Cookie Monster and Gonger Tell All!

A discussion with the universe's favorite monsters — and one of the wonderful people who makes their work possible

“Gonger’s a master chef. He can make anything. But you know, you can’t go wrong with cookies.” — Cookie Monster

“We the best of friends. We buddies. And you know, I’m thinking about renting a little place, live next door to Cookie Monster, above the laundromat maybe.” — Gonger

“I often say to parents, when you watch Sesame Street with your child, watch it through the lens of a parenting show. Because our human cast is modeling how to talk to your child, and how to answer their questions, how to guide their play.” — Rosemarie Truglio

I started watching Sesame Street when I was a sophomore or junior in college — long before my first kid was born — with friends of mine. We were often in an altered state of consciousness, lying around on the couch, chilling with our favorite monsters, who were, at the time, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Grover; plus Gordon, Maria, Bob, Mr. Hooper (the fabulous humans). It was really fun, extremely comfortable, and it took on a new level of comfort once I did watch it with my kids, who were presumably the intended audience, and I got to revisit it yet again once my grandson started watching TV.

Now, incredibly, this week Sesame Street is starting its 52nd season (cue the weeping), and in honor of that, I interviewed two of the show’s most lovable current monsters, Cookie Monster and Gonger who are stars of the show’s Monster Foodies. Yes: I did get to do that, and yes, you do get to listen to it, and yes, it’s every bit as much fun as you’d think.

I also want to call out the incredible amount of work that goes into making Sesame Street, which I was made even more aware of after talking with the esteemed Rosemarie Truglio, who is Senior Vice President, Curriculum and Content, for Sesame Workshop. My chat with her is after my chat with the monsters, so be sure to keep listening for more of that sweet, sweet Sesame content that we all love.

The recipes featured in the episode are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) OR email us at bittmanpod@gmail.com with all your food-related questions.

Thank you, as always. — Mark

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Tofu Jerky

Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 2 hours, mostly unattended

Tofu jerky is a flavorful, savory snack, with smokiness from the adobo sauce of canned chipotle chiles, umami from soy sauce, and just a little sweetness from brown sugar. (If you prefer it milder, use tomato paste instead of the adobo.) This recipe makes jerky that’s way better than anything you can buy at the store and is, of course, additive-free. (If you end up with leftovers, mail them to Gonger, please.)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm tofu

  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from canned chipotles in adobo)

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve the tofu horizontally and blot dry. Gently cut each half the long way into 28 slices, about 1/8 inch thick, and lay them on the parchment (it’s fine if they’re touching). Bake the tofu for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, stir together the adobo sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and salt with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. When the tofu has baked for 30 minutes, brush the tops of the slices with a generous amount of the sauce; bake for another 15 minutes. Flip the slices, baste with more sauce, and bake for another 30 minutes. Lightly brush the second side with more sauce and bake for another 15 minutes. You should use up the sauce and the tofu should be chewy (not crunchy) and very pliable.

3. Let the jerky cool completely (the slices will get a bit crisper as they cool). Serve or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Tofu Jerky
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Whole Wheat Farfalle with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Makes: About 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes

Hearty noodles meet hearty vegetables. All you need is a salad—or nothing. This recipe will hereby be dedicated to Cookie Monster.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

  • 1 pound whole wheat farfalle or other cut pasta

  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley or chives

  • 2 teaspoons red chile flakes, or to taste

  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with a little of the oil. The pan should be large enough to hold all the sweet potato cubes in a single layer without overcrowding; if not, use two pans.

2. Put the sweet potatoes in the pan, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil; toss to coat. Roast the sweet potatoes until they brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes; scatter the garlic over the top, stir, and continue roasting until tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until it’s tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss the sweet potatoes with the parsley and red chile flakes, then return the pasta to the pot, add the sweet potatoes, and toss with the remaining oil, adding enough pasta cooking water to coat the noodles. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve, passing cheese at the table.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Whole Wheat Farfalle With Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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