Robots in The Kitchen: From Food-O-Matic to Disney's Smart House | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

JOIN! 12 Weeks for $1

Episode 607
March 18, 2022

Robots in The Kitchen: From Food-O-Matic to Disney's Smart House

Robots in The Kitchen: From Food-O-Matic to Disney's Smart House

Will we be joined by robots in the kitchen? Dr. Alexandra Ketchum examines our fascination with kitchen computers, from the Jetsons' Foodarackacycle to the world’s first robot kitchen. Plus, celebrated food writer Claudia Roden shares memories from a life dedicated to the joys and history of Mediterranean cooking; Dan Pashman tells us how inventing a new pasta shape has changed his life; and we learn a recipe for a spiced-orange cake that uses shredded phyllo dough instead of flour.

Questions in this episode:

"I have a question about converting some of my older recipes from volume measure to weight measure."

"What’s the difference between Israeli yogurt and American?"

"My question is about lasagna. I notice you use no boil noodles. If I freeze it, should I bake it entirely before freezing it?"

"I made baked stuff scallops last night. What can I do to substitute for the butter?"

"I’m trying to increase the use of dried beans in my diet. I recently salted my cooking water before adding my beans and they came out great. Was that earlier advice wrong?"

Shutterstock 319157783

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. today I'm chatting with veteran food writer, Claudia Roden about her life exploring the food of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. While it's easy to find recipes for baba ghanoush and bouillabaisse today, she tells us that has not always been the case.

Claudia Roden: There have been been a single book published in Egypt. They either have Egyptian food, nor have any other food, and least of all Jewish.

CK: But first, could a computer replace you in the kitchen? Well, with new smart technologies in the kitchen, it's a question that people are actually asking, but it's also been a fascination for decades.

Voice: At the turn of the next century, most food will be stored frozen in individual portions. The computer will keep a running inventory on all foodstuffs, and suggest daily menus based on the nutritional needs of the family. When the meal has been selected, the various portions are fed automatically into the microwave oven for a few seconds of dethawing or warming.

CK: That was a clip from the short film called 1999 AD. It was produced in the late 1960s by Philco Ford, to show their vision of the 1999 house of tomorrow. So, to help us understand our curiosity about computers that cook with me today is Dr. Alexandra Ketchum. She's the author of the Gastro Obscura article, When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers. Dr. Ketchum welcome to Milk Street.

Alexandra Ketchum: Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

CK: So maybe you could just set the stage for all this. Why have we been so interested in not cooking and having a machine do all the work?

AK: That's a great question. So, there's a few reasons. One part of this has to do with the long history of who has primarily done the cooking. So, there's a gender division of this labor, there's also been movements to make household labor more equitable. We do have companies who have come in, especially since the 1950s, and have sold us this idea that they can take care of the cooking with either premade foods or kind of microwavable foods. But cooking and feeding ourselves still takes a lot of time. And so that's where I think this kind of idea and fascination for the kitchen computer, and later kitchen robots comes in.

CK: So, you've looked at different conceptions of the kitchen computer past and present. What did you find?

AK: Yeah, I think the thing that sticks out the most is that what the technologies are actually offering is so different than the way that they're painted. So, I did research by looking at old computer magazines to see what they said about kitchen computers. And in 1980, Byte magazine had an issue about smart home technologies, and kitchen computers. And the cover had this image of a screen with pearls and a champagne glass. And it said, Madam, your dinner is served. But the actual technology itself had nothing to do with any kind of like, robot cooking food or anything, it was basically about recipe storage. So, I think that what's most interesting to me is that there's this kind of projection of what this could do. That's beyond what the capabilities are. But also, this idea of retro futurism, which is that a lot of the fantasies about the future actually reflect kind of retro gender norms. So, the robot right in that idea is addressing the woman of the house and about the dinner.

CK: You know, kitchen robots have been in comic books and the press for decades. Like the Jetsons, for example. I think they even had a machine called something like food-a-rack-a-cycle.

TV clip The Jetsons: Good morning, George. And Jane. What is this anyway? What's it tastes like George? Well, this coffee tastes like rocket fuel. Then it's not coffee, it's tea. There's a cross circuit in the food Iraqi cycle. Lumpy tea. Oh, you got some of the oatmeal fallout, how's your bacon? Raw. And your eggs? Cold

CK: And then you also, you know, mentioned this movie in your article called Smart House, which premiered on the Disney Channel in the late 90s. So, it's a family they move into this house with a computerized housekeeper named Pat. And she can make meals appear in an instant.

Movie clip: Hey, Pat, how about whipping up some pizza? These girls are stars. Actually. Can she make desserts? I'm like completely craving something sweet. Besides me. Here you go girl. yourself.

CK: So, do you think this fascination with technology in the kitchen is driven by popular media? Or do you think it already existed in the media just followed suit.

AK: I think for the larger population, science fiction and shows like The Jetsons, and even up until 1999, with Disney Smart House have really brought attention to the public about the development of these kinds of technologies. But at the same time, behind the scenes, computer scientists and engineers were working on some of these projects.

CK: Right. So, this isn't all just in people's imagination. There really had been kitchen computers that people have manufactured and tried to sell. In 69, 1969, Honeywell put out the first commercially available kitchen computer, but it didn't know how to cook. So, explain what it did do.

AK: So, the Honeywell computer was around the size of a pretty standard kitchen table. It was red and white and had a series of knobs and buttons. And essentially, it was a fancy way of having digitized recipe cards more than anything else.

CK: So, Neiman Marcus sold the Honeywell kitchen computer for drumroll $10,000 which is like about $80,000 in today's money. And then you had to code in the ingredients in a computer language almost like broccoli was 0001101000. Just to get a recipe.

AK: Yeah, I mean, it was basically a gimmick to draw attention to the new Honeywell computer systems that were used for other purposes besides the kitchen computers. Originally was supposed to just be like first show, but they weren't actually going to make them. But there was so much interest, although again, no evidence that anyone bought one that they did actually have to produce 10 of the computers.

CK: One of the most interesting stories was the IBM computer Watson, you know, examining 10s of 1000s of recipes, and then trying to create its own recipes, right? To see if it could compete with a recipe developer. And some of the items they came up with creole shrimp, lamb dumpling, Baltic apple pie, Austrian chocolate Peridot with apricot puree, edamame, a ground beef, and cheese. So, I guess a computer is actually not very good at at doing what humans are very good at, which is developing recipes, right?

AK: Yeah, I mean, I would say that it would be possible to train not necessarily Watson, but some computers using data models in which you gave them more flavor pairings. So, you could eventually teach it. Okay, well, like cinnamon and nutmeg actually go well together. But cinnamon and raw shrimp might not be the best pairing, right? So over time, I guess you could train certain models. But I don't see computers replacing humans when it comes to recipe development. I mean, it could possibly be an aid. But is it an aid that we need or is it just because it's something exciting to see if computers can do it?

CK: Well, as you wrote technology in search of a problem. And that's, I think, once we hit the computer age, people were running around trying to figure out how to use the technology, not whether we need to use it to solve a problem. But hey, we had the technology. Let's use it. So, this year, Moley robotics came out. They claim with the world's first fully robotic kitchen. (AK: Yeah) And actually, a robot does cook complete meals.

Voice: So, the Moley robotic kitchen is a fully integrated unit. And the anthropomorphic hands, which replicates the movement of human hands. That's why it's able to cook for you use the utensils, which are specially optimized for use both by robots and by humans.

CK: So Moley robotics comes out with this $330,000 thing. I mean, are they they're obviously not seriously thinking they're going to, you know, get a return on investment here. Because who's going to buy this? Yeah, so some of this stuff is just float. It's like people doing concept cars at the Detroit Auto Show, right? They're never going to build them. Is that what's going on here? Like a company like Honeywell, and its time is just out there having a little bit of fun with technology to create a little bit of a stir but have realized this is actually not something that's going to come to market.

AK: Yeah, I mean, Honeywell, did it with the Neiman Marcus catalog, it was really supposed to be a publicity stunt. I think many of these things are way to draw attention to the capabilities of these companies. So, Honeywell, showing kind of the processing capability of their computers, Moley robotics showing the capability of their own robots.

CK: So, what do you see for the next 10 years?

AK: Well, you're asking a historian to talk about the future. But if the past is anything of an indication, I would say that we'll continue to have more kind of flashy, gimmicky Items put on the market, but most of them actually won't be adopted by consumers. I think ultimately, what the market is currently offering doesn't have too much of a place in a household right. I don't see in 10 years, Moley Robotics been in every home.

CK: Alex, thank you so much The History of Science Fiction in the Kitchen. Thank you.

AK: Thank you so much for having me.

Movie clip: What's next? The world of 1999 and beyond, is limited only by the boundaries of our imagination today.

CK: That was Dr. Alexandra Ketchum. She's a professor at McGill University. Her article for Gastro Obscura is When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers. Okay, 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 stars in Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.

Sara Moulton: Chris, when you cook, I know you pour yourself a glass of wine, so do I but do you listen to music? Do you listen to the news?

CK: Sara, you've known me a long time I have What music do I listen to almost exclusively?

SM: Grateful Dead

CK: Bingo.

