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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

(Kitchen Wench/flickr)

On today’s show: Melissa Clark returns to the show with tips and ideas to help us prepare that special Valentine’s Day meal! Chris Terrio talks about writing his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the film “Argo.” Jackie Collins discusses her latest novel, The Power Trip. And former Microsoft executive John Wood describes his efforts to build more libraries in the developing world.

Melissa Clark Makes Valentine's Day Delicious

New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer Melissa Clark offers romantic and delicious ideas for what to make for Valentine's Day—from oysters to chocolate desserts.

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Chris Terrio on Writing the "Argo" Screenplay

Chris Terrio talks about writing the Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Argo.” The film, which is also up for a Best Picture Oscar, is based on the true story of a Hollywood-CIA plan to save a group of diplomats during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

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Jackie Collins on The Power Trip

Jackie Collins, author of 28 New York Times bestselling novels, discusses her latest, The Power Trip. Set on a state-of-the-art luxury yacht off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, a cast of global power-hungry elites turns sour when they find out maybe they don't control as much of the world as they thought they did.

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Spreading Literacy Around the World

Former Microsoft executive John Wood tells about leaving his lucrative career at the age of 35 to found the nonprofit Room to Read and build libraries around the world. In Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy he shares stories of the people Room to Read works to help: impoverished children whose schools and villages have been swept away by war or natural disaster and girls whose educations would otherwise be ignored.

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Guest Picks: Chris Terrio

Chris Terrio was on the Leonard Lopate Show recently to talk about his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the film "Argo." He also told us what he's been reading, watching and listening to. Find out what Chris Terrio's a fan of!

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Recipe: Melissa Clark's Oysters Rockefeller

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup diced fennel
Pinch salt
2 cups chopped, loosely packed spinach
1 small leek, white and green parts, chopped
2 tablespoons Pernod
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
12 oysters on the half shell
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the fennel and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges start to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, leek, and salt and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, until the spinach is wilted. Turn the heat to medium-high, add the Pernod, and cook for 1 minute, until the liquid has bubbled away. Transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and let come to room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese and the panko.

4. Line a baking sheet with a layer of lightly crumpled foil. Arrange the oysters on the foil, bringing the foil up and around the bottoms of the shells to keep them upright. Top the oysters with the spinach mixture, followed by the cheese mixture.  Bake in the upper third of oven until browned on the tops, about 10–12 minutes.

5. Serve on pretty plates with the lemon wedges on the side.

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Recipe: Melissa Clark's Tiny Valentine’s Day Cake for Daniel (Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Butter Rum Crunch Frosting)

I acquired my first 6-inch cake pan when I made the wedding cake for two friends in graduate school. It was a casual affair, a quick jaunt to City Hall followed by a reception at someone’s apartment. My job was to make a chocolate, tiered cake with white buttercream, covered in flowers.

At this point in my baking career I’d never quadrupled a cake recipe, never cut dowels to stack cake layers on top of each other, and had never tried to frost anything more ambitious than a birthday cake. 

But I bumbled my way through it, obsessively reading and rereading the assembly instructions in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, and making sure to have a lot of extra icing and big bright flowers on hand for disasters. 

Well, let’s just say that first cake was a good lesson in why professionally made cakes cost what they do. Even my ugly duck cake was scarily time consuming, especially because I’d forgotten to mix the baking powder into the first batch of batter I put in the oven. Then, for all my best efforts, the poor cake was lopsided and hunchbacked, its pristine white icing strewn here and there with nubby black crumbs that I couldn’t mask, and covered, willy-nilly, with slightly wilted Gerbara daisies. The maid of honor said it was rustic and homemade-looking, and I know she meant it as a compliment. Luckily, it hardly mattered. The bride and groom stopped at a bar on the way to the reception, and drank so many congratulatory shots that when they finally showed up, they barely noticed the cake, which all the tipsy guests devoured with their hands when we ran out of forks. 

Since then, my friends have divorced and remarried, and I have drastically improved my cake-making skills (and plastic fork buying skills). I’ve made four more wedding cakes (never my own, by the way) and all were lovely and not at all lopsided, if still pleasingly homemade-looking and rustic.

All this to say that those 6-inch cake pans that I bought for a wedding cake back in my student days have gotten good use, and not just for wedding cakes. I also love using them to bake tiny little layer cakes to feed four to six. Or in this Valentine’s Day recipe, two, with ample leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

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