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June 17, 2022
In Search of Rare Foods: Wild Coffee, Fermented Mutton and Hadza Honey
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Journalist Dan Saladino brings us stories of rare and endangered foods, from the wind-cured mutton found only on the Faroe Islands to stenophylla, the rediscovered species now considered crucial to the future of coffee. Plus, Jess Damuck shares elevated salads; Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette tell us how to live with relish and zest; and we search Jordan for the lightest, crispiest falafel.
Questions in this episode:
"I make homemade mayonnaise. In the past year, I've had a new problem where the mayonnaise comes out fine, but it separates as soon as it comes in contact with whatever you're spreading it on. How do I fix this problem?"
"I've run into an issue where I want to practice making some sort of dish but the amount that I end up making it makes my family sick of it to the point they don't want to eat it anymore."
"I'm searching for a lost recipe--a lemon soufflé."
"If I'm making a rather large quiche, and I put some items in it—like spinach and sausage, broccoli, whatever—some of the items just seem to migrate to the top after I've cooked it."
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. In Tanzania 200 hunter gatherers called the Hadza have one of the world's most diverse diets consisting of over 800, plants and animals. But much of their diet consists of honey, which they harvest by collaborating with birds.
Dan Saladino: The humans whistle and attract the honey guide bird, the bird wants the wax. And so, they lead the humans to the bees’ nests, the humans go up, smoke out the bees, take the honey, and leave behind some of the wax for the bird.
CK: This partnership might be a million years old. But now this tradition is in danger. Journalist Dan Saladino shares this story and other tales of food facing extinction. That's coming up later on the show. Right now, it’s my interview with Jess Damuck about her book, salad freak recipes to feed a healthy obsession. Jess welcome to Milk Street.
Jess Damuck: Thank you so much for having me.
CK: So, let me ask a question you're asked 12 times a day. What is a salad? And the reason I asked that is I'm not sure I have the answer. Because virtually any ingredient protein, citrus beans pulses can go into a salad. It's not really ingredient based. So, what is a salad?
JD: You know, I think one of the really fun things about this book was exploring that definition and really pushing it, I kind of just let myself be inspired by what was around me going into the farmers markets or my garden or even the grocery store. And just taking it from there. Always, always a lot of produce. That's really the main thing in my definition of a salad. Whether it's cooked or raw, the proportion on the plate is always more produce than anything else.
CK: So, before we get to some of the recipes, which I really enjoyed, let's do some basics. I grew up being taught French cooking, and everyone emulsified their dressings, right? (Yes) And I thought like if if you didn't emulsify dressing, you know, you have to go to culinary jail. But I've completely given up on that I noticed in your book, you very often don't emulsify either. So, what's the deal with emulsified dressings?
JD: You know, I also went to the French Culinary Institute, and I learned that you must emulsify you must use a very specific ratio of mustard to oil to vinegar. And I just, I just kind of let go, you know it can be as simple as olive oil and lemon juice and some salt. A lot of people have asked me what's like the the biggest takeaway you want people to get from this book. And it's, please make your own salad dressing. I think after over 10 years of doing this, my parents finally make their own salad dressing all the time. And they are like so surprised that it does make such a big difference.
CK: But let's talk about salt. These days. I actually don't put the salt in the dressing. I use some very coarse, like Maldon salt just sprinkled on and I like that hit of salt. Is that something you do? Or do you always add the salt to the dressing?
JD: Well, it kind of depends. Because sometimes I like to season the dressing. When I it's something like tender leafy greens or something that's going to really get coated in the dressing. But sometimes the crunch from a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top can be so nice. Especially I just I'm planting my tomatoes in the backyard, so I really have tomatoes on the brain. And all I can think about is just drizzling fat tomatoes with some really good olive oil and just a sprinkle of Maldon flaky sea salt. I mean that's perfection.
CK: Let's do some recipes. Mandarins and cream.
JD: The cover girl.
CK: Yeah, well that I love. I love the name and I love the concept. You do a lot of pairing of dairy like burrata, which I like but just talk about this recipe.
JD: You know, this recipe was really inspired by cream sickles or orange Julius's. There's something so decadent, about that wonderful combination of orange and cream. And I think it really flips the idea of salad on its head to most people. Because when you think of a salad, you're not thinking of something that's decadent. And this is you know whether you're eating it for breakfast, or you're serving it alongside a meal or you're having it as dessert. It's just, it's so good.
CK: What do you think about texture? I know one of your salads you crisped up prosciutto give it texture. Are there other tricks to add flavor or texture
JD: Sure. Charring, roasting, grilling. Another big trick that I use throughout the book is putting sliced vegetables in ice baths. You know, if you put thinly sliced radish in an ice bath, that's going to change the texture so much. It's why you know, you go to a restaurant and salads are always like so crisp and fresh. And it's such an easy little thing to do at home that makes a huge difference.
CK: Niçoise salad, I didn't realize that it did not have tuna in it initially. It was anchovies. That was the origin of it. That really surprised me.
JD: Yeah, that was one of you know, I really tried to start fresh with a lot of these recipes. But the Niçoise was one that I did look into the history a little bit and it's fascinating. It's it's a salad that's been around for a really, really long time. And again, that's one that though it differed a bit from the original just anchovy version. I kept it pretty close to the classic, except I love freshening up anything I can with some fresh herbs. And I think that really goes a long way in my version of the salad.
CK: I've asked people this frequently like what's what's sort of your go to people stop over unexpectedly; you throw together a salad? Do you have a salad as sort of your go to unexpected guests show up salad?
JD: Yes, I would say the salad that I make the most often is there's a little gem salad that has this creamy lemon vinaigrette. And this vinaigrette. I guess it's my secret weapon. It's mayonnaise and lemon juice, and a little bit of lemon zest. But it's so simple. Those are two things I always have on hand. And you know it I don't always have little gem on hand, but it works with anything. This salad comes together in just a few minutes. And it goes with everything. It also in place of croutons, I use toasted nuts, with a little bit of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. And it's just It's so flavorful. So simple offers a big dose of freshness and just a little something green to go alongside whatever you're eating.
CK: Jess it's been a pleasure. I love salads, and I've now learned a thing or two or three.
JD: Thank you. Thank you so much. This has been fun.
CK: That was Jess Damak her book is Salad Freak Recipes to Feed a Healthy Obsession. Next up, it's time to take calls 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. Everyone in my family loves ice cream, my wife buys ice cream, quote unquote, for the kids.
Sara Moulton: Ah huh, we know about that ploy
CK: it keeps disappearing. So, do you love ice cream? And if so, have some secret way of serving it.
SM: I love ice cream. But there's other things I'd rather blow my calories on. However, I will say if I had to pick a favorite one, it would be coffee Heath Bar crunch
CK: It reminds me if there was a wonderful ice cream shop in Harvard Square where I used to go when I was a kid. They had a sundae with coffee ice cream and butterscotch sauce. To this day that is my favorite combo of those two things because they're both sort of bitter. And they really play nicely together.
CK: If it's bitter. I would like it.
SM: Yeah, well, hey.
CK: I do make ice cream a few times here at home using creme fraise in it. ((Nice) Well it also does something weird to the texture, it makes it smoother. I don't understand why (really?) Yeah. I got this somewhere. It was a cookbook from a restaurant in Venice, California actually. And it was a ginger vanilla ice cream
SM: Ooh now you're talking
CK: That was quick.
SM: Yeah, I like that.
CK: Okay, let's stop dreaming about ice cream and start to take a call.
SM: Alright. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: My name is Anne. Hi, Ann.
SM: Hi, Ann. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Under Hill center, Vermont.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: I make homemade mayonnaise. I've been making it for years using my mother's recipe and the only problem I've ever run into is having it break or making it which happens every now and then. But lately, I'd say in the past year I've had a new problem where the mayonnaise comes out fine, but it separates as soon as it comes in contact with whatever you're spreading it on. Or it seems fine for a while, like days or a week and then suddenly in the jar it starts to break. And I have no idea why that's happening. And I'm wondering if you know
SM: Tell me what's in your mayonnaise and how you make it
Caller: Two egg yolks. teaspoon of dry mustard, half a teaspoon of salt, and then a total of four tablespoons of vinegar, but split into two. I put all of those ingredients and two tablespoons of vinegar into a glass Pyrex measuring cup. Beat it just to get the egg yolks mixed in. And then very slowly, I add two cups of oil. And then at the very end, I add two more tablespoons of vinegar or to taste one or two,
SM: Okay because there's several things that make some mayonnaise split. One is you add the oil too fast. I mean, sounds like you know, most of these, you don't have enough of an emulsifier you don't have enough liquid, so the oil separates out, or you overbeat it, it's another one sounds like it's not a stable emulsion. And that's why it splits later. But let's see what Chris has to say
CK: You're the mayonnaise expert.
SM: I have two recipes for mayonnaise in my most recent cookbook, I love mayonaise
CK: You had two cups oil and how much vinegar was used?
Caller: two tablespoons in the first part, and then one to two at the end. And I'm wondering,
CK: it's a problem.
Caller: But I've been making this the same way forever. And I've never until recently had the problem with it breaking after it was made
CK: Well, the formula that is sort of in the back of my head is one tablespoon of vinegar for a cup of oil. That's sort of the ratio I'm used to. So, it sounds like you're actually using four. I would try not adding that extra vinegar at the end. Now, let's go back to something you just said though, you said you've been doing the same procedure for a long time. And just recently it's not working. Did you change your type of oil, for example?
Caller: Yeah, I've been waiting to say that I I used to always use canola oil or just a vegetable oil. And in the past year or so I've been using avocado oil.
CK: Oh… the first question is always when something stops working is did you change something? It is the Sherlock Holmes question. I would go back to vegetable oil and just give it a shot. Because it may be something about the avocado oil that has a higher saturated fat content or something else is going on? Yeah. That would be my guess.
SM: Yeah, I think he's right. And the eggs are the same size?
Caller: No, I mean, I don't know I have my own chickens. So, it's that you never know
CK: I would use vegetable oil don't add vinegar at the end, see what happens. And then if that works, then if you like more vinegar taste than try a second batch with more vinegar at the end, then you know, it's just the oil if that works.
Caller: And would it be better to incorporate that vinegar by hand?
SM: Yes. Don't over beat it. Yeah.
SM: I don't really see the vinegar is that much of a problem. I think you're right about the oil, Chris. But I also think you might want to start paying attention to the size of your egg yolks, because the eggs are very, very important in there in terms of holding the oil droplets.
Caller: The bigger the better.
SM: Yes, yeah. All right.
Caller: Thank you.
CK: Give it a shot
Caller: Thank you very much. Bye
SM: All right. Bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are here to save you from culinary disaster. Please give us a call anytime. Our number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, its Jacob Bream calling from Ottawa, Ontario.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: So, I've ran into an issue over the last while where I want to practice making some sort of dish but the amount that I end up making makes my family sick of it to the point they don't want to eat it anymore.
CK: I know the feeling.
Caller: So, what can I do to get that practice I'm looking for but also keep my family happily fed.
CK: Give me a couple examples of the types of recipes you're making over and over again?
Caller: Most recently it was pupusas says I want to work at that technique for pushing the filling, which it's always been patting it out to that flat patty. I managed to get through five nights of that before I was told not to do it anymore. Previously, it's happened when I got really into pizza dough for a while.
CK: Well, I mean, you've mentioned two things where the topping slash filling can be changed, right? So, it's not like you're making tapioca pudding every night. I mean, there's variety within the category, I had the same problem. I remember doing my first cookbooks, I would make the same bloody thing every night over and over again. Here's what I would do. Here's what I did. Do a lot of research, be very careful about what you're testing, and try to test more than one thing at a time. So, figure out like with the pizza added test the topping and the resting time and the type of flour all in the same time. I would do it two nights in a row. Give it a break, and then come back and then give it a break. So you really can think about what you want to test next time that's my best. Or get into family. I guess that's the other problem. You you have to go get an apartment somewhere or get a little van parked outside your house and you could just live there. Sara, do you have some suggestions.
SM: Yeah, I do. Aside from what Chris just said, which I think was all very useful. I think it's very important. It's like when I develop recipes for my cookbooks or for anything I'm doing, I take notes. First, I write down the recipe as I hope I will make it. And then after I've made the recipe, I taste it. And I write notes, what I liked what I didn't like, and very specifically, what I thought I could change to make it better. If you keep a diary, it doesn't matter if you don't make it for another week, because you go right back and look at it.
Caller: I do normally keep notes, although normally that gets me so excited about reiterating on the recipe that I want to make it again as soon as possible.
CK: There's a question we haven't asked. After five nights of eating pupusas were to get sick of eating them every night for dinner.
Caller: A bit at times, although my drive to do it better next time usually overwhelms me being sick of the food.
SM: Well, that's good. No, maybe we should work in restaurants are in recipe development. Because this is the kind of stamina you need, you know, every single time you make the same dish to want to make it perfectly. And then it just does get better the more you make it.
CK: I remember years ago, we used to hire cooks. And the first thing we'd ask is Do you mind making something 35 times that row literally 35 times in a row. If you got that blank sort of stare, then you knew that was not the right person. But it was like you like yeah, man I can I'll nail it on the 30th and you're hired. I think Sara's right. I think you have exactly the right personality. Very few people have that enthusiasm for the repetition and my condolences to your family after the 5 nights of
SM: all those pupusas right.
CK: Pupusas, okay, take care. Bye.
Caller: Thank you so much for your advice
SM: Okay Jacob bye bye
CK: Bye. I really did have revolts like that. I remember I'd be making chicken soup well that's not so bad but tapioca pudding every night
SM: Yeah, that would get to you.
CK: Yeah, that's it's like you know what hospital am I in, it is pretty awful
SM: Well anything every you know even something you absolutely adored. If you eat it six nights in a row it's really does begin to wear
CK: It does begin to wear
SM: You’ve got to mix it up, right.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next journalist Dan Saladino tells us about wild coffee wind cured mutton and other foods on the brink of extinction. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my conversation with Dan Saladino about his book Eating to Extinction. It's based on his BBC Radio series The Arc of Taste, where he travels the world in search of foods at risk of extinction.
Dan Saladino: I've traveled nearly 1000 miles to end up being shown inside someone's shed at the bottom of their garden. But I'm here because I've been promised a taste of a food that's found nowhere else. This is a typical setup. This is a typical, what do you call a drying house? I was told it was a type of food that at first glance. I'm not entirely convinced.
Voice: It's mold all over the place so it looks bad. It looks almost something that you cannot eat.
DS: But it's almost if we've walked into the shed and it's something that you've forgotten.
Voice: Yeah, it's also something that you found on the road, so it doesn't look tasty
CK: So, Dan, that's a clip of you on a trip to the Faroe Islands in search of wind cured mutton scent sounds like a rock'n'roll band of some kind. But so what is when cured mutton and how come you had to travel to the North Atlantic to try it?
DS: Well, I wanted to collect stories, the roof collected food of a place but also the ingenuity, the skills, the knowledge acquired by people who'd managed to survive in different parts of the world. And in the case of the Faroe Islands, which is a really harsh landscape in which there are barely any trees, it wasn't possible to create fire in a way in which you could boil seawater to create salt and preserve meat that way. So, by creating these sheds, which are called hjallur, they have gaps in the walls. And so, the salty wind blows in from the North Atlantic. And what they discovered is that if you hung meat from the rafters of these barns, the meat is coated, it's covered in this fine salt. And so instead of rotting away, the meat slowly, gently ferments and is preserved.
CK: You know, it always makes me wonder, like, who was the first person and when spring came, they saw that haunch of mutton, it doesn't look very good, right? I mean, from the outside, it doesn't look edible, right?
DS: It looks shocking, in a way, because you would walk into one of these huts, and it does look almost as if it's still alive. Some people have described, it is looking like a bit of roadkill. And at the same time, if you taste it, well, some people have described it as tasting somewhere between Parmesan cheese and death. But actually, when I, when I tasted it, I thought it was like a fine piece of prosciutto.
CK: So, let's back up a second. So, the reason why there are many reasons but one reason you're interested in this, you write most of the world's food is in the control of just for corporations. One in four beers drunk around the world is the product of one Brewer that stopped me. And there are 1500 varieties of banana of which we basically use one. So, your interest in food items that are slowly going extinct, is the diversity by its very nature is a good thing. Is it a good thing just because you'd like the stories in the culture around it, or because of the value of diversity long term in in food production?
DS: Well, it's a question well put because I started off with falling in love with these stories of culture and history and place. And as with the muttin on the Faroe Islands, I love these stories of how did people survive? And why did that food exist? But when I started to collect the stories, I had that important question to answer, which was, why should we care. And the deeper I looked, the more it became clear to me that diversity really does matter for our future, including our future of food security. And with this uniformity that you described, with this high level of consolidation globally, it's created cheap, abundant food, but we have stored up risk and I think there are many reasons why now, it's becoming clear that that is a strategy that needs to change.
CK: Well, you also commented that historically, our diets were just enormously diverse. You mentioned in 1950. In Denmark, they dug up the intact body of a man 2500 years old stomach was a porridge made with a quote barley, flax and the seeds of 40 different plants. And even today, in East Africa, there's a tribe, a group of hunter gatherers where they depend on 800 plant and animal species. So, the idea of diversity was de facto, I guess, throughout most of human history, right?
DS: Absolutely. And I was very lucky to spend some time with the Hadzabe tribe in East Africa, which are among the last remaining hunter gatherers who are practicing no form of agriculture. Their potential menu consists of 800 different plants, and animal species, and of the 800 from plant and animal species or sources of food. The number one food is honey.
CK: What's interesting about this honey is how it's gathered. (Yeah) I mean, they have a collaboration with a particular species of bird, and the bird actually leads them to the honey.
DS: That's right. So, to actually find the bees nests in which the honey is could take them hours going from being arbitrary debate arbitrary, really high up. So over time, and we think this could go back to the origins of human control of fire and the use of smoke, so we're talking a million years, perhaps, the humans whistle and attract the honey guide bird, the bird wants the wax. But the wax in the bee’s nest is far too dangerous for them to access on their own because of the sting from the bees. And so, they lead the humans, to the bees’ nests, the humans go up with the smoke, smoke out the bees, take the honey, and leave behind some of the wax for the birds. So absolutely right. It's a collaboration. And again, reflecting the story of diversity. They are a clue to that diversity that we evolved as humans to consume. And so again, this relatively short, success story that we created mostly in the 20th century was one that drove out all of that diversity. But because it's such a short period of time in which that's happened, it is like one big experiment.
CK: So, these last two examples bring up a pretty interesting question. These were foods originally needed for survival. Technology has now come around, so they're no longer essential. So, the question, I think, is, can tradition survive in a world that doesn't need tradition?
DS: Yeah, well, actually, I'm an I got to see this. I went into supermarkets on the Faroe Islands. And there were ships arriving a couple of times a week from Denmark, filling up supermarkets with every food imaginable. But there were people who were determined to keep the tradition of the Skærpekød, which is the fermented meat going. And in a sense, I mean, this is one of the other things I try and explore in the book that what, what does it mean to be human, and when you're living in a world in which there are so many points of difference, and I think for many of the people I interviewed, you know, the food was a reflection of their culture and was an important part of their identity.
CK: So, so we even if it has no real practical value, in some ways, it has cultural value, which I totally agree with. Wild coffee. I love this story, for every reason. Because there's really only two strains of coffee, right that's grown now in the world. But you could just let's start at the beginning. First of all, it started a long time ago, which I didn't realize, right?
DS: Yeah. The botanical story is fascinating, because this does go back unimaginable lengths of time in what is today, the southern part of Ethiopia. And that's where Arabica comes from. That was the coffee that was introduced into Europe and the coffee that spread around the world. And for many centuries, that was coffee. But fast forward to the late 19th century and disease hits the crop. And this is when Robusta really starts to become a cultivated coffee crop. Robusta as its name implies, a much hardier type of coffee discovered in Central Africa. What's what's really interesting here is that Arabica and Robusta, which pretty much are 100% of the world's coffee supply, are only two of what is now understood to be 130 different coffee species, and there are now endangered or near extinct coffee species that botanists are searching for, because both Arabica and Robusta might not fare so well with climate change. Arabica is quite sensitive to temperature change, robust and need quite consistent rainfall. And so, botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, realized that there were botanist reporting back to Britain in the 1850s, saying there's a coffee in Sierra Leone that actually tastes better than Arabica and it's called Stenophylla, one of the botanists at Kew today, he found one surviving tree, which is like finding one surviving rare Panda, for example, you need two to reproduce. So, he carried on trekking through the forest with some other botanists found another tree. And now today, there are 4000 saplings that are being grown in Sierra Leone, to bring back this thought to be extinct coffee, because we will need that coffee for the future. So, if you like me are a coffee lover I can't wait to try Stenophylla because it's supposed to be delicious. But yeah, we need diversity and diversity is it can be delicious. And, you know, so interesting to explore. And I think that's what we should all be doing more.
CK: So, at the end of the day after doing this research traveling around the world, now what I mean, what's your vision of the future? Are you now more encouraged by what you've seen about human races ability to preserve diversity, and finding solutions to food and other problems through diversity, or are you at this point going, you know, I know what we need to do, but it's unlikely we're going to do it.
DS: I know what we need to do. And we haven't acted for a very long time when there have been people for more than a century saying diversity matters. This is not a new message, but we haven't acted on it. I think the world is waking up to change because we need to change. The UN meeting last year clock 26 when the world agreed that it needed to reduce emissions and find other ways of producing food. That's one reason for change. The pandemic showed us the instabilities, the fragilities of supply chains. If you put all of those things together, it makes you realize why diversity does matter. I'm not anti-science, I'm not anti-technology, but we need huge amounts of diversity for the future.
CK: Dan, it's been it's been really a pleasure having you on Milk Street thank you so much.
DS: Thank you so much for inviting me on the program.
CK: That was Dan Saladino. He hosts the Food Program on BBC Radio Four. His book is Eating to Extinction, the world's rarest foods and why we need to save them. Survival produces innovation, including using birds to scout for hunting. I grew up summers working on a farm that had a hand pump in the sink and also an outhouse. I remember those days with great affection. But in 1969, when indoor plumbing was finally installed, the lives of those farmers were vastly improved. Now one might argue that using an outhouse on a cold February night brings when closer to nature. But that opinion is only held by folks who answer nature's call indoors. As technology makes much of the past obsolete, we lose part of our humanity. But we also gain lives that are longer healthier, and actually easier than those of even Roman emperors. You know, every tradeoff has something lost, but it also has something gained. You're listening to Milk Street Radio now it's time to chat with JM Hirsch about this week's recipe. Falafel jam, how are you?
J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.
CK: You know, when I'm in town in Boston, there's a little place off Harvard Square where I get falafel, a very nice guy, and he fries them to order as it were. And they're really quite good. But I always wondered, and you always wondered, you know, is there the ultimate falafel? And what would that be? So, you went to Jordan to answer this question, and you definitely did answer it.
JM: Yeah, you know, I chose Jordan for very particular reason. It's kind of at the crossroads of the Arab world. And so, you get a lot of different influences coming in. And as you know, falafel is I don't want to quite say a universal in the Arab world, but it's prominent, and a lot of those traditions have come together in Jordan. And I had heard tales of their epic falafel now you and I have even falafel all over the world. And I'll say I've had some falafel in Boston, not impressed. But I knew that if I went to Jordan, I would get the real deal. And in fact, I did. And I'm just going to tell you, first of all, the outside shatteringly crisp, like unbelievably wonderfully light yet crunchy, the inside, pillowy, airy, fluffy, the flavoring, bold, like really bold. And that's due to baharat, a seasoning blend that's used in everything in Jordan, you know can be anything by the way. You know, baharat actually translates loosely as something yummy. You can get a million different combinations of baharat but a lot of them use things like warm spices like cardamom and coriander, cumin, cinnamon, sumac, black pepper, things like that. Anyway, the best falafel I had use a lot of baharat to season them a lot of herbs to give them freshness and keep them light. And I'll just tell you, they were the best falafel I've ever had in my life.
CK: You know, when I tasted them in our kitchen, the thing that really struck me besides the incredibly thin, crunchy exterior, it was the amount of herbs I mean, there's this massive quantity of herbs. It's almost like half herbs inside. (Yeah) which is very different than when it's you know, all chickpeas or fava beans
JM: Right. No, absolutely. They were a ton of herbs fresh herbs used in falafel and the fascinating process, so you know, the chickpeas are never cooked for falafel. They are soaked overnight, and then they go through a meat grinder, and it comes out looking like ground beef frankly, and they throw the fresh herbs cilantro and parsley into the meat grinder as well. And what you get is this like ground beef looking green stuff which okay right there, it's not very appealing, right? But then all the spices go in and they're formed into balls, and they drop them into the sizzling oil, and they come out just so amazingly light. Now, there was a secret to that lightness which you know as you know, a bad falafel is going to be gummy or dense on the inside, regardless of how crispy it is on the outside. They get around that they use either baking soda, baking powder or a combination of them inside the falafel and that produces this light fluffy texture on the inside, which is such a wonderful contrast to the crispy, crunchy exterior. They really nailed it. It was so good. I'm ready to get back on the plane and have some more.
CK: You know, the last thing I really liked was the tahini sauce because it had yogurt in it but it also had a lots of lemon juice, so it was very bright. It wasn't just a dull blanket, it was really a nice addition.
JM: I love tahini and I will gladly slosh it over anything, but they have a sauce that lightens it up in Jordan. They call it kind of the Holy Trinity of Arabic cooking and it's a combination of tahini, lemon juice and yogurt. And sometimes they thin it was a little bit of water, but the result is that you get the richness of the tahini without it weighing things down because on its own tahini can be kind of heavy. It's so good paired again with that kind of herbal spiciness of the falafel and the crunchiness and you get this creaminess from the tahini sauce. It's really phenomenal.
CK: JM thank you found and we don't like to say best because these things you know the next time you go on a trip you might find one you like as much. But for now, the crisp, lightest and most flavorful falafel we found today. Thank you.
JM: Absolutely thank you. You can get this recipe for falafel at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is mostly radio coming up Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette tell us how to live with relish and zest that's coming up in just a moment. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, Sara and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Barbara Sphere.
SM: Hi, Barbara. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Livonia, Texas.
SM: And what is your question today,
Caller: I went to Texas School for the Blind. And when I was there, we had cottage style meals in the dormitories. We passed all the bowls around the table because people learn to serve themselves and help their plates and be independent. And in the dorm that I was in. When I was older, we had an award-winning book and she made something that she called lemon souffle. Before I left, I got the recipe from her. And then I lost it. It wasn't a true souffle because you did not have to separate the eggs. But it was not a custard, and it was not a quiche. It was cakey on the top and then it had kind of the custard in the bottom.
SM: Okay, bingo. Bingo. That's it right there. That's a pudding cake. I have a recipe in my cookbook I call creamsicle pudding cake. You know, you make up dry flour and salt and sugar and baking powder and you mix those together. And then you mix together some cream in mind, you use orange zest, you know, if you were going to do the lemon version, you would use lemon zest, and also had melted butter, lemon juice, you know, some vanilla, you mix that and then you add that to the flour mixture. It's a very thick batter. And then meanwhile, you pour liquid over it. In my recipe. It was orange juice, which I'd combined with a little bit of water. Her recipe was probably lemon juice combined with a little bit of water and perhaps even a pinch of sugar.
Caller: That sounds really good.
SM: And then you just bake it off. And it naturally separates
CK: The liquid on top, the density of it. It's heavier. And as it bakes the liquid goes to the bottom and mixes with some of the dry ingredients and becomes a custard and the dry ingredients go up to the top and form a cake.
CK: And that's exactly what you had. And it's a great dessert.
SM: Oh, it's a fantastic dessert. Just go Google, you know, lemon pudding cake and you know, probably find several versions and you can just play around with it, you know until you find the one you like the most.
Caller: I have been curious. Yes, you could add something to it. Like blended cottage cheese or a little yogurt or something like that to take a little bit of the sweetness out of it. Because even with the lemon juice, this does turn out very sweet.
CK: I would say you could cut the sugar by almost a third. I think you'd probably be okay. That's what I do. When I make one of these recipes. I always cut the sugar back
SM: Or you top it off with the yogurt or the sour cream and then you have a nice contrast. It's sort of fun
CK: Yeah, you can do that.
Caller: Right after you bake it. Yeah,
CK: Barbara. It's been a great pleasure. And I'm glad you've got the recipe. That's terrific.
Caller: Thank you so much. And I just enjoyed talking to y'all. I love your shows.
CK: Well, we love having you on the show. Thank you.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: Thank you.
CK: Take care
Caller: You too. Bye bye.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help with dinner, give us a ring anytime our number 855-426-9843 That's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Lisa from Londonderry Vermont.
CK: Oh, I love Londonderry.
CK: How can I help you?
Caller: Well, Christopher, I make some quiches here at the lodge and frittata’s and strata’s. And one of my problems is if I'm making a rather large quiche, and I put some items in it, like spinach and sausage, broccoli, whatever. Some of the items just seem to migrate to the top after I've cooked it, and I cook them in a water bath, so they don't burn. So, they're in there for quite a long time.
CK: Before you put the additions in, are you precooking them or sautéing them or something?
CK: Is this in a typical crust in a pie plate or how are you cooking it?
Caller: It's a crustless quiche. And they're in, I'd say a nine by 13 casserole dish.
CK: This is like a 325 oven with a water bath. It's a really low oven long time long cooking time.
CK: The only thing I'd suggest is I don't think you need to use a water bath for this. It's not a cheesecake. In fact, you can do without a water bath with a cheesecake as well. I might suggest getting rid of the water bath because it'll set faster, and you have a better chance of things being distributed throughout. I think it's taking so long for the mixer to set that by that time everything sort of floated to the top. In any case, I don't think you need a water bath for this. It's not that delicate. One other thing you can do is you can cook it, let's say at 350 or 375 for a while then turn off the oven. Open the door for five minutes, put a wooden spoon in there and then close the door to finish. And that's a trick we use for cheesecake. So, you end up with a very delicate, perfectly cooked quiche egg mixture without overcooking it and without using a water bath. I think it's the water bath is probably the problem, Sara?
SM: I agree actually 100% which is rare for us here. I've never had this problem with things floating before. But I generally make a frittata not across this case. And I wonder if that might just be easier because you sort of you started setting on top of the stove. Have you made frittatas before?
Caller: I do. Yeah.
SM: And you've never had the problem of the floating business, right?
Caller: No, they're just smaller.
SM: And you need to make something big for big crowds
Caller: For 20 yeah, 25 people.
SM: All right. Well, then I agree with what Chris said,
CK: Well, frittatas has got a very different texture though, right? It's not so custardy.
SM: No, it's not. But if she's concerned about things floating, I've never had him float in a frittata. It's sort of like they all get glued in the beginning of the process.
Caller: Yeah, they cook faster, and they're just smaller in general. So, they don't have that much time to move around.
CK: Well, well, you could use a really big cast iron skillet. (Yeah) for a frittata. Yeah. And also, frittatas are fast. Yeah, they cook in just 10 minutes
SM: Right. I think it's pretty yummy. I usually put cheese on top and let it brown a little bit in the end. But just another thought that I would lose the water bath I think that is the problem.
Caller: Okay, I'll give it a try.
CK: Okay, can I ask one other thing? The mixture for the quiche are you using just milk and eggs and cheese. Are you using heavy cream? What are you using in the mixture for the dairy?
Caller: I'm using I usually heavy cream, depends on what I'm making. Sometimes it could even be a sour cream, right? That's a little heavier. Yeah so
CK: You said the lodge, what lodge is it?
Caller: This is Blue Gentian lodge on Magic Mountain.
CK: Oh, I just drove by Magic Mountain yesterday.
SM: So next time you'll have to stop in.
CK: I love Magic Mountain.
Caller: That's right.
SM: You have to stop in and say hi
Caller: and get a piece of quiche
CK: Lisa. It's been a pleasure.
SM: Yes. Thanks for taking a call
Caller: Thanks so much. Bye.
CK: You'll listening to Milk Street Radio. Next up it's time to get a language lesson from Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette. Grant and Martha what's up?
Grant Barrett: Hi, Chris. How you doing?
Martha Barnette: Howdy.
CK: I'm good. How are you?
GB: Are you living your life with fervor and gusto and zest and with relish?
CK: Fervor I think would be probably the best because it implies a frenetic lifestyle, as well as passion,
GB: Yeah, and its food related, which is why we're here. fervor comes from a Latin word meaning to boil.
GB: Yeah, yeah. Fer vor fer vor in Latin means to boil and so you if you do something with fervor, you're active as a boiling pot of stew. I mean, it's related to fervent and forbidden to effervesce, which comes from Latin, meaning boil up,
CK: So, I'm living life with fervor. effervescently. Okay.
MB: And fervently, right. If you're fervently in love with someone, then you're acting with ardor and ardor is another word that comes from a Latin word that means to burn. So, you're burning with desire.
CK: So, these are food and romantic terms, right?
GB: It's funny how often those intersect with food and love, even in platonic sense as we talk about eating the toes of babies, right? I could just eat you up, call people a snack or a tall drink of water.
CK: Or you know, you could call someone and say, I love you. effervescently.
MB: You certainly could, or
CK: Maybe not.
GB: So, I want to hit those other one’s relish gusto, and zest because we also do things in life with relish. And obviously, that's a food word. But it's got a strange path, because it's also related to relax, and release. They all ultimately come from the same Latin verb,
GB: Relaxat, sorry. And in French, it means to release. So, the food and drink are leaving taste or flavor behind. So, if you're doing something with relish, you're getting the flavor of the activators adding flavor to your life.
CK: Yeah, but what's interesting there is that relish is an accompaniment to something. But you're saying that to relish something or doing something with relish, you're extracting the full measure of the flavor of the activity, which is a little different than adding relish to something else. Right?
GB: Well, if you think about relish in the original sense of relish was something that you would add to meals that were generally very boring. Oh, I see. Yeah, a beef that you boiled because otherwise you might die from it, or, you know, meals that were incredibly unhappy. But you would add these very spicy preserved relishes and that would add the bit of life to your food.
CK: Is this the cookbook you guys are going to write Grant and Martha's unhappy meals.
MB: unhappy meals
GB: Here's how you boil a carrot,
CK: How to add relish to unhappy meals.
GB: Add zest little needs to be said about zest. Obviously, citrus peel here from the French test. But gusto has got a strange history as well. It has the same root as the word Ragu. You know, the seasons do. It's that g o u t, which if you know French taste, yes, the French word for taste is g-o-u-t. And most of the European languages have some form of gusto. English, Italian, Spanish have exactly that word. Of course, in Germany, it's a gustow.
MB: But all those words come from the Latin gustare, which means to taste, and a lot of people might have a little lightbulb moment when you realize that this gustare in Latin also informs our word for when you don't like something
MB: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
GB: But you know, there are a lot of words for eating we can throw down the grub. We can wade in we can gobble shovel it in stow away the groceries, we can gorge on some food. So, gorge is from the word throat. And we can chow down and chow comments from a Cantonese word meaning to fry or cook. It's the same chow as in chow mien.
MB: Yeah, and the one that's always intrigued me is tuck in or tuck into. And it’s really weird expression if you think about it, any idea why we would say you tuck into a salad?
CK: Are you tucking in the napkin before you eat? I don't know.
MB: That's what I originally thought. But apparently, it has to do with the fact that originally it was tuck meaning to consume or swallow so you would tuck the food away inside of you, sort of like you house a hamburger for example. But over time, tuck in and tuck into came to more emphatically mean to feed greedily or heartily
CK: Well, that reminds me of my favorite Jeeves and Wooster and every time he went to eat, he'd say he put on the old feed bag. Oh, yeah. Which, which is self-explanatory, but just a lovely visual.
GB: And the spin off from tuck a is Tucker which they use in Australia to refer to the food, right, time for my tucker. And we've got glutton and gluttony as well. Glutton is an 800-year-old word comes from a Latin word meaning to swallow. It's a really glut as in a lot or too much of something and gullet meaning your throat.
CK: Well, that makes me feel good. Instead of saying I'm a glutton. I'm just going to go tuck into dinner. Yeah, sure, yeah. Or shove it down the old keg hole which one of my favorite expressions of all time.
GB: Stow away the groceries
CK: Grant and Martha lots of ways of talking about overeating but eating with great gusto. Thank you.
GB: Yeah, sure. It's been zesty fun.
CK: That was Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for today. Over the last few years, we produce more than 200 episodes of Milk Street Radio, and you can find them all on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street Radio.com, or wherever you find your podcast. To explore or milk Street and everything we have to offer, please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes, watch our TV show, learn about our magazine, or learn about our latest cookbook, The World in a Skillet. 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 kitchen questions. 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 Annie Sensabaugh. Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. Theme music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.