SM: All right. Yeah, we are married, aren't we now

CK: Yeah, it's well, it's weird. There are three things I listened to the Grateful Dead. I will listen to opera, especially Italian opera, which I love. Which makes no sense as a combination and then BBC Radio for extra is if you have you know, Alexa, or one of those things, just say play BBC Radio 4 Extra. It's the fabulous channel, which has really dumb, you know, British comedy from like the 50s. It has mystery theater stuff. It has science fiction. It has, you know, desert island ____, which is that great show where they ask people on to talk about the three songs they would bring to them on a desert island. So, it's just this great channel. (SM: Wow) I would say that's my go to BBC Radio 4 Extra is just phenomenal. I have to check that out. It is really good. Yeah. And you by the way?

SM: Well, we're usually we have a routine. So, I start cooking at 6:30. We eat at 7:30. If all goes well, and we usually listen to the news, and it was funny, because I was thinking wow, how could you listen to this BBC with all these, you know, commentaries that's like multitasking, you're cooking and focusing on cooking and also listening to something making sense of it. But I listened to the nightly news. So, I guess it's the same thing.

CK: No, no, BBC 4 Extra’s is more Benny Hill.

SM: I know. But even so you'll have to listen and pay attention if it's a story or a murder mystery, or whatever it is. But you know, when I'm alone, and I'm working on a project, like when I make the go to recipe for the family, which is short ribs, it would be jazz, old-school jazz, you know, Miles Davis, (CP: I like that too) John Coltrane. All those guys. The trouble is now I'm too lazy to put on record. So, I need somebody to just do me a playlist. I'm going to work on that in the new year.

CK: Okay, time to take some calls. Yes.

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

Caller: This is Becky in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

SM: Well, how nice. How can we help you today?

Caller: I have a question about converting some of my older recipes from volume measure to weight measure.

SM: Good idea.

Caller: Yeah, like I have all of your old cookbooks. And your latest one, you have weights listed, but some of your older ones. And some of my favorite recipes are written as volume. And I'm not sure how to convert them. I think weight is more accurate. But it's also so convenient.

SM: Yeah, weight is 100% more accurate, because we all measure flour differently. It all depends on how you measure it if you pack it, or if you sort of shake it in and level it off. So, I thought, okay, I'm going to go with weights, but then I couldn't find anybody who would agree. So, I went with King Arthur flowers weights, which is one cup of flour is 4.25 ounces, or 120 grams. However, I'm pretty sure, Chris that Milk Street has a different measurement.

CK: We disagree with King Arthur.

SM: Yeah, I know. And then also, if you look at the European model, they have their own idea. So, what I would advise for you because it's sort of a crapshoot, and it depends on if you're dealing with all the same author, then they probably measured their flour all the same way if they measured it. So, you just need to figure out what they meant by one cup. And then you're going to have to do the same thing with a different author. But I hope moving forward, everybody will go with weight, not measure but any rate, Chris

CK: I think you just have to accept, and I measured grams because that's the easiest, but you could do it in ounces. I would just pick a number. It's not the King Arthur's wrong or we're wrong or right, right. We say 130 grams per cup of all purpose, that's roughly four and a half ounces. King Arthur says 120, you just have to pick whatever you want. Because there's no way you're going to figure out what the author had intended unless they actually publish weights, which they rarely do. I would go, of course, I would, I would go with 130 grams per cup. But then cake flour and bread flour are also different, right because they don't weigh the same as all purpose. So, you need to just set that out and write that down for you in the kitchen. You could also do sugar and other things. But flour would be the really the critical one cake flour, bread flour, all-purpose flour.

Caller: If I'm measuring small ingredients, like 12 grams of salt, do you think I should have a micro scale or just use the regular scale?

CK: I wouldn't. Let me give you the numbers all purposes is 130. Cake is probably 120. So, it's a little bit less. Bread flour is a little more like 137 138. So just keep those numbers. Don't worry about small things. Cream of tartar or baking soda. Sugar is pretty easy to measure. It's not a question of packing like flour. It's really the flours you have to worry about because it's hard to measure with volume, as Sara said, because you pack them or don't pack them, and it can make a 20% difference.

Caller: Okay. So, if I go to the Milk Street website, just Google

CK: just Google weighing flour, Milk Street, the chart will come up

SM: But do put Milk Street in there. Otherwise, you're going to get five different opinions.

CK: When we did the homework, we found 10 places with 15 opinions. So

SM: You just have to settle on one. But Becky, if you make any of my recipes go with 120 per cup, (okay,) for the old cookbooks.

Caller: Perfect. That's wonderful.

CK: Becky, thank you so much.

SM: Yes, thanks Becky

Caller: Yes, thank you. Take care. Bye. Bye.

SM: Bye, bye.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Linda Finch

CK: How are you?

Caller: Well, pretty ____ for the day.

CK: This is going to be a good call. I can just tell. How can we help?

