Recipes and Revolutions

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First, Fran Drescher talks about her career, her personal struggles, and her new children’s book. Then New York Times’ Dining Section columnist Melissa Clark stops by to announce the winners of our Thanksgiving side dish recipe swap! We’ll speak with the winners. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert Massie tells about the life and reign of Catherine the Great. Dava Sobel explains how Copernicus revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos.

Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher talks about her career as an actress and her new children’s book, Being Wendy, about a girl who lives in an odd town where everyone has to wear a box labeled with what each person does. How will she ever decide on just one box? She's interested in so many things!

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Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe Swap, with Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark, New York Times Dining Section columnist and bestselling cookbook author, chooses her favorite recipes from listener submissions! We'll speak with them about their recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes. Melissa Clark also shares recipes from her new cookbook, Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make. It includes stories of feeding her own family and friends, and is filled with recipes for dishes that will become your go-to meals on busy days—roasts, salads, desserts, and more.

See all the recipes submitted to our Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe Swap.

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How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

Dava Sobel tells how the 16th-century discoveries of Nicolaus Copernicus changed the world. More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos tells how a young German mathematician had Copernicus's manuscript On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres published, in 1543 and explains how the book forever changed humankind's place in the universe.

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Catherine the Great

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert Massie tells the story of Catherine the Great, an obscure young German princess who rose to become the Empress of Russia, one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Massie’s biography Catherine the Great tells the story of her life and legacy.

Comments [7]

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Caraway

For years, my preferred way to eat Brussels sprouts was halved and roasted until the outer leaves got crisp and dark brown, while the centers softened and mellowed. The recipe was almost too easy. I just tossed the halved sprouts with olive oil and salt, and roasted them at high heat until they were blistered and black-edged, and then ate them by the bowlful. Then recently I met a whole other kind of Brussels sprouts dish at my parents’ house, and I liked it a lot. Instead of cut in halves, these sprouts were shredded, then quickly sautéed over high heat so the edges turned golden. Compared to the halved sprouts there was more browning, which meant more caramelization and a sweeter flavor. But another thing I liked was the way the shreds absorbed all the good seasonings in the pan, which never quite penetrate the dense halved sprouts in the same way. The shredded sprouts that my parents made were suffused with Indian spices—mustard seed, cumin, and coconut—and they were delicious. But I wanted to take the dish in another direction when I made it a few weeks later, and that was toward Europe, so I could use plenty of fatty pork products to crisp in the pan and render out fat to coat the shreds. I meant to use bacon, but in the end decided on pancetta, which isn’t smoked and has a gentler, porkier flavor that I hoped would bring out the sweetness of the sprouts. I also added a pinch of caraway seeds to the pan because the pile of shredded sprouts in my food processor looked a little like green cabbage, and green cabbage reminds me of Germany, and Germany reminds me of caraway. It was a long, circuitous road to get to the pan of vegetables, but the sprouts were pure bliss—tender, crisp-edged, pork-coated, and garlicky—and well worth the journey.
Serves 6

1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 ounces pancetta, diced small (1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Use a paring knife to trim the bottoms of the sprouts; peel away any browned leaves. In a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, shred the Brussels sprouts. Toss the sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic, and the caraway seeds.
2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts mixture and cook, tossing, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

What Else?
•  If you don’t have a food processor with a slicing blade, you can cut the Brussels sprouts in quarters and just sauté them for a few extra minutes. (Cover the pan for a few minutes to help them steam as they sauté.) Or you can use a knife, but it will take a while.
•  You really do just want to cook the Brussels sprouts until they are wilted, since the texture is best when the sprouts still have a bit of crunch. In fact, I sometimes eat a salad variation of this dish where I don’t cook the sprouts at all, so don’t worry about undercooking them.
•  This is a great dinner party side dish. Guests love it, it’s pretty all-purpose (pairing well with beef, chicken, or fish), and you can shred the sprouts the day before without any problem. Just store them in the fridge in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container.

From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011,
Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.


Roasted Rutabagas with Maple Syrup and Chile

Every time I roast a rutabaga, I mentally thank Bill Maxwell of Maxwell Farms. He was the one who suggested, then cajoled, then finally insisted that I try rutabagas again when I hadn’t had one in years. “They’re so sweet, I don’t know why people aren’t going crazy for them,” he said, motioning to a milk crate brimming with the waxy vegetables. “Because they’re hard to cut, and then when you cook them, they don’t taste like anything,” I said. “Those must have been old and overgrown. Just try one of these and tell me what you think,” he said, pressing a pineapple-size specimen into my hands. Bill suggested I boil it, mash it, and serve it with caramelized onions. I went home and roasted it instead. I’d read online that roasted rutabaga was the ideal way to cook the vegetable, caramelizing its juices and enhancing its sweetness.
And Bill was right: The rutabaga was wonderful—soft, mellow, browned around the edges, and tasting a little like roasted butternut squash with a pleasantly sharp, turnipy edge. Since that day, I roast rutabagas all the time, often glazed with a little maple syrup or honey to help deepen the browning. In this recipe, I’ve added a pinch of chile for a spicy kick, but the rutabaga is good without it, too, and perhaps more appropriate if you’re feeding small children. The one thing I haven’t done yet is to try Bill’s recipe for a rutabaga mash. But I will soon, now that his rutabaga authority has been so firmly established.
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds rutabagas, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the rutabagas, oil, maple syrup, salt, and cayenne; toss well to combine. Spread the rutabagas in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the rutabagas are tender and dark golden, about 40 minutes.

