Food Thieves: Missing Cows, Fake Fertilizer and Heisted Almonds | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 605
February 18, 2022

Food Thieves: Missing Cows, Fake Fertilizer and Heisted Almonds

Food Thieves: Missing Cows, Fake Fertilizer and Heisted Almonds

Detective Rocky Pipkin is a private eye in California’s Central Valley, where the billion-dollar farming industry has made investigating agricultural crimes his specialty. He tells us how truckloads of nuts can vanish into thin air, why you might be eating stolen citrus and how one man scammed dairy farmers out of millions of dollars with a cow Ponzi scheme. Plus, Ed Levine explains why the diner is one of America's most enduring culinary establishments, Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette examine the language of soup, and we dress up a steak with miso-infused butter.

This week’s episode is being brought to you in its entirety without any commercial breaks from The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center, JFOODO.To learn more about miso, visit

Questions in this episode:

"In a recent episode, Chris mentioned using a donabe, a Japanese pot for cooking rice. I also use it and love it, but was wondering if you can use it for more than rice."

"I have a question about salmon, specifically the gray fat on the bottom of salmon after you cook it. Are you supposed to take it off or leave it on?"

"I have an upcoming steak competition. Do you have any recommendations for the cut of meat, seasonings, sauces and techniques I can use to win the competition?"

"I had a mystery plant show up in my garden this year and identified it as shiso. Do you have any recommendations for what to cook with shiso leaves?"

"Can you explain when you’d use olive oil versus another kind of oil?"

Radio cows oranges almonds

Chris Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. When a truckload of almonds goes missing in California Central Valley, who you're going to call, well, Detective Rocky Pipkin. Today, Pipkin tells us why agricultural crime has skyrocketed and walks us through some of his most memorable cases. Like when he finally tracked down Arno Smit, the man running a Ponzi scheme based on dairy cows.

Rocky Pipkin: Last time we seen Arno he was driving a very expensive AMG Mercedes and picked up some young lady. And then we happen to catch him on a cabin cruiser taking this young lady for a ride and we instructed our people stay on that car, he's going to come back, there's no way that he is going to leave that car there. Well. Needless to say, he didn't come back.

CK: Also coming up, we use miso infused butter to dress up a steak. And Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette examine the language of soup. But first, it's my interview with serious eats founder Ed Levine about one of America's most enduring culinary establishments, the diner. Ed, welcome to Milk Street.

Ed Levine: Oh, it's so great to be with you, Chris.

CK: It's a pleasure to have you. So, you wrote this great piece a little while back on the American diner, which really got me thinking about diners. It was a good piece. So first of all, all of this started back in the 19th century, right? How did they get started?

EL: Yeah, some people think they got started in Rhode Island and that they were actually wagons that were parked outside factories or anywhere workers gathered. And what's weird is that there are still a couple of diners in Rhode Island that look the same as they did (CK: really?) in the 19th century. Yeah, there's no steel, there's no aluminum, it was just wooden diners.

CK: And then where did the term diner come from?

EL: Yeah, so the lunch wagons then became railroad cars. And they were meant to emulate the experience that people would get on trains in a dining car. So, then it just eventually as everything does got shortened to diners.

CK: So, in your article you write the diners are, and I'm quoting here, the greatest bastions of civility service, and dare I say, grace, available to all economic strata in this country?

EL: Yeah, sure. I mean, in a way, it's one of the last bastions of democracy, because everyone goes to diners, venture capitalists go to diners, construction workers go to diners. People have meetings in diners. They break up with their partners in diners, they agree to get married in diners, everything happens in diners. And, you know, and I realized you can't say that about any other place in American life.

CK: Now, the other thing I think is really interesting about diners is people don't talk about the food. That's you, you talk about your marriage, or your divorce or your kids, or your work or your truck, or whatever it is. But nobody's going around saying, well, the French toast is pretty good today, or I really like that extra cinnamon you put in the it's just there as a way of getting people together. It's it's the binder for the conversation.

EL: Yes, it's it's true. It's just a vehicle. Right? Exactly. You can certainly say, God, these French fries with gravy are awesome. But it's just on the way to talking about what you want to talk about.

CK: Yeah, it's about the talking. Because I think the other thing about a diner is you're sitting in close proximity to other people. There's a Country Gals diner in in Cambridge, New York not far from where I'm from my place. And I go there early in the morning sometimes, and you can hear every conversation in the place. Oh, yeah. And the waitress also hears every conversation. So, she's really up up to date on what's going on in the town. And that's, that's the charm of it is there's almost a group conversation sometimes going on?

EL: Yes, it's almost like a Quaker meeting where everybody's talking at the same time.

CK: So so what is it then if the food of the diner is not particularly special? It's just good solid food. But is there something about the menu itself? Is it the number of choices or the combinations? You know, you can have half breakfast and half lunch? Is it putting sides together like a sour pickle with a pancake or something that makes it sort of playful?

