What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 3, 2009; 1:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET 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: Hey folks, and Happy February. Guess you've heard, but the groundhog sez that winter plans to stick 'round for longer than we would like. Couple things to take our minds off the weather -- Valentine's is a week from Saturday, it's Black History Month, and Mardi Gras/Carnival is three weeks from today. I'll try to keep you as distracted as best I can. As I mentioned in today's blog space, a big high-five to all of you for continuing to help each other in our online kitchen. Nice work. Who's got a new cookbook discovery or recipe to share? Bring'em on...

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Terp in the Kitchen: Kim, just wanted to share an improve success. I always stress over improv, partially b/c I have picky palates in my house. I know -I'll- eat just about anything I make, but others won't. This earned a "thank you, that was really good" from my VERY picky MIL.

1/4 of an onion, finely chopped (would normally use more, but hubby is watching carbs) 1 pkg sliced "baby bellas", finely chopped olive oil creamy cheese (i had a small chunk of bulgarian feta that -really- needed to be used), as much or as little as you like - have used spreadable cheeses like rondele or alouette before chicken breasts dill (fresh or dried - i just had dried last night) white wine (used prosecco 'cause that's what was open) would also normally use garlic, but i was doing a wierd medical test that wouldn't allow me to eat garlic, so left it out

saute bellas and onions until well cooked (add salt, pepper, herbs, cheese partway through) and getting "brown bits." i love my cast iron skillet. set aside.

halve chicken breasts, then cut a small pocket in each (my package yielded six serving size pieces). stuff pocket with bell mixture.

salt and pepper chicken breasts.

"deglaze" pan from bella mixture, let the liquid reduce as much as possible w/out scorching

when the liquid is reduced enough to be able to sear the chicken a little, add a little olive oil, then put the pieces in the pan, plump side down. let them sear for a few minutes til pretty brown.

flip, let sear a little on the other side, then add any leftover bella mixture and more wine to pan. finish (8-10 mins, maybe more, depending) in 400 degree oven.

i suppose if you wanted, you could remove the chicken and reduce the wine/bella sauce more, but we had it as is.

we didn't have any starch, just a salad (the low carb thing), but i would've loved to do a quinoa "pilaf" to soak up the juices. as it was, we just had a salad and MIL and i sopped juices up with a piece of good whole grain bread.

thanks for the continuing encouragement

Kim O'Donnel: TERP, you done good, kid. Love that you keep pushing the improv envelope!

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Chicago: We're staying in for Valentine's Day, and I promised my wife that I'd cook her whatever she wanted for dinner. She wants spaghetti and meatballs. I'm fine with that, but I was hoping to do something a little fancier and a little more complex, since we're saving all that money by staying in. Any recommendations for variations on that red sauce classic, or any ideas for appetizers/sides that would up the fancy quota? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds like your wife and I would get along famously. You got a recipe for meatballs that you like -- or do you need some guidance? I might do a mix of beef, pork and/or veal , just like the old-schoolers do. Spend the money on a bottle of husky red, and let's think on a sexy app. folks you got ideas for the love birds in Chi-town?

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Austin, TX: Kim, I just wanted to say that over the weekend I made your falafel recipe for my new girlfriend and a couple of her female friends, along with some roasted garlic and eggplant hummus. Because of you my new gf is even more in love with me and her two friends think I'm an amazing guy.

I just wanted to say thanks for all the great recipes and advice.

Kim O'Donnel: WOOHOO! That's what I like to hear, Austin. What's your next seduction trick going to be?

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Soup for the sick: Hi Kim! My boyfriend just came back from a trip and has fallen very sick with a sore throat and slight fever. I wanted to cook him up a nice big bowl of soup tonight after work and was hoping for suggestions on what soups are good for the sick? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Sorry to hear your beau is ailing. I am a big fan of Asian-style noodles. If you do chicken stock, add a hunk of peeled ginger to the sauce pan and let it infuse while simmering. Meanwhile, chop some garlic, chiles and julienne a carrot, and/or a red bell pepper or some chopped bok choy, and stirfry. Season with soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil. Add drained (and rinsed) udon noodles to veggies and coat noodles. Transfer a small mound of noodles to a bowl, pour in some of that simmer stock, and watch the man get better overnight.

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Brooklyn, NY: I've got a new recipe suggestion to share -- basically, you saute onions and aromatics, then brown sausage, throw in some tomato paste, and then heap in a ton of sliced green cabbage with a bit of chicken broth for a quick (15 minutes or so) braise. Top with a bit of parmesan. It's really easy and absolutely delicious, plus it feels nice and seasonal. I've served it over polenta, gnocchi, and imagine it would also be good with orzo. This is one of my favorite kinds of recipes because it's extremely forgiving and allows for lots of improvisation, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Yeah, baby. Sounds like a goodie for this time of year. Mister MA would love this.

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almost disaster: Have an improv success that could've been a nightmare... Roasted a small chicken in the crockpot for superbowl sunday (had been craving roast chicken all week, but didn't want to keep an eye on it). Cut potato underneath, and lined the top with baby carrots. Minimal seasoning. When I went to take it out, 7 hours later, the chicken fell apart. Shredded itself right into the pot. OH NO! What was I supposed to serve, chicken soup? For the super bowl? After a lot of cursing, I did a quick pantry check. Used tongs and a strainer and got all the chicken out of the pot. Added whole wheat couscous and let sit for 10 minutes. Placed chicken (bones taken out) back in the crockpot with a bag of steamed broccoli and cauliflower...Presto, chicken stew! And it was incredible....

Kim O'Donnel: Good for you for saving the day. I truly believe we all have the power to create beautiful things in the kitchen -- and fix things when they go awry. Faith is all you need.

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Spaghetti and meatballs: I think small courses of food make even simple things seem fancy. Have some bite size appetizers, a salad course, maybe switch to a simple pasta then a second meat course instead of combining, and then a fruit or dessert. Have a couple different wines for pairings, maybe.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice ideas...I'm thinking a roasted radicchio salad would be fun, with a little bit of gorgonzola and roasted walnuts or pecans...Love the idea of wine pairings, yes indeed.

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Austin, again: For my next trick I was thinking of making some shrimp scampi. I have a good recipe for it, but I'll still take any suggestions that you can offer.

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, scampi. One of the things my Pop used to make us in the 70s. I'll let the crew share their tips...

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Valentine's spaghetti and meatballs: Make homemade garlic bread bowls. Find a crusty bread recipe, make it with olive oil and lots of garlic. Then shape into 9-11 inch rounds, bake. When done, cut open the top and scoop out a "bowl" and put your spaghetti and meatballs in that. if you want, take the tops, and cut off extra middle part so that it will lay flat on a plate and make a spaghetti sauce heart on the top.

Make a nice salad with a homemade balsamic vinagrette (trivially easy) and then make a fancy dessert that she likes (I'm always fond of individual creme brule's myself).

Kim O'Donnel: Fun idea...and they're starting to roll in...

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Bluemont VA: For the Valentine dinner. Try using Spaghetti Squash instead of pasta. Garnish your dish with chopped scallions and mushrooms.

Kim O'Donnel: another fun idea...

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Terp for Chi-Town: For the psghetti and meatballs maker, I've used my 'shroom and cheese mixture as a stuffing for all sorts of stuff...made a lovely (and very impressive to my family) version in pastry on a family vacation. Use whatever pastry you have on hand or want to make yourself (that could up the sophisitcation factor) and make sure the 'shrooms are throroughly cooked to avoid a too-wet filling. cut dough into whatever shapes you like and fill.

have also done a similar thing using wonton wrappers to make ravioli. totally impressive, and not difficult, though mildly labor intensive.

Kim O'Donnel: Yeah!

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for chicago: How about some roasted peppers? You could do this ahead of time ... maybe even cut them in heart shapes ... .

Kim O'Donnel: Cutie. Yes, indeed. By the way, I want your romantic meal ideas. Send me e-mail at kim.odonne@wpni.com with subject line "romancing the pants" and tell me either a) what you plan to whip up for your valentine next weekend or b) the most romantic and/or funny valentine meal you've ever prepared or experienced. I'll choose five and publish them next week in a special Romancing the Pants blog-fiesta.

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Alexandria, VA: I am about to make goat curry stew by combining a couple of different recipes I found on the web (I couldn't find one that I loved). I am nervous as I haven't made goat before (my husband made me buy goat cubes at the farmer's market and now is too cowardly to cook them), but the recipes call for scotch bonnet pepper, but I couldn't find that, is it ok to substitute a jalapeno?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, goat is very fashionable these days! I have yet to make a goat stew here at Casa App, but been giving it some thought. It is perfectly okay to substitute a jalapeno. Do you want me to take a look at one of my meat books for more recipe ideas?

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Valenti, NE: Watch it - she asked specifically for spaghetti and meatballs, not 'some pasta dish'. If you want to get fancy, make a chocolate mousse or something else for dessert. Don't mess with her request!

Kim O'Donnel: More advice for spaghetts guy...

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Spaghetti 'n meatballs: I totally understand wanting to do something really impressive, but if she asked for spaghetti and meatballs, maybe she just wants traditional spaghetti and meatballs? I love the idea of the garlic bread bowls--jazzes it up -without- making too much of a delicious simple meal.

The kind hubby could always do a fancy dessert if he wants to show off some mad cooking skillz. . . .

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Springfield: For Valentine's Day I asked my husband and my son to choose one favorite piece of a meal for me to cook up for them. This will make any mom smile. My 5 year old son says "Broccoli. You make the best broccoli Mom".... One quick hint to parents out there who might be aiming to put more veggies in their child's diet. When making couscous I would use 100% carrot juice instead of water. My son loved it when he was little and I loved the extra nutrients the juice gave the dish.

Kim O'Donnel: Aw. Love it. Now you must share the recipe!

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Fran: Last night I cooked a boneless turkey breast. I realized too late that we didn't have any canned cranberry sauce and there wasn't enough time to make some. The meal was going to be awfully boring without some bright flavors, so I finely diced an apple and sauteed it with some grated ginger, raisins, and a bit of cinnamon and cardamon. Added a bit of good cider vinegar and when that reduced, stirred in a spoonful of homemade apricot jam. Turned out to be mouthwateringly good.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice work, Fran! Another great example of kitchen improv...

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meatballs: Now I wouldn't recommend hiding a ring in one of the meatballs ... or would I? Hmm.

Kim O'Donnel: Haha! For some reason, I'm thinking of Homer Price, one of my all-time fave children's books, about a ring that gets lost in a bunch of doughnut batter...

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couscous and juice: Funny about the carrot juice in the couscous. I make a killer couscous salad that only uses orange juice for liquid!

Kim O'Donnel: Right on. Brilliant idea for the couscous...will be trying this soon.

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Chevy Chase: Kim - love thee chats - I've learned so much from them.

I have a recomendation, in exchange for which I hope you will give me some advice. have you tried the frozen steel cut oatmeal from Trader Joe's? It is EXCELLENT! It cooks in the microwave in 4 minutes and is so much better than instant. Now for the advice. At my favorite hotel in Denver, The Brown Palace, they serve a wonderful Irish steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, with a delicious apple topping - sort of like stewed apples. Any idea how I could recreate the apple topping at home, keeping it low in fat and calories (ie using Splenda?) I'd love something I could make on Sundays and use all week on my oatmeal.

Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Chevy, when i make apple sauce, I rarely add sugar, so I'd try first w/o any sweetener whatsoever and add cinnamon instead. You might surprise yourself.What is the texture/consistency you're envisioning?

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eggplant hummus/babaghanoush in Austin, TX:: Austin - you said you had a recipe for eggplant hummus... I desperately need a good recipe for eggplant hummus/babaghanoush. Mind sharing?

Kim O'Donnel: Austin, you there?

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Philadelphia: When I request a meal, that's generally what I want, not a variation on it. If you want to make something other than what she expects for spaghetti and meatballs, check with her in advance - maybe come up with a menu of possibilities, and include that on the list? Some of my favorite dishes wouldn't fall under "fancy" but, if someone's making a special meal for me, I could easily request one of those meals - and be disappointed if I get something else when it has been presented to me as my choice.

(Also, and although I'm sure you're an excellent cook, is she aware of all that you can make?)

Kim O'Donnel: More advice for Mister Chicago...

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Salmon!: I have a piece of salmon in the fridge that I need to cook tonight. Can you provide me some inspiration?

Kim O'Donnel: Grind up a little coffee -- about 1/4 teaspoon's worth. To that add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub it all over salmon. With a brush, add a smidge (and i mean smidge) of olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees, until whitish stuff begins to emerge and flesh is now opaque.

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Expat, Canada: Hi, Kim -

I have tofu for dinner tonight, and suddenly, my 'go-to' tofu recipe seem uninspiring. I usually do a stir-fry tofu and mushrooms with steamed veggies over rice with soy-lemon sauce, but the availability of fresh veggies here is lame. Any tofu recipes out of the ordinary I should attempt, keeping in mind limited access to fresh ingredients?

Kim O'Donnel: What about barbecued and baked? Or marinated with a jerk-spice rub and added to black beans and some rice?

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Spaghetti and Meatballs: Williams-Sonoma has a great meatballs recipe I use all the time, I think it's the marjoram that gives it a little extra kick! W-S meatball recipe

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you! Will have a look.

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Washington D.C.: Last week, there was some chatter about planning out meals for the week in advance. Here's my strategy...I cook a large amount of meat in the beginning of the week (generally I choose what's on sale to keep it economical). I try and cook the meat in a fairly simple manner-grilling it or roasting it and eat it that way for the rest of the night. Then the leftover meat is blank canvas for the rest of the week...roasted pork loin becomes barbeque and then enchiladas. Roasted chicken becomes soup or stew and then jazzes up a couscous. I find that this preparation makes the most of my budget and makes home-cooked meals much easier on me!

Kim O'Donnel: Nice going, dear. We all can use a few more budget kitchen tricks these days...

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Springfield - Broccoli : RE: my 5 year old son and my "best broccoli" recipe. Actually, it is really nothing fancy. I just steam up some broccoli a little bit, then toss it with some heated garlic, olive oil, some Trader Joe's 21 Spice Saute, then I give my son some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano and he tops it off with that and adds his own fresh pepper. I found that letting him add spices (who doesn't like them -- we assume kids don't) to his food he has ownership of it. I still get weird looks when he does this at church dinner, or says "I love garlic" to his friends who are saying "gross, garlic". I also think he likes all veggies a little underdone (like most of us) and they tend to overcook broccoli at his preschool so I look like an Iron Chef :)

Kim O'Donnel: You touched on it, Springfield. Ownership is KEY, regardless of our age. Thank you for sharing the method -- and the story.

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Newton, MA: Hi Kim- A plug for your blog recipe from yesterday for the romescu sauce for roasted veg. It is FANTASTIC! Had it with roasted asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower and fingerling spuds for dinner. Ww also put it over hard boiled eggs. Just had leftovers for lunch. It is snowing again here and the bright red sauce has lifted my spirits. Many thanks.newton Mom

Kim O'Donnel: yay! I know, I slathered leftovers on baguette last night, with some wilted kale and a fried egg. Divine. I am so glad you're feeling lifted, dear.

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Austin, TX: For my hummus, I use a can of chickpeas, oregano to taste, a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, and a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. I'll roast a small bulb of garlic (I follow the advice Kim gave a while back), then I'll drizzle some olive oil on a eggplant cut in half and stick in under the broiler for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the skin gets wrinkly. Throw it all in the food processor and add olive oil until smooth.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, pal. You're a peach.

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Cooks Illustrated for meatballs & spaghetti: Cooks Illustrated - Italian classics has a to die for recipe for sp and mb that is my go-to. Um, only annually, though , b/c the mb are pan fried. But amazing!

Kim O'Donnel: More goodie tidbits to follow up on after the chat...

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Expat, Canada: ooooh, jerk-spice rub! What goes in that?

Thanks, Kim! I love this chat AND your blog!

Kim O'Donnel: Make it up, if you don't have any at home. Walkerwood and Bush Browne's are great brands, but here's the gist: you need thyme, chiles, allspice and salt. If that's not working for you today, do something like cumin, coriander, cayenne and a touch of cinnamon. It'll be groovin.

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Chevy Chase Oatmeal/Apples again: The apples I had in Denver were almost like an apple pie filling (but small chunks and not slices) but not as sweet.

Tahnks for the response!

Kim O'Donnel: okay, now I'm seeing it. slice as you want, coat in a smidge of flour and cinnamon, AND sweetener of choice, but go easy. Place in baking dish -- and I might lightly grease dish and bake at 350 until bubbly.

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Anonymous: Kim : Your coffee on salmon idea sounds a mite odd to me? Have you actually tried this or is Martha Stewart calling you with tips again ??

Kim O'Donnel: We had it last week. And the week before. It's become a groovy little rub. Packs in flavor but don't worry, it's not like having a latte with your fish.

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Capitol Hill: Hi Kim,

Love the discussions and the blog! Along the lines of the reader-to-reader discussion, a poster at one of the reader discussions said they fix lime rice, like at chipotle. I'm fixing burritos tonight, and that rice sounds fantastic. Could I request the poster to provide the recipe?

Thanks!

Claire

Kim O'Donnel: Sorry I didn't see this earlier. If lime rice person posts something, I'll be sure to follow up in the blog space.

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Kim O'Donnel: Ack. Already time's up. I see lots of leftovers. We'll be sure to get to some of them later in the week. You can also find me on Facebook, where I'm taking questions throughout the week. Thanks for dropping by, stay warm, eat well. All best.

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