Summer Show! Ice Cream, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Corn and Fruit Crostata | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

Join! 12 weeks for $1

Episode 622
August 19, 2022

Summer Show! Ice Cream, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Corn and Fruit Crostata

Summer Show! Ice Cream, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Corn and Fruit Crostata

This week, we’re diving into the foods of summer. Culinary historian Tonya Hopkins tells us about the Black innovators who made ice cream what it is today; Bill Alexander reveals the history and fate of the tomato; artist Ana Inciardi tracks down a tomato from her family's past; Dan Pashman gives us a lesson on his favorite ways to eat watermelon and corn; and we bake up a Fresh Peach and Raspberry Crostata.

Questions in this episode:

"What are your favorite peppers for baking?"

"How do I make my cream puffs better?"

"What are some ways that I can use leftover wine for cooking purposes?"

    Tonya hopkins

    Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. It's the height of summer which means Dan Pashman is rethinking how he eats his favorite summer foods. When it comes to watermelon. He has a new theory, a mathematical theory that is

    Dan Pashman: Here's the issue with the watermelon. A lot of people are slicing their watermelon wedges too wide. The angle of the tip should not be a 90-degree angle.

    CK: Have you determined the exact angle?

    DP: I would say 30 to 33 degrees.

    CK: Plus, Tonya Hopkins sheds light on the culinary innovators who made ice cream, what it is today,

    Tonya Hopkins: James Hemmings was Jefferson's chef learns the different French techniques and brings them back here. There are approximately five known vanilla ice cream recipes that he came back with. But he it turns out, he's not the only enslaved person of African heritage in Europe, training in the culinary arts and making ice cream.

    CK: First up, we consider the tomato I'm joined now by Bill Alexander, author of Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World. Bill, welcome to Milk Street.

    Bill Alexander: Thanks, Chris. It's nice to be with you.

    CK: A friend of mine, Barry Esterbrook wrote Tomatoland a few years back. And I was shocked to discover something you know, which is that many tomatoes are grown in Florida in sand, which has essentially been cleaned of all organic matter. So, is that is that, is that the main reason why I have not tasted a good tomato in supermarket in about 20 years?

    BA: Well, that's certainly part of the reason perhaps the main reason is that Florida tomatoes are not bred for flavor. They're bred for pretty much anything other than that they're bred to stand up to long travel, they're bred to be picked green and turn red when they're gassed. They're even bred for such odd things as to have like squared off shoulders so that when they are sliced by the fast-food companies who by the great bulk of them, there's less loss at the top and the bottom of each slice.

    CK: So, let's go back and start at the beginning. Okay, so tomatoes show up in Italy in the 16th century. But what's interesting is, nothing happens to the tomato for 300 years. It's an ornamental plant that people think it's poisonous. That just blows my mind. You don't see tomato sauce until the early 19th century in a cookbook in Italy. So, for from 15, whatever to 1807 people are not eating tomatoes, but they have them. It just seems like an odd fact, don't you think?

    BA: Yeah. And part of it was that the time that the tomatoes hit Europe was the Renaissance. And so this was a time when they were going back to you know Roman and Greeks teaching and art and writings. They also revived some ancient texts and medical practices. And that included the works of the second century, Dr. Galen of Pergamum and Galen was perhaps the world's first diet doctor and he had come up with a food classification schema to keep the body's humors balanced and foods were classified hot and cold on the one axis and wet and dry on on the other. So, this is back in the second century. But Renaissance found his writings and adopted some of these the New World foods coming over and safe to say that the the tomato did not fare well. When it got assigned to is hot, cold, wet, dry schema they kind of ended up in the coldest and wettest group, sort of like a damp basement. And so, you know, for that reason, they were considered a very unhealthy food that isn't to say that some people didn't try to eat them. But when they were eating new is almost on a dare the way that tourists going to Japan might try you know, the the poisonous puffer fish.

    CK: So, let's jump ahead to the 40s and 50s. I read there's a connection between the Galapagos turtles and canned tomatoes. And I think it has something to do with digestion, right?

    BA: Yeah, so you know, as long as tomatoes and machines have existed side by side, humankind has been trying to get the machines to pick the tomatoes. And the challenge with that is that unless you're very careful when you pick tomato, it's going to come off with a small piece of the stem and tomato farm you can't have a sharp piece of STEM and your tomatoes would be like a drunken sailor swinging a cutlass on a on a crowded ship. Well, in 1941, a dashing young botanist named Charlie Rick has been described as a mix between Charles Darwin and Indiana Jones joined the delightfully named division of truck crops at University of California Davis, and Charlie Rick made 13 trips to the Andes over the years, which is where the tomato most likely had evolved. And one of those trips, he went over to the Galapagos, and found small, almost a pea sized tomato he'd never seen there. So, he brought these co Galapagos tomatoes back and he just couldn't get them to germinate. He tried all the tricks of the trade, he scraped them. He fed them to some of the local wild birds in Galapagos that he had, because sometimes passing through the digestive tract, an animal will make a seed viable. And finally, he thought of the Galapagos giant tortoise, which he had seen hanging out near some the tomato plants in the islands. And so, what he did was he he had a friend that had a couple in his backyard, and he sent some seeds, and said, Would you please feed these to your tortoises? Send me the tortoise droppings back in, in the mail, which was of course as illegal then, as it is now. And lo and behold, a month later, because tortoises are slow in every regard true to their reputations. He received some dung in the mail. And sure enough, when he planted the seeds, they germinated, these seeds had an important trait that is that instead of coming off at this, with this piece of stem, the tomato would separate at the next weakest spot, which was right at the fruit. So next time you open a can of tomatoes from United States, you can pretty much think of the digestive track of the Galapagos tortoise.

    CK: That should put that right in the label. So fast forward to the 1990s, you wrote that even though there are no GMO tomatoes today, it was in fact, the first food marketed as a GMO food. So, you know what happened?

    BA: Yeah, I mean, back in 1994, the flavor is safer, was released by a bunch of self-proclaimed gene jockeys at West Coast startup called Kalgene. And of all the things that they wanted to do for the first GMO food, if you think about all the wonderful things that GMO crops could do, and reducing famine, and, you know, disease resistant corn and so on, the first thing that they decided to do was to develop a tomato that would not rot as quickly on your windowsill. And so, they submitted this to the FDA, and it took five years for it to get approved. And in that last year, a movie called Jurassic Park appeared.

    CK: I think we all remember that. And that that did not do wonders for that industry.

    BA: What happened was that a man named Jeremy Rifkin, who was anti GMO arranged pickets at movie theaters showing Jurassic Park and talked about the horrible things that would happen if we ate these tomatoes in which we had messed with nature. And by the time that tomato was released, there was kind of a little bit of suspicion. But what really killed them was that they had picked the wrong tomato, and tomato itself, the so-called flavor saver, was just kind of a mediocre tomato.

    CK: I have to ask, are there any hopeful signs for the next 10 years of tomatoes?

    BA: Hmm. You know,

    CK: I guess not. I guess the answer is no to that one.

    BA: I wish. I wish I could say there are. I mean, I you know, to be honest with you, I think the most hopeful sign was that during the COVID pandemic. EMIC people have been buying tomato seeds and starting gardens in record numbers. And I'd say that's a that's a really hopeful sign. Yeah.

    CK: Bill, thank you. Not too many words of hope but one can still look on the bright side. Thank you.

    BA: Thank you, Chris.

    CK: That was Bill Alexander, author of Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World. If you're still looking for an uplifting story about tomatoes let's hear from Milk Street producer Caroline Davis, who spoke with Ana Inciardi about her pursuit of one particularly special tomato. Here's Caroline Davis.

    Caroline Davis: Ana Inciardi is a printmaker based in Portland, Maine. The subject of her prints, food

    Ana Inciardi: Last summer I carved like yeah, baguette, garlic ___, corn and arugula, lemons.

    CD: Ana’s prints often render in vibrant color ingredients central to the cooking of her Sicilian ancestors.

    AI: So, I come from a fourth-generation Italian American family. My great grandmother wrote a Sicilian American cookbook that came out in like the 80s. And all illustrations are really great. And there's like a wonderful photograph of her and my great grandfather in the back and they're really cute.

    CD: Recently Ana created a few tomato prints that really took off a pop art style grid of hothouse tomatoes, a charming print of canned plum tomatoes. These prints were incredibly popular. To track their success, Ana decided to search her work by looking up Inciardi

    tomato online.

    AI: So, I was sitting in my studio googling myself because that's really important to my workday. And then this Inciardi tomato popped up but that had nothing to do with me. Well had nothing to do with my artwork. I just immediately called my parents and my grandmother, and they had no idea what I was talking about.

    CD: Instead of art. Ana had stumbled on a website selling seeds for a specific heirloom varietals. She had never heard of the Inciardi tomato. Convinced she must be connected to it. Anna started digging into her Sicilian ancestry on her father's side of the family. And it turns out, she was right.

    AI: I found out that the seeds were brought over by Enrico Inciardi. He changed his name to Henry Inciardi. He came through Ellis Island September 4,1898 with his family's tomato seeds sown into his clothing.

    CD: Henry Inciardi was a relative of on his great grandfather, and he and his family settled in Chicago. Today, his Inciardi tomatoes continue to be grown in the United States, but they are increasingly rare. Only about 12 farmers still grow the variety, including one in Ohio who runs a farm called Forgotten Heirlooms. Ana decided to contact him.

    AI: He saw my last name and immediately freaked out and I sent him a few tomato prints of mine. And then he sent me 24 seeds in return.

    CD: The lineage of these seeds begins in Italy over a century ago. They've traveled from Sicily via coat pockets and hemlines to Ellis Island to Illinois, and now Maine. Anna and her partner planted their first round of Inciardi tomatoes this year.

    AI: I'm so excited to taste them. I still can't believe that I have never seen one in person. It feels like a gift that I'm getting it at this time in my life.

    CK: That was Ana Inciardi’s story reported by producer Caroline Davis. On a hot summer day in mid-July Ana finally picked her first Inciardi tomatoes, which are nearly seedless prick red and oblong. On it says that they are the perfect tomato for cooking down into a rich pasta sauce. And perhaps also the perfect muse for her next art print. You're listening to Milk Street Radio up next and ice cream history lesson that's coming up in just a moment. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Americans consume more ice cream than any country in the world. That's 1.3 billion gallons per year. But it took centuries for ice cream to evolve into what we know today. So right now, I'm joined by food historian Tanya Hopkins. Her research into the black culinary history of Philadelphia, uncovered the origins of a distinctly American style of ice cream. Tanya, welcome to Milk Street.

    Tonya Hopkins: Hi, happy to be here.

    CK: So, let's do a little ice cream history. It may have gone all the way back to ancient Egypt. But what we would consider ice cream, I guess probably only goes back to Europe in the 17th century, right? Absolutely, exactly. But then we fast forward to the 18th century and arrives here in America. And you say that the key person and bring it over from Europe to America was Thomas Jefferson's enslaved chef James Hemings, right?

    TH: Yeah. I mean, the style here in America was more like a milkshake. Before James learns the different French techniques and brings them back here. But he it turns out, he's not the only enslaved person of African heritage in Europe, training in the culinary arts and making ice cream. But in terms of his influence through Jefferson's table, on the American what becomes iconic, you know, American stuff, mac and cheese and French fries and ice cream. You know, arguably he's had the greatest influence of French trained chefs who do come here. And he was the first classically trained American chef, he just happened to be enslaved.

    CK: There was this recipe that Thomas Jefferson had for vanilla ice cream. But James Hemings you think actually was his recipe that Jefferson copied or?

    TH: I mean, unless Jefferson was also training in the culinary arts alongside James seems, yeah, it's very unlikely that it was his recipe as in one that he would have learned to do. Yeah, it's absolutely James Hemings recipe yeah

    CK: And that was true of many cookbooks in the 19th century was that these were recipes from enslaved cooks. And then the recipes were published in a book by usually a white woman. Right?

    TH: Yeah. I mean, that's, that's one of the planned or unplanned benefits of imposing illiteracy on enslaved people is that ability to transcribe and write their own recipes and have a sense of ownership over them or to publish them was not really viable. Some people were literate, like James actually was literate in English and in French, and we're still looking for those notebooks from his five years of culinary study in France.

    CK: So, he was sent over by Jefferson to study for it was five years it was that long? So, and you also said, I just want to go back to this, you said that the original recipe was more like a loose milkshake served in cups. So, in other words, was there a change from that style to what we would consider ice cream now or when did that happen?

    TH: Right now, that recipe marks the change.

    CK: Oh, that was the change. Okay.

    TH: And my understanding through the research that we've done at the James Hemming Society and Chef Asheville McElveen, is that there are approximately five known vanilla ice cream recipes that he came back with, and then continued to tweak and play with them. But all of them were about arriving at that firm, custody, creamy, you know, style that we would recognize today.

    CK: So now we get to Philadelphia in the early 19th century, of course, Philadelphia style ice cream. It's what most commercialized cream is today, it's made without eggs. So how did Philadelphia become the place where this was popularized?

    TH: So yeah, Philadelphia is an interesting place because it was long a destination for free blacks, some who had never been enslaved, some who have emancipated themselves, the most famous ones being Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. You know, it's a whole there's a whole interesting history that's happening and this juxtaposition of free and enslaved people. But one of the things that connects all of them is the culinary arts is a primary occupation, for a high percentage of people like Washington's cook Hercules and James Hemings. And what happens is people who have either been brought there with enslavers or escape there, a lot of them have these skills and these talents, because you know, remember, it's a time when it's not just about cookery, it's also about all the million things that go along with cookery, like butter making or preserves all of those kinds of things. So, there was a wide range of culinary skill sets that a lot of these African heritage people had and Philadelphia just became this really interesting, early gourmet scene in America. And so, people emerge like Augustus Jackson, and, and a little later Alfred Crowley, who was the first African American, he wouldn't have been called African Americans, then he might have been called Negro or colored or black to hold a patent for the ice cream scoop.

    CK: And you say throughout the 1800s, a lot of black inventors filed for and were granted patents. So, I guess that's something that's been a bit left out of American history among other things. So, were there there were a lot of people inventing things like this, that we just don't know about, or at least most of us don't?

    TH: Yeah, I mean, it wasn't, it makes sense. It's a natural extension. If you are part of many generations, and you yourself have spent your life coming up with solutions to facilitate your work as a laborer, you know, that thinking naturally would lead towards inventions. And Alfred Crowley goes to work at the soda fountain places of the day, and, you know, notices a high amount of tendinitis and whatever. So that was part of his solution was like to invent this device. But before him, there's Augustus Jackson, who finds a way to make a very creamy style of ice cream without eggs.

    CK: So, Augustus Jackson comes up with this idea of taking cold custards, freezing them eggless ice cream, but he built a business out of this right he became a caterer. He distributed ice cream parlors, he actually built already a career around this

    TH: But this became his specialty. And he's also known for flavors for introducing all different kinds of flavors, some of which we still have today. But his specialty was strawberry, and which is one of my favorites and mint, which is also kind of an interesting link to the use of mint among the black bartenders who get creative with mixology, very similarly to the way that some of the ice cream makers get creative with flavors.

    CK: So, catering was a not uncommon career. If you were African American in Philadelphia, right? There were some very famous black caterers in Philadelphia as I remember.

    TH: Yeah, the father of catering. Robert Bogle was someone who escaped slavery out of the Caribbean and comes to Philadelphia. And there were guilds of caterers. They basically were behind the development of fine dining in the northeast, in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and New York for over a century. It was a source of black wealth, also, something we don't hear a lot about in American history, nor how that wealth was used and applied in Philadelphia, to build colored schools and to fund, black troops in the from the Civil War. And a lot of that money that the community used came from catering businesses,

    CK: Does that say something to you about 19th century America in at least this part of the country, the Northeast? That, I mean, our view of it now, looking back, was it actually a very different kind of society?

    RH: It was, but I don't want to glorify it in any way. Because we still know the history of this country at the time that these businesses are thriving the majority of African Americans at the time, again, not even called African Americans at that point, were enslaved. And so, it's really mind boggling to learn all of this, then it also makes me question well, what happened? You know, why aren't there any ice cream empires today? Why aren't there any black catering entities today? It's just astonishing how much things change and how things came undone and how things were not sustained. And it's also just how times are changing and how industry is happening. And you know, they're the Breyers of the world also originated in Philadelphia. So, it's just it's a thing that yeah, people just get put out of business. You know, there's also some research that suggests that they were turned away people who had attempted to work for the now manufacturing ice cream companies were kind of somehow categorized as unskilled laborers. They weren't trained how to flip switches in a factory. I don't know but

    CK: But so, what about this story really surprised you or excited you or depressed you? I mean, it's an interesting story. You know, it's not surprising that these people were so good at what they did. Right? But in the historical context, what's surprising to you?

    RH: That they basically are the foundation of the American ice cream industry. I, that just blows me away sometimes, like, it's just ice cream, not something even me most of us associate with an African heritage thing. But all roads led to that being the thing here, that African heritage people would be the ones to kind of really develop it. And many other food categories with similar patterned stories. You know, you've got companies like Pillsbury, that have worked with a black woman cook from Texas named Lucille to come up with their biscuit recipe. Bisquick the company, you know, that idea came from a Pullman Porter. You know, you have really,

    CK: I didn't know that. Could you tell me that story? I didn't know that.

    RH: Did I tell you or will I tell you?

    CK: No, would you? Yeah. Tell me I want to know

    RH: I can’t tell you now, you got to invite me back Chris we're talking about ice cream

    CK: I don't know it’s pretty interesting.

    RH: But yeah, and so you see this thing, even the early, you know, even the fried chicken franchises, you know, many of these dishes, were not even for the people who were preparing it wasn't until generations later and for special occasions that some of the dishes become part of an African American culinary culture, macaroni and cheese being probably the best example of that. But I guess the ice cream one was the first in a series for me of really understanding how integral to not just, you know, agriculture and growing and harvesting. And that all kind of makes sense about the role of African Americans and American food history. But, you know, now we're talking about you know, industry and am I just I don't know, the the optimist in me wishes that or thinks somehow, well, if people just knew maybe we would have more gratitude for each other if we all knew how much every group, every ethnic group contributed to these things we take for granted today that, you know, maybe people will be more grateful maybe we would be more grateful for each other if we knew what everybody has, has brought to the table.

    CK: So next time, we'll talk about Bisquick. We’ll move on from ice cream to biscuits.

    RH: Yeah, maybe we can come up with a fun recipe that involves biscuits and ice cream, and maybe we can do a new twist on ice cream sandwiches or something

    CK: Strawberry biscuits. Well, mint biscuits there you go. Mint. Yeah, Tonya it's been a pleasure. It's been a real pleasure. And next time it's biscuit. Thank you.

    RH: Yes, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much, Chris.

    CK: That was Tonya Hopkins. She originally shared this history on the podcast episode. How Philly invented ice cream as we know it. For the news website, the Philadelphia Citizen. You know history celebrates watershed inventions. I mean, the printing press, the light bulb, the telegraph, and of course the Wright Brothers airplane. But I always wonder about everyday items that have also changed the world. The Picnic cooler did not exist until 1953. The blender was popularized by bandleader Fred Waring. In fact, he loved vegetable smoothies. The Zippo lighter started manufacturing in 1933, and today there are over half a billion in existence. One of my favorites, the Supersoaker was invented by a NASA engineer in 1989. And the 1950 Hopalong, Cassidy lunchbox took an old idea and transformed the lunchbox industry. So, I say let's celebrate the vendors of the small things from ice cream scoops to sunglasses from pop up toasters to quick release ski bindings. The light bulb is great, but life without a picnic cooler. That's hard to imagine. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. fresh peach and raspberry crostata. Lynn, how are you?

