Corner Store Meets Restaurant? Omar Tate Risks Everything to Open Honeysuckle Provisions | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 706
March 9, 2023

Corner Store Meets Restaurant? Omar Tate Risks Everything to Open Honeysuckle Provisions

Corner Store Meets Restaurant? Omar Tate Risks Everything to Open Honeysuckle Provisions

Chef Omar Tate has spent the last few years building a grocery cafe in West Philadelphia that reimagines the corner store. He tells us how he interprets Black culinary traditions with menu items like hoagies and black-eyed pea scrapple, and why he thinks our neighborhoods no longer feel like communities. Plus, mixologist Neal Bodenheimer shares cocktails from New Orleans, J. Kenji López-Alt offers a new way to use leftover scallions, and we make gnocchi out of flour, not potatoes.

Questions in this episode:

"How do I get my homemade croissants to rise?"

"How do I wet cure pork?"

"I’m calling back with an update on my falafel recipe."

"How do I get my chocolate mousse to set up?"

"How do I adapt recipes to work in my stovetop pressure cooker?"

MG 2971 Credit Clay Williams

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Growing up, Omar Tate relied on his corner store for groceries and yet shopping there was a really terrible, sometimes even dangerous experience.

Omar Tate: Being scrutinized and looked at, being questioned in my own neighborhood, you know, in stores where these people see us every day.

CK: Over the last few years, Omar has built a new kind of corner store, one that has quickly become vital to his neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

OT: At least three different people from three different cultural backgrounds have come into the store and have thanked us for providing access to something as simple as just an onion. They don't have to walk as far for an onion.

CK: So, what's the meaning and future of the corner store? That's coming up later in the show. First up, it's my interview with cocktail connoisseur, Neal Bodenheimer. Neal is the owner of the acclaimed New Orleans bar Cure, also author of Cure New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Them. Neal, welcome to Main Street.

Neal Bodenheimer: Thank you, Chris. I'm really, really excited to be on with you.

CK: So New Orleans, I didn't realize that it was the third biggest city after New York and Baltimore in 1840, or 1850. So, it was a big deal back then.

NB: It was I mean, a really thriving port town. I think that we look at New Orleans today and we sometimes we wonder why it's so established in our cultural identity in the US. And I think part of it is that it was a very financially viable city for a long time.

CK: Well, it did have the Mississippi, of course, it had French and Spanish influence. And as you said in your book, it's also been called the most northern city of the Caribbean, which I like a lot. So, the cultural diversity was much greater than really most other places in the country. Right?

NB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's, it always has been a melting pot. And I think you see it in our food and in our drink, and so many parts of our culture. I mean, we're not even talking about music. It's just, it's a wonderful city with a really deep and rich heritage. And I feel I feel very proud to call it home.

CK: So New Orleans, is obviously distinct culturally. But in terms of the cocktail, is there something that defines a real New Orleans cocktail? Or is it just specific recipes?

NB: I think it's a little bit of both. What defines New Orleans cocktails is that you've got this very consistent style of adding very often Peychaud's bitters, very often anise but at the same time, I think that we're very lucky to have some drinks that are totally original, like the Sazerac. You have the Vieux Carre, you have the Ramos Gin Fizz, the de la Louisiane, Roffignac it's a pretty diverse group of classic cocktails and it's something that I know that all bartenders in New Orleans are really proud of the fact that we have kind of our own cannon, if you will.

CK: Let's back up a second. (Sure) Because I have a few basic questions I need to run by you. So, the first one is salt. I've been adding a few grains of salt to my Old Fashion, my favorite cocktail recently. Does that actually do something or is that a stupid idea?

NB: No, it's not a dumb idea at all. I mean, first of all, a lot of bitters have salt in them. And so, it's a nice way to kind of amplify flavors. I mean, I have found very few cocktails that that aren't improved, with a little bit of salinity.

CK: Okay, so shaking versus stirring. Now, in the case of a martini, would shaking be very different than stirring?

NB: Well, so when you stir drinks, you're looking for for texture, and really controlled dilution. And when you shake a drink, you get a different style of texture, and you get more dilution. And so, I just think that it's a different drink. And I don't think that it one is, is better or worse.

CK: You mentioned ice. This is really an interesting topic to me. So, the mechanical production of ice goes back, I think, to the Civil War, is that right?

NB: It does, and I think that it gets back to something that we talk about a lot today, which is supply chain. In certainly during the Civil War. There were no ice shipments coming from Maine, or anywhere in the Northeast that were coming down to the south. And so, southerners had to find a way to make mechanical ice. And the first mechanical ice production happened in the late 1860s in New Orleans

CK: Vieux Carré, I've never had one. It sounds like this would be a headache inducing drink. It has a lot of things so what's in a Vieux Carré?

NB: So, Vieux Carré, is red vermouth, re brandy, Benedictine, Angostura bitters and patients bitters. So, it's really a split base, Manhattan with a touch of Benedictine and with that Benedictine because it has more sugar, it requires more bitter. And it's actually pretty well balanced when made right. And if you've never had one, I would highly recommend it. The one drink

CK: The one drink you would not recommend is the iguana and venison Pachuca or whatever. What is that? It sounds beyond description.


NB: So is it's a festival, mezcal, and sometimes they'll run the distillate over raw meat. And this one happened to be iguana and venison and it tasted of death. Like you might imagine. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there's some things. I'll drink a lot of things. And I'll try a lot of things once but there's some things that once this once is all this all it takes.

CK: I guess it would. So, let's say you order a cocktail and it's not made well. What do you do?

NB: Well, I don't know if it's the right thing to do. But I would just not drink the cocktail. A lot of times, I'll read a cocktail menu and I'll know whether I want to order a cocktail there. And I'll take a look as I'm walking in at the bar. And you know, pretty quickly a few things to look for about whether this is actually a place where you want to have a cocktail or not.

CK: Well, what, okay, now tell me what what are you looking for on the menu and in the bar.

NB: So, number one, if I see a vermouth on the back bar, I am not going to order a cocktail in that spot. And then number two, if I look at their menu, and I see things that have sour mix, or don't look like they have fresh ingredients, I'm not going to order a drink from that bar. I look at ice I look at glassware, I look at a lot of different things. And you can just tell whether people are considering the details.

CK: So, I'm asked all the time, you know, what are the three mistakes most home cooks make and how can you quickly improve your cooking? So, if I turned that around on you and said, are there a couple of things you notice about people making cocktails at home they could quickly improve what would they be?

NB: Bitters. I really think that people are afraid of bitters because they don't understand how they work. I think that anytime you use flavor connectors, I mean, it's like MSG in cooking. It's like salt in cooking like you need things to amplify and to connect. And I think once you learn how to use bitters, they are your best friend and cocktails.

CK: So, is there a recipe? Something that I'm not probably familiar with or most listeners are not familiar with. You think you know is that the Sazerac, Is that the fizz? Is there a drink that most of us have not had we should have?

NB: Yeah, I mean, I would say that there are a lot of drinks in this book that most people have not had. There’re some obscure New Orleans drinks that are that are wonderful. But I think everybody should know how to make a Ramos Gin Fizz. And we go into a lot of detail about how we make ours.

CK: How do you make it?

NB: So, for us, it starts with building the foam rebuilding the egg white foam. And then you put in your sugar, and your gin. And then you add two cubes to try and make sure that we're getting the dilution, right, because you can get a little watery if you shake too long. And then we add the cream, because the cream is going to expand. And then we add a full shaker of ice and shake for like 30 seconds, not for the, you know, 5 10 12 minutes that that the Ramos Gin Fizz has been famous for

CK: Yeah, I read that I was going like, what, like 12 minutes to pour one drink.

NB: Yeah, that's what they used to do. I mean, they just had a line of people that were just shaking. You know, you go to the Imperial Cabinet or the Stag and someone would start it and start shaking and pass it down and you go pick it up at the end. But I mean, the cool thing about the Ramos Gin Fizz is it. It really is this. It's a unique proposition. And it's a lot of things that don't go together. But when you put them all together, it's just wonderful.

CK: Neal it's been a pleasure. I’ve got to run out and get a Ramos Gin Fizz. Thanks.

NB: Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

CK: That was Neal Bodenheimer. He's the New Orleans based restauranteur and author of Cure New Orleans Drinks and How to Make Some. Now it's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Also, author of Home Cooking 101. Sara Moulton, how are you?

Sara Moulton: I'm good, and I'm ready to hear what people want to know.

CK: Let's open up the phone lines.

SM: Yes. Welcome to milk street who's calling?

Caller: This is Pom.

SM: Hi, Pom. Where are you calling from?

Caller: From Mount Desert, Maine.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: I've gotten into to making croissants at home, and I actually find it quite pleasurable laminating. All of that goes great. And then I think I'm not getting the rise done correctly, because I see in some places people get a wobble in their croissants before they go in the oven. And I can't get it to wobble.

SM: So, when you talk about wobbly for people who don't know, the thing is with croissant, you don't want to touch them. You don't want to lose any volume at all. So, you have to sort of shake them and see if they're doubled. So, what we're talking about is the final rise after you shape the croissant, you need to put them into a moist environment. The New York Times has a wonderful video by Claire Saffitz. S-A-F-F-I-T-Z what Claire does is a large skillet of boiling water, and she puts that and closes the door, obviously, before she starts to shape the cortisol. And I believe in her case, it was about two and a half hours. How did your croissant taste and look?

Caller: They look fantastic, and they tasted great. But I was wondering.

SM: Then don't worry about the wobble. To hell with a wobble. You know, I don't know. Chris, do you have any thoughts?

CK: First of all, I applaud you for doing it. Yeah, me too, is I think it's fabulous. Well, you're from Maine, right? So, are you dealing with a pretty cool kitchen when you do this?

Caller: A lot of the times, I'm kind of doing this in the middle of the night.

CK: Okay, I make a lot of pizza dough. And I find in a cool kitchen, that the rising times can be 100% longer. Yeah, another thing you can do, it's a little dicey but you can turn your oven on to the lowest setting for about 10 minutes and then turn it off and let it sit 10 or 15 minutes. And so, it's a proofing box but it's going to be a little warmer. It is a little tricky, but I think that would also be something to test.

Caller: I've tried that. And I had some butter leakage.

CK: Yes. As I said, that's walking on the wild side. The other question I have is yeast, what kind of yeast are you using?

