Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lynne Rossetto Awesome

I listen to a lot of public radio - begrudgingly. To me, it's ten times more tolerable than any other news radio, but this declaration comes with a lot of caveats. For example, I detest that faux-everyman windbag Garrison Keillor, yet his sinister droll still wakes me up every morning (WAMU airs The Writer's Almanac at an ungodly hour). I think This American Life tries too hard to look for the deeper meaning, but I subscribe to their podcast anyway (if you haven't heard "The Breakup" episode, you must). I think the hosts of Morning Edition are shrill snotfaces, but they nonetheless keep me company on every morning commute. I get annoyed when NPR reporters over-enunciate foreign words and names, but I still like how they cover corners of the world that most mainstream news sources avoid.

The one blameless thing public radio has to offer is Lynne Rossetto Kasper. If you ever saw "The Delicious Dish" skits on SNL (see Alec Baldwin's "Schweddy balls" if you can't immediately recall), they were designed to mock Lynne's show, The Splendid Table. These skits were funny but unfair, because The Splendid Table is NOT for boring cat ladies. Oh, wait...

Not surprisingly, I love Lynne and I love her show. Every episode begins with a visit from Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood, who travel the country in search of the best local dives (I've tried a number of Roadfood recommendations, and the Sterns have never steered me wrong). Then Lynne usually does a few interviews with food experts, and gets into the hows and whys of such titillating topics as waxed versus unwaxed cheese. Okay, I admit it's not for everyone, but you have to appreciate Lynne's great big guffaw and her genuine interest in her guests' and callers' seemingly trivial gastronomical concerns. Listen with Lynne, and you too can become impassioned about the history of ramen, the politics of bananas, and the art of knife-sharpening. Plus, she often has cool guests like Amy Sedaris (though Lynne did seem a little unsure how to react when Amy kept mentioning her drug dealer). And lest you think this show is for food snobs, even The Splendid Table's resident wine critic, Josh Wesson, is credited for helping cheap wine earn some respect in the oenological domain.

Every week Lynne sends me (along with thousands of other public radio nerds with cats and M.A. degrees) an email with a recipe that she usually comes up with herself. I always read them through to the end, where she signs off "Have a great week" (you have a great week too, Lynne!), but seldom follow them. There was one that caught my eye a few weeks ago, a recipe Lynne adapted called "Salad of Pineapple and Winter Greens with Warm Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing." The title was a bit lengthy for my taste, but what sparked my attention was the pineapple. A certain Special Someone I know is such a big fan of pineapple that he even puts it in lasagna. I hadn't cooked him anything other than a fried egg sandwich, if that even counts as cooking, so I set out to follow Lynne's recipe and make him a Splendid Table-quality first dinner.

The pineapple fan liked it (he even ate the soggy, dressing-logged leftovers for the next two days), which I guess was the whole point, but I was underwhelmed. But, as I stated before, Lynne is blameless, so I'm sure I did something wrong. Using the leftover ingredients I had bought for the salad -- peanuts, Thai basil, fish sauce, daikon radish -- I created a different salad a few nights later, one that I'm thrilled to include on this blog. It's just a remnant of Lynne's, and doesn't even have the titular pineapple, but it's definitely worth sharing. Have a great week.

Recipe: Lynne Rossetto Kasper-Inspired Crunchy Salad with Peanut Dressing

I'm having deja vu: I think I write about salads like this about 25 percent of the time, as they are my staple for weight loss attempts. But each one always seems better than the last one, so I can't resist posting them. This one contains two of my new favorite ingredients - daikon radish and fish sauce. I'm really late in jumping on the daikon radish and fish sauce bandwagons, but I'm glad I finally did. Fish sauce adds that mysterious umami taste (Lynne, as you may have guessed, loves talking about umami) and daikon is that delicious not-too-sharp radish you find in banh mi sandwiches and some Thai salads. Both are really inexpensive at Asian markets. I also used red cabbage in this salad; normally I buy green cabbage since it tends to be cheaper, but red and green are both 99 cents a pound at H Mart, so I went with the more visually appealing red. As with any salad I create, proportions are up to individual tastes, so this recipe is just a guideline.

Makes 4 generous servings. Lasts up to five days in the refrigerator. Add chicken, shrimp, or tofu to make it a more filling meal.

For the salad:
1/2 head of red cabbage (use green if you prefer)
1 carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
2 green onions, sliced (use green and white parts)
1/2 daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
1 handful Thai basil, cut into julienne, or cilantro
1 handful roasted, salted peanuts, chopped (food processor makes this much easier; cashews or macadamia nuts would also be good)
juice of 1 lime

For the dressing:
3 T peanut butter
2 T rice vinegar
1 T honey
1 t fish sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
a good sprinking of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t salt
water to thin the dressing, if desired

Mix together the salad ingredients; add the lime juice. Whisk together the dressing ingredients; add a few drops of water if you like a thinner consistency. Check seasonings and adjust as needed. Toss dressing with salad.


Jasmine said...

While this recipe looks delicious, I must disagree with your preferences in NPR. I detest Lynne's show and love Garrison Keillor. How can you hate a man who makes fun of English majors at every possible opportunity? Or is it unfair because they're such easy targets?

DEO said...

Okay...I will admit I do own a POEM t-shirt (Garrison Keillor's Professional Organization for English Majors). But I really can't stand his voice! (Meanwhile Lynne's voice is music to my ears.) And he's just so pompous but pretends to be this regular joe. And his columns in Salon....gahhh, you got me started!

Now you have to explain why you hate The Splendid Table!