    Lynn Clark: I'm doing well, Chris.

    CK: So, I'm confused. As you know, I love making pies. I've made hundreds or 1000s of pies. But for most people, you know, making pies only at thanksgiving a two-crust pie is problematic for all sorts of reasons, including the crust, mostly the crust. So, a crostata galette, which is essentially a one crust pie with a relatively small amount of fruit filling usually really solves all those problems. It's easy to do. You can't mess it up. And it's great in the summer. So why would I make one of these a crostata people go what's that?

    LC: Right?

    CK: And I go like, how come, why is it this 10 times more popular than a two-crust pie.

    LC: I don't know why obviously you're not hanging around with me all summer because I'd make these all the time in the summertime. It's a perfect way to use fresh fruit, which admittedly in the summer is at its best. And we not only make this easier by just doing one crust but in this particular case, we're actually making it better than your typical pie. So, because We're doing this free form, we don't have to worry as much about slumping or softening or any of those problems that are notorious with pie making. So, we can add more butter to this. This is 10 tablespoons of butter to a cup of flour, that's going to make this much richer, more buttery, more flaky. All of the best parts of a pie crust are getting kind of amped up. The crust itself is super easy to make. It's all done in the food processor, flour, sugar and salt mixed with the butter, form it into a disc and refrigerate it for about an hour. And then when we roll it out, we roll it to about an 11-inch circle. And then we sprinkle it with granulated sugar, and roll it again, another inch so it's 12 inches, that's going to embed that sugar into the dough. Then we flip it over onto a baking sheet and that becomes the bottom crust. And what that does, we put it in the oven on the lowest rack that sugar caramelizes and becomes really nice and crisp. And it really makes for a nice crispy bottom crust which you know, when you're doing a fruit-based dessert often in a pastry that bottom crops can get soggy. This is kind of eliminating that problem. So, we're making it better.

    CK: Well, the other thing you have to worry about is thickening because you're using it like two cups of fruit, so you don't have to worry about that. It's just a little bit of short, like a few tablespoons of sugar and a little bit of zest. Right?

    LC: That’s right sugar, lemon zest. Then we're using peaches and raspberries here. You could use really any combination of peaches and berries or just all berries. And we're not using any thicker. There’re no spices in here which I know you're happy about. I know you're not a fan of at least spices with apple pie. I know that much about you. And then you mix all of that together. Really critical to put that into the middle of that pastry right before you're going to put it in the oven otherwise that sugar will dry out too much moisture and it will be soggy goes into a really hot oven 450 again on the lowest rack for about 30 minutes.

    CK: Yeah, I just made this recently. It is so good. And it also has a higher ratio of crust to fruit. Sure, in my opinion is always a good thing.

    LC: I'm all for the crust.

    CK: I'm all for the crust fresh peach and raspberry crostata or any berry crostata. Thank you, Lynn, easier than pie and I think tastes better.

    LC: You're so welcome. You can get the recipe for fresh peach and raspberry crostata at Milk Street Radio.com

    CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Dan Pashman seeks out the ultimate way to eat corn and watermelon. That's after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Next up, it's time to answer some of your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Also, author of Home Cooking 101.

    Sara Moulton: Hello, Chris, I have a question for you. (Okay) you have some friends who just called you up. They want to come over for dinner. They're in town. You got to throw something together real fast. What is it?

    CK: They're not coming over. That's that's just not going to happen. No, no, I'm serious. We have two young kids. Our family does not operate last minute with two young kids. It just

    SM: Okay. It just in the old days did you have a go to?

    CK: Yeah, I'd have cocktails.

    SM: I applaud that.

    CK: I mean, you would sit down and have wine or cocktails. And then something quickly some finger food of some kind

    SM: Quickly thrown together

    CK: Quickly thrown together, you know, something toasted with a quick spread on top or something? Yeah, but no, I, hey, we're coming over for dinner in 20 minutes. Those days are gone.

    SM: I know.

    CK: I just can't I can't handle anymore.

    SM: I don't have kids. So, I don't know what my excuse is. I wouldn't do it either. But let's say in an imaginary world, somebody who I love happened to be in town you know, somebody who would love me even if it wasn't like a five-course meal. That's my problem with entertaining Do you think they expect too much, but if somebody with low expectations, I'd make a frittata. I’d go rummaging around in the fridge find all the leftovers, make a frittata. Throw some cheese on top or make sure there's cheese in it. I always like cheese and make a big old salad

    CK: Or Spanish tortilla, which is a similar thing right with potatoes. That's a good one. eggs to the rescue

    SM: Eggs always please.

    CK: Yeah. Okay, good. So are you about to call me up and say, hey, I’m coming over for dinner

    SM: Yeah, watch out. Watch out. All right, time to take a call.

    CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: Hello, Chris and Sara. This is Gary from San Francisco,

    CK: How are you?

    Caller: I'm fine thank you. And thank you very much for your educated podcast. And thank you very much for taking my call. (Thank you) The question I have for both of you is the use of chili pepper for baking recipes. And Chris, I know you'd mentioned in your past podcasts your favorite is____ pepper for savory recipes. And so like to get both of your suggestions for pepper varietal for baking recipes either the recipe calls for black pepper as a substitute for black pepper. Or just as in addition to baking spices as a flavor enhancer without adding too much heat.

    CK: Give me a sample of a couple recipes you want to make?

    Caller: Like a chocolate recipe, it could be in a chocolate cake, or it could be any probably gluten free recipe although I don't use traditional flour’s or use maybe an almond flour, and maybe chopped chocolate. And so just like an almond tart

    CK: Well, the one that comes to mind is Urfa pepper, which looks chocolatey it's the sort of damp flakes, they do have sort of a chocolatey flavor to them. They're not too hot. So, if you were going to cook with chocolate, that would be one of the things I'd look at. (Okay) I think Aleppo pepper, or it's called Turkish silk chili pepper sometimes is a red pepper, which is fruity. It's not too hot. That would go pretty well with that. I don't think I go with a really smoky pepper necessarily without it, they can be overwhelming. (Okay) you could also just get a sort of a milder well, depends on which white pepper you have. Some white peppers are pretty interesting and might go very well. A little more subtle without having a strong flavor profile. Just a little bit of heat to it. Those would be a few.

    Caller: Okay, you would recommend those over the ancho I don't know if it's smoked or not, but

    CK: It's a dried poblano. Yeah, I mean, the smoked is like a chipotle is a smoked __ jalapeno chilies, picea are also dark chilies. It's really up to you. You could try it. I mean, I guess the question is, do you want just some subtle heat in a chocolate cake, for example? Or do you want to really taste the smokiness of a chili, which is also fine too

    Caller: Basically, just introduce more complexity to the flavors

    CK: Fruity peppers, like Aleppo is fine, or urfa. And if you want a little smokiness in depth ancho, picea or chipotle will give you more depth

    SM: Picea, so you're talking about a pure chili powder because if you're putting it in a dessert, you're going to need a chili powder, you're not going to add a chili. But picea is often described as sort of chocolaty and raisony. So, to me, that would seem like the best candidate of pure picea chili powder, just adding a little bit of that.

    CK: Where are you going to get to picea chili powder?

    SM: You make your own. (Yeah, okay) grind it up.

    Caller: So, I would get a dried picea chili and then just grind it right, so I would that's the only step I would need to do at home.

    CK: Yeah, you'd have to chop it up and put it in a coffee grinder, electric coffee grinder

    Caller: I would not get a fresh one or get a dried one and grind it up.

    SM: Yeah, it is a dried chili. It's a chilaca is the fresh version. And picea is the dried version.

    Caller: Okay, got it. So just to sum it up, Chris and Sara is just either the urfa or the Aleppo pepper and then coming to the Americas, it'd be like ancho guajillo, picea as you indicated, right to one of those. Okay. Okay, I think that's most helpful. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

    SM: All right. Great.

    CK: Thanks for calling.

    SM: We’re rooting for you. Okay

    Caller: Thank you so much Sara and Chris

    SM: Bye

    CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are here to save you from culinary disaster. Just give us a ring any time or number 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: Hi, this is Pam calling from Grayling, Michigan. How can we help you? Well, growing up in Michigan there used to be a commercial bakery called Saunders. And they were known for several things. They made hot fudge for Sundae’s, and they made a cake called bumpy cake. But they also made

    CK: wait, wait wait what's that cake? What's that?

    Caller: Bumpy cake

    CK: What is it?

    Caller: It's a chocolate cake and then it has piped tubes of some kind of creamed frosting and then covered it all over in chocolate. So, you have the bump with the white filling and the chocolate frosting. Yeah.

    CK: Oh, that sounds good. Yeah

    Caller: It’s quite good. But what I'd like to do is make cream puffs like they made them. They were like the size of a baseball and fairly firm and darker brown. And they were definitely pate a choux but they're not like you know, regular cream puffs that you put pastry cream in there, definitely firmer.

    CK: Well, two things use nonfat milk instead of milk, or water instead of milk that'll give you crispier you could you know, switch to an egg white instead of one of whole eggs. (Okay) or turn the oven off, prop the door open and let them sit in there until they dry out. That's the other things. I think it's a question of leaner choux paste or more baking time to let them dry out very slowly in the oven.

    SM: Another thing that people do with pate a choux with cream puffs is nick it with a knife, then put it back in, let the steam out that's in the middle of it, which will help to dry it out a bit too. You could do that. You know once they're brown and then you want to keep cooking them. I agree with everything else Chris said though in terms of making it a leaner dough.

    CK: I have one other brilliant suggestion.

    SM: Brilliant. Okay, go.

    CK: You know, a convection oven. That would be the thing to do because convection will dry out that shell. So, if you have a convection mode, which just means two little fans, yep. Do convection and just cook them a little longer.

    SM: Yeah, get that nice brown color. Anyway, Pam, please report back. Let us know how it goes

    CK: Yeah, thank you so much.

    Caller: Okay. I’ll do that

    SM: Thank you. Bye, bye.

    CK: Oh, I want bumpy cake. What a great name

    SM: Did you just revert to five years old

    CK: Cake makes me happy. Okay, another call.

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

    Caller: This is Gabrielle calling from Atlanta, Georgia.

    SM: Hi, Gabrielle. How can I help you? How can we help you? I shouldn't make it sound like I'm here alone

    CK: Gee, thanks a lot.

    SM: Yeah, that other guy just ignore him. Yes

    Caller: Well, it's great to talk to you, both of you. My partner and I have become a little bit interested in wine, specifically pairing wine with food, but we're not really big drinkers otherwise. So maybe we'll buy a bottle of wine one week to go with something that we're making. And then we've got half a bottle sitting around in the fridge for a day or two. And sometimes it gets finished the next day, and sometimes it doesn't. I guess my first question is, what are some ways that I can use this leftover wine for cooking purposes? And a sort of follow up question is what are some strategies for storing wine that will increase its longevity.

    SM: I'm going to start very briefly with the storing wine one because that's pretty easy. White wine refrigerated will stay fine for a week we use this thing at home called a vacu van. Air is the enemy here. The vacuum as sucks out the air. In terms of what you can do with it. You could do chicken and white wine. You could do poached fish and wine. You could poach any meat in wine, red or white. Poached pears in wine are fantastic. Obviously, you add sugar to that. You can also turn wine leftover wine into its summertime. Hey, how about some sangria? Add some fruit and some brandy a little bit of sugar. Or you could just do a spritzer you know with some wine and some seltzer that's very nice with white wine in particular or in the winter, there's mulled wine. But any rate, what you can also do is to freeze it and ice cube trays and keep it in a loose bag in the fridge. And then when you need wine for recipe, it's there. You could make butter sauce, which is a French thing you reduce white wine and shallots and till it's almost dry and then whisk in some cold butter and you boom, you got a sauce for fish. Okay, Chris?

    CK: Do you have enough time now that I have to go to bed now, we're done. Well, first of all, let's address the issue of why you have leftover wine. Yeah, well, yeah, so in my household. The only time is leftover wine if only one of us is drinking, and the vacuum van is the best answer. I will however, comment that in my experience, I agree with pears and some of the things fish with meat in particular cooking meat and wine chicken included I think is a bad idea. The meat gets desiccated, it loses flavor. I find the reducing the wine down first. (Yeah) reduce it down, then you could put an ice cube trays and freeze it and then you have a reduction. So, if you had a cup of wine, you might end up with a two or three tablespoons by the time you're done. That's great. And you can add that towards the end of cooking. But really what you should do the next night is to drink the rest and drink the rest. Yeah, right

    Caller: Okay,

    CK: it's absolutely

    Caller: Or have some friends over.

    SM: Yeah,

    CK: Yeah. It's like

    SM: Or make sangria and have a party.

    Caller: Well, thank you. I love those ideas, especially the Sangria with summers in Georgia. I think that will be a go to

    SM: Oh, peaches in there. Yum, yum.

    Caller: Oh, yes wonderful. One quick follow up is what do you think about making vinegar is that a time-consuming process?

    CK: No, you, what I've done is you get a crock, you start with leftover wine, you just keep pouring it in. And it takes about two months. You can either start with a base of vinegar, unpasteurized vinegar, and then add a bunch of red wine or white wine to it. Or you can start with a mother. You can start with that. I just start with vinegar. And then just keep adding wine as you go along and just topping it up. And that's great.

    SM: That's a great idea.

    CK: Yeah, that's actually actually the best idea. Yeah.

    Caller: Okay, so you can continuously add wine to it. It doesn't need to be all in one batch.

    CK: Yeah, it's like sourdough. You keep feeding it. And by the way, that's much better than most of the bottled vinegar you get. It's pretty good. Yeah. So good idea.

    SM: All right, Gabrielle. Thank you.

    CK: Thank you.

    SM: Take care.

    Caller: Thank you so much. I'm a huge fan. Thanks.

    SM: Okay. Bye bye.

    CK: You're listening to Milk Street radio. Next up its culinary troublemaker Dan Pashman. Dan, how are you?

    Dan Pashman: I'm doing well, Chris, I'm enjoying some hot summer weather. It's eat outdoors time, and its corn and watermelon time. Okay. Yeah. And I think we should be a little more thoughtful about how we serve these two foods, Chris.

    CK: Okay.

    DP: Here's the issue with the watermelon. A lot of people are slicing their watermelon wedges too wide. The angle at the tip should not be a 90-degree angle okay, the wedge is the best way to serve it in the summer because you just slice them up, you throw on a platter, the kids can grab them, everyone can walk by and grab, don't don't start cubing them and serving them with toothpicks. You know, it's summertime. But the wedge should not be so wide that when you bite into it, it gets all over your cheeks.

    CK: Have you determined the exact angle?

    DP: I would say 30 to 33 degrees angle, it should be pretty acute. The watermelon wedges should be smaller, too many watermelon wedges in this world are too large. Okay. And I'm here to speak out against those wedges.

    CK: This reminds me of my early geometry classes like acute angles are a thing, right?

    DP: Yes, acute angles are smaller than 90 degrees and obtuse angles larger than 90 degrees. 90 degrees is a right angle. And we need acute angles in our watermelon wedges because then it doesn't smear all over your face. See, you didn't think you'd learn about geometry when you tuned into Milk Street Radio today. But here we are.

    CK: I mean I would say that smearing watermelon over your face is kind of consistent with eating watermelon in hot weather.

    DP: But it doesn't have to be I mean, like, you know, when we when you were growing up, Chris, you're telling me that your mom was cool with it. And when you were running around the backyard in Vermont in your knickers. And you had watermelon over your face. That was okay. No, you're probably sent straight to the washroom

    CK: To be honest. I was in the woods with my 22 all day and I came back at six o'clock for dinner. So, I don't think she was worried about watermelon on my face. Let's just put that to rest. Okay, well, I think that's a fair point. Okay, that's a fair point. Yeah.

    DP: Okay. As for corn, you know, there's a lot of romanticism around this idea of corn on the cob.

    CK: Oh, no, but you're not going to take the kernels off the cob. Are you?

    DP: Chris?

    CK: Oh, here we go.

    DP: It's the best way to do it.

    CK: Oh, Lord.

    DP: Here's the problem with corn on the cob. First of all, you bite up and down the cob, you know, typewriter style, and half of the corn gets stuck in your teeth and half of it stays on the cob.

    CK: Now you need remedial corn eating I used to grow my own corn for many years.

    DP: I'm not surprised.

    CK: So, during the season August mid-August, we go out and pick in Id like eight years and that was it for dinner. That's all I had for dinner right so we we boil up a bunch of corn freshly picked put it a huge platter. Yes, I put butter on it. Yes, I salted it. And there's nothing left that the whole joy of it is getting every single kernel off, which takes some time and attention. So, leaving kernels on no

    DP: I'll grant you that it's fun to eat it that way

    CK: It is fun.

    DP: I just feel like it gets stuck in my teeth and then I there's a lot left there. And also, if you remove the kernels, you can then mix the kernels with all different kinds of seasonings that make the corn more interesting and exciting to eat.

    CK: So, here's the Kimball family butter all over their faces corn kernels all over their hands. The table a complete mess (right) and then there's the passionate family with dainty little silver spoons

    DP: That's us yes. Yeah

    CK: and nice little China bowls. eating corn kernels

    DP: We only dress in our formal wear for all of our barbecues.

    CK: Yes. white tie cord off the cuff

    DP: That's right only in our finest.

    CK: So, are you mixing the corn with what mayo? What are you putting on it?

    DP: I wouldn't do mayo. I would, I would love like some crumbled dry salty cheese or feta cheese into a cotija you know, maybe you slice up some cherry tomatoes and mix them in there avocado and scallions.

    CK: Okay

    DP: I’d even saw a great looking recipe for corn kernels in a cookbook that I picked up called Milk Street the World in a Skillet.

    CK: That's a cheap shot. Using my own recipe against me,

    DP: This looks great Chris such a corn with miso butter and scallions. This is a fantastic looking dish. I can't wait to cook this dish

    CK: I make a great pasta dish with corn and cherry tomatoes. I think corn off the cob is a great ingredient.

    DP: Okay.

    CK: But at the height of the season when the corn is just perfectly sweet and just picked. There is a ritual called corn on the cob. Which, which I think is it's a family event. It's an exercise. It's a you know, it's a sport.

    DP: All right, so I'll compromise with you on this one cut corn on the cob one month a year off the cob the other 11 months.

    CK: Well, we could argue that fair enough. I mean, they're both okay. Right now, what's that device I used in geometry class to measure angles,

    DP: A protractor

    CK: A protractor, I need a protractor to get my 30 to 33 degrees on the watermelon slice, right? That's right.

    DP: That's right. Yeah. Why don't you sell those in the Milk Street store watermelon protractors.

    CK: Dan, thank you for another protracted segment here on Milk Street. Take care.

    DP: Thanks, Chris.

    CK: That was Dan Pashman. He's the host of the Sportful podcast also inventor of the pasta shape, Cascatelli. That's it for today we have over 200 episodes at Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street radio.com. Wherever you find your podcasts to explore 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, or explore our online store. 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 cooking questions and thanks as always for listening.

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