Caller: Well, I saw your show about Israel. And I was there several years ago. Well, you know, and I absolutely detest yogurt here. I liked their yogurt. And I have not been able to find any anywhere around here. Of course, I'm West Texas and I thought, and you mentioned or were talking about it, I thought maybe they know what's the difference between the Israeli yogurt and ours.

CK: You know, yogurt is milk because it's heated, it's cultured, and it thickens it cools. And it's four to 5% fat, the difference is going to be what milk are using, you know, if you have great Jersey milk, like you have in some places in Vermont, I know and then you buy something that's more processed, and it's not using Holstein milk or something. It's not as good. So, it's all about the milk. And I don't know what's on your shelves there. But if you can find a local producer, that's going to have flavor, but if you're going to buy a big national brand, it just isn't going to have a lot of taste to it. I'm sorry. But that's it. I mean, you have dairy farms, where you can buy directly, or do you have stores where they sell local yogurts?

Caller: This is indeed cattle country but raised for beef.

CK: That's what I thought the difference in milk and flavor and other things is huge, depending upon the breed. And depending upon what they're eating, depending on the time of year sometimes, you know, if the forage is not good, the milk gets thinner and bluer, and the quality of the yogurts not as good. So, it's all about that. I mean, Sara, do you have any other thoughts?

SM: Yeah, I was just going to ask, what is it that you actually liked Linda about the Israeli yogurt? And what is it that you really don't like about what you can find here? Something about the taste something about the texture?

Caller: Texture, for sure. There was some difference in the taste, but it was mostly I think, the texture.

SM: Okay. And so how did the texture differ?

Caller: It was a lot thinner.

SM: I wonder if what you've mostly been tasting here in the United States is Greek yogurt, which is you know, sort of drained concentrated yogurt in sort of more dense, less creamy.

CK: But I think if you get real yogurt from a farm, you know, or a local producer, it is thinner. If you go into the supermarket and buy non-Greek yogurt, it's set up you know, it definitely is more like custard than it is like real yogurt. Real yogurt is thinner. Yeah, yeah, I think that's right. And so you make a good point. Because once you get the supermarket, you put a spoon in it and take a bite out and it just stays. That whole just stays in the yogurt. But real yogurt if you do that it's more soup like than it is custard like.

SM: Right,

Caller: Thank you so much.

SM: Yes,

CK: It's been a pleasure. Thanks for calling.

Caller: Bye bye

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you want to improve your cooking give us a ring anytime. Our number 855-426-9843. One more time 855-426-9843 or just email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Keiko ___ from Washington State.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: Yes. My question is about the lasagna Bolognese that was introduced in a TV show Milk Street. As I was making it, I noticed that you use no boiled noodles, which I don't use very often at all. And I needed to fix this in order to be able to freeze. So that's how I got started thinking that the thing is that, use no-boiled noodles today bake it entirely before freezing it.

SM: No, I would assemble the whole thing and there's so much liquid in there, I think the noodles would be fine. You don't need to bake it and freeze it and then reheated I would set it up and then freeze it. So, it's ready to go into the oven. Should be fine to go from the freezer to the oven. Or if you want to defrost it for us to frost it in the fridge.

Caller: Is it better to be defrosted if it's all possible before cooking it?

SM: Well, it's going to take longer for sure you know, so from the point of view of knowing when it's done, it might be better to defrost it first in the fridge. Let's see what Chris has to say.

CK: You know, Bolognese is a is a meat sauce, or Ragu doesn't have any dairy in it. Yes, just three kinds of meat and a few veggies. cooks for four or five hours. So, I would freeze the sauce separately actually. And it's no boil noodles. It's the Ragu Bolognese. And then they have a little Parmesan cream sauce they make, (right) which is not too much. So, the best way to do would be to freeze the sauce. And then just assemble and then bake. The thing that would worry about is the noodles as they sit in the sauce and then they slowly freeze and then you have to take it out. defrost it and heat it, you might end up with it. The texture is not ideal noodles. Noodles are always tough. In a freezer, I would agree with Sara, you could try it assembled, freeze it, but I would not prebake it because the noodles

SM: We agree on that

CK: You know, would be disastrous. But the ideal thing would be just to make a big batch of that sauce, which by the way, I could live on for a couple months. And then just assemble it at the last minute because the parmesan cream’s quick and you just know that well noodles don't have to be boiled. So would it take you a few minutes to assemble it and then bake it.

Caller: Okay, so well I guess kind of answered it. I was wondering whether cooked noodles or those noodles been noodles being cooked. Freezes differently in a lasagna.

CK: Freezing cooked noodles is

SM: Not a good idea.

CK: No pasta and liquid just tends to keep absorbing the liquid

SM: and the pasta gets soggier and soggier and soggier

Caller: Yeah. Last question. So, the white sauce will not freeze. Is that right? Yeah, that

CK: Yeah, that Parmesan cream sauce is not going to be ideal yeah.

SM: I mean, it would still taste good. But the texture be strange.

CK: There's no Mozzarella in this. We should just say this is a real lasagna from Bologna so it's tons of meat sauce, some pasta and a little bit of parmesan cream, which is absolutely fabulous.

Caller: Thank you very much.

CK: All right. Thanks so much for calling.

SM: Keiko, thank you. Bye

Caller: Bye.

SM: Take care.

CK: You are listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next is my conversation with food writer, Claudia Roden. 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 food writer Claudia Roden. In 1968, she published her first cookbook, a book of middle eastern food. Now in her latest book Claudia Roden's Mediterranean she has compiled recipes and stories inspired by decades of travel across the region. Claudia, welcome to Milk Street.

Claudia Roden: Oh, thank you for having me. I'm so glad to be here.

CK: So, let me read something for your book. Just it paints a picture that I find so charming. You're talking about being young growing up in Cairo. And you're write, when my father came home from work, we'd sit on the balcony, where we could see sailboats gliding gracefully on the Nile. And Amad our cook would bring a tray of little things to eat. My parents had a rack or whiskey and nibbled at the food. So that world, which I guess no longer exists, was really, you know, pretty special, right?

CR: It is. And it certainly doesn't exist. But I do find still bits of that world and a lot of it that I love, even though we were thrown out. I really feel I’m welcomed back.

CK: Could you talk about that? Because after the Suez War, you said Jews were leaving Egypt in a hurry because they were forced to leave. Could you explain what happened?

CR: Yes, Suez Crisis was when Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, had nationalized the Suez Canal, without compensating the two companies that had built it. And they were French, and English. And so, Britain and France decided to attack Egypt. And they asked Israel to join them. So, the British, the French, and the Jews were thrown out of Egypt, and everybody left everything behind. But for me, it was not such a shock because I was in Europe, I had been to school in Paris. And I had come to London to study art,

CK: You were quite good. You went to St. Martin School of Art in the 50s. And that you, I saw one of your paintings, which looks like a Dutch Master, is that something you you didn't pursue because you were more interested in being a writer and a cookbook author? Or did you continue painting after the?

CR: No, I already went for two years. And that's when my parents arrived with a flood of relatives and friends. And for about 10 years I was in that world of refugees. And so, one thing that they were talking about a lot was recipes. And to me, it felt that the most important thing I could do in the world, was to record our recipes, because I thought, if somebody doesn't do it, it will be lost forever. And definitely, for me, the collecting of recipes, was a way of being close to people who I felt we would have lost.

CK: Well, you point out that exchanging recipes, after being expelled was a way of people connecting with each other, remembering each other, they didn't know if they'd see each other again, so they shared a recipe. So, recipes became, in a way the fabric of refugees, right?

CR: Exactly. Absolutely. It was the one thing also that capture about who we are. There hasn't been a single book published in Egypt, neither have Egyptian food, nor have any other food, and least of all Jewish because the Jews were a very mixed lot. Three of my grandparents had come from Syria, one of my grandmother's was from Turkey. And so, we did have a very mixed kind of food. And now I'm 85 and so a lot of the people know it's their grandchildren who want these recipes. Because it tells them who they are, where their parents and grandparents came from.

CK: You and I've been around a while. You have a really interesting background. And you've seen lots of different cultures at very different times. We always miss the past as we're older. But do you think the past really was better in some ways, or you think that's just a function of being older?

CR: It might be that we remember just the good things of the past, of course, but I don't think we should forget the past either. Because that's how we go forward. But I feel now we are in a global culture. And you can go from one country to the other and you know, everyone speaks English, we listen to the same music even the same foods are fashionable. There is a lot about this culture that I see, which is fantastic and exciting. But there's a lot of it that isn't. But I can see that hopefully that will pass, and that we can hold on to the good things of the past and go back to them.

CK: So, let's talk about Mediterranean cooking. We recently did a book on that, too. And the thing that struck me was it's like dozens or hundreds of different cultures and cuisines and languages, and styles, you know, from Turkey to North Africa. So, to define Mediterranean cooking, which may be impossible. You did a good job. You said part of the charm of Mediterranean cooking is its sobriety. I like the term sobriety.

CR: A lot of the Mediterranean is agricultural, because of the climate. They can grow fantastic vegetables, they can have fruit trees, they can have olive trees, they can have vines. So, it's really rural world. And the rural world is poor on the whole, but they do have marvelous ingredients. But I have to say that apart from this frugal type of cooking, there is also a grand style. There were big empires in this area. And the empires had capitals, there. They had cuisines that were very, very, very refined. And they had lots and lots of chefs who were experimenting.

CK: Yeah, my understanding was in Istanbul Constantinople that there might be 30 or 40 chefs in the palace, each with a specialty.

CR: Yeah, I think there was more than 30 or 40 because at some occasions, they had 2000 people eating. (Yeah) And actually, because of that, Turkey is the first country that had a codified cuisine, because they had to write on a piece of paper, how much to put in a dish when you're going to make rice, how much water because they had all these chefs, who had to really know what they should be doing.

CK: Well, I guess Julia Child wasn't the first person to write a cookbook, like 1000 years before. But some of the things are simply I just want to talk about this. You say a usual way to cook vegetables men training, was to lightly poach in water, and then serve a little salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You know, the simplicity of that is really appealing. But it seems like today that that just is too simple for people, but it just seems so wonderful.

CR: It's out of fashion. Yeah. And of course, if you boil and boil and boil, yes, it's horrible. And I think in Britain, certainly, people used to boil and boil and boil. But it can be very lightly bald. You know, I was in caddies in Spain. And we were so happy my friend was she was boiling all the vegetables in the evening. And it was everything artichokes, but each one had its timing. So, they weren't ever over cooked. And then she just had this lovely olive oil. And that's what I do every single day.

CK: Yeah, it's simple. And I don't know, it's just one of those things that we need to get back to. Um, you also talked about the traditional way of ending a meal in the Mediterranean with fruit. And that also is very appealing to me the notion of some dates or oranges or pistachios at the end of a meal.

CR: Yes. Just be oranges, slice them. Just simple. And that's also a tradition that I adore, in the Middle East that when people come, the hostess starts feeling the fruit for them. And I remember friends in Morocco, they put in a piece of Clementine or tangerine in a date. And this for me, I just will remember it always. It is such a gesture. And I would feel that it is this casualness and simplicity that it is a good thing to adopt. Just have friends over and do the simplest thing, but make it taste good.

CK: So, we started with a balcony overlooking the Nile. But is there another moment that just represents the very best You know what food is all about?

CR: I feel I have a lot, because I spent many years traveling to research the food in places. And I feel for me, there were really, really magic moments. You know, like in Spain, that I just feel, what JOY What joy how lucky lucky I was to be there. And to eat that. And to be with those people. In Italy, I went to every single region to research the food of the region. And in Turkey, I just was in Turkey in November to get an award. Can you believe it? We had so many magnificent banquets, and it was just magical the whole time. Better than going to the opera better than going to the theater. So, yes, I call it magic moments.

CK: Claudia, it's been an honor and a pleasure. And we need to do this again very soon. Thank you.

CR: The honor is my then the pleasure is mine.

CK: That was Claudia Roden. Her latest book is Claudia Roden's Mediterranean. Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude define the genre of magic realism, which is a blending of the every day and the miraculous. You know, magic realism is not just a literary effect. It's also history. Take Claudia Roden's Cairo between the great wars, she remembers watching boats on the Nile from her family's balcony. Now I recently visited a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, and my memories are also dreamlike. A sleepy town square midday, bread baking in a homemade woodfired oven, and the child riding a Palomino through fields of agave plants. So, my suggestion is this, seek out the last remaining destinations of magic realism before they disappear forever.

You're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. Broken phyllo cake with orange and bay how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm doing well.

CK: This is one of those you know, travel things where I talk about a great place to go.

LC: That I didn't get invited to. I got invited

CK: I didn't go actually, my editor JM Hirsch went to Crete to someone we really like a lot Marianna Leivaditaki among other things, she made the world's most interesting dessert. Broken phyllo cake, which is just you know, makes no sense to me whatsoever but is one of my favorite cakes. So, what is broken phyllo cake?

LC: It is a very interesting cake. I almost hesitate to call it a cake just because I think when we think cake, we think birthday layer cake. This one has more of a custardy texture on the inside. And one of the most interesting things about it is that there is no flour in the cake. Technically. Instead, we're using phyllo dough, and that provides sort of the structure of the cake.

CK: I've watched video of making it and we've actually made it in our kitchen a few times. But you start with a big bowl of broken phyllo, right?

LC: That's right. So, you take that phyllo dough that you get in the freezer, roll it into a log and then slice it into strips and that kind of yields the sort of shreds of phyllo dough, and that gets folded into the batter. And the batter is really simple. It's just sugar, orange zest, eggs, yogurt, oil, salt, a little baking powder, because we wanted a slight lift to the cake. But one thing that Marianna taught us she learned is to take that phyllo and put it in the oven before you add it to the batter. She was finding that the cake was a little more dense than she would like and kind of drying out that phyllo dough just gives it just a little bit more structure to be able to absorb that batter.

