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This week, we chat with Vivian Howard about growing up on a tobacco farm in Deep Run, North Carolina; her latest TV show, “Somewhere South”; and the foods she considers her flavor MVPs. Plus, we explore the future of algae-based food; Dan Pashman puts a modern twist on family cocktail parties; and we make Mashed Avocados with Sesame and Chili. (Originally aired on May 29, 2020.)
Questions in this episode:
“I have been experimenting with sourdough bagels. I like to ferment the dough the day before and boil/bake the next morning. The problem that I have is maintaining the tension in the formed bagels while they are in the fridge overnight. They have a ton of tension when I form them but they seem to flop overnight. Is there a way to get around this?”
“Is stoneware better, worse, or same as storing onions or potatoes in a cloth bag?”
“My family recently relocated from NYC to North Carolina. We are having trouble finding decent dumplings. We have performed some research on dipping sauce recipes reminiscent to our favorite NYC places like Mimi Cheng's and are overwhelmed by the number of recipes out there. Could you recommend a dipping sauce recipe: (1) That can be prepared in bulk and last for a long time in the fridge (2) Can be prepared easily, with just a handful of ingredients?”
“I was listening to the show and someone asked about washing their knives in a dishwasher and then Sara said, “do not cut on china, it will dull your knife.” Are there other surfaces that will dull a knife?”
“The Joy of Cooking swears that you cannot make mayonnaise when a thunderstorm threatens or is in progress—it will not bind. I have found this to be the case. Have you? Why does this happen?”
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we're chatting with Chef Vivian Howard we discussed her latest television show Somewhere South and the real meaning of settling down.
Vivian Howard: You know, we moved so often for work and really let that dictate where we settled and you know, maybe we should move for love and surround ourselves with with the people we care about. And I think that's really what I'm not rooted to the soil of Deep Run I'm, you know, routed to the people around me.
CK: Also coming up, we present a fresh take on guacamole and later Dan Pashman tells us about his family's age appropriate version of the cocktail party. But first we hear from Sean Raspet and Lucy Chinen they are the co- founders of Nonfood a company developing algae-based food including a protein bar called Nonbar. Sean and Lucy, welcome to Milk Street.
Sean Raspet and Lucy Chinen: Hi
CK: You guys founded Nonfood and to summarize it, you think that artificial flavors that don't mimic real world flavors is really or should be the future of food in some way. Could you elaborate on that?
Sean Raspet: We think that can be a future food. I think actually though, the core of nonfood is really about using algae and making the most ecologically efficient foods possible. And also, they just allow for more creative possibilities, you know, it can make food or flavor into a kind of art form of its own.
CK: So, let's go back, you worked at Soylent and you developed a flavor called nectar. You were a flavorist. But describe what that means. And how does one come up with a quote unquote, artificial flavor? What's the process?
SR: Yeah, so for me, I in addition to studying flavor chemistry, I also am an artist. And that's kind of how I got interested in flavor as kind of pushing it as an art form. So, in the case of nectar, it was kind of you could say a conceptual flavor, or the concept was actually using the nasal pheromone, which is a pheromone that honeybees use to navigate, and they they mark food with it. So, if they find, you know, a nice field of clover flower, they'll start releasing the nasal pheromone other bees in the area will smell that and they'll note to be drawn to the food. But the nasal pheromone itself is a molecule that has its own flavor, its own smell. It's kind of a floral, somewhat citrus kind of note. And so, I basically just use that as the flavor for nectar.
CK: Lucy, let's bring you in. You're a curator, researcher, and artist. You once were asked the question, why can't you just make an algae burger right? mimic something that exists using a different starting point. And that's not what you're up to. So, what are you up to?
Lucy Chinen: Well, one thing in terms of trying to introduce algae as like a more of a staple food, for me now has become more focused on the issue of people not being used to that flavor profile. And that was something that we started to have more insight on when we did sampling events and things like that, for example, when we sampled the Nonbar, there will be people that they didn't think it was any they thought it tastes like a brownie, or like a brownie with slightly like matcha notes in it. And then there were people that were just really just thought it was like crazy and yeah
SR: Some people Yeah, I think, you know, I think it's like we you could almost probably find it consistent statistical portion of the population that is, you know, very averse to even the idea of trying something new.
CK: So, you were just talking about a bar that people tasted, what was the name of the bar and what was in it?
SR: Yeah, so the Nonbar is an essentially, it's an algae-based protein bar or algae-based nutrition bar. People say it tastes like Fig Newton, maybe with some hints of amaretto. Lucy, do you?
LC: Obviously, the algae kind of lends itself to more of a somewhat savory, savory side, but then there's also a little bit like kind of more spices that are going a little bit in the sweeter direction.
SR: Yes, cinnamon notes. And yeah,
CK: So, I buy a Nonbar. I unwrap it. Does it look like all the other bars out there? Or is it look totally different?
LC: It looks black.
SR: It looks a bit different. Yeah. If you look really closely, it's actually a dark green. But it might as well be
LC: yeah, it's just so dense in green color.
SR: Yeah, it's basically it has a lot of chlorophyll and optically, it makes it much darker.
