Sunday, October 31, 2010

That's right, folks, don't touch that dial

Thanks for staying tuned despite my lapses. I've not been in a cooking mood--which, to be honest, worries me slightly--and have also been in full-on study mode, which means I've mostly been subsisting on milk and cereal. But not today.

Here's a neat trick for reforming canned chickpeas: rinse and dry them, toss them with olive oil and whatever flavorings you want, and roast them for about half an hour at 425 F. I did this using turmeric and cinnamon and cayenne, and did the same thing to a couple small sweet potatoes. After the roasting, green peas went in there, too.

The best tool you have is your hands.

This was lunch and dinner, along with an apple per meal (doctors: far away). I've jacked up a FreshDirect order to the minimum of $30 (assiduous cheese purchasing!), meaning that groceries happen tomorrow, as does my exam, which means in turn that regular posts happen starting tomorrow, too... or at least until my parents get here on Friday and we go out for tasty food.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Convenient cooking methods

Ways to cook foods when you don't have an exam coming up: caramelize
Ways to cook foods when you do: roast

Tonight's dinner (well, lunch, sort of? I ate cereal at 8:30 a.m. and then another meal at 4) was roasted spaghetti squash and zucchini, topped with berbere lentils. Delicious. Unphotographed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not exactly nothing

I did not cook today for a very exciting reason: IV workshop, complete with Thai food (and then we got more food gleaned from leftovers at a speaker event featuring Pauline Chen, just to top off the night). The very tolerant Jon allowed me to stick him not once, but twice, despite the fact that the first time I was so shocked to have actually inserted the needle in a vein on the first try that I let blood gush over his arm instead of actually collecting it and then flushing the tube in order to "put in an IV." Sorry, Jon. It's okay, though, because he got to practice on me, too. The two or three tries we got did not furnish nearly enough practice, but we can't exactly shove needles in each other until we look like heroin addicts, so actual expertise will just have to wait until we hit the wards, I guess.

But now I can theoretically perform CPR, take pulse and BP, give injections, and take blood and place IVs. Theoretically. Very theoretically.

In honor of tonight's activities, here is one of my favorite viral YouTube videos:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Almost forgot to post!

I decided to just take my dinner to the library post-yoga so that I could get in some good study time, which means that no real photographs of tonight's lentil chili are forthcoming. But check out the cornbread!

As you can tell, one recipe (yeah, this was just one recipe) makes a gargantuan mass of cornbread. I'll probably be eating this for the rest of the week, despite the fact that I devoured a lovely fistful of it with the chili. Ah, well. If it goes stale, I can just toast it slightly and make cornbread breadcrumbs for a hypothetical future veggie burger recipe.

In other news, I really want to start getting up at 6 a.m. to go to 6:30 yoga so that I don't have to build my food schedule and study schedule around what are admittedly awkward yoga times (it's inadvisable to eat later than three or two-and-a-half hours before doing bikram, which means that the 8:30 p.m. class is awkward, but if I do the 4:30 or 6:30 p.m., I have to interrupt a library session). Any suggestions from those of you who are actually good at waking up to alarms?

Monday, October 25, 2010

An excuse to eat more eggplant

I roasted the whole of my eggplant while making yesterday's curry, which made prep for tonight's pizza relatively easy; basically, all it took was making the dough!

As you can see here, I actually made four mini-pizzas. They've got pepper, feta, eggplant, garlic, and broccoli on them.

I achieved a reasonable degree of symmetry, I think, partly achieved by just giving up on making a crust. Except for this one. It's pretending to be deep-dish.

I had two for dinner and am currently very, very full.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Short and savory

Roasted eggplant curry over brown rice!

Time to run to the gym and then decide whether to spend the evening vegetating or being productive.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I hate trying to come up with titles for these posts

I had my first Experience with the MTA today! A normally 25- to 30-minute ride back from the Museum of Modern Art turned into a nearly hour-and-a-half crawl through the underside of New York while an obnoxiously well-dressed man ranted in English and Portuguese (at least, I think it was Portuguese) to his absurdly tolerant girlfriend. Add to that the fact that I got up at 6:30 to have a morning yoga class and subsequently spent six hours in the library studying. By the time I got home, all I wanted was something warm to cram into my mouth with gusto.

Enter Mark Bittman once again, this time with a pearl couscous and vegetable gratin. I don't have couscous, so I used barley instead; I omitted the pesto he has us home cooks mix in with the milk and egg to pour over the grain/vegetable blend. Instead, I just stirred up a mix of mushrooms, caramelized onions, string beans, and roasted tomato, poured the beaten egg and milk over it, and topped the dish with goat cheese. Twenty minutes later... dinner!

It wouldn't have been so quick if I hadn't roasted the tomato yesterday out of fear that it would mold before I had a chance to get to it. It's perversely appealing to gloat as 45 minutes in the oven turns this nice, plump tomato into a shriveled old crone tomato.

Delicious shriveled old crone tomato, that is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A quest!

For those (very few) of you who haven't heard, I've been on the warpath in re the heinous price of pre-packaged dried porcini mushrooms. They are indispensable for four or five of my favorite dishes, but I refuse to pay $5.00 for one ounce. Back in Cambridge, the nearest Whole Foods sold them in bulk for about $26.00 a pound, which, when you consider the fact that an ounce is the most that is needed at a time for a good four servings of each dish, is not so bad.

The Whole Foods closest to the medical school has no bulk section, so I traveled to Tribeca, only to find a Whole Foods with a woefully inadequate bulk section. There's no way I was going to leave empty-handed, though, so I walked to Canal Street, intending to investigate Chinatown's dizzying array of dried mushrooms. Well. For $2.00, I picked up a quarter pound of what I thought might best approximate dried porcini. Mycologist I am not, for they were distinctly Asian and had not a whiff of porcininess about them. I also got a cheap grater, though, which I sorely needed, and had a nice walk, so I'll consider the trip not a total failure. Undaunted, I will continue my quest... to the Columbus Circle Whole Foods! Or maybe I'll learn my lesson and call first.

In the meantime, I used those Chinese dried mushrooms in an udon and vegetable soup. Home-making the udon was worth it, even though it meant I didn't get to eat until 8:30, since I didn't start the noodles until a little before 5.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Try the grey stuff; it's delicious!

In my quest to make novel food items that aren't just variations on lentil stew, carrot soup, or rice and beans, I took a stab at the savory vegetable custards Mark Bittman has in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, dividing the recipe for mushroom custards by three to get a portion I thought would suffice for lunch and dinner.

For once, my portion estimation was spot-on: one-third a recipe makes five cupcake-sized custards, so I had two tonight and will either have two tomorrow for lunch and one for a snack or will cave and have all three. But I made a crucial error. Mark instructs us to scrape the gills out of the mushrooms before chopping them, which in my post-yoga state (translation: NEED FOOD! NEED WATER!) I forgot to do. As a result, the custards, which were generally smooth with only a slight top crust of mushroom bits that didn't get fully pureed into the milk, turned a rather unappetizing grey color.

But they were spiked with goat cheese and thyme and were more than edible. I ate them with half a sweet potato and some (what else?) kale, mostly to bring color to dinner.

Oh, and last night, I made ginger cupcakes. But I still have some milk left, and I hate drinking milk. What to do with it... and while you're at it, people, give me suggestions on what to do with most of a jar of cherry juice. Should I just... make more gelatin?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Be yourself

Normally, I don't like foods that proclaim to be "almost like [X other less healthful or non-dietary restriction-friendly food]." If you're going to be vegetarian, just don't eat meat. If you're going to go for a low-carb diet, don't make special super-duper low-carb bread with genetically engineered wheat-derived flour. As a general rule, food is better if it isn't pretending to be something else.

But every once in awhile, you gotta break your own rules.

I've been eating a carb-heavy diet lately, both in terms of meals and snacks, and resolved today to get back on the wagon. And every once in awhile I get a craving for Morningstar's surprisingly good fake meat products; the "Grillers" veggie burgers and Italian sausages, the latter of which I just happened to have in the freezer, are my favorites. Thinking back to the end of my last semester of undergrad, when I made Italian sausage and pepper subs using those Morningstar sausages, I decided to break out my spaghetti squash and make a "spaghetti" version of it.

Spaghetti squash isn't my favorite in terms of taste (that would be butternut), but it's so much fun! Okay, fine, and it was on sale. But really, dragging a fork through the roasted squash half and watching the angel-hair-thin strands come out is entertaining. Plus, the empty skin is a convenient receptacle for vegetable waste!

Half a small squash, half a bell pepper, half an onion, three sausage links, and three mushrooms led to this behemoth of a portion that I daresay any Italian grandmother would be proud of.

After I took this picture, I immediately put half of it in a Tupperware for tomorrow. And still had enough to stuff myself, along with a few leaves of what it should be clear by now is my favorite vegetable: kale. I'm getting increasingly minimalist with the stuff. It used to be "toss with olive oil and a careful blend of salt, pepper, citrus juice, and spice." Now, you're lucky if I bother to salt it.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I love Thai food. Love it. But I have not yet found a good vegetarian substitute for fish sauce. Which is why tonight's stir fry was only "Thai-ish."

I may cave and buy some red curry paste to approximate an eggplant red curry later in the week. That will not suffer as much in its authenticity from lack of fish sauce.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dictatorship of autumn

Lately, the Internet has just exploded with recipes featuring pumpkin. And apples. But mostly pumpkin.

I've never cooked with fresh pumpkin, nor do I particularly care to try, but I felt that I should grudgingly give in and do the pumpkin thing just once at least. Tonight seemed like a good time, because:

a. we have an exam the day after Halloween, and this is close enough to Halloween that I can celebrate the pumpkiny goodness of it all without endangering my studies.
b. whenever Andy is here, I eat copious amounts of food that is not very good for me, so I felt like I could round that off tonight by making whatever I wanted.
c. organic canned pumpkin was on sale at Trader Joe's.

I used half a can of the pumpkin (roughly 7.5 ounces) to make pasta with pumpkin cream sauce. Well, cream-ish. I used a smidgen of milk and about a tablespoon of goat cheese (yes, that stuff is sticking around!) rather than heavy cream and lots of cheese, and sure, the sauce was less runny and smooth, but it tasted fine and will do a lot less damage calorie-wise. I caramelized some onions with a bay leaf, then added some sage, nutmeg, red pepper, and salt with the pumpkin and dairy items, tossing in the pasta (too much, actually; the leftovers will feed me for two lunches, easy). Pine nuts and/or parsley for the top would have been nice, but I'm not complaining! Simple steamed green beans were a great foil (Look at those tasty-looking green beans. I love fresh green beans. Seriously. I could eat a pound at one go).

The rest of the pumpkin went into a half-recipe of these pumpkin pie bars. I diminished the amount of sugar and upped the spices, adding a smidgen of anise and a lot of cloves for good measure. I reheated Zeno's Mug of Green Tea that is always sitting on my desk and enjoyed one for a late-night dessert as I wrote some HFT other arts questions and listened to a little of the opera about which I was writing. Tomorrow, it's back to work... this time on host-defense! Viruses! Bacteria! Parasites! I am so very excited!

Nothing to see here, move along

Andy and I made carrot coconut soup with berbere spice (and a small sweet potato to smooth it out) today. I took pictures, but honestly, it looks like all the other carrot soups I've been making. Time to start buying fewer carrots, because making variations on carrot soup is no longer interesting.

Instead, look at this picture that, hilariously, looks not so much delicious as... well... yeah. This blogger should have reconsidered her food presentation.


Friday, October 15, 2010


As I related to a few friends over a mammoth slice of post-exam pizza at Artichoke Basilles, earlier today I caught myself wearing a cute dress and an apron and no shoes, in the kitchen baking a cake for the chief XY-endowed individual in my life. Thank god I'm in medical school, because otherwise Betty Friedan would have to stage an intervention. Prompted by the sheepish admission of one of my co-lunchers that he enjoyed his summer as a house-husband, I reflected that this past summer's life of cooking, cleaning, and occasional teaching (okay, and quizbowl question-writing and med school paperwork-completing) was scarily fulfilling. It seems that not so deep inside some of us aspiring Scientists with a Humanist Bent lies this gal.

On that note, here's the cake I baked!

The dots of whipped cream on the top are not exactly concentric, because a. I was working with an off-brand plastic baggie with one corner snipped off and b. I have not an artistic bone in my body.

The devil's food cake (slightly overbaked, I fear) and stabilized whipped cream recipes are from my faithful ten-year-old copy of Good Housekeeping's baking cookbook, and the cherry gelatin layer in the middle was adapted from a pâte de fruit recipe found on the Internet. The actual gelling/baking/whipping process did not take too long; shopping was much more time-consuming and difficult.

But you know me. Anything for my man.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Our records all show/ You are filthy but fine"

I read this New York Times "City Room" post and the ensuing comments with much bemusement and a little bit of empathy. No, New York hasn't "broken my heart," but as an outsider like Mr. Solomon, albeit one with more lightbulbs and fewer carrot-topped vixen problems, I, too, have noticed favorite and unfavorite aspects of the city. Favorites include the chill in the air very early in the morning in autumn while you're walking to yoga and the only people around are either very creepy, very sweaty due to jogging at as breakneck a pace as they could jog and still be jogging, or very friendly in that blue-collar way in which one person greets another with an utter lack of pretension while holding a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in his work gloves and warming one hand in the pocket of his cement-stained jeans, because when one of you is wearing work gloves and cement-stained jeans and the other is wearing a ratty bandanna barely containing her crepuscular frizz and exuding a sweetish odor of yoga sweat, pretension is pretty much impossible, and a peculiar sort of anonymous warmth takes its place.

In related news, they finally turned on the heat in our building today, so despite the fact that I like the ambiance of the new library study level, I am in my toasty room rather than the frosty library.

So today called for a warm meal, but I also wanted something light. I've written before about Andy's rosemary bread, specifically about how exceptional the texture is. I omitted the Italian spice and swapped out the rosemary for teaspoon and a half of cumin seeds, and I cannot adequately describe the goodness of the results. You know those old Yoplait commercials about how "it's so good" with the two oh-so-chill girlfriends? That good. A warm chickpea, edamame, cucumber, and feta salad dressed with lemon juice, pepper, and a touch of mint rounded out an early dinner.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tastes like home

I will freely admit that my mother can't bake like I can. I don't think she's ever made us bread, and I had taken over the dessert-making onus of the household by the time I was 12 or 13.

But she sure can cook.

There are a few dishes that I would get particularly excited to have her make for dinner when I was a kid. Red beans and rice was one of them. Mom would soak the dried kidney beans overnight and then slowly boil them with onion and green bell pepper until they were thick and impossibly creamy. There would always be some kind of sausage (even, if we'd just been to visit Louisiana, real andouille), thyme, Tony Chachare's, and a bay leaf or two that may or may have gotten pulled out of the pot before the ravening hordes descended upon it. Even though I didn't have Tabasco and had to use cayenne, and even though I put in Morningstar veggie sausage instead of anything close to authentic, I'm happy to report that my red beans and rice were delicious.

But I'm happier to report that they were nowhere close to as delicious as Mom's.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This post brought to you by the letter C

Look what I found!

That's right, Scrabble-themed Cheez-Its. Andy's mom alerted me to their existence, and a friend and I took a field trip way uptown to the Target in East Harlem in order to find them (and purchase other sundries). It's intriguing how comforting a big, new, spacious Target (in the same complex as a Costco, Petsmart, and Marshall's) feels having spent the past two months in an atmosphere leaning more toward urban grit. You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can't take the suburbs out of the girl.

(It says "periprandial wordplay.")

(I should also note that there seems to be an inordinately high frequency of the letters F, U, and N. I suspect a devious subliminal message on the part of the Kellogg company.)

Speaking of comfort, tonight was a night for some comfort food, skewed to the healthful. The mac 'n' cheese Andy and I made over the summer was incredibly successful; I adapted it to a cauliflower 'n' cheese with a lower sauce-to-substrate ratio, using skim milk and low-fat Cheddar. There were some caramelized onions left over in the fridge, so I layered those on top of the crust of panko tossed with Italian spices, with an additional cheese sprinkling, of course.

Macaroni and cheese is traditionally served with collards in certain areas of the country, and luckily I just happened to have yet another enormous bunch of them on hand. They've just got a little garlic powder and a touch of pepper on them. I find that they don't need much more.

Cauliflower, cheddar cheese (and Cheez-Its, I suppose), collards, caramelized onions... C-mply s-c-rumptious.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Some nights you feel like spending a couple hours assembling a perfect, intricate meal complete with dessert. Some nights you just got back from yoga and have way too much studying to do and want food that tastes good, and you want it as close to "now" as possible.

Enter a go-to standard dish of mine, roasted cauliflower pseudo-curry, pseudo because it only contains a few of the spices that typically go into a curry, turmeric being the dominant one. It also contains chickpeas, green peas, raisins, "lite" coconut milk, tomato paste, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and cloves, although like I said, those spices vary depending on what I have on hand and what I feel like tossing in. To add some spicy to the spice, I used a jalapeno that gave this thing quite the kick in the pants. The point is, this is a good, filling, reasonably healthful meal--it's so hearty you don't even need rice to go with it--that can be made in great quantity in very little time. I downed a nice, hearty bowl and had one of the remaining bagels for dessert. I also had a bagel for lunch. One more bagel to go...

Friday, October 8, 2010

My bagels bring all the boys to the yard

I've made some crazy things in my day (see: baked Alaska, pumpkin spice eclairs), but today was my first foray into bagels! Indulging my apple/cheddar obsession all the more, I dispensed with plain and made apple-cinnamon, apple-cheddar (also with a touch of cinnamon), and apple-caramelized onion varieties, with the help of a lovely assistant from the other end of the fourteenth floor.

I used onions and beautiful Crispin apples from the Bellevue farmers market. The cheese is also local New York cheddar.

Luckily, there were people around to eat the bagels as soon as I pulled them out of the oven. Otherwise, disaster might have happened (read: I'd have been forced to consume them all myself. Horrors!)

I combined Ultimate Bread and Bread Baker's Apprentice recipes to make these half-whole wheat, half-white flour concoctions. Next time, plain bagels (or perhaps just sesame or onion powder-dusted) will be in order, if only because it will generate fewer dirty dishes!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In the news

I didn't cook dinner today (thank you, Academic Journal Club, for furnishing pizza with your glioma talk), so instead I'll write about one interesting cooking-related and one interesting food- and health-related article in the New York Times today:

Well, properly speaking, this is a preview of an article coming out on Sunday (I don't like how they preview some of their biggest Sunday articles, by the way. It ruins the excitement of reading the complete magazine on Sundays! Hold off until then to read the previewed articles, you say? Sorry, too curious, or perhaps too compulsive.), written by Michael Pollan of In Defense of Food fame. I wish it were easier to eat the way those "dinner party" guests ate, not in terms of the oh-so-rustic wood-burning oven and amazing quantities of incredible food, but in terms of locally produced proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids consumed with more joy than environmental repercussion.

And then we have this article on a Bloomberg proposal that would no longer allow food stamps to be used to purchase soft drinks, along with certain other classes of sugary drink. My real objection to this is that Bloomberg says that a two-year test ban would be enough to provide data for a trustworthy study on the ban's effects; I disagree for several reasons. But other than that, have at it, people! This is much less the government "telling you what you can eat," as one commenter asserts, than banning trans fats in New York City restaurants; one can feel free to buy soda by the barrel if one wants, but not on the government's dime. Even if this does not significantly depress soft drink consumption in the targeted population--which I certainly hope it does--it will at least free up more money to be spend on, who knows, possibly more healthful food. As someone pointed out in the journal club, it's amusing that the more conservative on the political spectrum who are more likely to indignantly invoke "personal liberty" in opposition to restricting food stamp spending options are also more likely to be opposed to food stamps in the first place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A likely combination

I love, love, love to pair apples and cheddar. I'm not sure what region of the United States it originates from--Northerners and Southerners and Midwesterners alike have given me odd stares when I mentioned putting apples and cheddar together--but I'd like to thank whoever started it off. In any case, I took the combination and used it to go from last night's theme of "simple and partially canned" to something more erudite: roasted apple and garlic crepes with cheddar cheese and fennel-scented greens, dusted with a bit of nutmeg. I highly, highly recommend making this. The following proportions were enough to feed me for dinner, with leftovers for lunch tomorrow. If you don't want to save anything for the next day, you could just make the remaining crepes and fill them with Nutella or chocolate syrup or just dust them with powdered sugar.

Toss two cloves of garlic and one cored, sliced apple (peel if you want, I guess) with about a half-tablespoon of olive oil, and put in a 425-degree oven. Meanwhile, whisk a half-cup flour, one tablespoon melted and cooled butter, one egg, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 to 1 cup milk until smooth and very pourable; you want this stuff to spread in a thin layer over the saucepan when you put it in. Put the batter in the fridge to rest* while the apple and garlic roast. Meanwhile, toss some greens of your choice (I used collard, because that's how I roll, but asparagus or mustard greens would work well here) with a quarter-teaspoon of fennel seeds and cook in a hot nonstick or barely olive oil-coated pan. Set aside. When the roasting is done, remove the pan from the oven and slice one clove of garlic (the other is for tomorrow) as best you can; if it mushes up because it's too soft, whatever, that's fine. Heat a frying pan and put a small pat of butter in it to coat. When the butter is sizzling, pour just enough crepe batter in to thinly coat the pan. When the crepe is just cooked on both sides, layer grated or thinly sliced cheddar, some apple, and a few slices of garlic (I used a half clove per crepe), then fold the crepe and keep it on the heat for a moment to melt the cheese. Dust with the nutmeg and eat with the greens.

I felt so gourmet eating this. It also makes me nostalgic for my middle and high school days, when the French Club and Congres, the French competition team, would make crepes for class parties (which also entailed watching Disney movies in French) and to raise money at the Pine View Fair. The French food station was always the most popular, of course.

And now, in the Weird Coincidences Department: I asked Andy what he wanted me to bake for his post-exam visit next weekend (yes, I know, cloying, let's move on), and he chose ladyfingers, then mentioned that he was excited to see what sort of cream I'd fill them with. Uh. Cream? We eventually figured out that he was talking about ladylocks, which I can't exactly make without some sort of mold, and I have nothing that could serve as baking dowels. Those will have to wait, but I do plan to make them for him one day hence. His second choice: black forest cake. We rapidly discovered that we both have culinarily formative early-life memories revolving around black forest cake. This is just going to have to be the best one ever.

*Not all chefs agree that crepe batter needs to rest. My view is that it doesn't hurt anything, and it leaves you free to, say, catch up on your reading while the roasting finishes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Manufacturing time

The question I am constantly asked by those who either see this blog or are the unfortunate recepients of my schpiel about it is, "How do you have enough time?" Here's how:

I got home from the hospital at 5:30 p.m. At 5:53 I began cooking, and by 6:09 I had:

Preheated the oven, rinsed a can of Goya black beans and put them in a bowl, added some leftover brown rice, chopped, deseeded and added a jalapeno, touched my eyes and grunted in pain and self-admonishment for awhile while chopping and adding a tomato, chopped and added a red bell pepper, chopped and added some cheddar cheese (crap, I keep forgetting to buy a grater!), seasoned it all with cumin and cilantro and a bit of salt, wished I had fresh cilantro as I hollowed out two green bell peppers, stuffed said peppers, and realized that I had more than enough to stuff two more bell peppers.

Granted, my kitchen table looked like this:

But I also had two of these!

Half an hour later, I pulled them out of the oven and enjoyed one of them (the other is tomorrow's lunch) with some raisins, a multivitamin, and a rare (free!) Diet Coke while typing this post; in the interim, I cleaned up after myself and reviewed for tomorrow's histology lab. Now, I would like to point out that if I hadn't wanted to decompress from the events of the day, I could have relistened to a lecture while doing all that chopping, or even read from a book propped up on the microwave (granted, that poses some moderate danger to my fingers).

Do I have a lot left to do today? Yes. Before I go to bed, I will (well, should):

Work out, pick up my room, read a couple academic papers, study amino acids, make some immune system-related flashcards and read the immunology textbook, print things back at the medical center, and probably something I've forgotten by now. Would cooking and blogging have allowed me to go to bed earlier? Certainly. But not so much earlier that I'd give up a fresh roasted stuffed bell pepper dinner.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Deliberate cultivation of ignorance

Phew, fresh vegetables in the fridge again! Maybe I'm stupid to take time off my learning in order to do so--see the title of the post--but I prefer to think it keeps me sane. Anyhow, while noted workaholic Thomas Edison noted that work* is a better cure for worry than whiskey, he said nothing about the salutary powers of vegetables.

And so, with the exam o' doom drawing ever closer, I made one of my favorite summertime comfort foods, and to hell with the sudden fall weather and my rising cortisol levels: The world needs more whole wheat pita with Middle Eastern-style salad.

As I keep pointing out to classmates who wonder how I have the time to do this sort of thing, bread-making fits in well to a study schedule. I mixed up the sponge, let it sit while I reviewed a few lectures, used it to make the dough, let it rise while I exercised and studied a bit more, and then baked it right before I ate the salad that had been marinating on the counter; the apartment is chilly enough to do that.

I like to make and eat this salad at only a few degrees below room temperature--or, if you're my shockingly cold apartment, room temperature. Tomatoes don't do well at very low temperatures, both in terms of taste and texture. Added benefit: The cool-rather-than-cold salad doesn't wreak havoc on a fresh, warm pita. If it looks like there's not much feta, or that the pieces are very small, it's because I splurged on a delightfully stinky Bulgarian sheep's milk feta. Believe me, not much is required to imbue a salad with the taste.


Man, speaking of the title of this post, it's been a long time since I read a not-textbook, not-cookbook, not-New York Times article. Post-exam plans: read Kafka on the Shore.

*Afford me my crazy sentence construction, would you kindly?

Friday, October 1, 2010


I'd mentioned that there is little left in the house in the way of combinable foodstuffs, and that I was going to scrape by until Sunday, but I like overachieving. Aristotle probably called it, along with excellence, habit, or maybe a way of life or a deadly compulsion or something like that. Last night, post-posting, I got a major yen to bake something. Problem: I still had three lectures to go through before reaching my personal study quota, and I had no butter, and I've gone through a heinous amount of flour and sugar recently. There are a few recipes floating around in my archives for honey cakes that use oil instead of butter, but most of them call for coffee, which I do not possess, or for more honey than the scant amount I had. I do, however, possess green tea. So here you have it: honey green tea cake.

1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or cake)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp yuzu juice (or any citrus juice + 1/4 tsp salt)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup very strong green tea (I wouldn't use one of the more delicate green teas if I were you. It probably wouldn't come through)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients together. Beat eggs and sugar until thick and bright yellow, then gently beat in the rest of the wet ingredients. Using a spatula or whisk, fold in dry ingredients; do not overbeat. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.

I found the cake too sweet; next time, I'm adding less sugar. But I tend to have a very mild sweet tooth (in terms of "how sweet" not in terms of "no, I must decline that delightful pastry"), so perhaps you'll enjoy it this way.

Generic orange soup day!

I don't know if I've described this before, but I feel like it may be important to mention that I've been scheduling all food purchasing around exam cycles: each new round of grocery shopping occurs either the Sunday after a Friday exam or before a Monday exam. Fridays and Saturdays, thus, tend to be the days when I'm low on supplies and have no "scheduled" recipes planned. They also, sadly, are days when there are no free dinners provided by clubs or lecture organizers or what have you.

Enter the contents of my fridge: a small sweet potato, a few carrots on the limp side of fresh, some kale on the fresh side of wilted, half a log of goat cheese, half a dozen eggs, an onion and a half, and some leftover brown rice. I figured it was either fried rice--and how well would kale-and-onion fried rice work out?--or something with the sweet potato and carrots.

Enter the immersion blender. I toasted some fennel and a bay leaf in a little olive oil, sauteed in some chopped onion, and then added the yam (peeled) and carrots (peeled)and water and boiled until they were tender, then took the immersion blender to it all. I made little rolls of kale and goat cheese, broiled them until the kale was no longer flaccid, and ate them along with the soup and the remaining honey wheat bun (again, not because one of our lecturers' constant mantra of "eat sugar, get fat" isn't intimidating, but because that bun was not going to last much longer, either).

Just have to hold out one more day sans fresh ingredients!