Beyond Butternut: A Guide to Squash, Gourds, Pumpkins & More!
Tis the season for squash! Although most of us are only familiar with a handful of squashes, there are 150 varieties of heirloom pumpkins, squash, and gourds. For this week's Please Explain, Chef Alfred Portale, executive chef and co-owner of the Gotham Bar and Grill, shares his favorite ways to cook different kinds of squash. Zaid Kurdieh, a professor and partner operator of Norwich Meadows Farm, LLC, a certified organic, diversified vegetable farm in Norwich, NY, also joins us to discuss squash varieties and share growing tips. Recipes (Courtesy of Alfred Portale) Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Crème Fraîche Makes 6 servings The porridge like consistency of this soup preserves all the distinguishing characteristics of butternut squash, to which hints of nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon are added for a soul-warming autumnal starter that's as comforting and nurturing as an evening in front of a roaring fire. To coax out as much flavor as possible, the squash is first cut into cubes that are heated slowly in butter until thoroughly caramelized and just beginning to break down around the edges. When shopping, look for a butternut squash with a long neck and pick it up to gauge its weight: if it feels heavy for its size, it will have a small seedbed, which means more usable flesh inside. The crème fraîche behaves almost like a condiment here; swirl it in, or let it rest decoratively on top. Thinking Ahead: The soup and the crème fraîche can be made a day in advance; if you do this, do not enrich the soup with butter until reheating the next day. SOUP: ¼ cup unsalted butter 4 pounds fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1-inch cubes Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste 2 shallots, peeled and sliced 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced 2 sprigs fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 2 cups White Chicken Stock In a 12-inch saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the squash and season it with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely caramelized but still firm. When the squash is nearly cooked, heat 1 more tablespoon of butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until translucent. Add the garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf, and stir for about a minute. Add the squash and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, and purèe until smooth. Return the soup to the pot to keep warm. Stir in the last 2 tablespoons of butter to enrich and thicken the soup. Ladle it into bowls and garnish each serving with a swirl of crème fraîche. Variations: You can vary the squash, using buttercup or sugar pumpkin if you prefer their flavor. SPICED CRÈME FRAICHE 1/3 cup crème fraiche 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste In a stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Whisk again before serving. Flavor Building: Stir in pieces of duck confit to add gamey punctuation, or top the soup with chopped, roasted chestnuts. Squash- Avoid acorn squash in recipes that call for peeling and dicing; its deep ridges make this task almost impossible. Instead, use acorn squash for roasting, after which the pulp can be easily scooped out. Butternut Squash Risotto, Maple-Smoked Bacon, and Sage Makes 6 appetizer or 4 main-course servings When summer has long since turned to fall and the bitter cold of winter is just weeks away, I suggest preparing this dish to offer reassuring warmth to a small circle of friends and family. Based on a Venetian holiday recipe, this risotto boasts a rare and invigorating combination of ingredients both to welcome and combat the chill of the season. Part of the recipe's impact derives from the spiced butter that finishes it with a powerful dose of garlic, chervil, marjoram, cinnamon, and ginger. But there's an equally important step that's worth noting here: Many risotto recipes cook all the ingredients into the rice, but the success of this dish depends on not doing this, but adding the squash at the end to keep its flavor isolated and allow each bite to bring a different sensation to the palate. To achieve this effect, it's absolutely essential that the delicate, caramelized squash cubes be stirred in as gently as possible just prior to serving. Not only does this preserve the integrity of the squash's flavor, but the orange cubes will punctuate the risotto with dazzling bursts of color. You might also break with the convention of serving risotto as either an appetizer or an entrée, and use this one as a side dish with roast pork (squash, cinnamon, and marjoram are commonly used to season pork) or simple roast chicken. Also, the bacon in this risotto will provide an understated continuity to the plate. Thinking Ahead: The spiced butter may be prepared up to 8 hours in advance, covered, and refrigerated. The caramelized squash may be prepared as much as 1 hour in advance, covered, and held at room temperature. SPICED BUTTER: 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 4 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Puree 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chervil 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh marjoram ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon ground ginger Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and set aside at room temperature. CARMELIZED SQUASH: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 large (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch cubes Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste 2 teaspoons light brown sugar In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Season the squash with salt and pepper, add it to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cook until the squash is caramelized, but still holding its shape, about 2 minutes. Set aside. RISOTTO ASSEMBLY: About 2 quarts Double Turkey Stock 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 ounces slab bacon, preferably maple-smoked, cut into ½-inch dice 1 cup minced shallots or onions 1 pound Italian rice, preferably Vialone Nano, if available, or arborio 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves ½ cup dry white win 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and keep hot on a very low flame. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the rice, sage, and thyme. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the rice is coated, has released its starch, turns a milky opaque white, and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and boil until completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle about 1 cup of the simmering stock into the rice. Cook, stirring often, until the stock is almost completely absorbed by the rice. Continue cooking and stirring, adding another cup of stock only when the previous addition has been absorbed. After 15 minutes, begin tasting the rice. At this point, add the remaining stock judiciously. The rice should be firm, yet cooked through in 18 to 20 minutes total cooking time. Stir in the spiced butter and the parsley, and season with salt and pepper, then gently fold in the squash cubes, keeping them as intact as possible. Transfer the risotto to warmed bowls and serve immediately. Variations: You may substitute another winter squash for the butternut. I recommend Hubbard, acorn, or buttercup. To expand your knowledge of the varieties of squash, try a different one each time you prepare this dish to determine which you like best and how each one plays in this context.