What Else?
•  Like turnips, rutabagas can be an acquired taste. If you’re still getting used to it, you can substitute some of the rutabagas with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or whatever other root vegetables you are into at the moment.
•  If you haven’t worked with rutabagas before, they are a little bit more watery than most root vegetables. I think this gives them a refreshing feel, even when roasted, but it does mean that you probably won’t achieve that totally crisp, dark brown crust you usually get on roasted vegetables. A nice golden hue is just about right. The maple syrup will also help caramelize them a bit.

From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011,
Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.


Roasted Acorn Squash, Honey, Smoked Pakrika, and Sage Salt, from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now

Seasoned salts are all the rage, and these days it’s a rare gourmet market that doesn’t proudly display a shelf of the wildly conceived crystals, made from all manner of herbs, spices, and even nuts and meats. I’ve even been lured into purchasing some of them. But I can never seem to remember to use them, and they usually sit, unloved and untouched, in my cabinet until I finally throw them out. Not so this woodsy-flavored sage salt. One day, faced with a surplus of sage from the pot on the deck, which needed to get used before it succumbed to a hard winter freeze, I made up a batch. Instead of banishing it to the nether regions of the spice drawer, I left it on the counter in a little bowl, then proceeded to sprinkle it on anything that needed a touch of salt. And in my kitchen, that’s a lot of things. I used it on eggs, I used it on soups, I used it on chili (page 330) and on salads. But the best dish I made with the salt was hands down this simple roasted acorn squash, which I also tossed with honey and smoked paprika for depth and sweetness. It would make a great Thanksgiving side dish if you doubled or tripled the recipe, and it’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot (important if you’re making it for Thanksgiving). And if you don’t want to make the sage salt yourself, you could probably even top the squash with one of those purchased salt blends you’ve probably been tempted into buying. It happens to the best of us.
Serves 4 to 6

2 medium acorn squash, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large sage sprigs (about 16 nice leaves)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2-inch rings. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds from the center of each ring; discard or reserve for toasting (see What Else?).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, paprika, and kosher salt. Arrange the squash on a large baking sheet; pour the paprika oil over the squash and toss well to combine. Place the sage leaves in a small baking pan.
3. Transfer both pans to the oven. Roast the sage leaves until just crisp, about 10 minutes; transfer to a rack to cool. Raise the heat to 400°F. Continue roasting the squash, turning once, until tender and light golden, 20 to 25 minutes more.
4. Transfer the squash to a platter. Crumble the sage in a small bowl (you should have about 11/2 teaspoons) with the coarse salt; sprinkle some of the sage salt over the squash and serve.

What Else?
•  If you want to toast your own squash seeds, rinse the seeds and let dry in a single layer on paper towels (it’s okay if a few bits of squash pulp cling to the seeds). Toss with oil and salt and toast in a 350°F oven until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
•  You don’t have to use acorn squash for this recipe. Any sliced squash will take to the seasonings. I really like it with delicata and sweet dumpling squash, too.
•  You only need a little bit of sage salt for this recipe, and leftovers will be wonderful on all kinds of foodstuffs. I can report that it is especially tasty as a garnish for white bean stew or sprinkled over slices of hot buttered whole grain toast. But use it with an open hand and you won’t be disappointed.

From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.


Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Salted Yogurt, Mint, and Pomegranate Seeds

When the nights turn blustery and the temperature drops, I know that roasted vegetable season has arrived, and I embrace it with reckless abandon. I’ll roast any kind of sturdy vegetable that I can cut up and fit into my oven, but one of my favorites is cauliflower, preferably tossed with whole cumin seeds. Not only does the cumin act as a natural remedy to help reduce the dreaded intestinal gas factor (or so I’ve been told), but it also adds a pleasant earthy flavor to balance the assertive tang of the vegetable.

Roasted cauliflower with cumin makes a nice and simple side dish. Even Dahlia will eat it if she’s distracted enough. But recently I made it into lunch. I roasted up a small head all for myself, and added a topping of salted yogurt (which is simply a good, full-fat yogurt with a little kosher salt mixed in), a few leftover pomegranate seeds (which I can buy at my local market already picked out of the husk), and a smattering of bright green chopped fresh mint. It was a perfect light lunch. It could even be dinner, served over brown rice, bulgur, or some other filling, toasty grain, for a warming meal to start out roasting season right.

Serves 2

1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Plain yogurt, for serving
Chopped fresh mint leaves, for serving
Pomegranate seeds, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cauliflower with the oil, cumin seeds, salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and its edges are toasty, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Whisk a pinch of salt into the yogurt. Dollop the yogurt on top of the cauliflower and strew the mint and pomegranate seeds over the yogurt.

What Else?

•  Don’t worry if your florets seem unevenly cut. The bigger pieces will get tender and golden, while the little bits get crispy-caramelized all over. I think it makes for an excellent contrast of textures.

•  I abhor the chalky texture of low-fat yogurts, so please use full-fat for this dish. The only exception I’ve found is 2 percent plain Greek yogurt, which tastes more or less like the real deal.

•  If you don’t have pomegranate seeds, just leave them off. The dish is lovely enough without them.

From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.


Recipes: Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe Swap Winners

South Indian style Curried Pumpkin
Submitted by Sumukha Ravishankar
3 cups of pealed and cubed pumpkin
2 long green chilies split length wise
1 cup tap water
1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
Salt to taste
Pinch of Turmeric powder
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
1/2 tsp of split yellow peas (dry)
1/4 cup of dry un-roasted shelled peanuts
1 tbsp of fresh or dry unsweetened grated coconut
A few springs of curry leaves
1 tsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat a deep dish pan, add one cup of water, Turmeric, salt, ginger and cubed pumpkin. Let the water come to boil, close the pan and bring down the flame to low. Cook the pumpkin until just done and the water is evaporated.

In a separate non-stick pan, heat oil. When the oil is quite hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the dry split peas, peanuts, green chili and curry leaves. Roast for 1 minute on medium high heat until the peanuts are golden, add the coconut and for 1/2 a minute let the coconut roast in low flame. Stir constantly.

Now add the cooked pumpkin, give it a stir. It is all right if some of the pumpkin pieces are mashed up. Roast the curry for a minute or two. Garnish with cilantro and serve. This is a south Indian style curried pumpkin dish, mildly flavored. One may add green chilies and may also add a pinch of asaphoetida (if one knows what it is and likes the flavor) along with the coconut.



Whipped Parsnips with Roasted Garlic
Submitted by Linda Wexelblatt

1 medium head garlic
1 pound parsnips, peeled, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut 1/4 inch off top of garlic and discard. Wrap head tightly in foil. Place on rack in oven; roast until tender, abut 1 hour. Cool.

Press garlic to release from skin. Mash. Cook parsnips in pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Return parsnips to pot.

Add cream, butter, nutmeg, and mashed garlic. Beat with handheld mixer until smooth, thinning with some of reserved cooking liquid if too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.


Smoking Bishop Cranberry and Fig Compote
Submitted by Helen Conroy

The other day, I was heating a cup of Smoking Bishop—a  citrusy, spiced red wine and port warm punch—while pondering what to do with the bag of organic cranberries I’d purchased that day. The aroma of the punch reminded me of a tasty dessert from Alice Waters’ "Chez Panisse Fruits," made simply by poaching figs in a lightly spiced red wine syrup, then serving them with coffee ice cream. Problem solved! I immediately combined the basic formula for the Smoking Bishop, plumped up a few figs in it and added my cranberries and a tart apple, to create this compote. This needs at least a few days to mellow before it’s at its best. Once it’s ready, however, you’ll be glad you waited.

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon crushed anise seeds (I prefer ones from Spain)
1/3 cup apple brandy
¼ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup red wine (I use a vin ordinaire from southern France)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 dried black mission figs, chopped into 6 – 8 pieces each
2 tablespoons regular molasses
8 ounces organic cranberries
1 tart apple that's been peeled, cored and grated
½ cup ruby port

Combine in a heavy saucepan over medium heat all of the ingredients except the cranberries, apple and port. Simmer for about 10 minutes over very low heat, stirring frequently. Add the cranberries and apple and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 15-20 minutes, until thick and jammy looking. Add the port and simmer for another two minutes. Cool and then put in a jar and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 days before serving. Enjoy! Serves 4 - 6


Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes
Submitted by Louise Flax
1 English cucumber
1 bunch radishes
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp oil

Cut cuke in half, slice 1/4 " thick.
Cut radishes into 8 wedges.
Boil vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper until sugar dissolves. Add oil, pour over cut vegetables. If you allow it to sit in fridge, it softens and melds like a mild kimchi. A nice fresh taste. It’s a variation on an Epicurious recipe.


Barbara Dominianni’s Spaghetti Stuffing
Submitted by Claudia Ocello

This is the stuffing that we have every year with our turkey. My grandmother came to the US from Italy in 1935, and when she found out she had to stuff a turkey for Thanksgiving, her mother-in-law taught her this recipe, which she used in Italy to stuff capretti, or goat. I think it’s a great example of an ethnic influence on an American holiday.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 pound spaghettini, broken into small pieces about 1” long
6 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese
1 pound mozzarella, diced
½ pound sharp Provolone cheese, diced
½ pound sliced Genoa salami, cut into small pieces

Heat olive oil in large skillet and sauté onion and sausage. Let cool.
Cook spaghettini according to package directions and drain.
Combine all ingredients into large bowl and mix well.

We usually don’t stuff the turkey with this, just spread it in a 9 x 12 lightly oiled glass pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes. My mother and I will make the stuffing this year, because my grandmother passed away in July at age 98. She was cooking until 2 months or so before she passed away.

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