100 episodes

In Please Explain, we set aside time every Friday afternoon to get to the bottom of one complex issue. Ever wonder how New York City's water system works? Or how the US became so polarized politically? We'll back up and review the basic facts and principles of complicated issues across a broad range of topics — history, politics, science, you name it.

Please Explain (The Leonard Lopate Show‪)‬ WNYC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.1 • 64 Ratings

In Please Explain, we set aside time every Friday afternoon to get to the bottom of one complex issue. Ever wonder how New York City's water system works? Or how the US became so polarized politically? We'll back up and review the basic facts and principles of complicated issues across a broad range of topics — history, politics, science, you name it.

    How To Sniff Like A Dog

    How To Sniff Like A Dog

    For this week’s Please Explain, we’re following dogs as they sniff their way through the world with their incredible sense of smell. Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches canine cognition and creative nonfiction at Barnard College and runs the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, explores the abilities of a dog’s nose, how it’s evolved, how it’s being put to use and how we can improve our own sense of smell. Her latest book is Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell. 
    Note: Jonathan Capehart guest-hosted this segment of "The Leonard Lopate Show."

    • 31 min
    What's Your Cat Really Thinking?

    What's Your Cat Really Thinking?

    How did cats get domesticated? Why are they so popular on the internet? Are they good or evil?
    If you have wanted to know the answers to these questions, and more, tune in to our latest Please Explain, which is all about cats. We're joined by Abigail Tucker, correspondent for Smithsonian Magazine, and author of The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World.

    • 30 min
    We Get Fired Up Over Peppers

    We Get Fired Up Over Peppers

    There are over 200 varieties of peppers, ranging from shishitos to habaneros. For our latest Please Explain, we dig into the world (and health benefits) of peppers with three-time James Beard Award-winning chef, culinary historian and author Maricel Presilla. She’s the author of Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor, which explores the history of peppers and the many dishes you can make with them.

    • 30 min
    Why Vinegar Deserves More Credit As An Ingredient

    Why Vinegar Deserves More Credit As An Ingredient

    Vinegar often plays an essential role in the food we eat. We use it in everything from baking to braising to pickling. But, author Michael Harlan Turkell writes that vinegar is "underappreciated and little understood." For his new book Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar: With Recipes from Leading Chefs, Insights from Top Producers, and Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Make Your Own, Turkell set out to give vinegar its due. He traveled the world, learning how countries from Japan to France make and use vinegar. He also collected recipes from chefs who are using vinegar in exciting, different and delicious ways. He joins us for our latest Please Explain to discuss vinegar's many uses and how you can make your own at home.
    Micheal Harlan Turkell will appear in conversation with Francine Segan, Ivan Orkin and Neil Kleinberg at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St.) on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
    Check out a recipe from Michael Harlan Turkell's Acid Trip below!
    This dish takes the concept of bourguignon sauce and uses it to poach eggs. What you’re left with is the same rich stock, adding the decadence of a creamy egg yolk, with a side of toast to sop it all up. Bertrand, always in need of acidity, uses a portion of red wine vinegar in place of some of the red wine, which gives a much lighter quality to a dish that usually invites a postprandial nap, and instead has you feeling like conquering the day ahead.
    ¼ pound (115 g) THICK SMOKED BACON, cut into lardoons
    1 tablespoon BUTTER
    ¼ pound (115 g) WHITE PEARL ONIONS, peeled, tops and bottoms trimmed
    1 clove GARLIC, crushed
    ¼ pound (115 g) BUTTON MUSHROOMS, cleaned, cut into quarters
    3 cups (720 ml) RED WINE, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cabernet
    1 branch THYME
    1 cup (240 ml) RED WINE VINEGAR
    4 EGGS, kept in shell, cold
    PARSLEY LEAVES, optional
    In a large saucepan over medium heat, render the bacon for 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s just browning but not burning. If it’s cooking too fast, lower the temperature. Pour out all but about
    1 tablespoon of the fat (reserve the excess to cook with another time) and set the bacon aside (you’ll add it back in later, so try not to snack on it too much). Add the butter, onions, and garlic
    and cook for about 1 minute, until aromatic. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the fond, and add the thyme. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, or until reduced by a third. Add the red wine vinegar and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. (If it’s too acidic for your taste, add ¼ cup water at a time until it’s not.)
    To poach the eggs, either in the pot of sauce itself (if you don’t mind a few stray pieces of egg white) or in a separate pot of water, bring the liquid to a bare boil. Make a small pinprick
    on the larger end of each egg, place in the liquid, and cook for 30 seconds (a Julia Child tip); this is just to set the whites. Remove the eggs and crack them into individual small bowls. Slide the
    eggs back into the pot to poach them. If you like a soft yolk, cook for only a few minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and set aside. In individual serving bowls, evenly distribute the onion and mushroom mixture, then pour a bit of the sauce, enough to cover an egg, into the bowl as well. Place the eggs into the bowls and garnish with the bacon, freshly cracked black pepper, and parsley, if using.
    Bon appetit!
    Note: Jonathan Capehart guest-hosted this segment of The Leonard Lopate Show.

    • 25 min
    The Secrets Behind Succulent Sauces

    The Secrets Behind Succulent Sauces

    For this week’s Please Explain, James Peterson stops by to talk sauces. He’s an award-winning food writer, cookbook author, photographer and cooking teacher who started his career as a restaurant cook in Paris in the 1970s. His book, Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, has just been released in its fourth edition. James will answer all of our burning sauce-related queries – from béarnaise and hollandaise, to bolognese, crème anglaise, and everything in between. 
    Check out some of James Peterson's sauce recipes below!
    SAUCE BÉCHAMEL The amount of roux per given amount of milk depends on the use of the sauce. Thick  versions,  used  as  the  base  thickener  in  traditional  soufflé  recipes,  often  call  for  as  much  as  8  ounces  (250  grams)  of  roux  per  quart  (liter)  of  milk,  whereas  béchamel-based  soups  use  approximately  2  ounces  (60  grams)  per  quart  (liter)  of  milk. This recipe produces a medium-thick sauce, appropriate for vegetable gratins.
    milk           1 quart                  1 liter
    butter        3 ounces              90 grams
    flour          ¹⁄³ cup                  80 milliliters
    seasonings (salt, pepper, nutmeg; optional)      to taste                to taste
    1. Bring  the  milk  to  a  simmer  in  a  2-quart  (2  liter)  saucepan.  Whisk  it  from  time  to  time  to  prevent  a  skin  from  forming  on  its  surface  (see  Note).
    2. In a second 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour. Stir the butter and flour over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the flour has a pleasant, toasty smell. (A) Remove from the heat for about 30 seconds to cool slightly.
    3. Whisk the simmering milk into the roux.  Return the sauce to the stove and bring it back to a simmer while whisking. (B)
    4. Once  the  sauce  has  returned  to  a  slow  simmer, turn down the heat and move the saucepan so  that  only  one  side  is  over  the  flame.  (This will cause a skin to form on only one side of the sauce’s surface, making it easy to skim.) Cook the sauce gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour, skimming off the skin. It is a good idea also to occasionally rub around the bottom and corners of the sauce-pan  with  a  wooden  spoon  to  prevent  the  sauce  from scalding.
    5. When the starchy taste has cooked out of the sauce, it can be seasoned and strained, depending on its final use.  Béchamel should be stirred while it is cooling to prevent a skin from forming on its surface. Putting the pan over a tray of ice will, of course, speed cooling.
    Note: Some chefs do not first bring the milk to a simmer and instead pour cold milk, all at once, over the roux.  This  method  saves  time—and  a  pot—but  be  sure  to  whisk  the  sauce  vigorously  to prevent lumps and skin from forming.
    Use a pretreated flour such as Wondra.  Simply  mix the  Wondra  (the  same  amount  as  flour  called for in the traditional recipe) in cold water until  smooth  (make  a  slurry).  Bring the milk to a simmer. Whisk in the slurry. Simmer until the sauce thickens. It should be smooth, but just in case, work it through a chinois.
    While béchamel is a fairly stable sauce, there are times  (especially  if  the  flour  is  old)  when  it  will  break.  To avoid this, blend hydrocolloids into the finished sauce.  Lambda  carrageenan  lends  an  authentic  dairy-like  mouthfeel  to  the  sauce  and  is  easy  to  use.  Start by adding 1%  lambda  carrageenan to the sauce and build up as needed to get the thickness you want.

    James Peterson's cauliflower gratin.
    (Courtesy J

    • 32 min
    How To Go Vegan

    How To Go Vegan

    Our first Food Fridays Please Explain kicks off with vegan cooking! Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth are the co-founders behind the vegan restaurant franchise Blossom and the authors of The Blossom Cookbook: Classic Favorites from the Restaurant That Pioneered a New Vegan Cuisine. They’ll debunk some myths about vegan food/cooking, offer tips for home cooks and share some of their most popular recipes including Trumpet Mushroom Calamari, Sweet Potato and Coconut Cream Soup, and German Chocolate Cake. 
    Check out recipes from The Blossom Cookbook below!
    Pine Nut–Crusted Eggplant
    Eggplant is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is full of flavor, has a fantastic hearty texture, and is extremely versatile. Created as an inventive option for our gluten-free guests, this dish uses a combination of pine nuts and basil as the crust for the eggplant, and the creamy sauce is a wonderful finish. It’s sure to please and impress at any dinner party and is great for all seasons.
    Serves 3 or 4
    1 medium eggplant, halved and peeled
    1½ tablespoons salt
    3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
    2 cups pine nuts
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    Scant ¾ cup olive oil
    4½ tablespoons chopped garlic
    1½ teaspoons salt, plus more as needed
    3 pinches of black pepper
    1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
    1 sprig fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
    1 cup artichoke hearts
    2/3 cup white wine
    2 cups Cashew Cream (page 000)
    1 head escarole
    Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
    Slice the peeled eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices (each half should yield 6 slices). Fill a deep bowl with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Soak the eggplant slices in the water for 20 minutes to help remove any bitterness.
    Bring a pot of water to boil and add the potatoes. Boil the potatoes for 30 to 40 minutes, or until soft, then remove and place in a large bowl.
    While the potatoes are boiling and the eggplant is soaking, put the pine nuts, flour, and basil in a food processor. Process until the mixture has the consistency of bread crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil, 1½ tablespoons of the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix well.
    Drain the eggplant and dredge the slices in the pine nut breading, making sure each slice is thoroughly coated. Set the breaded eggplant slices on a rack and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes to dry.
    Meanwhile, mash the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the garlic.
    In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, and artichoke hearts and sauté until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add 1/3 cup of the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the mashed potatoes and the salt and stir well.
    In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant slices and pan-fry on each side until they begin to lightly brown. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 3 to 5 minutes to crisp.
    Make the sauce: In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/3 cup white wine, the Cashew Cream, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and stir.
    In a separate medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the escarole and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until soft.
    To assemble, divide the sauce among three or four plates, then add the potato mixture, the escarole, and finally the eggplant slices on top.
    Cashew Cream
    Cashews . . . the cream of the crop! With their high healthy fat content, cashews are the best cream substitute, because when blended, they create an incredible richness for sauces. Who would ever think that an alfredo alternative could be so simpl

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
64 Ratings

64 Ratings

Trystgirl ,

Gone, but not forgotten

It's too bad Lopate misbehaved. Although I heartily disapprove of his behavior, I still miss his show.

kjtfive ,


Where is Leonard?! I miss his podcast, and his wonderful voice.

eahiv ,


I like this segment more than Leonard Lopate's regular show.

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