Please Explain (The Leonard Lopate Show) Please Explain, where Leonard Lopate and a guest get to the bottom of one complex issue. History, science, politics, pop culture or anything that needs some explanation!
Please Explain (The Leonard Lopate Show)

Please Explain (The Leonard Lopate Show)

From NJPR

Please Explain, where Leonard Lopate and a guest get to the bottom of one complex issue. History, science, politics, pop culture or anything that needs some explanation!

Most Recent Episodes

How To Sniff Like A Dog

For this week's Please Explain, we're following dogs as they sniff their way through the world with their incredible sense of smell. Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches canine cognition and creative nonfiction at Barnard College and runs the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, explores the abilities of a dog's nose, how it's evolved, how it's being put to use and how we can improve our own sense of smell. Her latest book is Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell. Note: Jonathan Capehart guest-hosted this segment of "The Leonard Lopate Show."

What's Your Cat Really Thinking?

How did cats get domesticated? Why are they so popular on the internet? Are they good or evil? If you have wanted to know the answers to these questions, and more, tune in to our latest Please Explain, which is all about cats. We're joined by Abigail Tucker, correspondent for Smithsonian Magazine, and author of The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World.

We Get Fired Up Over Peppers

There are over 200 varieties of peppers, ranging from shishitos to habaneros. For our latest Please Explain, we dig into the world (and health benefits) of peppers with three-time James Beard Award-winning chef, culinary historian and author Maricel Presilla. She's the author of Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor, which explores the history of peppers and the many dishes you can make with them.

Why Vinegar Deserves More Credit As An Ingredient

Vinegar often plays an essential role in the food we eat. We use it in everything from baking to braising to pickling. But, author Michael Harlan Turkell writes that vinegar is "underappreciated and little understood." For his new book Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar: With Recipes from Leading Chefs, Insights from Top Producers, and Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Make Your Own, Turkell set out to give vinegar its due. He traveled the world, learning how countries from Japan to France make and use vinegar. He also collected recipes from chefs who are using vinegar in exciting, different and delicious ways. He joins us for our latest Please Explain to discuss vinegar's many uses and how you can make your own at home. Micheal Harlan Turkell will appear in conversation with Francine Segan, Ivan Orkin and Neil Kleinberg at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St.) on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. Check out a recipe from Michael Harlan Turkell's Acid Trip below! OEUFS EN MEURETTE, FROM BERTRAND A UBOYNEAU, BISTROT PAUL BERT, PARIS, FRANCE SERVES 4 This dish takes the concept of bourguignon sauce and uses it to poach eggs. What you're left with is the same rich stock, adding the decadence of a creamy egg yolk, with a side of toast to sop it all up. Bertrand, always in need of acidity, uses a portion of red wine vinegar in place of some of the red wine, which gives a much lighter quality to a dish that usually invites a postprandial nap, and instead has you feeling like conquering the day ahead. ¼ pound (115 g) THICK SMOKED BACON, cut into lardoons 1 tablespoon BUTTER ¼ pound (115 g) WHITE PEARL ONIONS, peeled, tops and bottoms trimmed 1 clove GARLIC, crushed ¼ pound (115 g) BUTTON MUSHROOMS, cleaned, cut into quarters 3 cups (720 ml) RED WINE, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cabernet 1 branch THYME 1 cup (240 ml) RED WINE VINEGAR 4 EGGS, kept in shell, cold BLACK PEPPER PARSLEY LEAVES, optional TOAST and BUTTER In a large saucepan over medium heat, render the bacon for 5 to 7 minutes, until it's just browning but not burning. If it's cooking too fast, lower the temperature. Pour out all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat (reserve the excess to cook with another time) and set the bacon aside (you'll add it back in later, so try not to snack on it too much). Add the butter, onions, and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, until aromatic. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the fond, and add the thyme. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, or until reduced by a third. Add the red wine vinegar and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. (If it's too acidic for your taste, add ¼ cup water at a time until it's not.) To poach the eggs, either in the pot of sauce itself (if you don't mind a few stray pieces of egg white) or in a separate pot of water, bring the liquid to a bare boil. Make a small pinprick on the larger end of each egg, place in the liquid, and cook for 30 seconds (a Julia Child tip); this is just to set the whites. Remove the eggs and crack them into individual small bowls. Slide the eggs back into the pot to poach them. If you like a soft yolk, cook for only a few minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and set aside. In individual serving bowls, evenly distribute the onion and mushroom mixture, then pour a bit of the sauce, enough to cover an egg, into the bowl as well. Place the eggs into the bowls and garnish with the bacon, freshly cracked black pepper, and parsley, if using. Bon appetit! Note: Jonathan Capehart guest-hosted this segment of The Leonard Lopate Show.

The Secrets Behind Succulent Sauces

For this week's Please Explain, James Peterson stops by to talk sauces. He's an award-winning food writer, cookbook author, photographer and cooking teacher who started his career as a restaurant cook in Paris in the 1970s. His book, Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, has just been released in its fourth edition. James will answer all of our burning sauce-related queries – from béarnaise and hollandaise, to bolognese, crème anglaise, and everything in between. Check out some of James Peterson's sauce recipes below! SAUCE BÉCHAMEL The amount of roux per given amount of milk depends on the use of the sauce. Thick versions, used as the base thickener in traditional soufflé recipes, often call for as much as 8 ounces (250 grams) of roux per quart (liter) of milk, whereas béchamel-based soups use approximately 2 ounces (60 grams) per quart (liter) of milk. This recipe produces a medium-thick sauce, appropriate for vegetable gratins. YIELD: 1 QUART (1 LITER) INGREDIENTS milk 1 quart 1 liter butter 3 ounces 90 grams flour ¹⁄³ cup 80 milliliters seasonings (salt, pepper, nutmeg; optional) to taste to taste 1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Whisk it from time to time to prevent a skin from forming on its surface (see Note). 2. In a second 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour. Stir the butter and flour over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the flour has a pleasant, toasty smell. (A) Remove from the heat for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. 3. Whisk the simmering milk into the roux. Return the sauce to the stove and bring it back to a simmer while whisking. (B) 4. Once the sauce has returned to a slow simmer, turn down the heat and move the saucepan so that only one side is over the flame. (This will cause a skin to form on only one side of the sauce's surface, making it easy to skim.) Cook the sauce gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour, skimming off the skin. It is a good idea also to occasionally rub around the bottom and corners of the sauce-pan with a wooden spoon to prevent the sauce from scalding. 5. When the starchy taste has cooked out of the sauce, it can be seasoned and strained, depending on its final use. Béchamel should be stirred while it is cooling to prevent a skin from forming on its surface. Putting the pan over a tray of ice will, of course, speed cooling. Note: Some chefs do not first bring the milk to a simmer and instead pour cold milk, all at once, over the roux. This method saves time—and a pot—but be sure to whisk the sauce vigorously to prevent lumps and skin from forming. VARIATIONS Use a pretreated flour such as Wondra. Simply mix the Wondra (the same amount as flour called for in the traditional recipe) in cold water until smooth (make a slurry). Bring the milk to a simmer. Whisk in the slurry. Simmer until the sauce thickens. It should be smooth, but just in case, work it through a chinois. While béchamel is a fairly stable sauce, there are times (especially if the flour is old) when it will break. To avoid this, blend hydrocolloids into the finished sauce. Lambda carrageenan lends an authentic dairy-like mouthfeel to the sauce and is easy to use. Start by adding 1% lambda carrageenan to the sauce and build up as needed to get the thickness you want. James Peterson's cauliflower gratin. (Courtesy James Peterson) CAULIFLOWER GRATIN Béchamel derivatives, especially Mornay sauce, make excellent toppings for gratins because they brown and become extremely aromatic. Practically any vegetable can be pre-cooked slightly and then baked while covered with sauce. YIELD: 6 SERVINGS INGREDIENTS cauliflower, 1 large bunch or 2 small bunches mornay sauce (SEE BELOW) 1 quart 1 liter grated gruyère or similar cheese 1½ cups 180 grams 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cut the cauliflower into florets. Boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a gratin dish just large enough to hold the cauliflower in a single layer. 2. Ladle the Mornay sauce in an even layer over the cauliflower. (A) 3. Sprinkle the cheese over the gratin. (B) Bake until a golden crust forms on top, about 30 minutes. SAUCE MORNAY Sauce Mornay is usually used as the base for cheese soufflés or for gratins. When it is used for gratins, additional cheese and sometimes breadcrumbs and butter are added to its surface to encourage the formation of a crust. Sauce Mornay is made by adding grated cheese to sauce béchamel. Be sure to choose a full-flavored, well-aged cheese for this sauce. If the cheese is too young, the sauce will not only lack flavor but will be stringy. Classic recipes use half grated Gruyère and half grated Parmesan (at least three-year-old Parmigiano-Reggiano), but the sauce can be made with other well-aged, honest cheese. English farmhouse Cheddar and Vermont Cheddar (not the commercial kind that has been dyed orange) both work well. Blue cheeses can also be incorporated into Mornay sauces, but be sure to taste and select them carefully to avoid some of the poor-quality versions that have a coarse, sour-milk smell and flavor. Select genuine Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Fourme d'Ambert, or Bleu d'Auvergne. Keep in mind that blue cheeses tend to make sauces a bit gray. To prepare Sauce Mornay, add approximately 4 ounces (115 to 125 grams) cheese per quart (liter) of béchamel. Stir the sauce just long enough for the cheese to melt; over-cooking the cheese can cause it to turn stringy. Some recipes call for finishing Mornay with egg yolks (about 2 per quart/liter of sauce). This is useful if the sauce is being used as a base for cheese soufflé, but otherwise the yolks contribute little to the sauce except unnecessary richness. At times, if the cheese is too young, a Sauce Mornay may break. To avoid this, you can blend hydrocolloid stabilizers (0.15% percent xanthan gum and 1% lambda carrageenan) into the béchamel before adding the cheese. These recipes came from Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by James Peterson. © Copyright 2017 by James Peterson. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