CK: So, let's talk about algae. Why algae? Why do you think it's the food of the future?
SR: I mean, in a nutshell, you can make the same amount of food, the same amount of nutrition with about one 100th of the resources of a comparable crop. So, if you use a certain type of growing system, that's called a closed photobioreactor. It's basically just kind of like a series of either pipes or just something sort of container that the algae grows in, you can grow it vertically. And that means that you can use really just literally 1% of the amount of land that it takes to grow something like corn or soy or another product. And that also translates into, you know, 1% of the carbon emissions as well. And that's, you know, for us, that's a very important thing.
CK: I read that, quote, it was the original source of food for all animals, and then this really caught my eye, it produces most of the oxygen in the air we breathe today. Is that, is that possible? Is that right?
SR: Yeah, that's correct. People know about the, you know, the Amazon and trees, you know, they call it the kind of the lungs of the planet, but trees produce, you know, a lot of oxygen, but actually, in terms of the weight and the photosynthetic metabolism. It's really algae that that produced most of it.
CK: And so, what is it you were trying to do with a brand design? What what was your brand statement in terms of presenting to the public?
SR: Well, you know, certainly we went for something that's kind of clean and minimal, I guess, but also a little bit, intentionally strange or a little bit like embracing the slight oddity, I would say that's kind of that was kind of our vision for the first brand photoshoot that we did with people lounging around in a living room like doing Cubana with like flower arrangements and stuff like that, you know, it was the idea of a slightly utopian near future wouldn't have to work. What would you be doing if you didn't have to have to work? And then part of that was because people thought protein bar for productivity isn't just something that, you know, you eat when your boss won't let you take a lunch break or something like that. And we, you know, we kind of thought about, like, what would it be like, if food was very affordable? Because algae was being used and if maybe society overall was maybe making better choices, then what could it look like?
LC: That was our like, mood board (SR: Yeah, yeah)
CK: So, you guys are kind of fighting. I mean, to go back to the term Soylent this dystopian future, where you have this sort of, you know, unappealing food stuff, which hopefully is not made from people, but you are actively aggressively playing with that concept. You have a bar that's almost black. You're just hoping that people embrace it as a wonderful dystopian future.
RS: Yeah, I think that. Yeah, we're definitely kind of having fun with those sci fi tropes. And I would say that, you know, in terms of like, the actual food footprint of the world right now, I think we we want people to switch to algae so that there's not a dystopia. I think that the utopia happens if people voluntarily switch to these much more ecologically efficient foods, that dystopia happens if if people don't, but yeah, we hope it doesn't ever come to that obviously.
CK: Well, the next step for me is to go get a box of Nonbars, right I'm going, I'm going to have to try this and see what I think Sean and Lucy thank you so much. It's been a pleasure having you at Milk Street.
RS/LC: Thank you. Thank you.
CK: That was Sean Raspet and Lucy Chinen and co-founders of Nonfood. Right now, Sara Moulton and I are ready to solve your culinary mysteries. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. And also, author of Home Cooking One on One.
Sara Moulton: So, Chris, given that we've all been stuck home a lot and eating more meals than normal, and perhaps, you know, extra time have you been doing making something that you normally wouldn't make?
CK: You know, I've become extremely intimate with my freezer. Oh, a freezer used to be a place where foods went to die in my household? Oh, yes. You know, they would go and then six months later, I Oh, yeah. What about that, oh, that was leftover chili or soup I made, you know, six months ago, I actually very frequently go in and look what's in the freezer. And go, oh, I got a chuck roast, or I got a chicken or I got a pork tenderloin or whatever. I'll start with that are some chicken stock. So that's really been, you know, my adventure. And then secondly, I'll cook something big once a week on a Sunday, maybe beans or whatever it is big pork roast and and then you know, keep eating it. So, this idea of having to have something different every day. You know, I don't even mind eating the same stew three nights in a row. At this point. I could just add a little bit of different herbs to it or whatever. But yeah, it's the way people should cook. And probably the way I should have been cooking. You know, up until now. And so, I love it.
SM: We've all established better habits, I think,
CK: Well, I think frugality makes the best food. I really do. it's always the best food and so, you know, I'm like all things in life. I have to learn the same thing over and over again. But maybe this will stick with me.
SM: Alright, let's take the first call. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Greg.
SM: Where you calling from today?
Caller: I'm calling from Highland, New York.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: With all of my spare time, which I have a lot of now,
SM: Don't we all yeah
Caller: Yeah, it's crazy. But yeah, I've been experimenting with bagels, the issue that I have is that I prefer sourdough. You know, to me, it's just, it's just a better flavor than a yeast bagel. But, you know, it's time consuming. And I don't want to have to wake up at like three in the morning to get them going. So, what my approach was, is that I would make the dough and I stretch it and folded it as I do with my breads and things. And then I would shape the bagels and boil and bake them the next day, but without the basket because they use baskets for my bread. And that comes out well, they kind of wind up like hockey pucks instead of bagels. I put them in the fridge overnight, and I got to do the dough the day before. So, I'm looking for a suggestion kind of had a prime it so that I could do the sourdough aging and such the day before and then bake it the next day.
SM: You're going to want it in time for breakfast is what you're saying.
CK: But I think most, or a lot of bagel recipes do exactly what you do. They make the dough, they shape it, they let it sit in the fridge overnight, they boil it, and then they bake it the next day. I mean, I don't think that's unusual. I've seen a lot of recipes to do that. Exactly.
Caller: I'm not getting any spring. Like it's like they're like these are tastes really good. But they're so flat, which I don't have with bread, you know, so it's weird.
SM: Well, how much of a resting time do they have? You make the dough and you said you shaped them into the rounds before you put them in the fridge overnight? Is that correct?
Caller: Yeah exactly
SM: And then the next morning, you take them out and do you let them come to room temperature before you boiled them?
Caller: I haven't been.
SM: I wonder what do you think Chris?
CK: There is a method that's on Serious Eats, which I go to a lot where they use a Japanese method where they cook flour and water in a skillet. Let it cool. And then they use that when they go make the dough as a base. It gelatinizes the flour, and it keeps them moister you know better the next day. I don't know if that solves the problem of holding the shape. But I think it would give you a softer, less of a hockey puck. I'm no expert on bagels, but that's the one that really stuck out to me as being kind of interesting.
Caller: So, you cook the flour
CK: You cook a small part of the flour,
CK: with water, you cook it in a skillet, briefly. Let it cool. Maybe have a couple of cups of flour or a cup and a half of flour and use that as a base. And then then when you go ahead you add that to the dough when you're making the dough.
CK: And that is a Japanese method for turning out a very soft, moist bread. Interesting that might give you a better texture.
Caller: Yeah, I definitely would like to try that. I recently went to Japan, and I noticed that a lot of their breads are soft and moist. So, I wonder if that's what I'm seeing when I was there. That's interesting.
CK: Go to Serious Eats check it out.
Caller: Yeah, I'm going to try that. Thanks, Chris. Thanks Sara
SM: Thank you
CK: Take care. Okay, bye bye. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Laurie from Marblehead, Massachusetts.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I have a question about countertop storage for onions and potatoes. So, I understand that it's important for onions and potatoes to be stored in a cool dry, well-ventilated area I also not to keep them in close proximity because gases from the onions can accelerate potato sprouting. So, my first question regarding this is stoneware obviously with a cover and ventilation holes, is better worse or the same as storing onions or potatoes in a cloth bag. And further which cloth bag performs better linen, burlap or cotton. What's your take?
CK: I store my onions in a linen bag I just hang on a hook the works great. It has a hole in the top obviously and then a drawstring closure at the bottom so you can first in first out, right the bottom. It works fine. It should be breathable, you want airflow. I think onions you can store just fine at room temperature. Potatoes, however, should be stored at 42 degrees. They should be much cooler in the dark. And so, you're much better off if you have a basement or a dark spot. It's cool. I would not leave them just in your kitchen in a ball or a bag I would put them somewhere out of the way you do not want sunlight on potatoes either. And apples those should be like 33 degrees just above freezing. So, apples very cold potatoes dark and very cool. And then onions I think are fine at room temperature hanging in a bag is great.
Caller: Okay, well here's my conundrum. I now live in an apartment which is which has limited wall space in the kitchen. I can't really hang anything. I do need to keep things out in a counter. What work around, could I use,
SM: I don't have a small apartment. It's not a huge apartment. But I have around the corner from my kitchen, I have this table with a shelf underneath. On the shelf underneath, I have a mesh basket with the onions. I had started putting them in a paper bag. And you know, at least it's down on this bottom shelf. So, and I leave the paper bag little bit open, you know, you want some holes, you need aeration. And because it's the shelf down, it's not an eyesore in the kitchen. Maybe you could do something like that.
Caller: Yeah, possibly, possibly. And here's one other question. You know, lately I've been sewing face masks, and for those to launder them. I got some lingerie laundry bags, which can go in the washer and dryer. So those are mesh.
SM: Yeah, the trouble with the mesh is that lets light in, and you don't want right with the potatoes. So, I'd say for the onions. Fine. Not for the potatoes. Chris, do you want to weigh in?
CK: Yes, I would say it's not so much about the ventilation, which is more critical than other things. It's just about the right temperature and dark. If I lived in an apartment, and I didn't have a cool dark place, I probably would buy very small numbers of potatoes and use them up. I don't think it's a place you're going to keep them around a lot is correct. I would just buy what you need. I wouldn't buy a five-pound bag. They're not going to store that. Well. If it's not cool. And if it's not dark. Yeah, you'll get a week out of it, though. I mean, I put potatoes in a bowl on top of the refrigerator. I don't know why I did that. But you know, it was good for a week, at least week or 10 days. So, you have that much time. It's just two or three weeks it's going to go bad.
Caller: Alright, well, thank you so much.
SM: Okay, yeah. Thanks for calling.
Caller: Bye. Bye,
CK: Bye. This is Milk Street Radio. If you have a cooking question, please give us a ring any time 855-426-9843 That's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Alex from North Carolina.
CK: How can we help you, Alex?
Caller: I'll give you the brief summary. Until my family's relocation from New York City to suburban North Carolina, I was a lifelong York City resident, and the food has generally been very good here in North Carolina, we're having trouble finding decent dumplings and pot stickers in local restaurants. Neither my wife nor I do much cooking. And we therefore don't have much of a desire to attempt making our own dumplings. But I have a theory that even below average frozen or restaurant made dumplings will be improved significantly by a tasty tipping sauce. We'd be grateful if you have any recommendations on a flavorful dumpling sauce recipe that can be prepared in bulk and can also be prepared easily with just a few ingredients.
CK: Yeah, basic formula would be soy sauce. I mean, first of all, you should get really good starting ingredients here because lousy cheap supermarket soy sauce is just not a pleasure. So, so I saw us vinegar. You could use rice wine vinegar, if you wanted a better choice would be black vinegar made with fermented grains sometimes also rice, then a little bit of grated ginger garlic, maybe, although that means you can't keep it as long. And the third thing the really important thing might be a little chilly oil of some kind. So, chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, probably more soy sauce and vinegar two to one or you can experiment with that. And then a little bit of chili oil to taste. Toasted sesame oil is a fourth thing sometimes they put into these. But those are the things I would try the other sauce I keep around with a fish sauce with lime juice and a little bit of sugar. That's a classic sauce. Those are the things I would use Sara.
SM: Yeah, actually, the first sauce you described is exactly what I would do. But I have a question for Alex the sauce that you loved so much from New York. Was it thick? Was it thin? Was it sweet?
Caller: It was thin, there definitely was some chili oil in there.
SM: Was there ginger in it?
Caller: I think so, I’m not positive though.
SM: Uh huh. Well, I think if you went with what Chris had suggested, which is what I would do, I think you'd be fine. But let me just say one thing about toasted sesame oil. It goes rancid very quickly. So, if you buy a bottle, keep it in the fridge. Okay, otherwise it will head south pretty fast.
CK: You can buy now some amazing sauces, like dumpling sauces, etc. And I almost never use a convenience food. But when it comes to a sauce like this, I would look in that direction.
SM: All right. Well, thanks, Alex.
Caller: Yeah, thank you so much. Take care.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio up next. We're chatting with Vivian Howard about her new television show Somewhere South. That and more in just a moment.
This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Vivian Howard. Her new television show on PBS is called Somewhere South. Vivian welcome back to Milk Street.
Vivian Howard: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
CK: You were just one of my favorite interviews in the last year or so. And part of it was because of your storytelling, but part of it is the stories themselves. And we never talked about your family farm. We talked about growing up, Deep Run, but So you grew tobacco and cotton. Just tell us a little bit about the farm.
VH: Yes, so I grew up on my parents’ tobacco farm, and every summer, you know, that's what our summer was all about. It was tobacco season. I mean, I live you know, 15 minutes from the beach. And I never remember going to the beach until I was in like sixth grade because the whole family went to work topping and suckering and burning tobacco. And that was what the summer was all about. And then tobacco went away. And, you know, started to go away in the late 80s, early 90s. And, and my parents transitioned and became hog farmers, and they grow grain to feed the hogs primarily. And so that's a whole other look at agriculture. (Um) you know, I, I am a unicorn in this world, because, you know, I come from that sort of farming background, but have a farm to table restaurant and have been a champion of small farmers. So, I kind of understand both worlds.
CK: So, when you went back back to North Carolina, it was a family farm sold is is it still around. You live near it.
VH: Oh, I live. I live on it. I live across from the Yeah, on the house of the house I grew up in and my my father is 79 years old and still gets up every morning at 4:30 and goes out and does his what? What he calls farming. But what looks like to me is riding around in his pickup truck.
CK: Well, that's called gentleman farming in Vermont. That's what I do. I ride around and look at stuff. All right, you know, so your new show, I watched a bunch of episodes. What I really like about it is you often start out kind of making fun of yourself for you know, you were trying to make the hand pies, the apple pies in the first episode, and it wasn't working. And I love that because there's so many of these shows where everything comes out just right. And everybody looks like an expert. But you're starting out and the dough falls apart, the filling comes out and you have to go talk to other people to go figure out how to do it right.
VH: Yeah, I think that makes more compelling story when you see what is actually happening. And when things are not, you know, tied up in a pretty little bow and I for one can't relate to perfection. So, I like to watch things that I can relate to and that I think that we have tried to be mindful to have that be a big part of our storytelling both in A Chef's Life and in Somewhere South.
CK: So when you do these shows you travel a lot. Of course, you meet a lot of people. Was there a moment or two that really surprised you? Maybe not just the culinary technique, but something about the people you met?
VH: Yes. I mean, you know, we spent several days in Clarkston, Georgia. And you know, Clarkston, Georgia is one of the most diverse square miles in the nation. And it's become a haven for refugees from all over the world. And we spent a good amount of time with a group of female refugees from Burundi. And I went to this woman's home, and she was going to show us how to pound and then cook cassava leaves. And this was for the Greens episode. And so, she pounds the cassava leaves and then she makes this huge feast, and we sit down to eat. And you know, I hardly recognized any of the ingredients on the table. But the way in which we were eating was so incredibly like what I would consider Southern, you know, we had this pot of stewed greens, very highly seasoned stewed greens that cooked for a long, long time we had as starch that was in her kitchen, it was foufou. And in my own it would have been cornbread, a starch to you know, sopped up those greens. And then we had, you know, a platter of braised meat that was kind of messy looking, but really delicious. And it just, it was so beautiful to see how our food traditions that we bring with us wherever we land, how they're shaped by where we land, and how that place where we land and settle how that's been shaped by those food traditions. And there were so many moments like that, in making this show it was really a gift.
CK: You mentioned cooking out of Edna Lewis book. What is it about her that was so charming to you and so influential?
VH: For me, like I, you know, I grew up in eastern North Carolina, eating what I thought was very boring, unsophisticated food. I moved to New York, I worked in a modern southern restaurant there that celebrated the food of the port cities in the south, and I didn't see any of my food in that southern food. And so, when we moved back to eastern North Carolina to open the restaurants I still very much like, didn't have mad respect for the food of eastern North Carolina and the cooks here, but Edna Lewis's book, you know, she celebrated the frugal farmer food and preservation and the simple foods that I grew up eating, like I could see my family's table in hers. And so, it gave it like validated eastern North Carolina food as a cuisine or agricultural rural food as a cuisine, and it just gave me the competence to celebrate it.
CK: You talked about porridge a lot. And I love the way you connected oatmeal to grits to a whole bunch of other things. And so, when you think about porridge, what is porridge to you?
VH: You know, I think porridge is a cooked grain that you know, absorbs many types of liquids. I think often it's a cracked grain. It's definitely comfort food. It's frugal food. It's morning food. It's night food, it's substance. Porridge is something that exists in every culture in every community.
CK: You say when you were a kid, you had microwave grits with American cheese and crumbled sausage in a skillet which you served to your kids, I guess, but
VH: I don't normally that that was their first instinct grits. And we were very transparent about that. I just have to say, Okay
CK: So, one of the other things I love. You know, I know in Vermont, there's a lot of expressions people use. But of course, in North Carolina, I think you are way, way ahead of us. And you mentioned turnip run ups. And I was going like, what is a turnip run up? I'd to go look it up online. So, what is the turnip run up and what are some of the other expressions that you use I wouldn't know about?
VH: Well, a turnip run up is the second coming of a turnip plant or a mustard plant without an edible taproot. So, it's confusing down here because we call a lot of things turnip greens that are not actual turnips with a taproot, but the run up looks like a little bit like broccoli rabe, it has a little floret and it's very tender and juicy, and just has a very distinct early spring taste. And it's kind of it's a delicacy of this region and talking about expressions that we have, you know, we have a lot of words around greens that don't make a lot of sense outside of this place, but we call turnip greens, mustard greens, any kind of stewing green, we call it salad. And so, people will go to the market and say they want a mess of salad. And that means they're going to pick, you know, a little bit of turnip, a little bit of mustard, because they're kind of mixing what they think will make the perfect pot of grains.
CK: So, tell me how to cook collards. You mentioned eating collard sandwiches on the show, and give me like three different ways to cook and serve them.
VH: Well, the traditional way that you know people in eastern North Carolina would cook them would be to start with a ham hoc, a smoked ham hock and bow that for about an hour, hour and a half and then add the collard leaves that the ribs have been cut out of. And that was, you know, a really like classic way to stretch a little bit of meat across a plate. The Lumbee Indians that we film with on the in the Greens episode, they take collard leaves raw collard leaves and roll them up like a cigar. Like you would if you were shipping rotting basil or something and slice those leaves into very, very thin, like noodles almost. And then they will render some sausage in a pot, and then stir fry the leaves in that sausage fat. And I actually prefer them that way. And Vaughn Diaz, who is in that episode, she does collards that are simmered in coconut milk. And you know, so many ways to go beyond that, even like with some green curry paste and ginger, but I think collard greens have been typecast as they there's only one way to treat them. But that's absolutely not true.
CK: If you were cooking anywhere, and you wanted to put dinner on the table quickly, are there things you've learned, as a professional chef, as a home cook, as a mom, or there's some some ideas you might share with us about, you know, spending an hour to get a really great meal on the table?
VH: Yeah, you know, I think cooking a whole chicken on top of something, you know, sliced cauliflower, or rice, the rice becomes so much more flavorful because it's cooking under the drippings of the chicken. You can also actually do that with grits, you know, cooking a chicken or chicken thighs on top of grits in the oven, you'll emerge with like cooked grips, and tasty chicken. And you've made the most of you know, everything all your ingredients.
CK: Those are the two best examples. Chicken and rice and chicken and grits. I'm going to have to go do well, (VH: thank you) You know, I've always wondered, you know, the old expression once they've seen Paris, you will go back to the farm. I mean, you what you saw in New York went back to the family farm, is there something you've figured out or realized about going back home?
VH: You know, when we're not West started considering coming back here, I've said to my parents, it's like, you know, I don't know why you would have given me every opportunity in the book and believe that I would move back to Deep Run North Carolina, you know, because I just didn't think that, you know, this place would be able to support the dreams that I had. But what I have, like, figured out is that I really could not have done what I've done without my family in my backyard without my mom coming over to tell me that, you know, my hair looked awful on TV last night, or that, you know, her dinner at the restaurant was too salty. You know, I think that having my family close and having them in my life and in my presence has really been a grounding force for for both me and my children. And, and what I have also learned is that place does not have to determine the quality and the reach of your work.
CK: Let's assume you don't have a family farm. You don't have that place. But you want some of the attributes of being rooted somewhere. Do you think it's possible to find a Deep Run if you don't come from one?
VH: I do. I think your deep run is wherever your your people that you love are and I think, you know, we move so often for work and really let that dictate where we settle and you know, maybe we should move for love and surround ourselves with with the people we care about. And I think that's really what I'm not rooted to the soil of Deep Run. I'm you know, rooted to the people around me.
CK: So, you've done so much. You know, is there what's what's the thing you have not done or are you, is Vivian Howard a fulfilled person right now?
VH: (Um) unfulfilled Vivian is right now I would really like to plant a garden and harvest a tomato. I have never done that.
CK: What what wait, wait a bit. You've never grown tomatoes. Really?
VH: I've tried. You know four years running. I planted tomatoes and I did get a few cherry tomatoes, but I don't really think that counts when you're trying to know you know?
CK: Nope, that doesn't. You know I've done for years decades have grown grape Sungolds, little cherry tomatoes. I've never grown a great big tomato. And I blame Vermont because just there's not enough hot days but it's probably me.
VH: I blame eastern North Carolina but other people are able to do it here but there is something about a tobacco fungi and tomatoes and and so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
CK: All of us failed tomato growers need a story. We need an out.
VH: Exactly but I'm going to give it a real go this year.
CK: Vivian Howard, what a pleasure having you back and all the best.
VH: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure. Thank you.
CK: That was Vivian Howard chef and host of the television show Somewhere South. When Vivian Howard mentioned turnip runs I had no idea what she was talking about. So, I looked into some other southern food expressions. Well, a buggy is the thing you put your groceries in at the Piggly Wiggly, greens that have been killed have been wilted or cooked. And Poke salad is made from the young greens of pokeweed, which are poisonous if not cooked properly. Of course, there's also madder than a wet hen, pretty as a peach, hold your horses and shush your mouth. The South holds on to its expressions and that is a modern reminder that the past lives on. Or as Faulkner once wrote, “the past is never dead. It's not even past”. Right now, I'm heading into the kitchen of Milk Street to chat with Catherine Smart about this week's recipe mashed avocados with sesame and chili. Catherine how are you?
Catherine Smart: I'm good. Chris.
CK: Today's guacamole day here at Milk Street. We bend to Mexico to work with Diane Kennedy about sort of classic central Mexican version which is very simple. In Colombia, they take hard boiled eggs and mash them in. But in Gaza according to Yasmin Khan, she's the author of Zeitoun. They do something quite different and what do they do there?
CS: Well Chris this version is kind of crunchy, spicy, creamy, and citrusy all at once. Now traditionally, it's made with sumac and that is actually a dried berry that adds a nice kind of citrusy bright note, but we know that sumac can be a little bit difficult for people to find. So, we found that if you combine sweet paprika, cumin, coriander, and a little extra lemon juice, you get a similar kind of kick.
CK: So, it has some other ingredients that are more typical, right garlic, chili, etc. But there's yogurt to this right?
CS: That's right, Chris. There's some whole milk yogurt which adds a little tang and some nice richness to it and olive oil and garlic.
CK: And then we have to serve sesame seeds on top too to give a little bit of a crunch. That's right.
CS: It gives it a nice little bit of crunch and nuttiness. And then you actually drizzle the little more oil and some more of that spice blend. Both cumin and paprika, which makes for a really beautiful presentation.
CK: So, if you're bored with guacamole, you've gotten to that point in your life you can try this Gaza style from Yasmin Khan. It's really good. Thank you, Catherine.
CS: Thanks, Chris. To find the recipe for mashed avocados with sesame and chili go to 177 Milk Street.com
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio coming up. We chat with Dan Pashman about how to turn any old dinner into a fabulous cocktail party. We'll be right back.
This is Milk Street Radio I'm Christopher Kimball. Next up Sara Moulton. I will be taking a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: I'm Cynthia from Fairlawn talking to my two favorite people.
SM: Oh, make our day. How can we help you today, Cynthia?
Caller: Well, I have a question and it came out of another question that you got a while ago about whether a person should put their good chef's knives into the dishwasher. You said of course no. And then Sara, you threw out some kind of a comment at the end that said and remember, don't use your knives on ceramic because it will dull them. And I thought what else does knives I've got all kinds of cooking things here glass marble, plastic, wood, which ones do I use it don't dole my knives when I cut on them?
SM: Well, think about how hard glass and marble are. And the thing about a knife is it has a very delicate edge. And so, when you use it on a very hard surface like marble or glass or china, you are just smashing down that fine, fine edge. So, you want to think about the texture of what you're chopping on. And wood is much better surface for a knife. As is plastic. I'm not really a big fan of plastic, I just don't like it.
Caller: I don’t either.
SM: Yeah, it doesn't damage a knife the way those other hard substances, wood. So, I would go with a good old fashioned wooden cutting board or a plastic board, if that's what you already have the advantage of the plastic as you can throw them in the dishwashing machine. Of course, you cannot do that with a wooden board. But actually, bacteria dies on wood pretty quickly. So as long as you clean it with hot soapy water and let it dry, it should be fine. And one other thing, I keep a separate cutting board for dessert items for sweet items, because I don't want any garlic in my strawberries, if you know what I mean.
Caller: So good advice.
SM: And sometimes people have you know chefs might have different colored cutting boards for you know, meat, poultry, fish, you know, I don't have that much real estate. So, I do have one for sweet stuff and one for savory.
Caller: That really answers those questions. Thank you. I probably realized it was wood. But I have so many other ones and I just thought man ceramic and ever thought of that. But yeah, okay,
CK: I would add one thing about cutting boards. I use wood. But I have an extra board that is polyethylene plastic that fits in the dishwasher for poultry and meats, especially poultry. So, I don't want to use my wooden board for that. So, I will use a plastic board throw it in the dishwasher. I'm done. Sara has a dessert board. I have a poultry board. There you go so
SM: There you go. Yeah, but that makes sense. Jack and Jill. Yeah. Okay.
Caller: Thank you guys.
CK: Thank you.
SM: Take care.
SM: Bye. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Have a cooking question, Sara, and I probably have an answer. Please give us a ring at 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, it's Judy McClintock from ___ Delaware.
CK: And how can we help you?
Caller: I have a question about mayonnaise, which I've been making for years. But I wanted to ask you about this very famous sentence in the Joy of Cooking. This is my old, tattered copy, I'm reading it aloud to you do not try to make mayonnaise if a thunderstorm threatens or is in progress as simply will not bind. And I found that to be absolutely true. And I was wondering
CK: Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait. Now I've heard this before. I should we just talked about it in the office a few months ago. Oh, so give us a testimonial here. You've actually tried this during a thunderstorm?
Caller: Oh, many times. Yeah. I use a blender recipe from the Joy, which is great. It works very well. But it would just spin around in the blender just flopping around and the oil and the vinegar and lemon juice, whatever you were using would just never ever mix.
CK: My understanding of emulsions don't get why the ions in the atmosphere or the electromagnetic radiation from a thunderstorm is going to change emulsification you would have to be because there's some aspect of emulsification that has to do with positive and negative charges, right? (Uh huh) It's sort of like why salt gets sucked into protein and meat because of different charges. It must be true if you've tried it, but I didn't think it had anything to do with positive and negative charges. Sara, do you have some?
SM: No, I have nothing to add. That sounds like voodoo to me
CK: Well, how many times have you actually done this in a thunderstorm? It didn't work.
Caller: I tried it numerous times. And it would even be you know if a thunderstorm was just threatening. It would not bind, absolutely not. So, I about five or six times I tried it and it absolutely didn't work.
SM: That's that's empirical evidence right there.
CK: You know what, this is really, really interesting. My kitchen director is on notice. We're getting into thunderstorm season he will try this. Yeah. Okay, write it up. We definitely have to test this because you sound rational to me. Yeah. Honest, you seem data centric. So, thank you very much. We're going to give that a shot. And we're going to have to get back to both the actual laboratory results and the science right. Yeah.
Caller: Fantastic. Thanks so much. Both of you
SM: Bye bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, my name is Ray Lurie. And here's my tip for cooking asparagus. When steaming asparagus, add a very tiny amount of butter to the water and it will suffuse the asparagus with a buttery taste. Much less butter needed this way, then adding it afterwards. Thank you. Bye
CK: If you'd like to share your own cooking tip on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk Street .com slash Radio Tips. Next up, it's the unpredictable Dan Pashman. Dan Pashman. What have you been up to lately?
Dan Pashman: Well, Chris, let me tell you about Friday nights. Friday night for my wife growing up was Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. In my family's house growing up, although we were Jewish, we're less religious and so for us Friday night was what was called cocktail party.
CK: That that was every night in my household …
DP: And I have very fond memories of cocktail party because well, my parents would have real cocktails, my brother and I would get Shirley Temples. And dinner would be a bunch of mini hotdogs eaten in the living room, like sort of hors d'oeuvres style that was dinner. And so recently, I decided to bring that tradition back in my own household on Saturday nights, because now we do Friday night Shabbat dinner.
CK: So now wait a minute, was this just the way for your parents to get out of cooking a full dinner? I'd that's really smart. I like that
DP: It's very smart. Yes. And I now that I'm doing it with my own kids, I'm also realizing it's a great way to sort of empty out the fridge. Yeah, they always did mini hotdogs, but you can have like any food you have in the fridge that kind of like you don't have enough to feed everyone who lives in your house as the entree, but just to take it up and cut it up and throw some toothpicks out. And suddenly you have a cocktail party, it becomes glamourous.
CK: It's all because of those toothpicks. Right?
DP: It's funny you said that because I actually now now that I'm a parent, I look back on my parent’s cocktail party nights, and I think it was more like an excuse to start drinking as soon as they got home from work, and somehow turned it into a family activity.
CK: Yeah, well, it's absolutely an excuse to drink more and eat less. That's the concept.
DP: So, so we've started doing cocktail party Saturday nights in my house, and I've added a new twist to the tradition in addition to emptying out the fridge and throwing all different kinds of things out on the counter. We get dressed up in fancy clothes,
CK: So, so you're actually wearing socks.
DP: Yeah, your pajamas are my fancy, I think but yeah, usually what I do I just I wear jeans and like a nice t shirt and I put a blazer on top of it. My daughters and my wife usually put on some kind of a dress.
DP: Yeah, and and then I have cocktail umbrellas and we put cocktail umbrellas and everyone's drinks including the kids drinks and it's a ton of fun and and a great way to get rid of all different kinds of foods as I said, you know, so when one night it's meatballs, and then it’s hotdogs cut up. It could be chicken nuggets, it could be anything, you got some extra stale bread, toast it up and put a spread on it cheese's. Whatever you have in your fridge. You can have a cocktail party and it turns like an ordinary night at home with people you live with into like a fun, a fun event.
CK: Well, you also need Cole Porter, right? You need the right music and then afterwards you have to watch My Man Godfrey or something right? I mean, some classic 30s movie
DP: With my kids we don't watch old timey movies instead after dinner and after the cocktails and they are d'oeuvres, we do karaoke.
CK: Karaoke. Really?
DP: Chris, come on. It wouldn't shock me to find that you were a closet karaoke fanatic.
CK: No, not
DP: if you if you had to karaoke like like your life is on the line. You must karaoke one song What song would it be?
CK: Somewhere Over the Rainbow obviously.
CK: And you have to hold a small dog
DP: And what what would you serve at your your cocktail party? What would be the food and the drink emptying out the fridge?
CK: Well, I think you've you've hit on something from a culinary point of view, which is here you have all this bread, right? People often have bread sitting around a lot of its stale. So, you toast it right, and then you you schmear it. So, you can always put stuff in the food processor, take old beans, whatever you got. slice up some onions, soak them in vinegar for 10 minutes to make a nice topping and some greens. I mean stuff on toast. That's where I would go
DP: And then you know, you can connect with other people you can do like a virtual Hangout, you know, you doesn't you can expand it beyond the people who live in your home if you want to. So, it's the cocktail party is limitless, and my kids are so into it. I think this is a tradition. It's going to be it's going to stick.
CK: I like this idea.
DP: And another great thing about this Chris is you know, I often run into an issue because I'm the only person in my household who likes really spicy foods. And so, when I cook an entree, you know, I have my arsenal of hot sauces and I can can spice up mine on my own. With the cocktail party, you can put on all kinds of different dips. You have your meats and your breads, and your cheeses and veggies and I can just put out my spicy dips and I can alter the dipped item to dip ratio on a per bite basis and get more or less dip each time. So, it's really like a whole it's a culinary wonderland when you get the options to to dip into hot sauces and all kinds of sauces all night long
CK: This was started out as a heartwarming story about family traditions from one generation to the next. And now it turns out is just about you getting the food you want in the right ratio. This is all about you, man. I thought this is about family values.
DP: Well, you know, I mean, isn't it really any parent's objective to bring those two things together? I mean, I feel like that's like the parental singularity.
CK: Are you telling you can cocktails and children?
DP: Yeah, yes. I think if you as a parent can find a way to get the food you like, get yourself a nice drink and make your kids happy. Then you are winning.
CK: Perfect. They're happy. The bartender's happy, which is you.
CK: And everybody's happy.
CK: Take care.
DP: Take it easy.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful food podcast. Growing up cocktail hour was a permanent fixture in the Kimble family. At a very inappropriate age. I became the bartender. Old fashions during the winter and gimlets in the summer. The bar was a small corner cupboard, a family antique and the top was stayed with bitters and maraschino juice. It was a ritual a way to transition from work to family and to review the news of the day. Dan Pashman has revived this cultural tradition to include the kids without turning any of them into bartenders. That's it for today. If you tuned in to later just want to listen again. You can download and subscribe to Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com. There you can download each week's recipe. Watch the latest season of a TV show where order our new cookbook, Milk Street Fast and Slow Instant Pot Cooking at the Speed You Need. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with WGBH executive producer Melissa Baldino. Senior audio editor Melissa Allison, co-executive producer Annie Sensibaugh, Associate Producer Jackie Novak, production assistant Sarah Clapp and production help from Debby Paddock. Senior audio engineer David Goodman, a digital editing from Vicki Merrick Sidney Lewis and Samantha Brown, and audio mixing from Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. Theme music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Bernal Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX