Acclaimed memoirist Binyavanga Wainaina talks about his writing, Africa today and his new life as an openly gay man.
Here & Now’s Pop culture critic Renee Graham and resident chef Kathy Gunst share their music and food recommendations to turn around any New Year’s Eve party, and take you into the new year. You can find recipes below.
This is the kind of sophisticated salad that can be served as a main course or a first course. It combines so many great textures, flavors, and colors. Best of all, almost everything can be prepared ahead of time; the eggs are poached at the last minute and the salad can be put together in under 5 minutes.
1 cup shelled pistachio nuts or walnut halves, about 4 ounces
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 scallions, ends trimmed, and greens cut down so the scallions are about 5 to 6 inches long from tip to tip
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices of pancetta (an unsmoked Italian bacon cured with salt and spices), or Prosciutto, about 2 ounces, cut into thin strips, optional
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese*
1/2 pound frisse and/or a combination of other bitter greens, ends trimmed, washed and thoroughly dried, large leaves torn into bite-size pieces
The Cheese Toasts:
8 thin slices crusty baguette or any crusty bread, cut about 1/2- inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon or regular lemon juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and seeds
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
4 medium eggs
*To shave the Parmesan, use a wide vegetable peeler, working off a piece of cheese at least 1/2 pound, and shave thin slices off the chunk of cheese.
Prepare the nuts: heat a small skillet over moderate heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you can smell the nuts and they are just beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop; set aside. The nuts can be toasted a day ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, mix the mustard, salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and sir. Cut open the pomegranate and squeeze the juice and seeds into the bowl so you have a few tablespoons. Slowly add the oil and whisk with a fork to create a smooth, thickened vinaigrette. The vinaigrette can be covered and refrigerated for 1 day ahead of time.
Make the cheese toasts: preheat the broiler. Place the bread on a cookie sheet or tray. Divide the oil between the slices and brush on one side. Broil for 1 minute, or until the bread just begins to turn golden brown. Remove and turn the bread over. Divide the grated cheese between each of the bead slices. Place under the broiler and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from the oven; the toasts can be covered and left at room temperature for several hours.
To assemble the salad: Arrange the greens on a large serving plate.
Fill a large skillet with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile in another large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat. Let it get hot for about a minute. Add the scallions and cook about 5 minutes, tossing them once or twice, under tender and just beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and add the Prosciutto strips to the skillet. They shouldn’t really cook but simply warm up with the residual heat of the skillet.
Arrange the scallions on top of the greens in a criss-cross pattern and scatter the prosciutto on top of, and around, the salad. Spoon half the vinaigrette on top of the greens and scallions.
Place the cheese toasts around the outside rim of the salad.
To poach the eggs: crack the eggs into a bowl. Carefully add the eggs to the skillet with the boiling water, one at a time. Reduce the heat to moderately-high so the water is at a slow simmer, and cook for 3 minutes for an egg with a runny yolk. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon.
Arrange the eggs in the center of the salad, on top of the scallions, and scatter the walnuts and cheese shavings on top of the salad. Season the egg with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.
This is a great example of East meets West. We use cooked Maine lobster mixed with fresh ginger and lemongrass to give classic crab cakes a whole new twist. The ginger-lemongrass oil can be made up to a week ahead of time. You can also make the lobster cakes ahead of time, refrigerate overnight, and cook them to order. Or cook the lobster cake a day ahead of time and reheat in a low 300 degree oven until hot.
The Ginger-Lemongrass Oil:
1 cup canola oil
One 1 ½ inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 3 pieces
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and inner stalk cut into ½-inch pieces
The Lobster Cakes:
About ½ cup lemongrass-ginger oil, see below
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, very finely chopped, white and green sections
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups cooked lobster meat, cut into ½-inch pieces, from a 1 to 1 ½ pound lobster
1 ½ teaspoons lime zest*
1 tablespoon lime juice*
About 1 cup panko flakes
1 lime, cut into wedges
* Use one lime for the zest and then cut it open and juice it.
Make the ginger-lemongrass oil: in a small skillet heat the oil, ginger, and lemongrass over low heat and cook for 15 minutes, making sure the oil doesn’t burn. Let cool. Strain the oil into a small jar and keep refrigerated for a week.
Make the cakes: Place 2 tablespoons of the lemongrass oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the onions and half the ginger and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the scallions, salt, and pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Place the egg in a medium bowl and whisk with a fork. Stir in the lobster meat, remaining ginger, lime zest, and lime juice. Gently stir in ½ cup of the panko flakes, or enough so that the mixture holds together. Form the mixture into 10 small cakes, about 2 inches long.
Place the remaining ½ cup panko in a bowl or on a large plate and gently coat both sides of each lobster cake, pressing lightly to make sure the breadcrumbs adhere to both sides. (The lobster cakes can be placed on a baking sheet, covered, and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)
Heat about 3 tablespoons of the remaining lemongrass oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. When hot, add the lobster cakes and cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. If the pan seems to be drying out add an additional tablespoon or two of the lemongrass oil. Serve hot with a wedge of lime.
Substitute crabmeat for the lobster.
Substitute cooked monkfish, cod or whitefish for the lobster.
Leeks and potatoes are good companions, and here they are joined by nutty celery root and the sharpness of good, aged cheddar. This is pure comfort food — smooth, rich, and bursting with flavor. The Chive-Walnut-Cheddar puree is swirled into the soup at the table, highlighting the smooth white soup with a gorgeous green color and a full cheese, herb, and nutty flavor and texture. You want to choose a really distinctive, very sharp, aged cheddar for this soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds leeks, end trimmed and all green sections discarded, whites only, cut lengthwise and then into thin slices
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound celery root or celeriac, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade or a good, organic variety of canned or boxed
3/4 to 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
The Chive-Walnut-Cheddar Swirl
1 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/3 cup walnut halves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
Prepare the soup: in a large soup pot heat the oil over low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes. Add the potatoes and celery root and cook, stirring them to coat with the leeks and oil, for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock, raise the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are perfectly tender and the broth is flavorful.
Let the soup cool slightly. Using a hand-held immersion blender, or transferring the soup to a blender or food processor, puree the soup until completely smooth. Place the soup back into the pot (if using a food processor or blender) and sprinkle in the cheese. Heat over low heat and taste for seasoning.
Make the Swirl: in the container of a food processor pulse the chives and walnuts until well chopped. Add salt and pepper and the oil and process until well blended; the mixture will be thick and chunky. Add the cheese and pulse several times to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. The swirl can be made several hours ahead of time; cover, and refrigerate.
To serve: place the soup in a serving bowl and swirl in a generous teaspoon or two of the Chive-Walnut-Cheddar Swirl. Serve hot.
For this tart you make a simple crust by crushing Amaretti cookies (or gingersnaps or chocolate or vanilla wafers) and mixing them with a touch of sugar and melted butter and lining a French tart pan. The filling is like a chocolate mousse—good bittersweet chocolate, cream, eggs, vanilla and sea salt. What I love about the tart is that the filing has no sugar – it’s all about honoring the chocolate and the balance of the sea salt.
Serve the tart in thin slices with vanilla-scented whipped cream, frozen yogurt, or crème fraiche.
Plan on letting the tart cool for at least one hour and up to 12 hours. You’ll need a 9-inch French-style round tart pan with a removable bottom for this tart; you can use a regular pie plate but it’s never quite as special.
1 cup ground Amaretti cookies*
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar**
The Chocolate and Sea Salt Filling:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (65% cocoa), well chopped, or 1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon good sea salt, see head note, plus some for sprinkling on top
2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, optional***
*You’ll need about 20 cookies, depending on the brand and the size. Place the cookies in a food processor or blender and blend until finely ground. You can also place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until finely ground. You could also substitute with ginger snaps graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or chocolate graham crackers; 20 gingersnaps= 1/1 2 cups ground cookies. And you can 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened) instead of, or in addition to, the sugar.
**I don’t like the pie too sweet. If you like a sweeter crust you can add another tablespoon or two of sugar, but the cookies are awfully sweet.
***Toasted coconut flakes are found in specialty food shops. But you can easily make them: place unsweetened coconut flakes on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the flakes just begin to turn a golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crust: in a bowl mix the crushed cookies, the melted butter, and the sugar. Press the crust into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan. You can also make this in a regular pie plate but it’s never quite as good! Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Place the tart pan on cookie sheet and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
Make the chocolate filling: place the cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream on top and stir steadily, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt until frothy. Add the whisked egg mixture to the chocolate mixture. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake on the middle shelf for about 25 to 28 minutes. To test for doneness: gently shake the tart and if the middle wobbles a little (and still appears undercooked) but the sides seems solid it is perfect. The tart will continue to cook when it’s removed from the oven and will firm up while cooling.
Remove from the oven and, while the tart is still warm, sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the coconut flakes, if using, very gently pressing into the chocolate if it doesn’t seem adhere. Let the tart cool for 1 hour. Some claim the tart is best served after an hour of cooling, but I like it best after it’s been covered and placed in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight. Serves 6. Or serves 2 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Music in this Segment:
Renee also recommends: