Thinking, Playing, Eating, and Believing

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman discusses his ground-breaking work on the connections between economics and psychology, and how the ways we treat our money might not be as rational as you think. The wonderful jazz pianist Marcus Roberts plays songs from his new Christmas album. Lidia Bastianich talks about the uniqueness of Italian-American food. Plus, Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel explains the progressive movement’s complicated relationship with the Obama Administration.

Daniel Kahneman on Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman, who received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, talks about how we think. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, he looks at how intuitive and emotional thinking and slower, more deliberative, and more logical thinking shape our behaviors, judgments, and decisions.

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Marcus Roberts Performs Live

Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts will perform songs from his new album “Celebrating Christmas” live in the studio. On the album, Roberts is joined by Rodney Jordan on bass and his longtime drummer Jason Marsalis, and together they weave familiar holiday melodies into the layered rhythms, tones and textures of traditional jazz.

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Lidia Bastianich’s Italy in America

Lidia Bastianich talks about visiting Italian American communities around eth country that created something new out of the recipes passed down from their ancestors. Lidia’s Italy in America explores this distinctive cuisine, showing us that every kitchen is different, every Italian community distinct, and little clues are buried in each dish—from the Sicilian-style semolina bread and olives in New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwiches to the Neapolitan crust of New York pizza.

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Progress in the Age of Obama

Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel discusses the Obama administration, and her belief that, in the wake of the economic crisis and amidst challenges from the insurgent Tea Party movement, it will take more than one election and one person to reshape American politics. In The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama vanden Heuvel challenges the limits of political debate, arguing that timid incremental change and the forces of money and establishment power that debilitate American politics will be overcome only by independent organizing, strategic creativity, bold ideas, and determined idealism.

Comments [24]

Guest Picks: Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, was on the Lopate Show recently. She also told us what she's been reading and watching recently.


Boston Cream Cake

Boston cream cakes do not sound Italian, but this recipe was given to me by Italians. At Scialo Brothers Bakery in Rhode Island, we found trays upon trays of little chocolate- covered spheres. I thought they were some version of a cassata (a Sicilian domelike cake stuffed with ricotta cream—see page 318), but instead they were individual Boston cream pies. The French chef Sanzian, who worked at the Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House) in Boston is credited with having invented the Boston cream pie. Italian or not, these were delicious.

Make the pastry cream: Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium pot. While whisking, pour in the milk. Set the pot over medium- low heat, and heat the mixture to just below boiling. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Remove the pot from heat, and pour the milk slowly into the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and stir constantly over medium- low heat until the mixture thickens and just begins to simmer. Immediately scrape the mixture into a clean bowl. Let it cool slightly, then cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours or overnight, until chilled and thickened.

Make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a twelve-unit cupcake pan with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt onto a piece of parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Stir in the olive oil, vanilla, and zest. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, to lighten and smooth the batter. Mix in the flour in three additions on low speed, alternating with the orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Once everything has been added, beat the batter on high speed for about 20 seconds.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 12


For The Pastry Cream

1⁄2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

Pinch kosher salt

2 cups milk

2 large eggs


For The Cakes

 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3⁄4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest

3⁄4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice


For The Glaze

2⁄3 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons dark rum

Pinch kosher salt

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped


Make the glaze: Combine the corn syrup, rum, salt, and 2 tablespoons water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Put the chopped chocolate in a heat- proof bowl, and pour the syrup over the chocolate. Stir until the glaze is smooth and shiny and all of the chocolate is melted. Let cool until thickened and just warm to the touch.


To assemble the cakes: Remove the cupcake liners from the cakes.

Split the cakes at the base of the cap with a serrated knife.


To finish: Invert one cake, and place the cake cap on a plate, cut side up. Spoon the pastry cream onto the cake top, then top with inverted cake bottom, like an upside-down mushroom. Spoon the hot chocolate glaze onto the base facing you, letting the glaze run down the sides of the cake, spooning on more if necessary. Repeat with the remaining filled cakes.


Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2011 by Lidia Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Chicken Cacciatore

This dish has roots back in the Renaissance, when people hunted for food and only the wealthy could enjoy chicken. Any way you choose to make it, it is a delicious dish. This dish is good when made with a whole chicken, but I prefer it made only with drumsticks and thighs (six chicken legs, with thighs cut at the joint). It can be made well in advance, and will reheat and remain moist. It is great with polenta or some pasta, but I love it with a chunk of crusty semolina bread.

 Pour 1 cup hot water over the porcini in a bowl. Let soak while you brown the chicken.

Season the chicken all over with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Pour enough vegetable oil into a large Dutch oven to cover the bottom of the pan, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken all over in batches, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Discard the vegetable oil.

Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms back into the soaking liquid, and finely chop the mushrooms.

Add the olive oil to the pot, and bring to medium- high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and celery are caramelized on the edges, about 5 minutes. Put the chicken back in the pot, and pour in the white wine. Drop in the rosemary. Boil until the wine is reduced by half, then add the chopped porcini and the soaking liquid, omitting any gritty residue in the soaking liquid. Once the liquid returns to a boil, add the tomatoes. Rinse out the can with 1 cup hot water and add that as well. Bring to a boil, and simmer to let the sauce come together, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the sliced mushrooms, bell peppers, oregano, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables have begun to soften, about 10 minutes. Uncover, and cook until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

Serves 6


1⁄4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 10 pieces)

4 1⁄2-to- 5- pound chicken, cut into 14 pieces (see note)

2 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt

Vegetable oil, for browning the chicken

2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, cut in eighths, attached at the root end

3 stalks celery, sliced into 1⁄2-inch pieces on the bias

1 cup dry white wine

1 sprig fresh rosemary

28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand

4 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (cremini, button, shiitake)

3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, cut into 1⁄2-inch strips

2 teaspoons dried oregano



Note: The chicken gets cut up as follows: two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, back in two pieces, breast halves in three pieces each.


Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2011 by Lidia Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



Rigatoni Woodsman Style

This is a recipe that everybody loves, easy to make and exemplary of Italian home cooking. Its roots are most likely somewhere with the shepherd community of the Apennines. Traditionally, it includes pasta, ricotta, and some meat in a casing, like sausage or salami. The other ingredients are delicious contemporary additions.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Slip the rigatoni into the pasta water, and cook until al dente.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.


Add the mushrooms, then cover, and cook until the mushrooms release their juices, about 2 minutes. Uncover, and add the sage and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, slosh out the tomato can with 1 cup pasta cooking water, and add it to the sauce, along with the salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Once the sauce is thickened, toss in the peas and scallions. Cook until the scallions wilt, about 2 minutes. Pour 1 cup pasta water and the heavy cream into the sauce. Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.


When it is cooked, remove the pasta with a spider and add directly to the sauce, tossing until the pasta is coated. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Toss again, and serve immediately.

Serves 6


1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta pot

1 pound rigatoni

3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound sweet Italian sausage without fennel seeds, removed from casing

1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake, oyster), thickly sliced

6 fresh sage leaves

28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand

1 cup frozen peas

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano- Reggiano


Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2011 by Lidia Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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