Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sloppy joe seconds

Right, so, our bimonthly exam season is upon us again, which means that I'm furiously (or not as furiously as I should be) studying carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, introductory pharmacology, introductory immunology, and the atherosclerosis, diabetes, and metabolic enzyme deficiency case studies associated with the above. However, either in order to rationalize a moderately distressing paucity of focus or to alleviate said paucity, I still cooked dinner tonight: vegetarian sloppy joes on homemade honey wheat hamburger buns, with kale crispies on the side. I considered making sweet potato fries with my last sweet potato, but the sadly wilting kale and my sadly carb-overloaded tummy turned me aside.

I forgot to pick up a bell pepper today from the nearest fruit-and-veggie stand, and by the time I realized it, I was chopping some very potent farmers market garlic and onions and had no inclination to leave the house again. No matter; the lentils were great, and a better imitator of sloppy joe texture than one might think. Forget your cloying, canned-tasting sloppy joe mix from the grade school cafeteria. This stuff is the way to go. My addition of red wine vinegar (instead of apple cider, which I lack) and some red pepper flakes and extra dried mustard gave it what I think is a pleasant kick. Next time, maybe I'll throw in some molasses instead of brown sugar and see where that gets me.

I may or may not have eaten two. Extra gym time tonight? I think so.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nothing to report

Either the eggs were fully cooked or my iron stomach won out.

A dinner meeting today means... well, just what the post title says. Stay tuned for more later, folks!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When roestis fail

Spooked by the biochemical implications of a high-carbohydrate diet (thank you, medical school) and feeling slightly guilty about my consumption of three or four small fried things at a medical school event earlier today (medical school, why do you feed us unhealthful food?), I chose to improvise a zucchini roesti for dinner, binding the zucchini and feta together with some egg, lemon juice, and about a third of a cup of whole wheat flour, and flavoring the whole thing with salt, pepper, and some of that Persian yogurt blend I mentioned a few posts ago. Now, either I should have squeezed more water out of the zucchini than I did or the egg and lemon juice were too much moisture, because the roesti did not exactly hold together. All my frying pans have plastic handles, so I couldn't even finish the thing in the oven. I suppose I'll discover later tonight whether the resulting delightfully chartreuse and truly, truly delicious... uh... semi-crispy zucchini mush was cooked through. Possibly raw egg consumption? Bring it on.

Like I said, though, it was delicious, with just the right amount of lemon juice and enough minty yogurt spice to give it sort of refreshing overtones. I'll either refine my zucchini-squeezing technique next time or just bake the whole shebang.

In other news, for lunch, I made in 7 minutes (yes, I timed myself) a two-egg goat cheese and green bean omelette, consumed with fresh grapes. No time-related excuses for not eating fresh, healthful food anymore.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Man, posts are coming in pairs these days.

I wanted to use up the last of the beets, but "roasted vegetable medley" will only work once a week, really. I julienned two beets and a carrot and roasted them while a half-cup of brown rice cooked. Then I toasted the rice a bit with some chopped onion and garlic and mixed in the vegetables, some (frozen) green beans, salt, pepper, and thyme, and topped it all off with cheese crumbles. Easy. Delicious. Filling post-yoga, which made me extremely hungry today for some reason.

I was actually a little concerned that I'd have a hard time during yoga today, actually. One is not supposed to eat for the three hours before taking a class. However, about halfway through today's 1 p.m. lecture, I got hit by a banana thrown by the professor (something to wake us up and illustrate his point about resistant starches. The person sitting to my left attempted to catch the banana, but instead deflected it into me. It was a delicious, delicious banana. Well, half-banana; mindful of the upcoming yoga, I split it with the person to my right. The person to my left was responsible for the banana assault. No fruit for him.

Since I didn't feel like photographing my food before I swallowed it, here's a picture of a flying banana!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Mark Bittman wrote an article about savory biscotti today, providing a recipe for cheddar and cayenne biscotti. I played with it to make goat cheese and saffron biscotti with olives, to some success. Thinking the goat cheese would be too strong, I reduced it to 3/4 cup (from 1/2 cup of cheddar) and added two tablespoons of butter in the hopes of keeping the moisture up. Sadly, the dough was a little too moist, and in fact the goat cheese flavor was not strong at all. No worries, though: I spread some more cheese on the biscotti and layered on slow-roasted root vegetables and squash, plus some roasted kale. The biscotti aren't bad on their own, per se, but they're not what I'd hoped; as a component of my quasi-crostini, though, they're excellent. I had the dish with a glass of a quite good bottle of $4 Trader Joe's vinho verde.

Hannah's goat cheese and saffron biscotti
**Warning: This is me estimating what the modified proportions should be. I'm not holding myself liable for how this comes out until I test it.**
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cups goat cheese
2 eggs (anything smaller than extra-large; I suspect that smaller is better, actually)
pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
chopped olives to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Food process, blend, or stir vigorously the goat cheese, saffron, and eggs until mixture is bright yellow, 1 to 3 minutes. Add the other ingredients and stir or pulse a few times; do not overwork. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together; it might be a little crumbly at first. Shape into a loaf and bake on a nonstick/parchment-papered cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes until the loaf is firm to the touch and beginning to brown. Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices on the bias. Bake on either side for about 15 minutes per to brown and crisp the biscotti.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From dinner isoforms to cookie isoforms

Why is it that cookie cake is so much more titillating than just regular cookies? It's the same dough. It doesn't taste any different. But when I put some browned butter chocolate chip cookie batter in a lightly greased cake pan today and baked it, it felt so transgressive. I bet it will taste like satyagraha with a naughty hint of mild anarchy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dinner isoforms

This blog contains several references to my complete inability to estimate portion size. Tonight, that ability led me to make a rather large pot of fall vegetable and barley soup. Yes, I know, it's not really fall yet, and one of the vegetables was zucchini, which is pretty much a summer vegetable, but the others were distinctly autumnal.

Here's the problem: I'm quite tired of tomato-based broths, which I've been making exclusively because canned tomatoes are cheap and can be used for many sorts of dishes. It's time to suck it up and buy some dried porcinis (with which I can make savory, subtle mushroom broths) or vegetable broth (because making my own is, in this case, too time-consuming and unnecessarily vegetable-consuming).

Or I could make different isoforms of all these soups, which are inevitably low on liquid and heavy on veggies anyway. I could have roasted the onions, carrots, garlic, zucchini, and squash in a little olive oil, plus maybe some of the beets I have in the fridge for good measure, and tossed them with pre-cooked, toasted barley. I could have kept the zucchini and carrots and onions raw (well, soaked the onions in cold water to make them a little more subtle) and tossed them with cold cooked barley, za'atar, olives, cucumber, and feta (I don't have any tomatoes, but heck, there are about five fruit carts within a five-minute walking radius). The possibilities are endless. So no more soup for me, or at least, not until it's so cold that soup is actually merited.

Barley is a delicious, delicious grain, I have to say.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Sorry about the paucity of posting, folks. Too much free food has been going around. I know, I know, I should be cooking things that are good for me instead of eating free pizza and pasta and green beans and these really good cookies that the NYUSoM catering facilities make. But it's hard to resist when you're at an informational meeting and it's 6 p.m. and you haven't eaten since 11:30 a.m.

Tonight, though, there was nothing interesting going on (sorry, radiology club, you're boring), so all systems were go on cooking myself dinner. Once over the summer, I made an Ethiopian potato-and-green bean dish to go with a misr wat. You just precook the green beans and cubed potato and then stir it into a sauce of diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, turmeric, cumin, and chili, with a squirt of lime. While I hate to say I'm a little lentiled out for the moment, a yam-and-green bean variant on that dish with a poached egg on top hit the spot. I hate it when poached eggs sit and get kind of clammy, so I ate it right away; no photos, sorry.