Caller: Caputo instant dry yeast.

CK: Okay. I think it's about temperature. Because I know that when making pizza, it's all about temperature and, you know, 65 degrees versus 75 degrees makes a huge difference. That would be I think Sara's right, the cast iron method from Claire Saffitz. You know, from Bon Appetit fame. That would definitely solve the problem.

SM: I think your standards are too high, too. I think you're making beautiful croissants you just can't admit it.

CK: Are they nice and crackly and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside?

Caller: They are

CK: Okay, well, on a scale of one to 10. It sounds like you're 9.8. So, I think you're good.

Caller: Thank you.

SM: Yeah. All right. Well, Pom thank you so much.

CK: Thank you.

Caller: Thank you very much.

CK: Take care.

SM: Bye. Bye.

Caller: Bye.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Oh, hi, this is Joseph __Kelly calling from Sugarland, Texas.

CK: How are you?

Caller: Good yourself?

CK: Pretty good. How can we help you?

Caller: Currently I’m living in Texas, as I said, but I'm originally born and bred and grew up in the west of Ireland, in Galway. And you know, when I first came to the States, I learned about corned beef and cabbage, but have never ever eaten it in Ireland.

CK: Of course, we made something up here, right?

Caller: Yeah. And you know, if I was at home and I was going to cook something like that, I'd be doing bacon and cabbage were very popular style of cured bacon. It's something that I've always wanted to try and make at home. And when I read this bacon is done by something called the Wilshere cure to the wet cure. So, the question really boils down to, you know, do you know, or have you tried doing any kind of a wet cure like that to create this boiling bacon?

CK: I've done some curing, but this is not my area of expertise. My understanding is maybe you can help me. I don't think this is bacon cut from the belly. I think this is more from the back or shoulder. And I think it's leaner than typical American bacon. A friend of mine Meathead Goldwyn has a website called Amazing where he has a recipe for making Canadian bacon. I think Canadian bacon is very similar, but it's smoked, and your bacon is not smoked. Is what you're familiar with meatier than American style bacon?

Caller: Well, yes, so sure the title for that when we talk about bacon, we're talking about all cuts of pork. It could be like a ham cut (I see) they’re brined and big in the joints. This is not sliced bacon. And yeah, so Canadian bacon is a pretty close cousin. If you go to an Irish retailer online, and you buy an Irish style bacon product 99 times out of 100 it's coming from Canada. And their curing process is similar, I believe, to the Wilshire cure.

CK: So, this is they’re just brining it essentially right. (Yeah) So the recipe you tried was just a brine, what happened?

Caller: It’s a brine using brine salts pinky color. I tried I got maybe I'd use the wrong joint I used a loin, which is not very fatty.

CK: No, I would think that probably is the wrong cut because it's so lean. Yeah, so the Irish bacon is just a brined cured pork. (pork). So, it doesn't have to be a particular cut. No, no, it just sounds like it's a standard brined pork recipe, right? I mean, Sara?

SM: I mean, yeah, no, no, I agree. And I also agree that the pork line is just too lean. I would go with shoulder. And I think you'll have much better result.

CK: Or corned beef. No, I'm just joking. So so let me ask you about corned beef. So is corned beef, just something that's not eaten, really in Ireland?

Caller: Not that popular. You'd have to look to find that style of brisket. It's possible that you'll get 100 calls tomorrow saying that guy doesn't know what he's talking about we eat corn beef all year around. but I grew up, I never saw it and never ate it.

CK: What else did you find that we've completely gotten wrong about Irish food and culture?

Caller: Well, I once spent St. Patrick's Day in New York City in an old bar called Foley's near to Radio City Music Hall and they were locked down and you have to you have to know the owner to get in. And I was sitting there having a pint of Guinness. There's a tradition of the American police bands coming in and standing on the counter and doing their shake with their bagpipes and everything in the hills. And I saw these guys sitting beside me who are crying into their pints of this size of this. I said what does this got to do with Ireland, this is all Scottish stuff.

CK: I love that story.

SM: Oh, dear.

Caller: I ___ left their intact

CK: Yeah, a smart move. Right. Okay, well, next time I have corned beef and cabbage. I'll just remember that it's a made up completely made-up American thing.

Caller: I wouldn't say it's made up is looking into the history of it, you know, beef was something that if you were a peasant in Ireland in the 1800s, you couldn't afford that was reserved for the landlord's table. And so, you relied on your own pork, and you have to cure it to keep it because it wouldn't last as immigrants went to America, they discovered beef was much cheaper (I see) in supply.

CK: Yeah, that makes less sense. Well, thank you for calling. We got a history lesson too.

SM: Yeah, we did that.

CK: Take care.

SM: Okay.

Caller: Okay, guys. Thanks. Bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are ready to take your calls. Give us a ring 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Ben.

CK: Hey, Ben, how are you?

Caller: I'm pretty good. How are you doing?

CK: Not Bad. Maybe we can help you. What's your question?

Caller: Well, this is actually my third time talking to you guys. Now. I am the falafel guy.

CK: Oh, yeah. You're the falafel guy. All right.

Caller: Yup, I called a few months ago. You know, we're all kind of stumped about how to get the crispy falafel. And I have good news. I think for the most part, we've got it figured out.

CK: Okay.

SM: Tell us.

CK: Tell us

SM: We're on the edge of our seats.

Caller: I'll tell you. So, here's what made the difference. First off, I switched the recipe a little bit. I know Sarah, you had recommended a recipe by Einat Admony. Probably like a month ago, my mom got me a cookbook from Anissa Helou called Feast.

CK: That's a great book. Yeah

Caller: It is fantastic. I did use the falafel recipe. I doctored it a little bit, just used the parsley. I think it called for cilantro. But I basically kept it the same. It calls for fava beans and chickpeas. But I just stuck with the chickpeas. And once I did that it was pretty much the same recipe kept everything the same didn't add any flour to it. But what really made the difference was what you guys had recommended trying it on a little bit of a lower temperature for a little bit longer with neutral oil other than canola. Once I use the grapeseed oil, let it go for a little bit longer lower temperature. They came out super crispy, super fluffy on the inside, and they're actually crunchy exactly how I wanted them to be.

CK: You know, it's really interesting is that since we spoke, we actually one of my editors was in Jordan and we developed the recipe as well. It's exactly the same as yours. We use a lot of herbs, parsley, and cilantro, you just use parsley. Just use chickpeas. We refrigerated them for three hours before we fried them. But we also used a 325 oil instead of a 370 oil. Do you use any leavener in yours by the way any baking powder, soda?

Caller: Baking soda, I'd have to check the book again. You know maybe it was baking powder.

CK: I think its baking powder. Yeah,

SM: Because there’s no acid

CK: I think you came to the same conclusion we did. And boy I have to say especially with the choped parsley. I don't know how much you use we used quite a lot. It was just very light and fluffy inside and crisp on the outside.

SM: Well, yeah.

Caller: Yeah.

CK: Great minds think alike. Yeah,

Caller: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Well, you know, I'm so appreciative of everything. Oh, and one more thing. (Sure) You joke last time that I should start a falafel podcast and much to my wife's chagrin you got in my head and I'm actually going to be starting a podcast not only about falafel, but you know about like all the types of cooking and like, but definitely about falafel

CK: well just call it the falafel podcast. That's a good name for it

Caller: I was thinking falafel and beyond, but I won't throw the falafel podcasts out of there.

CK: They're both good, Ben. Good luck, man.

SM: Yes and especially with the podcast. It sounds like fun.

CK: Sounds great.

Caller: Yeah. Thank you so much. You guys. Take care and thanks for all your help.

CK: Pleasure.

SM: Bye

Caller: bye

CK: This is Milk Street radio coming up. What does the 21st century Corner Store look like? That's after the break? This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Chef Omar Tate. In late 2022. He and his wife Cybille St. Aude-Tate opened Honeysuckle Provisions, a community center corner store in West Philadelphia, where they sell everything from fresh meat and CSA boxes, to coffee, cookbooks and chef made dishes like grits, Scrabble and reimagined Hot Pockets, hoagies, and Pop Tarts. Omar welcome back to Milk Street.

Omar Tate: Thanks again for having me.

CK: I remember our conversation fondly. So, I'm thrilled to do this again. You're a poet, you're a cook, you're an activist. We talked about your honeysuckle popups last time you were on and I see those as being one kind of activism. But you have this history of merging food and activism and art all together. And there was a dish you created for one of your pop ups if you could just talk about it. And it's called black lung.

OT: Sure. The black lung dish is called it's actually called black lung a terrarium for black breath. And that took place the Blue Hill Stone Barns during my residency there in 2021, that this was a salad on top of chicken bones covered in a cloche, it looked like a terrarium on top of a piece of concrete. That was actually ceramic cast that looked like a concrete slab that was taken directly from the concrete of my mother's home. And, you know, obviously this is a time of civil unrest and the dish actually emerged immediately after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. But it actually became a representation of the loss of life across generations, if not centuries of black bodies and where where the bodies may have fallen. This beautiful salad on top of concrete was to demonstrate that there's a parallel between these two different very different spaces, the urban space where I come from in this farm space in Tarrytown, New York. Life exists in both spaces in very different but also very similar ways. It wasn't just about death because the terrarium captured the breath.

CK: So, you recently wrote a piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer about what simplicity means in black food. That black food is often labeled as quote unquote simple you write a perfect dish often began with our feet in our sweat. That's not simple. You also write, how simple is a bag of rice exchanged for government dollars through bulletproof Plexiglas? So, the food itself may be simple. But the context and the history is not.

OT: Oh, no, absolutely, absolutely not. I mean, but I don't think that anyone is but the experience especially when you think about black people in cities. That experience is often overlooked. I mean, one of the dishes that I also did at Stone barns was to I honor and remember a young woman who was 15 years old named Natasha Harland, who was murdered in a grocery store in LA and her her murder was the first. Not the first, but one of the things that kicked off the LA riots, but she went to the store to buy orange juice and bread. You know, when I was growing up as a child, I had a very similar experience going to the store, being scrutinized, being looked at, being questioned, in my own neighborhood, you know, in stores where these people see us every day, you know, us, you know, children every day. And these grocery stores become battleground, sometimes.

CK: So okay, let's, let's talk about neighborhoods, you know, there was a book back in the 60s, which I read called The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. And she talked about how in Greenwich Village, this is where she lived. The corner store was the anchor of that community. And now neighborhoods are lacking what you're trying to put back, which is the sense of the community. Why why do you think we don't have neighborhoods that are committed these like we used to?

OT: I mean, honestly, I just think we're too busy. We're all too busy. We have our own individual communities in the palm of our hand. But also, I would say that when I was growing up, I mean, you know, the grocery stores were hubs. libraries were hubs. Playgrounds were hubs, but the matriarchs in our communities, were always present. Mothers, the grandmothers, aunts, you know, they were the ones looking after children. Tell them the news, spilling the tea, gathering people around the table gathering people in the home. So, I just think that we've gone through a significant change over the past 40 years, and our government and our education, and our institutions, but then also, technologically, you can pull out of your home community meaning like your immediate family, and exist entirely within your virtual community, while with your actual immediate family. I think there's there are deep, deep social fractures, because we're just we're still in the infancy of learning how to live with our current technology.

CK: So, the name of Your Place is Honeysuckle Provisions. You want to talk about why this is so unusual. I mean, you say it's a grocery store, a takeout spot, a community center, neighborhood hub. I mean, you want it to be an important part of the neighborhood, this sort of anchors that, I think, as opposed to just being a place that sells food or makes food, right.

OT: Yeah, I mean, how do you do that? Right? When you think about the store being rooted in black traditions and black foodways, there's a couple of things that come to mind. One, black is often a confrontation in this country, when you call something black, most people are not most people, a lot of people are like, well, what is that? So, we had to make it universal. One of the most beautiful things that have been said, since we've opened is that, you know, because we provide fresh groceries in an area that separates four different neighborhoods, at least three different people from three different cultural backgrounds have come into the store, and have thanked us for providing access to something as simple as just an onion, they don't have to walk as far for an onion. And to make this place universal I think the grocery aspect is that one thing everyone needs fresh food, right? The other thing is that every single thing across the board tastes delicious. And if it didn't, and it just wouldn't be on our shelves, it wouldn't be on our menu. And then the beauty of all that is that it just so happens that it's black.

CK: I think we talked about this last time, but black food, it depends on where you live, where you grew up, you know, if you're in Arkansas versus Chicago, out west, east, it's complicated, right? Because there are lots of different definitions of black food, or or do you think there is some way to define it in some consistent homogenous way?

OT: I don't think it's the latter. Black food is whatever we're eating, you know, right, which is why I feel like the store if you walk in, it doesn't fit within the the framing of what one would call black foodways or southern or soul. You know, the southern the soul, that is the foundation of what we do and how we eat. But you know, there's intricacies and subtlety there where it really represents the experiences that we have on a daily basis. We make sandwich bread, you know, we make hoagies because we're in Philadelphia, but they're connected to a cultural experience that I had growing up where a Hoagie cost $1.00 and it was made from terrible ingredients and so we make a better hoagie with better ingredients. It's connected to Cybille’s Haitian heritage and incorporate in the diaspora which is always the constant ephemeral reminder that this cultural experience that we all share as black people in America goes back further, it goes across oceans, you know, it hops across the water. So, I just I think that, like black food is definitely undefinable and really represents the experience of being an African American and that it has to be a shapeshifter. It has to be malleable, and it has to be imaginative, because, you know, it's the imagination that continues our survival.

CK: There's one item on your menu, I'm going to take exception with us sell me on this, okay. Black eyed pea vegan scrapple. I grew up with scrapple, which I love. But can I just have real scrapple? Do I really need black eyed pea vegan scrapple? I mean is it better or is it just different? Why do it that way?

OT: If I were to put a blindfold on you and give you a scrapple sandwich in a black-eyed pea scrapple sandwich, you'd say one of them is probably more delicious than the other. And it's probably going to be a black-eyed pea scrapple. (Really) I'm not kidding you. And that's well, that's just because we made it because we had an overabundance of black-eyed peas that we grew on our farm at the time. But it really became this like unifying thing in our store because we have a pharmacologist. So, there's black eyed peas miso, we call black IP. So that's made from the same black IPs from our farm does fresh black-eyed peas in it. Then there's cornmeal and oats. And then there's carrot and onion. And it's cooked very simply with just water and seasoning and salt. And it forms and behaves and reacts and tastes almost exactly like scrabble. Almost exactly. And I think it really exemplifies all the things that we try to do at a practical level at our store, which is like connecting the cultural, to the agricultural, to the societal cultural, to the food cultural. It just perfectly ties all those things together.

CK: Well, you got me at the flavor. So, okay, I go into Honeysuckle Provisions today. What reaction would you like that really gets to the heart of what you're trying to do here? In other words, you've had customers come in now for a while. What what are some of the comments that really make you think you're like you made a really good choice here to do this store?

OT: Well, I mean, I mentioned the one earlier about, you know, just the accessibility and our location, but the other thing is that it feels welcoming and inviting. People are signing up for our food programs like the black farmers CSA. We do Sunday dinners for two that people look forward to. I think that what people really connect to is the organic nature of our store. And the intentionality. It feels very intentional, and it is very intentional and personal. You know many of the things that are in our store come directly from Cybille’s and my home. And it's funny now because the store is actually our home we’re almost never home.

CK: When you move the mattress in Omar than you know.

OT: I've slept there already.

CK: I'm sure you have Omar, all the best to you and Cybille and all the best to Honeysuckle Provisions.

OT: Thank you, man. Hope to see you soon.

CK: That was Omar Tate co-founder of Honeysuckle Provisions in West Philadelphia. Now I recently purchased a book of old Vermont photographs and discovered that our nearby town had a library hotels, restaurants, general stores, and sidewalks that were made out of both marble and slate. townspeople were photograph sitting on windowsills, watching the world go by right there on Main Street. Today the main attraction in town is Stuart's, a small hardware store that carries literally everything. And Agway a restaurant that never seems open, a car repair garage and a Napa parts outlet. Most of the stunning 19th century buildings have burned down and were rebuilt in a more pedestrian break. Downtown is now a place to buy gas and wiper fluid a hammer or lawn fertilizer. So, Omar Tate is right. We do need a place to congregate to tell our stories to meet our neighbors even to iron out our differences. The good news is that place already exists. It's called Main Street. I'm Christopher Kimball you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's chat with JM Hirsh about this week's recipe. Gnocchi with pancetta and garlic J M how are you?

J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: You know you and I share two things, a love of Italy, but also a love of cucina povera, which is sort of basic, simple cooking. And you were in Italy and came across a recipe for a gnocchi that is even simpler than the simplest recipe. I know.

JM: I know. It's kind of crazy, frankly. I was in Campania, you know, along the Amalfi Coast, which you think of as quite wealthy, but actually the cuisine of the region is steeped in exactly what you said cucina povera kind of making do with whatever you happen to have on hand. And a lot of the kind of classic recipes from this region grew up based on having no time and having no money. So, people had to not just make do with what they had, but they had to kind of cook it as quickly as they could or cook it for hours and hours and hours while they were out in the fields and just kind of ignore it. Well, I encountered a variation on gnocchi that uses the cricket as quickly as you can with as little as you can. And this was gnocchi for people who couldn't even afford the potatoes. It uses nothing but flour and water.

CK: That's interesting. So, besides the frugalness of it, which I applaud, did it make for a worst gnocchi without the cooked potatoes what is it like?

JM: Well, you know, that's the thing. I mean, the perfect gnocchi, of course, is pillowy soft, right? And I was expecting the worst because I was at La Vecchia Cantina a restaurant in Ravello and the chef Antonio Cioffi, started by toasting some flour in a skillet. And then just adding water and making what looked frankly kind of unappealingly like oatmeal. And I thought, there's just no way that this is going to be light and pillowy like proper gnocchi should, and he cooked it very briefly in the skillet, then turned it out on to the counter, and started working the dough and use the same shaping technique that we would use for potato gnocchi. And I was shocked at how good and how light and delicious they were, frankly, if you had told me they were made with potatoes, I completely have believed you.

CK: Why wouldn't this end up having the texture of pasta, which is flour and water essentially, how does it get the lighter texture?

JM: He's beating a lot of air into it as he cooks it in the skillet. You know, with a pasta dough, you knead it pretty aggressively. And in this case, you know, yes, he works it in the skillet, whipping some air into it. But then once it's on the counter, he really just shapes it, it comes together very quickly. And it somehow just retains that airiness in the cooking. I could not believe how good and how light they were. And he dressed it you know any number of ways probably my favorite way and the way we adapted it Milk Street was simply in the skillet with some pancetta, some garlic, olive oil, lemon and parmesan cheese. I mean, it was just perfect. You don't want to get an over rot sauce in something like this. You want to let the gnocchi really shine on their own and this was just the perfect sauce to do it.

CK: You didn't throw some wild boar sauce on it. Ragu

JM: No exactly. I mean there was a lot of flavors, but he still kept it very light.

CK: That's really appealing gnocchi di farina or just a flour gnocchi with pancetta and garlic, cucina povera from Campania. Thank you, JM.

JM: Thank you. You can get the recipe for gnocchi di farina, you know with pancetta and garlic at Milk Street

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. After the break J Kenji Lopez Alt shares the best ways to use up leftover scallions we'll be right back. You're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Sara and I will be answering a few more of your culinary questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: My name is Mayor.

SM: Where are you calling from?

Caller: from New Jersey.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: I have a recipe from a cousin. It goes under the heading of moose although it's not a traditional mousse. It's really really simple. It's made with milk, chocolate chips, egg sugar and vanilla. The chocolate chips the egg the sugar and vanilla go in a blender. The milk gets heated just to boiling, and then blend it for a minute. And then you pour it into little ramekins, put it in the fridge for maybe four hours. It's always been made with Nestle's chocolate chips. And in these later years, it just has refused to set up, it sort of gets to a pudding stage and doesn't get beyond that. I've tried about every kind of other different brand of chocolate chip, I can find. Nothing sets up.

SM: Wow, that is, that is wild.

CK: I have the answer. Do you want to want the answer?

SM: Oh, you do? Yeah. Okay, let me

CK: Pick me, pick me.

SM: All right. All right. Chris is bouncing up and down.

CK: I think that well I know that chips are full of other things like emulsifiers, and lecithin, and everything else. And those other ingredients mean that when you melt chocolate chips, they're very different than melting chocolate, right? It's just a totally different thing chemically. I think it's those emulsifiers and other ingredients that made it set up properly in the original recipe. Even if Nestle claims they haven't changed the formula. My guess is they have done something differently.

Caller: I suspected that the chips might have been reformulated with more sugar and it was, I don't know hydroscopic is that what I would say?

CK: Very good. hygroscopic means that it attracts water yes.

SM: So what would you recommend to fix it?

CK: Let me ask a question. You've tried all the different brands, and none of them have worked.

Caller: There's a small wrinkle to that at a certain point. I came home with chips from Costco, the Kirkland brand, and they did work. But when I went to buy more, they were off the shelf. And then a little bit later, they returned to the shelves and they didn't work.

CK: Wow, this is really this is like a murder mystery. How much dairy is in the recipe versus how many cups of chips?

Caller: It's three-quarter cups of milk and six ounces, one cup of chips

CK: Well, another thing you might try. I’d increase, you said six ounces of chips, I would increase the chips. Try 50% increase in chips and leave the dairy where it is. If the amount of emulsifiers or whatever's in the chips is less for whatever reason, that might help solve the problem.

Caller: There's two tablespoons of sugar. Is it worthwhile reducing that?

CK: These are sweet chips right? Semi sweet

Caller: Yeah, well semi-sweet

CK: I don't think the sugar is going to interfere. You think with the thickening

SM: You were thinking that we were all thinking that's why it didn’t set up

CK: I’d take it down to one tablespoon.

SM: Yeah.

Caller: And the other thing that I tried half-heartedly tried the last time I made this was to not do the full six ounces of chocolate chips but mix chocolate chips with a bar of Ghirardelli and it didn't work.

CK: Look, the chips are designed not to melt in a chocolate chip cookie, right? I mean, that's the concept,

SM: Right to hold their shape.

CK: So, they obviously have stabilizers and emulsifiers in them that chocolate does not. So, I would expect regular Ghirardelli not to work, compare it to a chip. I try more chips use cream and then cut the sugar to one tablespoon from two.

SM: and let us know

CK: this is really interesting.

SM: Yeah, it is. Yeah.

CK: I thought I had the answer. Well, maybe I didn't. Alright,

Caller: I'm very curious. Thank you for your help.

SM: Yeah, well, thank you. Bye. Bye.

Caller: Bye, bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need some inspiration, give us a call 855-426-9843 a 855-426-9843. Or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, my name is Brooke and I'm calling from Providence, Rhode Island. I'm a huge fan of both you and I'm thrilled to be chatting with you guys.

CK: Well, that's a good start. (Yes) Things can only go downhill from here. But I’ll start at a high point. How can we help you?

Caller: All right. Well, my question is about pressure cookers. I recently got a stovetop model, not the countertop kind but you plug into an outlet. So, my question to you is, do you have tips on how to adapt existing recipes for this type of cooking both from the traditional oven recipes and from recipes designed for the countertop models, I've made a few dishes that didn't come out great, because I don't have a great sense of how long to cook certain proteins or how much liquid to add.

CK: I've used stovetop models a lot the thought is electric models don't get up to the same level of pressure. And then the other thing is people say that some of the steam releases a little more with a stovetop model. So, you might add a little more liquid. But I would say all you have to do is keep in mind that a stovetop model might be cooking at higher pressure and cook a little faster. But it doesn't matter that much. I mean if you're cooking let's say cut up pork butt or you're cooking chicken legs. If you cook chicken legs 25 minutes instead of 20 minutes, it just doesn't really matter that much. What is it that you were cooking and what was the problem you had?

Caller: Brown rice came out kind of dense and gummy. And I also did some short ribs which the short ribs came out fine but there seems to be too much liquid. Just looking for tips on how to fine tune it

CK: In a pressure cooker. You know you're going to lose moisture as you cook, and therefore, you're going to have a lot of water released. So, if you're cooking meat, by the time you're finished cooking it, a lot of the liquids come out of the meat, and that'll happen no matter what kind you use. The thing to do with that is you're going to not add much liquid to start with, take the meat out, and then reduce down on top of the stove. That sauce like you would if you're using a Dutch oven, and then you can finish the sauce with other ingredients. For brown rice, I have a suggestion for you. There's a kind of rice called Genmai, G E N M AI. It's quote unquote, a brown rice, but it cooks in the same amount of time as white rice in the same amount of water. Oh, good to know. It's fabulous, has a deep nutty flavor. And it cooks like white rice. And that solves your brown rice problem. Sara?

SM: Brooke, did you look at the manual? (I did) because that should be your main point of reference, even though it's probably somewhat limited.

CK: There is a book called Cooking Under Pressure was that Lorna Sass’s book?. (Yes it is) And that's the book I used when I was teaching myself pressure cooker.

Caller: That's a great idea.

SM: I myself and I've been cooking for a million years, wouldn't just take a recipe and say oh, I'll just try this out in the pressure cooker, I would have a point of reference until I got to know my pressure cooker.

CK: Well, I can give you a couple of times though chicken, I usually prefer bone in like 20 or 25 minutes. Like thighs, that's just a good rule of thumb. And then meat cut up like a pork butt shoulders, usually 40 minutes or 45 minutes, something like that. So that's sort of things I keep in the back of my head.

SM: Yeah, I absolutely think you need a book. You need a point of reference to start with, and then you'll get wings and then you'll know what to do. It's like anything else. It's like getting to know your stove. Every piece of equipment has its own quirks, and you just have to

CK: It's like getting married for the first time. Come on. It's like it takes a little while to get used to the idea. And then everything's good, right? Yeah.

Caller: This is so perfect. Thank you so much. I'm going to try the book and stop trying to adapt other recipes. And now we'll go from there. Thank you so much. I really appreciate all the advice.

SM: All right. Thanks, Brooke. Bye bye.

Caller: Bye.

CK: I'm going to write a book called marriage is a pressure cooker. Marriage under pressure. I like that. Okay. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Next up, let's see what's inspiring J Kenji Lopez Alt in the kitchen. Kenji what's going on this week?

J Kenji Lopez-Alt: Yeah, I've been thinking about scallions you know, because oftentimes, you know, I buy a couple bunches of scallions might use some for a recipe and then you know, I have a bunch of left and you know, there's people who say you can stick him in a glass of water and let them regrow till you have enough to use for another recipe etc, etc. I find that they kind of lose flavor that way. But what I like to do at home is I make an infused scallion oil and then you know, the first time I do it, I use the scallions to cook noodles, but then I have this delicious oil that I can use for any sort of future stir fries that has flavor built into it. So, what you do is you take your scallions and you just trim off the root ends and then you you cut them into two-inch pieces or so and then slip them lengthwise. And then if you have any other sort of loose onions around, you know, I like to sometimes do sliced shallots. If I have like half an onion sitting in the fridge, I'll do half a white onion or a yellow onion, or leeks, any sort of allium will work and then you put them in a wok or a saucepan cover them with oil, or lard, lard is really good for it too and then basically just over very moderate heat, medium low heat, you let it come up to a sizzle and you stir it once in a while and just sizzle everything until the scallion start to turn a little bit brown and tender. And then you can strain that out and then you know the scallions that you get out of it have this really nice intense flavor this really nice sweetness that comes from the browning and so what you can do is take those scallions cook some noodles, you know something like chow mein style or lo mein style noodles, and then toss them with those scallions with a little dash of soy sauce, a little bit of sugar in those scallions and just a bit of the cooking water. It makes a really delicious dish but then you know the best part is that once you've strained out the scallions you have however much you know copper to have scallion oil so next time you're stir frying and a recipe calls for just a neutral oil, you know, like canola oil or whatever it is you can use this scallion oil in its place and so you're kind of layering on flavor from the previous cook.

CK: What kind of oil do you use when you're stir frying or using a wok?

JKA: It depends on either peanut oil or something like a rice bran oil but you know and really any oil that that is safe for high temperatures. Sometimes if I'm doing a Sichuan dish in particular, I'll use toasted grapeseed oil, which is difficult to find in the US. It's called cuiyu C-U-I-Y-U or i-y-u sometimes I've luckily I found it in my local market in Seattle at the Chinese market here. But this yeah, roasted grapeseed oil is sort of an essential flavor of Sichuan cuisine. I often also use lard, you know just the blocks of lard that you can find next to the shortening, especially for noodle dishes or things where you want the oil to kind of stay put on the noodles. You know lard is a little bit thicker than regular vegetable oil. So, it tends to coat noodles and things like that a little bit better.

CK: But isn't the lard you buy at the supermarket it's not leaf lard and it's from all over the pig. And it has a very porky flavor, right?

JKA: It does. Yeah, yeah. So, it's something that, you know, maybe it doesn't go in your apple pie, but it works well for stir fries. Yeah, definitely, it definitely has a sort of porky flavor to it.

CK: So, one last quick question, if you're going to heat up a wok for stir frying, do you heat it up without oil in it or with oil in it?

JKA: So, I do it without oil. I've read in various sources, both in Chinese and in English, that, you know, there's this old saying that a hot wok in cold oil means no sticking, what I found is that you can have the oil at the beginning and get your wok nice and piping hot and cook in it and you won't have any sticking. But the problem is that if you pre heat your wok with the oil in it, by the time the oil is actually heated up to the point that you can cook in it, it's already started to degrade, and you'll get some of those sort of burnt flavors and they'll start smoking heavily. So you know, with Western cooking, if you're going to sear or sauté something in the skillet, you can put the oil in early on and then you know you know that just when it starts to smoke is when you're a searing temperatures, or when it starts to shimmer is when you're at sauté temperatures, but with a wok, you typically go even hotter than that. So that's why with a wok, what I do is usually I'll take a paper towel, rub just the thinnest layer of oil into the wok. So that way I get a sort of indicator of the temperature so it'll start to smoke, you know, and once it starts to really heavily smoke, then I know that I'm stirring temperatures and then after that, I'll add the remainder of my oil and immediately get my ingredients into the wok so that the oil doesn't really have time to break down,

CK: Kenji, thank you scallions, scallion oil and a quick noodle dish. Thanks.

JKA: Yeah, thanks for having me. That was J Kenji Lopez alt. He's the chief culinary consultant for Serious Eats, a food columnist for the New York Times and author of The Wok, Recipes and Techniques. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about Milk Street at 177 Milk There you can become a member and get every recipe access to all our cooking classes free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street, Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Andy Sensabaugh. Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Associate Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic public media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio it's distributed by PRX.