There is something uniquely compelling about listening to a story. Driving is perfect for this, especially when one has the luxury of piney hills and empty deserts on 75 MPH highways in rural America to drive through. Long walks and time spent cooking are also opportune moments for sneaking in some quality time with your favorite storytellers. Today, feeling just a touch nostalgic for those epic hours on the road, I thought I’d share a list of some of my favorite podcasts.
1. The Dinner Party Download: Currently holding title of personal favorite for their reliably funny broadcasts, weekly jokes, mixed drinks inspired by esoteric events from decades past, and weekly guests who are at typically engaging and insightful and often hilarious. Plus, they psychically picked up on the letter that I’ve been writing to them in my head: they’ve recently announced that they’re expanding the show’s length and scope and I couldn’t be more happy about that.
2. The Moth: Storytelling at its best. Live, frequently intense, often funny, compelling narrative. Without saying so, they are an exercise in gratitude. It’s remarkable how people can retain perspective and humor in the face of some pretty devastating stories.
3. Radiolab and This American Life: The gold standards of radio narrative. Some personal favorites: Limits. Totally riveting. The capabilities of the human body and mind are a bajillion times more than we realize and they do a darn fine job of driving that point home. If you ever feel like giving up and need a push, listen to this. Break-up, for the interview with Phil Collins and Starlee Kine’s endearing preoccupation with his music. If you haven’t heard it, it’s totally not what you’d expect from an interview with Phil Collins. He’s endearing and humble and strikingly honest.
4. Re:Sound: Intriguing curation of audio clips across the radio and internet, culled into themes such as boys vs. girls, nomads, or fathers.
5. Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me: They make me laugh out loud in embarrassingly inappropriate public places every week.
6. Good Food: Evan Kleiman is a gem. The market report at the beginning of each broadcast is a great place to get inspired by creative, produce-driven recipes. But the whole show is a great service to anyone passionate about food and the issues around it. Jonathan Gold kills it every week with his wacky restaurant reviews.
What are your favorite podcasts, guys?
Now, let’s discuss this baked pasta. This is my kind of (secretly healthy) comfort food: lots of happily nuanced flavors lifting each other up, a lovely blend of three cheeses to keep things lively, a pile of just-soft-enough cherry tomatoes, and those darn fresh chickpeas. To understand the dramatic difference between a dried and a fresh chickpea, consider a fresh tomato and its sun-dried cousin. There’s a relationship, but they’re also rather strikingly different. The same is true of fresh chickpeas. They possess this fresh, green, nutty quality that a dried chickpea doesn’t have. And I am kind of a jerk, because their season is nearing its end, and they’re kind of hard to find. Look for them at farmers markets or middle eastern grocers.
BAKED PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES + FRESH CHICKPEAS
Yield: 4 servings
8 ounces dry pasta, such as fusilli (brown rice pasta used here)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup fresh, shelled chickpeas (available at farmers markets and middle eastern grocers)
1 cup grated sheepmilk cheese, such as Dante, Pecorino, Manchego or similar
1/4 cup fresh sheep’s milk ricotta
1/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata
1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to instructions, making sure to keep pasta very al dente – even undercook it a touch. Drain and reserve.
Bring another small pot of salted water to a boil for the chickpeas. Blanch them for no more than four minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl (or in the greased casserole dish you’ll use), combine the cooked pasta, tomatoes, chickpeas, both ricottas, and basil. Toss to combine. Arrange in the greased casserole and top evenly with the grated sheepmilk cheese. Finish with a few twists of the pepper mill.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Allow to cool for about five minutes before serving.