I also exercised for the first time in three days. Feels pretty good. I don't like the cheaper studio I've switched to as much as the more expensive one I switched from, but the operative words here are "cheaper" and "more expensive." It's not a bad place at all, just... very crowded. And loud.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


So, yesterday's plan to cook the rest of the veggies with barley for dinner fell through (read: I horrified myself by getting the munchies later and eating the Tupperware full of leftover squash and kale. That's almost half a squash, a small one, to be sure, but HALF A SQUASH. Feel free to cluck your remonstrances at my eating habits.).

In penitence, I am going to make cookies for my adviser. Molasses spice won.

Half a squash!

Regretted cheese is bitter, but I like it, because it is my cheese

While braving the aforementioned World's Most Crowded Trader Joe's yesterday, I made the fateful decision to buy feta instead of goat cheese because it was a. cheaper and b. available in a low-fat variety. Well, as of today I began to envision using part of my pleasantly large FreshDirect butternut squash to make a goat cheese, kale, and squash pizza. Oops.

Instead, welcome to the feta and squash and kale and caramelized onion pizza. I roasted the squash with some "yogurt blend" spice that a delightful Persian Jewish friend of mine introduced me to (and gave me a spice canister of!) and that I've been using ever since. It's sort of like a za'atar, minus the salt and plus mint. Despite my lingering regrets in re goat cheese (sorry, Stephen, about the post title), it tasted pretty damn good. I sort of wanted to eat the whole thing, but I saved half for tomorrow. There's also a good amount of roasted vegetables left that I suppose I could mix with barley for dinner tomorrow night. Expect a brief, boring post about that.

Caramelized onions would have gone well with goat cheese, and maybe some fresh rosemary and thyme and a squirt of lemon. Ah, well, that must needs be a pizza for another day and a stockier budget (other expensive ingredient I really want, because it's so damn useful for soup: dried porcini mushrooms. Parmesan rinds would be nice, too).

I didn't bother blogging yesterday; dinner was just a simple curried lentil and (finally, the last of the) chard stew. Protip: Bulking up small portions of lentils and brown rice with lots of chard (or, generally, X protein and Y carbohydrate with Z vegetable) is an excellent way to allow oneself to eat one's fill without overdoing it on the calories. Other protip: There's nothing quite like fresh ginger in a curry. Gives it that extra oomph.

And now, for the reader input: I'm going to see my medical school adviser on Tuesday to ask him about what levels of involvement infectious disease residency programs might expect from first year and beyond. Because I am a shameless exploiter of baked goods who has a touch of the gunner in her*, I've decided to bring him some sort of dessert item. Honey butter caramels dipped in chocolate were considered, but discarded as both too time-consuming (have you ever wrapped 50 caramels in parchment paper? don't) and expensive (heavy cream, honey, butter, etc.). I've narrowed it down to four not-so-fancy-but-perenially-delicious options, as can be seen in the poll now on this blog. Vote away! Things to consider: If you live in Manhattan, you are eligible to receive runoff baked goods.

*Fellow medical students, this is only in the way of trying too hard and being determinedly agog, not sabotaging the rest of you. Then again, I'm not sure which is more annoying.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Exotic fruits

For awhile now, I've been interested in trying to cook with yuzu*, a tiny Japanese citrus fruit with a unique sort of aroma to it. I've eaten it as a component of sauces, mostly in its vinegar condiment form, but I thought making a meringue pie with it and some of the matcha powder left from this summer would be a different slant to take. I schlepped down to Soho to this Japanese market I'd read about to pick up the fruit. They indeed had fresh yuzu, but they were a. very expensive and b. not ripe, so I got a bottle of yuzu juice for $6.50 (still not cheap, but less expensive than buying five or six yuzu at $3.50 each!). Unfortunately, I did not realize that it was salted yuzu juice because, well, I do not speak Japanese or read Japanese. The dessert consequently has more of that salty/sweet juxtaposition that I associate with Asian desserts, rather than the straightforward tangy sweetness I was initially going for.

Is it tasty? Well, it all depends. If you like the sweet-and-salty taste associated with many Asian desserts, then yes, you'll love this. If not, I'm sorry I inflicted it on you.

*Skimming that article led me to an oddly detailed article on yuja hwachae, which sounds delicious but probably doesn't merit that much space on Wiki.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scallion pancakes, take 2

Last time, it was Korean pancakes (pa jun).

This time, it's Chinese-style scallion pancakes, which take a little more assembly, but don't take eggs. Almost Bourdain has a good recipe with excellent pictures; mine didn't come out so well. The pictures, not the pancake. The pancake was great. I mixed a little rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, then soaked some ginger in it, for a dipping sauce. Aw, heck, here are the pictures, what the heck.

I hope the flakiness, which I worked hard with a rolling pin to achieve, is somewhat apparent.

Now, back to reviewing for tomorrow's exam. My life is so exciting, yes, I know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dandayamana janushirasana, bread, and exams

The first part of the title of this post is the yoga pose that I am closer and closer to hitting the next level on. But not quite close enough. Yet. It is challenging.

The second part of the title refers to two loaves of sourdough cornmeal bread, one put in the oven last night and one put in the oven minutes ago (that sounds like a movement from Pictures at an Exhibition). The one I just put in is likely going to turn out much more sour; while the first one is tasty, it didn't have the tang I expected. Sourdough can be challenging.

The third part refers to what I should be studying for instead of typing this. It will likely be challenging.

Oh, and for dinner I made a kidney bean and chard stew with Asiago on top. Do not boil your chard, people. Just heat up your soup and put the chard in it, then wait 5 minutes, and it will be at a reasonable degree of done without turning into slimy chardsnot.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Warning: This post contains SCIENCE!

We've got an eggsperiment in the works.

Many chefs agree that the way to test if a potential hire is worth is salt is to have him cook the "perfect egg." But how does one do that? Gordon Ramsay and Mark Bittman have thoroughly different methods; they're both great instructor-chefs. Andy and I have got an experiment (see the pun now?) going on to test what methods really work best. Here's our chart for the results:

The "Gordon method" is illustrated in this link; the Bittman method is more typical in that eggs are scrambled before they hit the pan, in which the butter has been melted/oil has been heated already.

We decided (against our better [or worse?] judgment to only do the control this weekend. We'd thought about carrying the whole thing out at once, but we wanted to go out to dinner, and eating two dozen eggs between the two of us would probably foil that plan. Here are our Materials:

And here's me engaged in one of the Methods (the Gordon method):

Observations on the Bittman method: moderate degree of creaminess, light yellow, average fluffiness.

The results of the Gordon method were more grey in color and, while fluffy, also strangely granular in texture, not curdled, but granular. My current theory is that because the eggs are cooked over low heat while being moved around, they cook in teeny clumps.

Stay tuned for the rest of the eggsperiment, which will resume in three weeks when Andy once again visits New York!

I also made a loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, for which I had to remove the plastic handle from one of my pots. Thank you, neighbor, for your electric screwdriver.

My centennial

It figures that I wouldn't really cook anything special for my hundredth post. Again, friends keep popping up, and they all seem to regard eating a meal together as a good idea... anyway, I had a great meal, many components of which I can't identify at all, at an interesting Indian restaurant.

Today was sort of an interesting food day even if no dinner cooking happened. First, upon returning from yoga, I tried to make this apple-kale-ginger smoothie I'd seen that looked delightful. My poor little food processor was insufficient, though, to puree the stuff, so I ended up with finely minced apples, kale, and ginger. It was delicious. Lunch was a salad of sweet corn, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. I'd also made brownies, but those were to give to study buddies (yes, I am incentivizing good god I hate that word why did I use it studying with me via provision of calories).

I am seriously trying to reform the amount of food I'm taking in on a daily basis, or rather its caloric value, but it's hard when free food keeps happening everywhere, particularly when that free food isn't so much healthful as just satisfying to eat, both for taste reasons and for I-didn't-buy-this reasons.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free food is good.

Step 1: Volunteer for things.
Step 2: Have friends.
Step 3: For an entire day, neither cook, nor eat leftovers, nor pay for an incredible slice of spinach and artichoke pizza from this place (largely because you were told it wasn't cash-only, but it was, so in apology your friend despite your protestations paid for your slice).
Step 4: Profit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's up, Doc?

In the contest between scallion pancakes and a soup tonight, soup won out, chiefly because the last of the baguette was getting irreparably stale and needed to go into croutons. Carrots were two pounds for a dollar (!) on FreshDirect, so I went with a carrot soup.

There are about a thousand ways to do carrot soup. Ingredients started to come to mind: tarragon, rosemary and thyme, balsamic vinegar, harissa, berbere, allspice, apple, honey, cinnamon, citrus, curry, caraway, cumin... hmm, cumin. I settled on a north African-inspired soup that really showed off the carrot and cumin flavors, with very little else to interrupt, and finished it with a little yogurt for creaminess and protein. I also made lemony kale crisps and coriander croutons with waaaaay too much olive oil.

1 lb carrots
1 large onion
About a two-inch knob of ginger
olive and, optionally, sesame oil
1/2 to 1 tbsp honey
1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp lemon zest
pepper, salt, cayenne
1 bay leaf

Mince and saute the ginger and onion in a blend of olive and sesame oil; two full tablespoons of sesame oil would be overwhelming, I thought, so I used about a half tablespoon of sesame and a tablespoon and half of olive. When the ginger and onions are almost golden, put in cumin to taste and stir for about 30 seconds or until cumin is toasted and fragrant (you could also toast and grind cumin seeds, I suppose). Add peeled carrots cut into 1-inch lengths, a bay leaf, and about two and a half cups of water or broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf (for a more subtle bay flavor, remove it about halfway through the boiling process). Immersion blend the whole shebang until it's very smooth or, if you don't have an immersion blender, puree in a blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice, honey, and lemon zest, and add pepper, salt, and cayenne to taste. Heat a little more if necessary. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in the center and a few croutons on top, sprinkled with a little more cumin or cayenne if you like.

To make the coriander croutons, toss cubes of day-old bread with olive oil and ground coriander; I don't bother using salt or pepper, since the soup should take care of that. Broil on the highest rack, shaking the pan in which they're broiling a few times, until brown and crispy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fennelementary, my dear Watson

A New York Times article by Melissa Clark, who generally annoys me a little for reasons I can't quite pinpoint, advocated caramelizing onions and fennel together as a bed for a chicken breast, topped with a puree of garlic, lemon zest, and fennel fronds. It sounded simple and delicious, and I knew I had to try it. But as we all know, I don't eat chicken, so I decided to use an egg instead. Poetic, eh? Since I wasn't going to cook the vegetables in chicken breast residue and add Pernod to make a sauce, I deglazed the caramelizing vegetable pan with a bit of white wine and lemon juice and simply stirred the liquid in with the completed vegetables. Because eggs are relatively mild in flavor, I didn't add the prescribed fennel seeds, either, opting for a lighter licoricey taste. Another modification: I've had a little container of olive oil in which some thyme was soaking, so I used that instead of just straight olive oil in the frond puree.

I laid down a bed of lightly steamed chard first, followed by some of the caramelized vegetables, followed by the egg. I dressed the whole thing with the frond puree, which didn't get so much pureed as finely, finely minced. The egg you see in the photo isn't overdone; I just plopped it in the same pan used for caramelizing the veggies without cleaning the pan, so it picked up the brown residue that didn't come off with the deglazing. The lemon slice you see in the photo isn't just for garnish; I squeezed it over the whole mess for a bit more zing. Bonus: The chard got coated in yolk and was even more delicious than non-yolky chard. I didn't even have to slice into more bread to sop anything up. Better living through vegetables.

Add a little vinegar to the puree, or some lemon juice, and a touch more olive oil, and I could see it being a very fine salad dressing.

This was one of my better recent dinners (and lunch involved some Brie contributed by a friend, so I'm feeling lucky today), and there is plenty left over for lunch tomorrow. The only issue is that I can't very well fry an egg in the dining hall of the medical center, so maybe I'll buy some chickpeas at the salad bar to stir in for a little protein. Another downside is the high cost and touchy seasonality of fennel. Ah, well. I'll just have to find some other vegetables to caramelize along with onions! Any ideas?

Earlier today, I made apple-honey cupcakes in honor of Rosh Hashana, trying out a different recipe. Verdict: absolutely not as good as my standby. The cake part was extremely, extremely dense. It wasn't really a problem, since the whole thing mostly tasted like apples with a bit of dough and cinnamon in it, but I really prefer the light crumb and less apple-dense matrix of my usual cake. Don't worry, though, these were good enough to justify using up the apples.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

C'est bon

This bread was worth the effort. That is all.

It went well with my lazy person's modification of a dish I made this summer, Mark Bittman's rolled kale. Instead of spending ages stripping intact kale leaves from stems and rolling them around meticulously sliced sticks of feta, I stripped the leaves off the stems and chopped both. Then I layered the leaves and some feta on top of a lightly sauteed garlic-and-stems mixture, topped it with some olives and a couple chopped Roma tomatoes and half a chopped onion, poured a little cooking wine over the whole thing, and cooked it covered until the kale was tender. The broth that collects at the bottom is the best part, winy and briny. It's not so pretty, though, so I think I'll eschew pictures. But look at the tasty bread!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grocery shopping and other indoor sports

Another student and I placed an order with FreshDirect, a grocery service that delivers for a $5.79 fee, and the food arrived this morning. While the prices on dairy products were average to suboptimal, the prices for fresh produce, both organic and otherwise, were wonderful. As a result, I've got kale, local chard, scallions, local corn, carrots, onions, fennel, and green beans for the eating. After a week of either eating out or eating scraped-together meals very light on the vegetables, having the opportunity to go crazy with the produce at lunch was a relief. I made a salad of barely steamed chard, raw corn, red wine vinegar, and marjoram, with a little mozzarella on top. I haven't eaten like this in too long. The corn was so phenomenally sweet and crispy that I scrapped my previous plans to make a soup out of the rest of it, because it would be almost disrespectful not to eat it raw. And there's no way to go wrong with copious amounts of nearly raw chard.

And then another friend and I took a jaunt to the World's Most Crowded Trader Joe's, which featured an excellent wine shop with $4 vinho verde and some lovely looking sake that said friend picked up. At the actual grocery segment of the WMCTJ's, I got some basics (flour, eggs, huge bar of chocolate that will satisfy my baking needs until Thanksgiving) as well as lots of green tea. Why lots? Because once you've navigated the phenomenal (and yet phenomenally handled, I grant) lines at WMCTJ's, you don't want to go back for awhile, and the other Trader Joe's nearby (6th and 23rd) doesn't have as extensive a facility.

I've also begun the process of making a sourdough baguette, which will conclude either tomorrow night or Thursday morning. We'll see how this goes!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dispatch from Cambridge

Despite my new resolve to eat more healthfully and in more moderation than I have been since I got to medical school, I decided to make French toast for brunch today with some stale challah in the bread cabinet of the coop where Andy lives. The recipe is simple: a cup of milk, two eggs, a bit of sugar (I don't like to use much at all, just a few tablespoons) and a pinch of salt, a half-tablespoon of vanilla, and whichever spices one feels like using. After soaking the bread on both sides in the whisked mixture, I grilled it on a griddle oiled with a tablespoon of butter, caramelizing at least one side of each slice with a grapefruit syrup.

Any simple syrup is simple: add the same amount of sugar and liquid, be it fresh juice or water, and boil it down until it's the right consistency. We dipped bites of the toast into more syrup, but there was still quite a bit left. It could have been boiled down a bit more, I suppose. I suggested using the rest of it to flavor a vat of green tea Andy made, but he nixed the idea and shotgunned the syrup. Waste not, want not, as they say.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Do not study and bake bread at the same time

Or then you will forget to oil the pan and your bread will tragically stick, but your friend who eats with you will be nice and tell you it is tasty anyway. The saffron-and-paprika lentil stew turned out well, though. Perhaps a little al dente. One day this exam will be over and I can pay attention to my food again.