How To Go Vegan

Our first Food Fridays Please Explain kicks off with vegan cooking! Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth are the co-founders behind the vegan restaurant franchise Blossom and the authors of The Blossom Cookbook: Classic Favorites from the Restaurant That Pioneered a New Vegan Cuisine. They'll debunk some myths about vegan food/cooking, offer tips for home cooks and share some of their most popular recipes including Trumpet Mushroom Calamari, Sweet Potato and Coconut Cream Soup, and German Chocolate Cake. Check out recipes from The Blossom Cookbook below! Pine Nut–Crusted Eggplant Eggplant is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is full of flavor, has a fantastic hearty texture, and is extremely versatile. Created as an inventive option for our gluten-free guests, this dish uses a combination of pine nuts and basil as the crust for the eggplant, and the creamy sauce is a wonderful finish. It's sure to please and impress at any dinner party and is great for all seasons. Serves 3 or 4 1 medium eggplant, halved and peeled 1½ tablespoons salt 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes 2 cups pine nuts 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil Scant ¾ cup olive oil 4½ tablespoons chopped garlic 1½ teaspoons salt, plus more as needed 3 pinches of black pepper 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 1 sprig fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped 1 cup artichoke hearts 2/3 cup white wine 2 cups Cashew Cream (page 000) 1 head escarole Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice the peeled eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices (each half should yield 6 slices). Fill a deep bowl with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Soak the eggplant slices in the water for 20 minutes to help remove any bitterness. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the potatoes. Boil the potatoes for 30 to 40 minutes, or until soft, then remove and place in a large bowl. While the potatoes are boiling and the eggplant is soaking, put the pine nuts, flour, and basil in a food processor. Process until the mixture has the consistency of bread crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil, 1½ tablespoons of the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix well. Drain the eggplant and dredge the slices in the pine nut breading, making sure each slice is thoroughly coated. Set the breaded eggplant slices on a rack and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes to dry. Meanwhile, mash the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the garlic. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, and artichoke hearts and sauté until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add 1/3 cup of the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the mashed potatoes and the salt and stir well. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant slices and pan-fry on each side until they begin to lightly brown. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 3 to 5 minutes to crisp. Make the sauce: In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/3 cup white wine, the Cashew Cream, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and stir. In a separate medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the escarole and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until soft. To assemble, divide the sauce among three or four plates, then add the potato mixture, the escarole, and finally the eggplant slices on top. Cashew Cream Cashews . . . the cream of the crop! With their high healthy fat content, cashews are the best cream substitute, because when blended, they create an incredible richness for sauces. Who would ever think that an alfredo alternative could be so simple? One of our patrons' most frequently asked questions is "How you do it?" when they eat our coveted fettuccini alfredo. Note that you need to soak the cashews 3 hours (or overnight), so be sure to plan ahead. Makes 6 to 7 cups Ingredients 2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for 3 hours or overnight 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon salt 1½ teaspoons black pepper Put the drained cashews, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, pepper, and 4 cups water in a high-speed blender. Blend until creamy. The sauce will be relatively thin, but will thicken quickly when heated in a recipe. Raw Key Lime Pie The "key" to this dish is the fresh lime juice—accept no substitutions! You won't believe the fantastic texture of this pie—the avocados add an unbelievable creaminess to the filling. Makes one 9-inch pie Ingredients For the Crust 1¼ cups macadamia nuts 1¼ cups pecans ½ cup dried, pitted dates, soaked in water for 1 hour Pinch of salt ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract For the Filling 1½ cups fresh lime juice (from about 12 limes) 1 cup agave syrup ½ cup full-fat coconut milk 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled 2 tablespoons vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon salt 1¼ cups coconut oil Make the crust: Lightly grease a 9-inch springform baking pan with coconut oil. Put the macadamia nuts, pecans, dates, salt, and vanilla in a food processor and process until the mixture is soft and easily workable. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Make the filling: Put the lime juice, agave, coconut milk, avocados, vanilla, salt, and coconut oil in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour the filling over the crust, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze overnight. Thaw before serving.

How To Succeed Even If You're An Introvert

For our latest Please Explain, we explore what it means to be an introvert and what pressures they face when advancing their careers. We're joined by Morra Aarons-Mele, an internet marketer who has launched online campaigns for President Obama, Malala Yousafzai, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, and others. She's also the author of Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home), and she shares strategies introverts can use to manage their anxieties while also achieving their goals.

How Addiction Works

For this week's Please Explain, we explore how science is giving us a better understanding of how addiction works, and what that means for how we think about and treat it. We're joined by Fran Smith, author of "The Science of Addiction," National Geographic Magazine's September cover story. We're also joined by expert Dr. Rita Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who is featured in the article. Note: Ilya Marritz guest-hosted this segment of "The Leonard Lopate Show."

How The First Amendment Works

In a time when the president is openly attacking the press for negative stories and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are claiming freedom of speech while protesting the removal of Confederate monuments, this week's Please Explain is all about the First Amendment. Our guest is Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment and a senior partner in the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He has argued in numerous high-profile, free-speech cases in front of the Supreme Court including Citizens United.

What Happens When We Sleep?

People spend about one-third of their lives asleep, but what actually happens when we close our eyes and begin to dream? For this week's Please Explain we are joined by Wallace Mendelson to better help us understand. Mendelson is the former director of the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University of Chicago and author of the new book The Science of Sleep: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters. He tell us about the different stages of sleep, sleeping disorders and how outside forces like alcohol and sleeping pills affect our rest.