Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, with Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Science Friday

NPR’s Science Friday & Cooking for Geeks

Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, with Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Science Friday

I had the privilege of being on NPR’s Science Friday last Friday. In a word, it was amazing. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, click here to listen to an MP3 of me on NPR (file size: 16 MB; runtime: 35 minutes).

Things that happened to me as a result of being on NPR:

1. I heard from people I hadn’t thought of in years. High school teachers of mine. Friends of my ex. Even a childhood friend who lived a few doors down from me when growing up, whom I’ve not thought about for 15 years. Her dad had heard the NPR story and passed it along. Amazing.

2. My book went to #1 in Amazon’s Food, Cooking and Wine section, and up to #37 in books. That’s #37 across all books. Amazing. I am honored and deeply humbled to have been the #1 top-selling cookbook in America, even if for only a weekend.

3. I walked around floating off the ground by a few inches for at least a day. Talk about a rush! Live, to 1.3 million people, for 35 minutes. Yes, I was nervous beforehand; but Ira Flatow is an amazing host, able to steer the conversation to fun places, and also talented at asking good questions to help the audience understand the concepts. Thanks, Ira! You and your staff, especially Christopher Intagliata, who produced the segment, are absolute pros. Again, amazing.

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

For those who’ve asked for it, here is the Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad recipe. To some, it’s unremarkable; to others, it’s a complete shock and surprise that two seemingly incompatible ingredients not only work well together, but are delicious. This is a very simple recipe, but don’t let that fool you! Some of the best things are simple.

In a bowl, toss to coat:

  • 2 cups (300g) watermelon, cubed or scooped
  • 1/2 cup (120g) feta cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (40g) red onion, sliced super thin, soaked and drained
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) olive oil (extra virgin because it imparts flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3g) balsamic vinegar

Try using a teaspoon or two of lime juice, instead of vinegar, as the source of acidity. Alternatively, play with the tastes by adding black olives (salty), mint leaves (cooling), or red pepper flakes (hot), thinking about how each variation pushes the tastes in different directions.

Always soak onions that will be served raw. When cut, an enzyme (allinase) reacts with sulfoxides from the onion’s cells to produce sulfenic acid, which stabilizes into a sulfuric gas (syn-propanethial-S- oxide) that can react with water to produce sulfu- ric acid. This is why we cry when cutting onions: the sulfuric gas interacts with the water in our eyes (the lacrimal fluid) to generate sulfuric acid, which triggers our eyes to tear up to flush the sulfuric acid. Because sulfides are water soluble, soaking the cut onions removes most of the unde- sirable odors. You can soak them in water, or try vinegar to impart a bit of additional flavor. Also, cutting onions in a wet environment provides liquid for the sulfur compounds to dissolve into. Try pulling off the onion skin under water and then cutting with a wet blade on a rinsed-but-not-dried cutting board. Another method to reduce tearing is to chill the onion, because this makes the cellstructures firmer and reduces the amount of intracellular fluid available for the allinases to react with.

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