and had to watch carefully to not overbake. Happy election!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Atlanta! So glad you whipped up some election cake!! And thanks for another take on roasted red pepper puree, lovely wiht that feta....

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Delicata Inamorata: Could I use swiss chard for this? I bought some after hearing great things on your chat and blog about it and now I dont know what to do with it!!

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely! Swiss chard is so easy to cook. You can eat stems or leave'em out, your call. For first timers, perhaps leave out until you get comfy.

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Boulder, Colo.: Hello from sunny Boulder where tomorrow it will be snowy! I wanted to give a shout out to the poster from 2 weeks ago (I think) who gave the recipe for brown rice cooked with cider, adding sausage, apples, etc. I made it for a homey dinner Sunday night and loved it! Love these chats, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Another vote for the brown rice 'n' cider dish -- how cool is that. I'm thinking of posting this recipe on my Facebook fan page, to get a reader recipe of the week feature going... Re: snow: I heard the Cascades just outside Seattle got walloped overnight...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Kim. Happy Election Day!

I just started dating someone who doesn't like sweets. Just doesn't like them. I, however, like to bake for my significant other. So... Would you please recommend a couple of non-sugary (even savory) baked goods beyond biscuits and cornbread that I could try making for him? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: What about pizza? Did you see the onion tart thing I shared a few weeks back?

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spices to pep up scrambled eggs: I sprinkle my scrambled eggs with Greek seasoning to spice them up. I use it on salads too, think it's fine ground oregano, and other spices. I get a salt-free version and use it on lots of stuff to add flavor and depth.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh, that's a nice idea. And you could add a little feta, a little spinach, would be lovely...

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U Street: Sweet potato "hummus"?! Kim, you can't just dangle an idea like that and not give a girl some follow up. I'd love more detail please.

Kim O'Donnel: Haha! Here you go, darlin': Sweet potato "hummus"-- a goodie.

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sweet potato tahini salad: Talking about sweet potato 'hummus'. I love sweet potato salad with a tahini dressing. Cube the cooked sweet potatoes and toss it in a tahini/lemon dressing. It should be quite goopy. It's delicious.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh this is a jazzy idea...

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Can you list good ingredients to keep on hand to make healthy stir-frys? I'd like to eat more vegetables and less processed foods, but am cooking for one and never know (besides olive oil) what to use to stir-fry. Also, any tips on seasonings to keep on hand would be great too. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Philly, the beauty of a stirfry is that almost anything is game, as long as it's cut for size and can be cooked quickly. let's see...carrots, bok choy, green cabbage, julienned red pepper, snow peas, broccoli florets, fresh ginger, garlic, shallots, chiles, cilantro for garnish...shall i keep going? Maybe we need a lil' stirfry primer?

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Arlington, Va.: Thanks to the chatter for the roasted red pepper/feta dip suggestion. I have 6-8 folks coming over to watch the returns at 7, and due to poor time management, I'll have about an hour to get things ready! Do you have any other (very) quick ideas for snacks? Happy election everyone! (PS: I was at the polls at 5:55 a.m., and I've never been so happy to stand in line for an hour!)

Kim O'Donnel: Mini grilled cheese sandwiches... roasted broccoli pick-up sticks, Hold the Velveeta Queso...and Happy Election to you! I love the spirit.

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Spruce up the eggs: Sometimes I use oregano and a sprinkle of parm. I sometimes also use a small splash of A1 (sounds weird but tastes good)!

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, I can imagine the A1...I like to hot sauce up my eggs, so I can dig it...

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For the Baker: How about baking bread? If she mainly bakes pastries this will be a way to expand baking skills, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed. Baking bread for a new love, has a nice ring to it.

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Non-Sweets Honey: It must be difficult having a mate who dislikes sweets. Try scones (rosemary-thyme or cheese are my favorites), quiches, savory shortbread cookies.

Kim O'Donnel: More savory ideas for the sweetheart...

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Boston, Mass.: Posting early...

I like beans, but prefer to use dried beans in recipes over canned. Soaked and cooked dried beans make a recipe taste fresher, and avoid all the extra salt of canned beans. It's also much easier to carry dried beans home from the market, and easier to divide a recipe with dried beans.

How do I adjust recipes that call for canned beans to use dried? Is there a formula? (For example, how many ounces of canned beans does 1 C of dried, soaked and cooked beans equal?) Does it vary by different beans? There must be an easy way to do this...please help.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Boston, I too prefer dried beans, and understand where you're coming from. I completely lucked out here in Seattle with a vendor at the farm market who sells locally harvested dried beans! The red beans I bought on Sunday are outta sight. Stay tuned for that recipe, fyi. Anyway...those small cans of beans usually are 15 ounces, which is just shy of 2 cups of dried. Is there a formula -- good question. I will find out for you.

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more savory treats: cheese cookies with red pepper flakes. Lots of savory cookies: with black pepper, with sage...

Kim O'Donnel: Cheese crackers/cookies/biscuits are a scrumptious idea.

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Springfield, Va.: I have a problem that I keep running into when I make turkey soup. After I bake the turkey and eaten most of the meat, I boil the carcass for several hours. When I'm done, the liquid turns into gelatin. What can I do to prevent this?

Kim O'Donnel: I hope you're simmering, rather than boiling! Slow heat for those carcasses! What's happening to you is totally normal -- it's the bone marrow doing its magic and it's what gives your stock its flavor. As soon as you heat it up, the stock will become liquid again.

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Alexandria, Va.: For the person interested in stir-fry... isn't it best not to use olive oil but rather something with a higher smoke point and less flavor? Like vegetable or canola oil?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I didn't see that on first read -- grapeseed oil or peanut oil both have higher smoke points...

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Re: Eggs: This is my favorite egg recipe, it is for Shirred Eggs. Easy but DELICIOUS!

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon butter

2 teaspoons heavy whipping cream

2 eggs

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced chives

1 tablespoon grated hard cheese, such as parmesan

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Coat a 6-oz. ramekin with butter. Pour whipping cream into ramekin.

3. Crack eggs into ramekin, coaxing yolks toward the center, using a spoon if necessary.

4. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper, top with chives, then cheese.

5. Bake until set around edges and still a bit jiggly in the center, about 12 minutes. (For firm yolks, bake an additional 3 minutes.) Let sit 2 to 3 minutes to set and serve immediately.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely! By the way, there's a fun little cookbook called "The Farmstead Egg Cookbook" by Terry Golson. Really sweet collection.

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Arlington, Va.: The broccoli pick up sticks sound fab! Could you use cauliflower too?

Kim O'Donnel: You betcha!

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Frederick, Md.: I have a head of cabbage and a bunch of carrots to use before they go south. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Quick into the wok, my dear. Do a little stirfry like we've been talking bout -- season with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chiles and you've got the makings of a grand supper. Rice to go with, too.

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Rockville, MD: For the person who wants to stir fry, when we have chicken breasts, pork chops or steak, I make extra to freeze. Then we have just the right amount of meat when ever we want to stir fry.

We add mixed frozen carrots, corn and peas (suggested by Alton Brown). Then we don't have to take the time to chop them.

I also like onions, mushrooms, red peppers, garlic and green onions. We usually make extra fried rice too, just to keep in the refrigerator for weekend lunches.

In my family, fried rice and rice pilaf have always been a great way to use up whatever leftover meat and vegetables are in the fridge.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks Rockville, you're quite savvy...keep sending us your tricks!

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spoilage question: Hi, Kim, I hope this question isn't too far removed from cooking. I just found some evaporated milk in the 'fridge that I had decanted into a glass jar at least two months ago. Amazingly, it smells fine. Could it still be useable, or should I toss it? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Evaporated milk has an incredible shelf life. If it doesn't curdle your coffee, I'm betting it's okay. But if you have any doubt whatsoever, toss.

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Savories: There is a yummy recipe on Epicurious for olive biscuits -- it's basically a not very sweet cookie with oil cured olives in it. Once you get over the fact that it's not really a cookie sweetness, it's lovely.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I want some! gotta check these out...

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Centre of Nowhere: I second Kim's suggestion of the fig tapenade for Hong Kong. Truly delicious! It packs a lot of flavor!

I am avoiding the news until after our polls close, then plan on being glued to a program to watch results trickle in over chili, cornbread, and probably a beer (or two). I recall seeing somewhere that one of the candidates had read Pollan's open letter to the next administration so, here is to HOPING that candidate gains the Oval Office today.

So, when can we start talking about the immediate days after Thanksgiving? I am throwing a family dinner (16 people) for a non-Thanksgiving event the Saturday immediately after the big feast, and am wondering what to serve everyone who'll be turkey-ed and pumpkin pie-d to death by then. Suggestions for easy, filling, light and fit for a crowd?

Thanks! You rock!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Centre, yes, Joe Klein of Time recently interviewed Obama who mentioned that he had read Pollan's essay, so that is encouraging. P.S. I am going to take on your post-Tgiving question in chat leftovers this week.

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Kim O'Donnel: And that about wraps up our Election Day party -- oh, by the way, Post Politics podcast hostess Emily Freifeld talks to me today about Election snax: go here. Now GO VOTE! Til next.

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