by Corin Hirsch
Last week, The Splendid Table's Lynne Rossetto Kasper visited Brattleboro to take part in Vermont Public Radio's annual Listener Picnic. In between admitting that okra is her no-go and signing dozens of books, Kasper playfully indulged the audience for a few rounds of "Stump the Cook," during which listeners try to stymie her with five usually odd and disparate ingredients in their refrigerator or pantry.
For sheer strangeness, those from Charlotte's Jacob Edgar were unmatched: A bag of cacao nibs from his father-in-law; a block of cumin cheese, a favorite during the year Edgar and his family lived in Amsterdam; a mysterious, unlabeled spice mix picked up during a recent trip to Turkey; kohlrabi from their CSA share at Charlotte's Stoneyloam Farm; and a jar of Vegemite brought back from Australia several years ago. ("It doesn't appear to go bad," wrote Deirdre Holmes, Edgar's wife, in an email).
As is her way, Kasper plunged in with imagination and verve. She advised Edgar to rub the kohlrabi with the spice paste and then roast it to get “a lovely crustiness." Then, she instructed, make a broth for the cous cous with the Vegemite ("but just a teaspoon, thank you very much"). Into this, Kasper suggested, he could load cacao nibs, raisins, cubed cumin cheese, some cinnamon and paprika, fresh coriander, olive oil, salt and “a ton of black pepper.”
The couple tried it this week at home, and Holmes wrote 7D to report the results. The cacao nibs lost their bitterness against the olive oil, she wrote. "The Turkish spice mix turned out to be quite spicy. Jacob now thinks it is a harissa mix," she added, referring to the blend of ground chilis, garlic and other spices ubiquitous to North African cuisine.
Despite the heat and seemingly odd ingredients, Holmes reported that their two girls, 9 and 14, "loved it" — truly a testament to Lynne Rossetto Kasper's culinary pluck. And the photo she provided of the "chocolate kohlrabi dish" (at right) would make anyone's mouth water.
The couple improvised one thing: "I added a simple green salad, because what we really have a lot of in the fridge is lettuce," Holmes wrote.
VPR airs "The Splendid Table" every Saturday at noon.