Beyond Butternut: A Guide to Squash, Gourds, Pumpkins & More!
We're taking you behind the scenes at The Leonard Lopate Show on today's Please Explain with Executive Producer Melissa Eagan! She and Leonard will talk about the history of the show, share some of their favorite stories and look back at a few of our most memorable guests. What have you always wanted to know about the show? Give us a call at 212-433-9692, send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Leonard and Melissa at the old WNYC offices at the Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street, c. 1993. (WNYC/Leonard Lopate Show) Leonard with Brian Lehrer! (WNYC/Leonard Lopate Show)
Centuries before the restaurant became a dining destination, a "restaurant" was actually a medicinal broth that contained ingredients like capon, gold ducats, rubies and other precious gems. So how did restaurants become what they are today? When did eating become an enjoyable, leisurely activity? Rebecca Spang, author of The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture, joins us for today's Please Explain all about the history of restaurants! Dr. Spang is a Professor of History, Director of the Liberal Arts + Management Program and Director of the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Do you have questions about restaurant history? Give us a call at 212-433-9692, send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
Reports of sinister clowns in the news have us thinking about creepiness. Why are some things simply scary, and other things genuinely creepy? On today's Please Explain, David Livingstone Smith, Professor of Philosophy at the University of New England, offers some insight in an essay for Aeon called, "A theory of creepiness." He tells us how scientists and researchers have attempted to measure and classify creepiness - from robots that are designed to look like humans (but something isn't quite right), to being put off by physical traits like "unkempt hair, bulging eyes, [and] abnormally long fingers." David Livingstone Smith is the author of seven books, most recently, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others.
Bees, Wasps, Ants, Scorpions... Whose Stings Hurt the Most?
Is it worse to be stung by a scorpion or a bee? Ask Justin O. Schmidt, a biologist at Southwestern Biological Institute, who's also affiliated with the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona and the author of The Sting of the Wild. Dr. Schmidt has let more than 83 different species of stinging insects from all over the world attack him... all in the name of science! Schmidt is the inventor of the eponymous "Schmidt Sting Pain Index," which ranks the relative pain caused by insect stings on various parts of the body. On this week's Please Explain, he'll explain why insects sting in the first place, and what happens to them (and us) when they do it. Have questions about insect stings? Send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
Bees, Wasps, Ants, Scorpions... Whose Stings Hurt the Most?
Dreams are a natural part of life, and throughout human history, people have tried to interpret their dreams. But dreaming, in many ways, still remains mysterious. On this week's Please Explain, we'll find out what happens in our brains while we dream, what causes nightmares and lucid dreaming, and why some of us talk and walk in our sleep. We'll also learn about the many ways psychologists interpret dreams. Joining us is Dr. Michael Breus, a Clinical Psychologist, Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He's the author of several books, most recently, The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More and Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, a dream researcher and Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, Senior Editor of the APA journal Dreaming and the author of Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion. Have questions about dreaming? Send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Events: Kelly Bulkeley will be part of a panel at the New York Academy of Sciences on December 7th, talking about dreams and new research on the unconscious. He'll be giving a talk at the National Arts Club on January 30th about the film "Pan's Labyrinth" and lucid dreaming in Guillermo del Toro's childhood.
The best ballerinas make it look effortless, gracefully dancing and leaping across the stage in beautiful costumes. But what do ballet dancers really go through, given the physical demands, in addition to the hours of practice, preparation and dedication? On today's Please Explain, we're looking at the secret life of ballerinas with Ashley Bouder, principal dancer in the New York City Ballet, and Tiekka Tellier, who spent 16 years as a professional ballerina and founded Everyday Ballet. Have questions about ballet? Send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Event: The New York City Ballet Fall Gala opens NYCB's 2016-17 season on Tuesday, September 20. Ashley Bouder will give her first performance since giving birth to her daughter, Violet, on Friday, September 23 in Balanchine's Vienna Waltzes. For ticket's and performance information, visit the NYCB website.
Is Cursive Obsolete? The Writing May be on the Wall
Handwriting has helped shape culture ever since the ancient Sumerians created an alphabet on clay tablets. But are digital communication and the internet threatening to make handwriting obsolete? Anne Trubek , author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, joins us for this week's Please Explain all about handwriting! Do you have questions about handwriting? Send us your questions in a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
Is Cursive Obsolete? The Writing May be on the Wall
The summer is not over yet, and to prove it, we're talking all about ice cream! We'll look into the history of the beloved frozen treat, as well as the many variations on flavor, sweetness and texture that have developed over the years. We'll also find out how to make ice cream (with and without dairy) and the science behind the perfect scoop from Laura O'Neill, Co-Founder Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, based in Greenpoint, and Ben Van Leeuwen, Co-Founder. They're the co-authors of the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream cookbook. Do you have questions about ice cream? Write in the comments section below, write to us on Twitter or Facebook, or call us at 212-433-9692. Recipes Roasted Banana Ice Cream (Reprinted with permission from Van Leeuwen's Artisan Ice Cream, published by Ecco Books, 2015.) Believe it or not, even people who say they don't like bananas love this ice cream—it tastes just like banana bread pudding. We roast the bananas with dark brown sugar and butter until they are golden and caramelized, and then we fold them into our ice cream base. The ice cream that comes out is elegant and luscious, rich with caramelized bananas, and is one of our favorite winter flavors to make. The roasting of the bananas gives the ice cream such a creamy, almost burnt-caramel flavor; we can't think of a better way to round out a Christmas dinner. MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART SPECIAL EQUIPMENT Immersion blender FOR THE ROASTED BANANAS 4 medium bananas, preferably somewhat speckled but not brown, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter 2 tablespoons (14 grams) dark brown sugar Pinch of kosher salt FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE 2 cups heavy cream 1/2 cup whole milk 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt 6 large egg yolks 1. To make the roasted bananas, preheat the oven to 400˚F; position the rack in the middle. Line a shallow baking sheet with parchment paper. 2. In a large bowl, toss the bananas, butter, sugar, and salt. Spread the ingredients on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until caramelized. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. 3. To make the roasted banana ice cream, pour the cream and milk into a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk in 1⁄2 cup (100 grams) of the sugar and the salt and stir until they have dissolved. Warm the mixture until you see steam rising from the top. 4. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set another bowl over it. Set aside. 5. In a medium bowl, with a kitchen towel underneath it to prevent slipping, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 1⁄4 cup (50 grams) sugar until uniform. While whisking, add a splash of the hot dairy mixture to the yolks. Continue to add the dairy mixture, whisking it in bit by bit, until you've added about half. Add the yolk mixture to the remaining dairy mixture in the double boiler. Set the heat under the double boiler to medium and cook the custard, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon and reducing the heat to medium-low as necessary, until steam begins to rise from the surface and the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Hold the spoon horizontally and run your finger through the custard. If the trail left by your finger stays separated, the custard is ready to be cooled. 6. Strain the custard into the bowl sitting over the prepared ice bath and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the custard has cooled. Transfer the custard to a quart-size container and add the roasted bananas. Using an immersion blender, buzz the custard until emulsified. Cover the custard and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.
From white sugar and brown sugar, to raw sugar and sugar cane... Not to mention agave, simple syrup, and molasses, there's an abundance of options when it comes to choosing an agent that's going to make your desserts and drinks pop. But which are the best for what purpose... and which are the healthiest? Joining us to talk about all things sweet is Shauna Sever, author of three cookbooks, including Real Sweet:More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugars. We'll also find out how sugar and sweeteners affect our health with Rebecca Blake, a nutritionist, registered dietitian, and Administrative Director for Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.