EL: Yes, I do think it's the first thing that you mentioned, which is the sheer number of choices. If you ever walked into a diner right now, and they handed you a one page double spaced menu. You'd walk out, you'd walk out. Because even though you're not going to order 95% of the things on that menu, you just like it, you just like the fact that there are a minimum of 100 items to choose from.

CK: Yeah, and seemingly made in about eight square feet. (EL: Yes) Do you think there are foods the diners do really? Well? I mean, you might I think you mentioned your article that they don't, you know, usually the hash browns aren't great. But are there things in a diner that really are very good? I mean, that's where you should go eat them?

EL: Yeah, to me, and this is the sign of a good diner. Can they softly scramble eggs? (CK: Right that's good) Yeah. And I think a patty melt belongs in a diner. If they can do a patty melt this is my diner. And I do think that there are a few dishes more satisfying at a diner than a hot roast beef or a hot turkey sandwich.

CK: Yeah. Let's talk about display. Because the pies. You know, as a kid, we used to drive to Vermont and we'd stop in Hillsdale, New York at the Roe Jan diner and there's always the lemon rang pie the slices, individual slices sometimes, you know, in those big class domes. What is that about? Because that's a very unique thing for diners.

EL: You know, I wish I knew where that started. Also, the rotating display of oversize cakes, that invariably look better than they taste. But that's a that is a diner thing. And sometimes you'll see at the bottom of the menu, Chris, all baking done on premises. And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But I just think it's the diner equivalent of eye candy.

CK: We live in a world where everything has been upscaled, right? It used to be when I was younger, in the 70s. And you go to Chicago, or you go whatever, you know, it was hard to find a good restaurant, right? And now, all these little places are serving great food. And people have the woodfired pizza ovens and everything has been upgraded. Diners have not been upgraded, generally speaking, why did diners get a pass from the food world or from everybody in that they're not trying to be reinvent themselves, like everyone else.

EL: I think people get a pass because their expectations are always met. In other words, there's very little possibility for disappointment. It's like, oh, I know if I go to this diner. This is what I can get. And I will enjoy it.

CK: I would say they get a pass because nobody goes there specifically for the food, they go there for the diner experience in a conversation and everything for the community, as you said early on. And so that never disappoints.

EL: No, for sure. And that's what I mean. It's like, I'm not meeting so and so at the diner, so I can have a great meal. I'm going to this diner to talk about a project I'm working on or to talk about my relationship or whatever it is. And so, the food takes a backseat to all that. I can't imagine that diners will ever die.

CK: Ed thank you so much. And next time we'll have to do this at a diner.

EL: Absolutely. There's no place I'd rather be with you.

CK: That was Ed Levine his article for Serious Eats is Why Diners are More Important Than Ever. Now it's time for me and my co-host Sara Moulton to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking One on One. And she also stars in Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.

Sara Moulton: So, I tried something new. I'm always trying to make roast duck. Yeah, but it's a real conundrum. It's a real problem because the duck dries out if you slow roast it to get it all crispy. I mean, I could do Peking duck, but that's the whole deal. Yeah. So, for years I've been cooking really low and slow and then I cut it up and I crisp it but the meat seems dry. We had a party with my brother, and he wanted to make roast duck and so I gave him a rest old recipe of mine and he made it but he undercooked it. It was you know, like medium, medium already. Good. And I was like wow okay, you know, it didn't take that long he roasted high heat roasted, it was crispy, somewhat crispy. I said, okay, let's do what I do. When I slow roast it. Let's cut it up and crisp skin side down. So, we did. It didn't get overcooked, it was much more moist. It wasn't dried out, I will never slow roasted duck again. Has that ever happened to you? That you've been making something for years, and you've always been making away? I mean, sort of like some of our callers and it's just not working out the way you want. And then something happens. You figure something out. And you're eureka. Have you had any eureka moments recently?

CK: Yeah, usually they're bad eureka moments, because I go like I've been doing this turkey the same way. And now I'm going to do it differently. And I go, like, why did I do it differently? I'm one of those people as you can imagine over 40 years who's I always do things differently. I just keep trying stuff because I get bored. And so, I'd say 80% of the time the results are bad eurekas. But once in a while you come across something and go like, yeah, why didn't I think of that?

SM: I mean, knowing that you don't have to cook duck well done. I was trying to get that crispy skin. But hey, what's the best way to do it is in a skillet. And it was just my brother just experimenting.

CK: Nothing worse than a duck and the leg meat is not properly done.

SM: Well, that is true.

CK: Because that's that is pretty gnarly. Anyway. Well, thank you very much for that. Yeah. I'm glad you had a successful outing with your duck.

SM: Yes, thank you.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?

Caller: Darwin from Birmingham, Alabama.

CK: How are you?

Caller: I'm doing fine. How are you doing?

CK: Good. How can we help you?

Caller: I've been following your careers for a number of years. And I just wanted to express my appreciation for the substantial contributions that both of you have made to how we cook.

CK: Well, thank you. I can't speak for Sara but for me, I just don't know what else to do. So, I just keep doing it. Because I don't have a better idea.

SM: No, no, you do it because it's your passion.

CK: Anyway, thank you

SM: Darwin. Thank you. That's such a nice thing to say.

Caller: It's from the heart. So, Chris, my question is initially directed to you. In a recent episode you told us that you use a donabe a Japanese double the clay pot to cook rice. I have one of these and it does a fabulous job of cooking rice. So, my question to you is, do you recommend using it to cook other ingredients such as stocks, meats or vegetables? For instance, would you use it to make shabu shabu

CK: I just use it for rice and let let me explain it to people who don't know, you rinse rice, you soak it in the pot. The bottom of the pot is an unglazed earthenware, the insides glazed, and you use about the same amount of water as rice for long grain rice actually slightly less, which is interesting. And then you heat it up. And when it starts to steam, there are two covers and inside cover with two holes, tiny holes, and an outside cover the dome which has one hole. And when you start seeing steam come out of the top hole, you cook it for two minutes and turn the heat off and let it sit for 15 minutes. I think the expression in Japan is every grain stands up. You just unbelievably good rice. There's no other better way to make rice. The only thing I would be concerned about is if there's liquid in it like that would be you know, for the shabu dish. I think that would be fine. I would just worry about it cracking if it was a dry interior. I know you have to be careful with this. So, I would say anything that has liquid with it, we are not going to dry out the inside would probably be okay.

Caller: Yeah, I was just worried about whether you absorb other flavors, you know, from meats or stocks or things like that,

CK: You know, you and I both cooked a lot of rice in our donabe so, I would think over time unless you wash it out with soap, which you should never do. I would think it gets cured and you probably wouldn't have that problem. But you know, I keep a Dutch oven on the stovetop at all times. And I also have a Caswell, which is a Mexican earthenware dish, which I use. So, I'm a big fan of that, because I just love the feel of it and the look of it. So, I have like a six-quart caswella for meats and other things. And I use the donabe for rice. If you like earthenware get another pot and use it for that. I would stay away from anything that's dry cooking.

Caller: Okay

CK: Sara?

SM: Well, I don't have one of these pots. I can't exactly weigh in. But I think what Chris said makes sense. Just so also you don't hurt the pot.

CK: You know, I treat it with respect with care. Yeah, I just buy a Caswell separately if I was you.

SM: Okay, well, thank you Darwin. Okay.

Caller: Bye bye.

SM: Bye bye. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hello this is Tony.

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

Caller: I am calling from Traverse City, Michigan today.

SM: Oh, I went to U of M and often went to Traverse City love Michiganders married one why not? Any rate how can we help you today?

Caller: I have a question about salmon. I have done some reading research on this and found various answers out there. So, my question has to do with the gray fat that is on the bottom of salmon after you cook it. And whether you are supposed to take that off or leave it, some of the references that I've seen, say it's very high in Omega three, and you should eat it. And others say it's not a great part of the fish to eat and you should remove it. And then it can also contain waste products like heavy metals if they're in the fish.

SM: Hmm. I've never heard that. I would agree with the former not the latter.

Caller: That is higher in Omega three.

SM: Yes. And I would eat it. Is there a reason you it even occurred to not to just because it's not so attractive looking?

Caller: Yes. And so, when I started looking into it, I was just looking for some clarity on it. And like so many things the more you read, the more confusing it got.

SM: Yeah. The issues with mercury and other undesirable items in fish, I think it's the larger the fish in the bottom feeders more that have that kind of issue. I'm not familiar with it, regarding salmon. However, let's ask Chris here.

CK: I don't think whether we have an extra ounce of omega three fatty acids over the course of your makes any difference to your health. So, I wouldn't worry about it. You're right, it's right under the skin. It's not particularly attractive. I just leave it on and serve it, you know, underneath so that the nice rosy hue is on top. And yeah, I just leave it on. It's no point taking it off. I wouldn't eat it or not eat it based on either you're worrying about heavy metals or whether it's healthy for you. That's one of those things that just gets you into mental trouble. Salmon’s delicious. Enjoy it, the worry about it is not going to hurt you. It's not going to help you. If you don't like the way it looks. Take it off.

SM: And generally, salmons one of the fishes that's highest in omega threes, so you're still going to get plenty.

Caller: I was just curious.

CK: Yeah. Well, it's a good question.

SM: Yeah. So, enjoy it. However, I do agree with that.

Caller: Okay, thank you

CK: Thanks for calling.

SM: Thank you here.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're stumped in the kitchen, give us a call 855-4269843 one more time 855-426-9843. Or simply drop us an email at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Grant Rogers.

CK: How are you?

Caller: I'm doing pretty good.

CK: How old are you if I may ask?

Caller: I am 13.

CK: Good for you. How can we help you?

Caller: I actually have a state competition. And I also just like cooking steaks. Yeah. So, I was wondering what like techniques and tips you have like I also like making different sauces for them. And then at my dad's house, I also have sous vide.

CK: Well my standard method is to take a thick cut steak out of the fridge, salt it with coarse salt, all sides, put it on a wire rack over a baking sheet, let it sit for an hour, throw it into a 250 oven until the internal temperature of the steak comes up to about 90 or 95 degrees, something like that 90 to 100 take it out, and then throw it on the grill or throw it on a griddle pan or into a cast iron pan on the stovetop. Cook it over very high heat just very quickly, both sides get a nice sear, until the temperatures up to whatever you like when 120-125. So that would be my go-to. Sous vide is also great. The same thing as the ovens like a sous vide you get it up to 95 or 100 degrees, take it out and then finish it off with a sear. That idea of slowly bringing the temperature up also means the outside of the steaks not going to be over cooked by the time the insides up to temperature, which is the big problem, right? And use thick sticks. Now there's lots of things you can do. As you said, you can do pan sauces, you could put rubs on it. Sara, you probably have some ideas for flavoring, right?

SM: Well, this is a competition. So, they're probably looking for something besides the method that Chris just described, which I heartily endorse.

Caller: It's just an informal competition.

SM: Okay,

Caller: I have a church group thing, and we plan some activities. And one of the activities we planned was a steak competition. They mentioned they did that a while ago and I just mentioned oh, that's kind of cool. Because like two nights before I made a_____ with a demi-glace sauce

SM: Ooh wow

CK: Wow, wait, wait a minute

SM: that's impressive.

CK: Now now okay. This is the young Jacque Pepin here. This is good. One of the things you could do is just come up with it fabulous spice rub right for the steak or produce a really powerful sauce. For example, at Milk Street we love all these wild flavors like gochujang from South Korea or harissa. You could do a quick pan sauce with some really strong fermented sauce, or chili paste that might, you know, really set yourself apart, right, Sara?

SM: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if I'm boring or purist. My favorite way to have a steak is finish it with some really good olive oil a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped fresh herbs. That's the Italian way. I also love herb butters. When the steak is resting, you put slices of butter, some really nicely flavored buttered on top and the butter sort of melts with the juices from the steak. Maybe do like smoked paprika.

CK: Oh, that's a good idea, that’s a really good idea

SM: Or Chipotle. For me. A beautiful steak should be beautifully cooked and then whatever you put on it you put on it afterwards, so it's sort of fresh, and it will mingle with the juices from the steak.

CK: There's one other trick you might try. If you mix softened butter with miso. That is really good. And miso’s got a real umami flavor.

SM: Yeah, I like that idea.

Caller: All right.

CK: Do you win anything if you come out with first?

Caller: bragging rights pretty much

SM: Well, that’s fine

CK: You know, I older I get the more I like bragging rights. It’s a pretty good thing to win. Good for you. And the fact that you know how to make a demi-glace is pretty cool.

SM: Yeah, we're both very impresses

CK: We’re big fans. Grant take care.

SM: Wishing you good luck

CK: Yeah, good luck

Caller: Thank you.

SM: Bye.

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next. We're investigating agricultural crime with detective Rocky Pipkin. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Rocky Pipkin. He runs the Pipkin Detective Agency in California's Central Valley, with a billion-dollar farming industry that has made agricultural crime his specialty. Rocky welcome to Milk Street.

Rocky Pipkin: Thanks for having me. My pleasure.

CK: It's a pleasure to have you. So, your great great uncle CW Pipkin of Omaha founded the Pipkin National Detective Agency. Was he a real character? What was he like?

RP: He was a real character from the research that I've done on him back in the day how he got into the business was he was a motor cop for the Omaha police department and developed a knack for recovering stolen vehicles during Prohibition. When I got into this business, I thought that I was going to do some things that had never been done before. But I found out that I was about 100 years too late.

CK: So, is agricultural crime, somebody that goes back to your great, great uncle, or is this something that's more of a recent development?

RP: It's more of a recent development, I'd say in the last 10 to 12 years. It's increased significantly we we'd get oh, maybe a call once every month. Now the largest percentage of our investigations is in agricultural crimes.

CK: You gave a lot of reasons that were fascinating for why this is so prevalent. Some of this stuff is quite expensive. You said a truckload of processed almonds can be half a million bucks. (RP: Yes). And then you said they’re no barcodes on it. Right? I mean if you got

RP: There's no there's no identification whatsoever, (CK: right) and everybody's got to eat. So, you can fence this to anybody. Everybody's a potential customer

CK: And you say that the product from the point it's stolen, can leave the country within hours right? They can just get get to a port and get it on a boat.

RP: Yes, that that has occurred. Say you get away with a half a million dollars’ worth of pistachios. And once that boat hits international waters, and money has been wire transferred. It just kind of disappears into the into the sky.

CK: Could you take us through step by step? Like if you're going to steal a truckload and pistachios, it's not just holding up a truck and stealing it. There's a lot that goes into this. Could you just take us through it?

RP: Sure, there's a couple of different modus operandi used on cases that we've investigated. The simplest one is they duplicate the total paperwork process. This one case that we worked on the crooks, that they were able to put together a plan that was so much like just the average daily purchase, but the plates that were on the the trailer were actually stolen, the driver's license was fraudulent. These folks had put together websites, emails, phone numbers to insurance companies. And so when someone caught when that something was wrong here, when they started calling, those phone numbers were disconnected. And now that was within probably hours of the actual taking of the product.

CK: Are these all-international buyers where this stuff disappears or are there domestic buyers here as well?

RP: There are domestic buyers as well. The large quantities are going out of the country as quickly as possible. But a lot of people are unknowingly purchasing stolen citrus. At one-point, mandarin oranges, the halos and cuties and all that stuff, they became very, very popular. You know, soccer moms can buy a bag and take them, and their kids love them. Those were getting stolen by people going out and doing what we call night picks. They would get a crew of people that typically would work for other farmers. And they'd go out at night, and they pick all these mandarin oranges, and send guys out with 10 or 15 bags in the trunk of their Honda Civic. And there's no markings. They're generic plastic bags. And so you wouldn't know and it's good looking fruit. It's the same fruit it's being sold for like $7 A bag in the local grocery store.

CK: Don't farmers now I would think they would put in surveillance cameras or other things. Is that just too expensive to install a monitor?

RP: I mean, these are hundreds of 1000s of acres. (CK: Right) It's still a very rural area. And a lot of farmers do not check their fields on a daily basis.

CK: What about the use of drones is that there are other technologies that can help with this?

RP: Smart Water is probably about the most effective method that we found. Smart Water is an invisible liquid that contains certain identifiers in it. It'll stay on items for up to three years. And so, when we have a hot crime area, we'll go out and we will place this Smart Water on tractors, oranges, or whatever. So, say you had somebody doing night pick, and then somebody who's getting picked up for a stolen vehicle. He goes into jail, and he was part of that night pick crew. Now most of the county jails when they book people in for theft crimes, they run them under this special light, (CK: really) and it will alert them as to the case number.

CK: Wait, no, wait, wait, wait, I got it. That's just blew my mind. So, it's like a barcode essentially. Yeah, it's a liquid barcode.

RP: Yeah. And it'll cross reference with who the victim was. The data crime was reported, what was taken and all that information that was previously an attachable to stolen property.

CK: That's amazing. Yeah. One of the things we always worry about is, you know, we see organic produce in the stores and wonder what really is organic, and you talk about fertilizer fraud. This was like, this is like really a pretty amazing story.

RP: Yeah, we, you know, my kids are vegans and vegetarians and all that stuff. And we were working this case, I was telling him, you know, you're not getting what you're paying for when organics really started to take off. There was a guy by the name of Kenneth Nelson, who owned a fertilizer company down in the south San Joaquin Valley, and he decided that he was going to come up with the best that you could buy organic fertilizer. And then a lot of people started saying no, there's something wrong here. And and one of the prohibitions that an organic farmer must have hit the ground must be fallow for I believe, about two years with no pesticides used or any synthetic fertilizers. And at the time, I was thinking this is going to probably, you know, shut down the whole industry,

CK: You said that there was the organic fertilizer plants. But then nearby there was the real plants which had the commercial fertilizer, and they piped the commercial stuff underground. into the organic tanks, right?

RP: Yeah, we had this guy under surveillance for several months and we really weren't making any headway but yet the field agents that were out purchasing the fertilizer, every purchase was synthetic. So, we had identified a plant in industrial park and this guy had built a pallet castle around it. So, you couldn't see in at all it was no trespassing chain link fences. And so, we started doing aerial surveillance and we would see a synthetic fertilizer tanker truck show up there in empty its tanks into two big fiberglass tanks that had painted on them organic. And that's how they would get away with it for a long time.

CK: Okay, let's turn to milk. Milk is you know, at least $10 billion a year just from California. Very valuable commodity. You said you thought you've seen it all into your ran into a guy called Arno Smit. So, who was Arno Smit and what was the scam?

RP: Arno Smit–Schmidt is how it's pronounced. Arno promoted himself as coming from a very wealthy dairy family farming operation in South Africa. And at one point during the big boom here in the central valley when California surpassed Wisconsin as the largest cheese and dairy producer in the country. He knew that dairyman were getting as much as $800 to $1,000 per calf. And so, Arno took advantage of that, and he started buying and selling cattle, when in fact all it was was a giant Ponzi scheme, the dairyman, they would call him and say hey, where's my calves? What's going on here? Oh, the truck broke down in Texas or Arizona or New Mexico or whatever his story of the day was. Eventually he owed everybody and their brother and there were rumors we were finding out out in the field that he was beat up at one point by a bunch of dairymen and dropped off at a hospital instead of the they were seeing him here in the central valley that that they'd be dropping him off the morgue.