CK: This is actually relatively simple as cakes go right? It's

LC: It's very simple. You know, you just have to cut that phyllo, toast it in the oven, folded into the batter. it bakes for about 45 minutes, and then it gets topped with a simple syrup which keeps it even more moist than it already is.

CK: Yeah, and the thing is, you said that so interesting is when you take a bite. It does have a soft, as you said almost custardy texture which belies the top you know, you think it's going to be kind of crispy or something but it's very uncious and delicious.

LC: Right and that's simple syrup, which has some really nice warm spices in it. bay leaf cardamom cinnamon sticks and some orange peel. You poke the cake right when it comes out of the oven and pour some of that syrup over the top, it starts to absorb in the cake. Then you pour the rest of it over and let it sit for a couple of hours. So, you get all of that warm spice flavor that orange and that custardy texture. The cake will stay moist for days if it lasts that long, but it's great warm with some sweetened whipped cream mixed with a little yogurt. I even like it cold out of the refrigerator for breakfast.

CK: Yeah, I find it's very good at eight 9 10 11 12 one two, three

LC: I would not be mad to have that as my midnight snack

CK: I’ve tried it at all times during the day and night. Lynn, thank you broken phyllo cake. queerly an unusual recipe but easy and now really one of my favorites. Thank you

LC: Your welcome. You can get this recipe for broken phyllo cake at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Dan Pashman tells us about life as a pasta shape entrepreneur, 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 calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Andy LeBeau. This must be Sara.

SM: C’est moi. And where are you calling from?

Caller: I live in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

SM: Oh, nice. How can we help you?

Caller: Well, it actually happened last night, I made baked stuffed scallops, I make a dry mix, which is Ritz crackers and a little bit of black pepper, a little bit of garlic powder, a little bit of Old Bake. And I make a wet mix, which is butter, Vermouth, and lemon juice. And then you can imagine the rest. What could I do to substitute for the butter.?

SM: If you have a nice tasting olive oil, that is what I would go for? Roughly you use about three quarters of amount of oil to substitute for the butter for one cup of butter. You'd use three quarters of cotton out you're not using cups, but you know what I'm saying

Caller: Sure, sure. Okay,

SM: Chris?

CK: The best way to cook scallops is in a very hot pan. Matter of fact, if you have two very hot pans, it's not a bad idea. And get them really nicely browned on one side and then flip them and do the other side. You can use ghee, right, which is clarified butter. It does not have lactose in it. Usually, the problem with butter is lactose. And then if you want to serve it with something else great. But I think scallops are so good. That would be my take. =

SM: Yeah, I was just going to say I think that Andy really likes this recipe, and you know, it's very New England with the crust. What's great about ghee is it has a nice toasty flavor. It's more interesting than clarified butter.

Caller: I love Milk Street I like you guys. It's so much fun.

CK: Just don't mess with your crushed Ritz crackers.

Caller: Yeah, don't you mess in fact, Chris, I think you should try the Ritz crackers

CK: You know what I think? I'd like pretzel salad so who am I to talk about that

Caller: My last word is that my work world was as a process engineer. And cooking to me is a process. Once you dial down the processing, you have the right ingredients, and it takes two or three or five or six times before you dial it in. But once you dial it in, then it's all about repeatability.

CK: Andrew, thanks for calling. take care.

Caller: All right. I appreciate it. Thank you

SM: Bye bye

CK: If you have a kitchen mystery and want an answer, give us a ring the numbers 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Judy from Austin, Texas.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: Well, I'm trying to increase the use of dried beans in my diet (good). And I've always heard don't salt the cooking water before fully cooking the beans because that will make the beans pass. But I recently salted my cooking water before adding Anasazi beans and they were the most tender creamy flavorful beans ever was that earlier advice just bunk? And what else might I have believed in error? Whether to soak the beans or do the quick soak? Is that necessary? Should I drain off the soaking water? When do I add the aromatics like garlic, onion, tomatoes, other enhancers? Since I believe you and Sara, I thought I'd ask you

CK: We’re in the belief business. Well, you have to soak your beans, I mean unless its lentils, but you know, like a white navy bean

SM: the longer cooking beans,

CK: One quart of water and one tablespoon of kosher salt. So usually, it's two quarts of water and two tablespoons of kosher salt. And we're using Diamond Crystal which is about half as salty per tablespoon as table salt. Soak that overnight up to 24 hours drain it off. And that'll make a huge difference. The beans will come out creamy and they'll cook evenly. I mean, as far as aromatics go, there's very little flavor absorption when you cook beans with like garlic and other things so, I tend to add flavors once the beans are cooked. Like if you put herbs in the water or something that's not really going to make a difference in the beans. So, I would do all that after cooking. But that's the basic method.

SM: Right, I agree.

CK: Am I good?

SM: Yeah. Yeah. It's so funny how we all believe that for so long. You know that acid and salt were so wrong for beans. You shouldn't add them till after. Indeed, that's true about acid because that will toughen the skins. But the salt no, oh contraire. They're deeply flavored. They're much creamier. They're much more tender. It's much better. So yeah, salt do it.

Caller: Good. Well, I'm delighted that you all agree on that. And that's the procedure I will follow.

CK: Good.

SM: Yay.

CK: Thanks for calling.

Caller: Take care. Thank you so much.

CK: Bye.

Caller: Bye. Bye.

CK: Next up, it's time for Dan Pashman. Dan, what's going on?

Dan Pashman: Hey, Chris, how are you?

CK: I'm good. I remember a few months ago you introduced your new was it cascatelli? Is that the name of your new pasta shape?

DP: Cascatelli is my pasta shape that I spent three years inventing, yes. came out last year we make

CK: And you make each piece by hand as it is. But my kids and I and my wife have been enjoying it and I assume you’re now a pasta magnate or something. Right?

DP: Sure, I’ll take magnate or impresario that'd be another good word. But yeah, so I have some exciting updates, Chris, you know, it's been a very exciting kind of crazy year since the pasta launched. At the end of last year, it was named one of Time magazine's best inventions of 2021. And in fact, it was one of the inventions on the cover of the magazine, which was not on my vision board when I when I set out on this mission.

CK: Well, congratulations.

DP Thank you. And then, you know, I've gotten a whole education in supply chains, and manufacturing. And now just recently, I'm excited to tell you, Chris, that we launched a gluten free version.

CK: So, what what is the secret to that? Because I would think getting the right. Tensile strength, as you might say, AND the right chew would be difficult.

DP: It is difficult. And the truth is, you're never going to completely fully replicate what gluten does. It's very unique. But gluten is a protein. And what you can do is the first thing is take starch molecules, and they manipulate the starch molecules, so that they take on some of the same properties of gluten. The other thing you can do is to use a base that has a lot of protein already, such as lentils, or chickpeas. And while that's not exactly the same as gluten protein, it has some similarities. So, the bonds a pasta is made from chickpeas. And when I tested a bunch of them, that was one that I felt had the best texture. But it took longer than I expected to get it made. And I think longer than the folks at Bonza expected because one of the things I've now learned having had a year under my belt of making this pasta shape is that it's really hard to make. It's kind of a miracle that we ever got it made in the first place because getting the ruffles to form. And stay on the shape is like balancing on a razors edge. If you make it too sturdy, and you lose the ruffles entirely. If you make very frilly ruffles, they look beautiful, but then when you cook it, they all fall off.

CK: Do you ever think in high school, you'd be sitting here today worrying about ruffles that fall off?

DP: Look Chris the only class I ever got below a bn was AP biology. But you know, in retrospect, that was where I learned about surface area to volume ratio, which turns out to be a very foundational concept in the world of food. It doesn't only explain why, you know, frogs are able to crawl up trees.

CK: That's the first thing I thought of Dan

DP: It also explains why some pasta’s cook faster than others.

CK: So, so there are 1000s of shapes of pasta,

DP: Hundreds, there's three or 400 shapes with about 1200 names,

CK: Okay and your objective was to create a pasta that held the sauce particularly well. It also had a different experience in the mouth. Is that something many people have said to me, every time you think you've invented something new in the world of food you haven't? Do you think this Cascatelli actually existed at some point in the past or you actually invented something new?

DP: To the best of my knowledge. I actually invented something new, and I you know, obviously, I haven't seen every pasta shape that's ever been invented in human history. But I don't think that this shape could have been made hundreds of years ago, you know, in the hills of Sicily, because being able to extrude this pasta, you know, the machines that they used to make pasta on even a few decades ago wouldn't have been able to do that.

CK: Here's what I want. I want you to take two weeks get a large knapsack, fill it with boxes of Cascatelli and hike the mountains of Sicily, trying out pasta with local families.

DP: That would be great.

CK: And I think we should get a videographer and just get their reactions.

DP: Right, it’s basically just like one nonna after another slamming the door in my face. Let's pitch this to Netflix. Chris. There's a series there.

CK: Dan, thank you very much. You and I are headed to Sicily for two weeks. With a Cascatelli taste test.

DP: My bags are packed Chris.

CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of the Sportful podcast. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in too late or simply want to binge listen every single episode, you can download Milk Street Radio on Apple podcast Spotify wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk There you can download each week's recipe watch the latest season of our television show or learn about our magazine and 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. Producers Sara 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. theme music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Brandl Egloff Christopher Kimball's milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX