Good Enough to Read: Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them and 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking

Veteran food writer Irene Sax tells us about a new cookbook and shares healthy and delicious recipes. This time she's reading Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them and 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.
Lobsters ScreamGood Enough to Read

Never cut lettuce with a knife. Don’t salt meat before you cook it or put bananas in the fridge. And if you happen to drop something on the kitchen floor, it’s safe to eat as long as you pick it up within five seconds. Everyone knows that.

But everyone is wrong, say Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough in their smart and funny new book, Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them and 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 2011). In it, they debunk familiar culinary myths — like the one that says pasta comes from China, or that microwaves cook from the inside out — and give us 25 lively recipes to accompany the text.

For example, their no-apologies carrot soup goes with Myth #72, which disproves the idea that carrots necessarily improve your eyesight. And their easily improved pasta salad goes with Myth #69: Rinse the cooked pasta before using it. About this rule, Mark and Bruce explain that most of the time, you don’t want to rinse away all those good pasta starches, except — aha — for the times when you’re making cold pasta salad. Then, go ahead and rinse because the cold water will chill the noodles and stop the cooking. The recipes are easy and mostly healthy, like the ones that Bruce and Mark feature in their WeightWatchers.com column, Sunday in the Kitchen with Bruce and Mark.

So what about the rule that says you can eat food dropped on the kitchen floor as long as you snatch it up within five seconds?

Like so many things, it depends. Research has shown that a bologna sandwich left on the floor for five seconds picked up more than enough salmonella to make anyone sick. Left even longer, it picked up even more. But a lot depends on how clean your floor is, say Mark and Bruce, so you take your chances.

On the other hand, you can stop right now believing the myth that French women don’t get fat. As of 2007, write Mark and Bruce, 42 percent of the French population was obese. By 2020, they’re expected to catch up with America’s numbers because of the usual suspects, like fast food and lack of exercise. And that’s no myth.

No-apologies carrot soup
September spans the seasons, with some days feeling like August, and others like November. Whether you serve this soup scalding-hot or at room temperature, it will be delicious. This healthy recipes comes straight from the cookbook. (Of course you’ll use lowfat yogurt.)

Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them and 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Makes 8 servings
3 PointsPlus® values per serving**

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil or olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced, or jarred minced ginger
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 2 lbs peeled carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 quarts canned, fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt**

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, then swirl in oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in ginger and garlic and continue cooking for about 30 seconds, just enough to release some of their essential oils.
  3. Pour in white wine or vermouth. As it comes to a simmer, stir pot several times to make sure any onion or garlic has come loose from the bottom.
  4. Dump in all carrots. Stir them around for a minute, then add broth, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Stir well and bring to a full bubbling simmer over medium-high heat.
  5. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer until carrots are tender when poked with a fork, stirring once in a while, about 30 minutes. Set pot off heat for a few minutes to cool down.
  6. Now purée it. You’ve got several options. You can use an immersion blender right in the pot, stirring it around to make sure everything on the bottom comes in contact with its blades. Or pour soup in batches into a large blender and give it a whir. However, remove center knob in lid so that pressure doesn’t build up and spew hot soup all over your kitchen. Cover that opening with a clean kitchen towel and blend until smooth. Once done, pour purée back into pot.
  7. Set thick, smooth soup over low heat and stir in yogurt until smooth. Keep pot over heat for a minute or so, just to heat soup back up. Now it’s ready to serve.
Notes from the book
There’s a lot of good nutrition here — and a lot of fine flavors, particularly that warm ginger, which is both spiky and soothing, a miracle combination. If you want to make this a vegetarian meal, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken, but understand that some canned vegetable broth is truly insipid, little more than what we call onion water. Do a taste test among the brands to find one that is right for you.
** Notes from WeightWatchers.com
When calculating the PointsPlus values for this recipe, we used lowfat Greek-style yogurt.

Easily improved pasta salad
The guys have already done a lot to lighten this, but you can make it even healthier by using whole-wheat pasta (the fragrant dressing will mask that sturdy taste) and adding a few more vegetables. Think: Green beans cut in half-inch sections, a half-cup of frozen peas, Leftover broccoli florets. And don’t you love that they know that we love pasta salad even though it’s no longer trendy?

Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Adapted from Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them and 100 Other Myths about Food and Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Makes 6 servings**
8 PointsPlus values per serving**

Ingredients

  • 12 oz dried whole-wheat** ziti, rigatoni, rotelli or other medium pasta shape
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, the most fragrant you can comfortably afford
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (that is, 1/4 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium garlic clove, slivered
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, at least 3 quarts of water. Dump in the pasta, then stir several times during the first 3 minutes of cooking to ensure it doesn’t stick. Continue boiling until tender. The only way to know is to taste one. Try it at 4 minutes and see where you are. Maybe a couple of minutes more?
  2. Drain pasta in a colander set in the sink, then rinse it well with cool water. Set aside to drain more.
  3. Stem basil leaves of any woody ends, then wash them thoroughly under cool water to remove any dirt and grit. Do not dry leaves. Place them in a large food processor fitted with the chopping blade.
  4. Add olive oil, cheese, almonds, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Do not even think about using canned Parmesan cheese. Buy a little block of the real thing and grate it yourself on a cheese plane or through the small holes of a box grater.
  5. Pulse food processor a few times, then scrape down the inside of the canister with a rubber spatula and process to a grainy paste. Check for salt — it may need a little more. But remember that you can also salt individual servings later.
  6. Pour cooked pasta into a big serving bowl. Add tomatoes and cucumber. Scrape pesto dressing on top and toss well, coating everything. Serve at once or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, tossing again before serving.
Notes from the book
This is a summer staple because it’s so very light and bright in its flavors. A traditional pesto is made with pine nuts and lots of oil…but we’ve morphed the proportions a bit to make this one more like a dressing, and we use almonds for a lighter, sweeter taste, better against the slightly acidic pop of those tomatoes. Heck, it’s a good fit even in the winter, when you’re yearning for a spark of summer.

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