CK: So what was the final chapter in this guy's dairy industry story?

RP: Well, he met a nice lady, a widow on millionaire And he started bouncing checks on her he got into her for about $800,000 in suppose a cattle deal loans, and he ended up getting indicted. And I think the indictment indicates that he was liable for defrauding a lot of people for up to $12 million. The last time we seen Arno he was picked up some young lady at a bar and was driving a very expensive AMG Mercedes. And we happen to catch him on a cabin cruiser taking this young lady for a ride. And at the time we instructed our people stay on that car, he's going to come back. Well. needless to say, he didn't come back. And that's when we think that he fled to Mexico. And then he'd gone to South Africa. And he'd been indicted by the South African hawks on numerous numerous accounts of rhino poaching. And he's still there. But there's an Interpol warrant for his arrest and extradition to the United States.

CK: Well, it sounds like he's a pretty smart guy. He he thinks he can get away with it. I mean, what's the psychology of it based upon your experience?

RP: Well, a lot of these folks are smart. Guys like Arno they get away with stuff like this. And and they spend all the money, I've yet to have a decent financial recovery on a fraud case. The money's gone, there are no assets. There's nothing there, that they truly live the lifestyles of the rich and famous and spend all the money.

CK: So, was there one moment in your career that you ran into some trouble that you weren't expecting?

RP: You know, I've been doing this 35 years now. And my family's been in the business off and on since 1917. And you don't realize that somewhere down the road, somebody is going to come up with some plan or conspiracy and pull something off that you'd never would have ever expected. And today, we just just got hired on another case, and I really can't comment much on it. But it's a product that you'd never think that anybody would be stealing and putting this kind of effort into, but it'll eventually come out.

CK: Rocky, it's been, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for being on Milk Street.

RP: Thank you

CK: That was detective Rocky Pipkin you know, Ponzi schemes like Arno Schmidt's dairy cows scam are nothing new. Ponzi schemes were named after Boston native Charles Ponzi, whose scam was based on arbitrage of postage stamps. He said he bought them cheaply in Italy and then resold them stateside for a huge profit. Now he promised 100% of return on an investment within just 90 days. And as with all Ponzi schemes, early investors made money paid off with new money. Ponzi, of course ended up in jail. Almost a century later, Bernie Madoff did the same thing except on a much grander scale. In fact, one famous chef I know invested her life savings with Madoff, and she lost every penny. So the takeaway is pretty simple. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe pan seared steak with smoky miso butter and watercress salad. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm doing great.

CK: So, this week, we're stepping back in time to when I first started cooking, which was a very long time ago, we're doing steak with a compound butter, right.

LC: But we're doing it in a much more modern and interesting way, Chris

CK: I'm not saying I don't like it. I think the idea of a compound butter has been lost in the midst of you know, Mastering the Art of French Cooking or something. But it's actually a really good idea, especially if you do it the way you're about to do it.

LC: Well, we're going to do it with a lot more bold flavor than just shallots and maybe some fresh herbs like you would in a French compound butter. We're going to add some really flavorful ingredients we're adding miso so which adds a lot of saltiness, dried mustard, smoked sweet paprika, which not only will be adding some depth of flavor, but kind of mimics that smokiness you might get from grilling a steak.

CK: You know, we should just take a moment to pause. I mean miso is one of those umami ingredients, you can actually make the equivalent of chicken stock by putting miso in hot water.

LC: Right. Yes.

CK: You know, earlier in the show today, we had a young call our 13-year-old Grant. And he called in about ideas for a steak competition. And miso butter is just one of the suggestions we gave him.

LC: Yeah, you can use it in a lot of different ways than your salad dressing. You can use it as we're doing in a compound butter, you can do it, like you said and make a broth, it's fermented soybeans. So, it has a little bit of that funk that you might get from fermenting. It just has this really interesting flavor that kind of highlights all of the other flavors around it.

CK: The steak and the salad are those pretty straight forward.

LC: So, the steak, we're using a strip steak, but there are only two strip steaks for four to six people. This is how I always cook steak. Everybody doesn't need their own hunk of steak. These are one pound strip steaks and then slice it before you serve it. It actually ends up being quite a bit of meat plus you've got this really great salad to go along with it.

CK: I hear people go like don't go to her house for dinner. If you're hungry.

LC: There's tons of meat trust me

CK: You don’t want to give everybody their own steak.

LC: There's tons of meat, you'll see.

CK: Okay,

LC: You'll see

CK: So, you cook the steaks Is this a grill or pan sear

LC: We're going to pan sear it so hot hot skillet, but then once you add the steaks, we're going to lower the heat to medium that'll cook them a little more evenly. They come off the heat get topped with that compound butter and rest for a bit and then we can toss the salad. So, it's watercress as the green which is nice and peppery really balances the richness. And we tossed that with soy sauce, scallion sesame seeds and seasoned rice vinegar.

CK: Very good. So, pan seared steak was smoky miso butter and watercress salad, a new way of doing a classic recipe Thank you.

LC: You're welcome. You can get this recipe for pan seared steak and smokey miso butter and watercress salad at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette share a word you can say when your soup is too hot. We'll be right back I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's on the line?

Caller: Hi, my name is Kelly.

SM: Hi, Kelly, where are you calling from?

Hi, Kelly, I'm calling from Maryland in between Baltimore and DC.

SM: Okay, how can we help you?

Caller: Well, I had a very vigorous volunteer mystery plant show up in my garden this year, and I've been able to positively identify it as a purple shiso plant. And I had never heard of that before. And I thought it would be fun to ask you all what I might do with it, what how I might make the best use of it.

CK: I think the first thing I want to know is is it really, because it turns out, it's something very close with poisonous, so just I would I would take a little taste first

Caller: I checked with the extension service and actually the friend who had given me the clump of plants that it volunteered in so yes, I positively identified it as shisho so

CK: it’s like basil, I guess, except it has a stronger flavor. And you could use it like that fresh on top of things as a wrap of some kind. You could also make a pesto out of it. You could use some miso instead of pine nuts, you know, and making a pesto instead of the cheese that might work, it’s a strong basil. So, it's a fresh herb and use it fresh.

SM: To me it reminds me a tiny it has a tiny bit of a licorice taste too it stronger than basil. It's in the mint family. But I agree with Chris I think anywhere you use basil or mint, you could use it

CK: Sohito mohito it sounds good right

SM: You know, it's mostly in you find it in Japanese dishes, but there's no reason you couldn't take it elsewhere.

Caller: I like the idea of using it pairing it with miso for a pesto. That sounds fun

CK: That would be really good, like on soba noodles or something. Yeah, that would work

SM: It's also nice with fish or with some sort of raw fish or raw oysters in a minion net? I think would also be nice. Like with raw tomatoes or with corn.

CK: That's a good idea. Yeah. It would be very good at the relish yeah, that’s excellent, Sara. You're on top of it nicely done. Kelly thank you

SM: Alright

Caller: Thank you. I have a lot of fun ideas. I appreciate you taking my call. Yeah.

CK: Thanks.

SM: Bye, bye.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Karen Betts from Phoenix, Arizona.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: I have a question regarding olive oil. And why we can use olive oil to cook in a high heat oven like say for 425 or 425 degrees. But we can't use it on the stovetop, we have to use like a higher smoke point oil.

CK: Very tricky question. And an excellent question. I might add. First of all, regular, like refined olive oil actually has a pretty high smoke point of like 450. So, your extra virgin EVO olive oil is probably around 400 or so like a light olive oil or not an extra virgin olive oil is 450. So that would be okay. The problem with that is when you heat olive oil, you lose a lot of the volatiles, right? So, a really premium olive oil or really should never be heated it will be used as a drizzle or in a salad dressing. So, I would never use quality high quality olive oil in roasting vegetables or whatever, I would just use grapeseed oil or whatever sunflower oil, it's not going to really matter. But if you want to buy a less expensive, refined olive oil for cooking, that's fine. And the smoke point will be 450 You might want to keep an expensive bottle of olive oil for drizzling in salad dressings, etc. and less expensive, more refined oil for cooking even high heat roasting or you could use some other oil.

Caller: Gotcha. Okay, yeah, that makes that kind of makes sense. I didn't realize that the temperature was that high of a smoke point. But yeah, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

CK: Thank you so much. We really appreciate it. Okay, thank you.

SM: Okay,

CK: Take care.

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio if you've lost a family recipe you want to recreate or just need some help in the kitchen give us a call. Our number is 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Now it's time for this week's Milk Street basic. Now miso has become one of those darling ingredients, but people don't really know how to use it so here at Milk Street we have some unusual ways to use that miso sitting in the refrigerator. First of all compound butter. The recipe is mix equal parts soften butter with white miso for do it all butter to flavor everything from chicken to blanched vegetables to pasta and rice. We think it's particularly good with asparagus. Salad dressing the rich, thick bodied miso adds depth and helps emulsify vinaigrettes, it’s a great technique. And finally, oddly enough caramel sauce. Try adding a little miso to your next batch of caramel sauce for a savory undercurrent to the sugary sweetness. No one's going to know it's there. By the way, wait until the caramel is cold a little bit before whisking in one teaspoon of me so at a time, please taste it in between editions. By the way, if you'd like to share your own cooking tip right here on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash radio tips. Next up, it's Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette hosts of A Way with Words. Grant and Martha how're you guys doing?

Martha Barnette: We're doing great

Grant Barnet: Super duper dude.

MB: Funny you should mention that term.

GB: Yeah. Today Martha and I are thinking about soup.

MB: Yes, for example, that term in the soup, which means in a difficulty. There are lots of stories floating around about the origin of that expression.

GB: Yeah, most of the stories don't have any good evidence. But there was a sketch comedy team of George and Marie Nelson, vaudeville act from coast to coast. And one of their gags was that they put everything in the soup, including human bones and razor blades and whole people. And according to an 1888 news article, supposedly in the soup became a synonym for defeat and dejection and despondency. And in that year, in the soup was something of a political catchphrase, because Benjamin Harrison defeated the incumbent Grover Cleveland, for the presidency of the United States and losing your seat as an incumbent is definitely a big kind of being in the soup.

CK: Wait, wait wait, I don’t understand. So, they had a vaudeville routine.

MB: Yeah, yeah. Benjamin Harrison, and ….

CK: My favorite stage show are hilarious,

GB: Harrison Cleveland what a team

CK: But this couple had vaudeville show. Yeah, they threw everything in the soup. So how did that expression in the soup become associated with being in trouble?

GB: Well, the longer version is they ran a boarding house, and they were kind of scammers. And they provided the soup for the people who stayed in the boarding house, and they would just throw stuff in it. And the soup just got more ridiculous. As they act went on and on, they would just throw everything into it. And so, if you got thrown into the soup, it meant that you were in a bad way, you're in a bad situation.

CK: Got it.

MB: On the other hand, if you're talking about something really positive, we use the term duck soup to mean something easy, you know, it's it's a cinch, and nobody's really sure where that expression comes from. But it might be as simple as the term sitting duck and the fact that ducks are supposedly pretty easy birds to kill. And I do like that expression. Everything's duck soup, except the bill.

CK: Well, ducks are not easy to shoot, but a sitting duck is.

GB: Yeah, exactly.

MB: I guess that's true.

CK: No, no so the Marx Brothers Duck Soup, is that I could never figure out why they call that movie Duck Soup.

GB: Well, the expression was well established by the time the film came around. But there's a place in the film where Groucho says, take two turkeys one goose four carriages, but no doc and mix them all together. After one taste, you'll Duck Soup for the rest of your life. So that's his joke. But the expression was already around by then.

MB: Yeah, and if you're overly nitpicky, you might be described as somebody who looks for the hair in the soup in Germany sucht nach den Haaren in der Suppe. And if they're super nitpicky in Italian, what you can say to them is the equivalent of either eat soup or jump out this window, take it or leave it,
CK: stop looking for the hair in the soup

GB: Now you might also be thinking about as when somebody mentioned a soup souped up comes in, we're thinking about hot rods, automobiles and things going fast and engines revving and this goes back well into the 1920s in terms of automobiles, and the main theory to date is that it might refer to nitroglycerin, which was often referred to as a soup. So up, and actually a lot of variety of chemicals are often referred to as soup including gasoline.

MB: There's an expression that I love in Spanish estado esta en la saba, which means to be even in the soup, and you use this when you're describing something or someone that you see once and then you see it everywhere. You see see like a white Prius and then you start seeing it everywhere you see it here you see it there. You see it even in the soup

CK: That is one of the great truths about life. Yes, notice something once and then then you see it all the time.

GB: Yeah, the linguistic term for it is the frequency illusion. And here's an Italian soup, one that actually directly connects to cooking. If someone is a little full of themselves, they have an overly high opinion of themselves. You can say. CON LA _____which basically means any jerk can make soup out of capon meat. The idea is that it's a supposedly a rich fatty meat so,

CK: So any jerk can make.

GB: But before we go, we've got two favorites to share with you. My favorite is this Italian expression. amore senza baci zuppa senza sale love without kisses soup without salt. It's not how you say you love someone. It's how you show love someone and Martha's got one. Well, it's what you say when?

MB: Yeah, I'm going to try to pronounce this, but I confess that I've never heard it in conversation. I've only seen it. But I guess the term is hasafashafsas.

CB: Hasafashafsas.

CK: Oh, thanks, Grant.

MB: Yeah, thanks for clarifying that Grant

CK: Great.

MB: It's the sound that you make when you take a bite of something that you didn't allow to cool enough before you put it in your mouth. But you've had this experience, you know, like, like, you don't want to spit it out. But you don't want to swallow it so you say something hasafashafsas.

CK: I say something else entirely. But that's just me. Grant and Martha thank you so much. Now I know what to say when I get a hot slice in New York. What do I say?

Both: Hasafashafsas

CK: Thanks guys

GB: Goodbye, Chris.

CK: That was Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for this week's show. If you tune in too late just want to binge listen every single episode. You can download Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com. There you can download each week's recipe. Watch the latest season of her television show or learn about our magazine latest cookbook Vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, executive producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison. Producer Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky. Production Assistant, Amelia McGuire and production help from Debby Paddock, additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX