Friday, December 31, 2010

Home sweet home

After a bit of an ordeal à la JetBlue, I finally got back to Manhattan! After a week of sporadic cooking and way, way too much eating out, it was time to celebrate with a trip to World's Most Crowded Trader Joe's and a subsequent delicious dinner. I thought about poaching eggs in a blend of vegetable broth and white wine, but true to my secretly lazy self, I didn't want to have to poach more eggs tomorrow for lunch. So I turned to pasta cooked in red wine with mushrooms, onions, coriander, and fennel, with a raw kale salad. Despite the fact that broiled kale is what I habitually make, I love, love, love raw kale salad. Mostly it's because I can talk to the kale in my head. You see, in order to get it soft and pliable, one must massage the kale with whichever acid one is using to soften it chemically. It's like a little kale spa: "First, we will relax you with a luxurious lemon juice massage, followed by a light marinade in the juice and some rice wine vinegar to make you looser and more relaxed than you have ever been before. Doesn't that feel good?" And then, after it's rested in the lemon juice and vinegar for 10 or 15 minutes, I top it with minced carrot, red onion, and peanuts. And eat it.

Today also featured my return to yoga after nine days of not being able to do it. This went... marginally well. Okay, slightly less than marginally, if I am to be honest with myself. Tomorrow will be better. In the meantime, I will finish reading Because I Was Flesh, an amazing, amazing book by Edward Dahlberg that everybody should try. I wish I'd read it before I read The Sorrows of Priapus; I'd shied away from it because I don't usually enjoy biographies or autobiographies as much as an author's other works, but this is a fine exception (and plus, it would have given me greater insight into Sorrows.

Oh, and happy new year. This year wasn't bad, but the next one promises to be better.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


There are very few foods I have to give up as a vegetarian. Hamburgers, yes. Steak, tragically, yes. But pot pie? No.

Porcini mushrooms give this gravy its brown, meaty goodness. There are lentils for protein, as well as the usual assortment of pot pie vegetables. I made a pie crust for a flaky top, but the original recipe called for biscuit topping, which is arguably just as delicious. We ate this with a simple green salad and some of a loaf of Italian bread I baked earlier in the day.

Andy made oatmeal lace cookies to fill with the remaining ganache for yesterday; upon discovering that there was no vanilla extract, he rifled through the alcohol cabinet and triumphantly unearthed some Irish cream liqueur. This was a very, very good thing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A very indie Christmas

This post brought to you by Passion Pit and my stain-concealing black skinny jeans.

As I've mentioned, despite being an atheist with relatively tenuous ties to Christianity, I will wholeheartedly embrace any festivities for which I can cook obscene amounts. Christmas day started with brioche cinnamon rolls. The recipe used a pound of butter and made twelve rolls. Globs of caramel adhered tantalizingly to the underside when I flipped them over.

I made a spinach, pea, and mint soup that is not pictured because it looks like an algae-filled lake on camera. The main course was champignons bourguignons, because let's face it, the beef is just the side dish to the amazing sauce in a bourguignon (at least in my opinion). Andy nearly purred watching the raw vegetables turn into a thick, saucy mix as we cooked it. Green beans provencals were the side dish. Dessert was simple: phyllo purses full of brie and raspberry jam, drizzled with homemade ganache.

And all through it, my classy, classy brother drank Busch Light out of a wineglass.

Post-dinner activities included a throwback to my childhood: plate-making. You draw on circular pieces of paper and send them off to a company that, for a fee, will make them into plastic plates. I made one that was okay. My brother, the artistic one, made one that was great. My sister and her boyfriend co-made one that isn't pictured because it looks like a terrifying acid dream.

When Andy said I should contribute to his plate because it was only fitting that I should have "a heavy influence on it," I wrote this:

So he drew on my arm.

Luckily, the markers were, according to the box, extremely washable.

Andy and I finished off the afternoon with a long beach walk. We saw parrots (which flabbergasted my pet Yankee) and porpoises (which, for some reason, didn't as much), but I think this was the highlight:

Other highlights: being forced to guess what my Christmas present was (the autobiography of Edward Dahlberg!), my mother saying "no" when my father asked if she'd like to say some words before we all ate, and my underage sister exploding her beer all over the tablecloth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


There's a molecular gastronomy site I read occasionally that described the synergistic gustatory effects of combining cauliflower and chocolate. I have neither the time nor the funds nor the equipment nor the skills to execute the more impressive sorts of molecular gastronomy, but I have cauliflower, and I have cocoa powder. And Parmesan. And gelatin. Enter caramelized cauliflower with cocoa gelée and crispy Parmesan cocoa crumbles. The dish is so high-falutin' that I'm blushing with shame. But it's... surprisingly good. Really good, actually, though I can't help but think that cauliflower drizzled with some sort of Parmesan ganache might be better. In true high-falutin' fashion, the current version is photographed with only a few tiny slices of cauliflower on the plate, for which I would theoretically charge $20. It would cost an extra dollar if it were topped with a few big crystals of pink Himalayan salt.

Most importantly, though, nothing imminently perishable is left in the fridge.

Look at the teeny cube of cocoa gel!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The importance of limiting reagents

Dish No. 1 with the quirky assortment of foods I have left in my fridge: panko-crusted fried eggplant with saffron coconut honey sauce, served alongside newly purchased green beans, which I roasted with paprika.

Yeah, I'm a little proud of this one.

The one flaw resulted from the fact that I'd never reduced coconut milk before (and for that matter didn't even know if it could be reduced), so the sauce got very thick before I realized how quickly it was happening (this may be because, ever the multi-tasking cook, I was breading eggplant slices as the sauce reduced). This is why the picture looks sort of goofy: the sauce glopped off the spoon rather than flowing somewhat. I was going for hollandaise consistency. It's thicker than that, sadly.

But man, does it taste great. There's a little cayenne and a touch of turmeric in addition to the saffron and honey, as well as some very finely minced onions. I did not record the proportions, but by tasting judiciously, it could easily be recreated. Just sweat the onions in a tiny bit of oil until the onions are clear, add the coconut milk and bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. After it reduces a bit, stir in the spices; don't overspice at first, because remember, the sauce volume will decrease. Adjust to taste as you go.

Okay, I lied about one flaw. I also discovered just as I was about to begin the eggplant-breading process that I had one egg left, not two, as I had thought. Yes, I know, check ingredient availability before you begin cooking, naughty me. The upshot of it is that a few slices of eggplant that I could not bread and fry remained. I've roasted them, though, and they will constitute my lunch tomorrow.

Funnily enough, when I got to the end of my little bag of panko, I discovered that there was a silica gel packet inside with the usual "do not eat" stamped on it. This amuses me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The high-cortisol diet

In other words, stress eating. We all do it. I have recently had five students confess to me that they've been consuming ice cream nightly and/or have stopped keeping ice cream in the house because of the nightly consumption thereof. Normalizing cortisol levels relies on a diet of foods low in glycemic index, eaten in small portions four to six times a day, but when one has got a Tuesday anatomy exam opposing such heroic efforts, one might as well give up.

My own cravings in times of high cortisol include "lots of anything," usually, but lately I've been really feeling cheese. Attempts to justify my bird-brained excuse that formalin stimulates hunger resulted in me finding this article; make of it what you will. In the meantime, I'll make and consume baked fusilli.

Aside from heavenly and unholy amounts of mozzarella and Parmesan, it features a crispy crust on top and a touch of cinnamon in the tomato sauce. If you can't be satisfied with how much you know, at least be satisfied with your dinner, that's what I always (read: recently have begun to) say.

With three days left in town, my fridge contains some onions and garlic, a half-can's worth of coconut milk, a half-can's worth of plum tomatoes, a single sweet potato, an egg, a quarter of an eggplant, and about a quarter of a head each of broccoli and cauliflower. I've also got lentils, pinto beans, pasta, and barley. Let's see what can be done with this.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Trust in me

Early dinner tonight, mostly because it sort of qualifies as lunch. I made savory bread pudding with thyme, mushrooms, caramelized red onion, and Parmesan; helpfully, it used up the old stale bread from two days ago. As a token attempt to make dinner appear healthy rather than "bread soaked in eggs with some cheese on top", I made a broccoli and apple salad with red wine vinegar that could have benefited from some pistachios, or perhaps walnuts. Still tasty, though, and much more tasty than my skeptical boyfriend claimed it would be (Anyone remember this from childhood?). I forgot to photograph dinner before it ended up in my stomach, so here is a picture that I like:

Fun fact of the day: when a kidney is transplanted, it's placed inferior to the anatomical location of one's own kidney, in the cradle of the ilium (also known as the iliac fossa). The dysfunctional original kidney is usually left where it is. This is because the renal blood supply and innervation are complicated enough that tearing through them would be a very, very bad idea and lead to a much more complicated surgery.

Fun happening of the day: Steve Reich's City Life (first movement) syncing up perfectly with sounds of the city as I walked to lab this morning.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

If you have childish tastes in food... it fair to say you have a jejune tum? I think so!

Dinner tonight was nothing special: Greek frittata with feta, eggplant, tomatoes, and broccoli, and fresh Italian artisan bread (although the bread is great, and quite an easy recipe to boot). But then I went to make these Andalusian olive oil and aniseed wafers called tortas de aceite, and oh my god. Do you know how much 280 g of extra virgin olive oil is? It is a lot of olive oil. I should have converted the measurement to ounces before I began, because then I would have known that I was about to end up with a ridiculous amount of wafer dough.

Honestly, I probably should have been able to intuit it. But I'm not that smart. I also should have realized I was out of the other key ingredient, aniseed, but again, I'm not that smart, so I substituted cardamom with a pinch of coriander. Halfway through rolling the cookies, I realized I did have fennel seed, so a few of the cookies have fennel in them as well.

Lesson(s) learned. Next time I'm halving the recipe and making smaller cookies. In the meantime, lipids are truly lovely. When I pressed the dough down, oil literally bubbled out of the dough. That's my kind of dessert.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to a Toru Takemitsu retrospective concert, bracketed by studying at some convenient tea-furnishing location near Carnegie Hall, so this blog will once again be postless. Alas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radio silence

All sorts of interesting things have been happening Chez MD Stomach that have prevented any actual posting (read: studying, free food, an opera), but here goes.

To cut down on the time spent tending tonight's curry, I made all components (lentils, gravy, roasted vegetable mix) completely separately as time allowed. For instance, lentils can be cooked by boiling them and then, before they're completely done, covering the pot and letting them soak up the rest of the hot water and thus get nice and fluffy. The vegetables could be popped in the oven while I was studying and then just left to be mixed in later. Thus, the gravy, which takes no time at all to make, was the only item that needed actual attention.

And lo, we have one of my study day standards, made even less of a timesuck than it previously was! Sadly, said standard also involved me pouring curry sauce down the leg of my only clean pair of scrubs. Curses. Also sadly, I finished off my supply of fenugreek (but also rediscovered some feta in the back of the fridge that I'd totally forgotten I had).

Less than a week until test time, and then I can read books for another week before class starts again! I may even re-tackle The Recognitions.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The raw and the cooked

I walked into the medical center today, intending to head to the student annex for some studying, only to have my way blocked by a holiday gala in the lobby that featured little girls in velvet dresses, exceedingly shiny chafing dishes, and a calypso band playing Bob Marley's "Jammin'" on steel drums. It was all very surreal.

As a testament to what the combination of bad weather, lots of studying, and too much caffeine can do to a girl, I accidentally added raw pasta directly to my homemade tomato sauce. Oops. To rescue it, I added water (my kingdom for some vegetable broth or cooking wine!) to the sauce and cooked the pasta like one would cook arborio rice for a risotto. In the last 10 minutes, I threw in some green beans, and in the last 5, I added mushrooms and a can of (drained and rinsed) cannellini beans and finished it off with some Parmesan. The food was good, but it could have used an acidic element. And also the aforementioned wine or broth. And fresh basil. And maybe something crunchy on top. Perhaps I'll fetch some crunchy, raw (and raw to remain) snack during a late-night study break to belatedly alleviate the insufficiency. Almonds, carrot sticks, a slightly unripe pear... the possibilities are endless.

To close, a favorite and famous quote: "The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions." -Claude Levi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked

Too often we students forget this, in part because we're still rather... callow, but, in our defense, also out of educational necessity.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Novel bean week, plus aesthetic fascination

Last time, it was white beans.

Tonight, I explored pinto beans. Yes, I know, my life is wild.

I had just a couple tablespoons of molasses left, so I used that and some tomato and onion and bell pepper and cilantro and cumin and cayenne to make a kind of refried bean dish, served over brown rice. This was followed by a salted hot chocolate study break, which I recommend for all you beleaguered students.

Since there isn't much going on in the culinary department, I shall introduce you to an amazing school of movement called biomechanics, brought to you via Vsevolod Meyerhold, a man with a fantastic name and an avant-garde style of art that got him executed by Stalin. First, watch this:

Then, watch clips of Victory Over the Sun and original Nijinsky choreography of Rite of Spring and Petrushka. Look at constructivist painting. Appreciate the similarities and differences.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ras el ha-not a chance

Discovery: not only does our cadaver's cystic artery branch really early off the hepatic artery proper (rather than from the right hepatic artery, as Frank Netter tells me is usual), he also has this weird second common bile duct. And his cystic duct winds around to join the hepatic bile duct from the posterior side. Cool, huh? No? Disgusting, you say? On to food, then.

These are a sort of expansive interpretation of crostini, which I'm pretty sure are't supposed to be this hearty. There's roasted eggplant, roasted tomato, mozzarella, and kale ribbons in these bad boys. I wanted fresh basil, but the dried I had on hand had to do (first-world problems much?). The bread is a whole wheat baguette that I made over yesterday and today. To get the slices crispy on both sides, I brushed them with olive oil and baked them for about five minutes at 450, then flipped them over, put on the toppings, and baked them for another 5 minutes or so.

And now, on to my Procrastinatory Investigation Into Future Food Preparation. I really want to make eggnog over winter break, and so I was tickled to read a recipe from New York Times writer Melissa Clark, whose writing annoys me but whose food ideas are great. And then I was even more tickled to read a Frank Bruni entry in "The Tipsy Diaries" that called for the creation of lighter, spicier versions of eggnog, particularly because one of the versions called for ras el hanout. Ras el hanout! I love that stuff! Actually, I love most African spice blends, but whatever. Anyway, I looked at the recipe, and among other things, it calls for squash juice. Yeah, right. I'd make the home-mulled cider that the recipe also requires, but squash juice? But now I'm determined to use ras el hanout in an eggnog derivative. You are forewarned.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Conundra and Kafka

I've been asking myself lately why I keep this blog. Is it because I enjoy occasional adulation? Who doesn't, but that's not why. Is it because I hope the dishes pictured will prompt some person to start cooking or just add a food to his or her gastronomical repertoire? That's more on the money. Is it because I like talking about things I like? Absolutely (and again, in my own defense, who doesn't?).

But I still have a little internal battle every time I prepare to type a post about a very simple, very visually unimpressive, or very quotidian dinner. The Internet is, in large part, about exhibitionism (I just read a great essay on that topic, actually), but I still can't delude myself into thinking that online denizens care so much about my daily diet that they want to read about the brussels sprouts, cumin bread, and chili I made tonight (recipe courtesy of Andy's mom; very tasty, but requiring no skill or particularly thrilling components).

So instead of photographing it or blathering on about the minutiae of how to make chili, I'll post this short piece by Kafka that I've liked for a long time. I also can't delude myself into thinking that this blog is about anything other than things I like, so I'll just give in to reality and go all out.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eschewing beige

I made white bean soup for the first time tonight. Actually, I also ate white bean soup for the first time tonight. It was pretty good, with parmesan and rosemary and bay in it, but one of the only pureed soups I've eaten in the past couple years that I thought might actually benefit from the addition of heavy cream. Perhaps I did it wrong? In any case, it wasn't all that photogenic--picture cannellini beans pureed with flecks of pepper and rosemary and you're pretty much there--but these roasted vegetables sure are.

And then I got the urge to bake these fudgy chocolate cookies. I didn't really feel like eating any (which may signal the start of deep and pervasive mental illness on my part), so they'll be brought to tomorrow's 9 a.m. lecture on the pediatric medical interview to assuage my peers' pain at actually attending said lecture.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I may have actually just eaten an entire bag's worth of baby carrots dipped in peanut butter, plus a few brussels sprouts, for dinner while reviewing radiology videos. Let's pretend that wasn't pathetic and watch this video instead!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tips and tricks

Dinner meeting tonight, so here are some fun cooking, reading, and dissection tips.

1. To keep your hands from smelling of formaldehyde, put on a pair of gloves, soap them lightly, and put another pair on top of them.

2. To keep your hands from turning red when working with beets, roast them first (if possible or necessary) in an inch or so of water in a covered pan. Cool them enough to put them in Baggies, and then the skin will slip right off when you rub it through the plastic.

3. Read books by Italo Calvino. They are good for the soul.

And some mental health links:
How cool is this?
How cute is this?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Friday has never felt so sweet.

I'm happy about this because lately I've been waking up at 6 a.m. to make 6:30 a.m. yoga, then going to class and lab from 9 to noon or so, then lunch, then more class or lab from 1 to 3. And then it's back to lab for some review, or back home to get cozy with my lovely vintage Netter's atlas. And there was an extra class Monday. And a laproscopy workshop Wednesday. And a dinner meeting yesterday. But I didn't have class until 1 p.m. today, which meant I could sleep in a little bit, work out in the afternoon, and get some studying done before class instead of saving it all until afterward. Joy!

I'm trying to get through the last of the elderly produce clogging my fridge before I can replenish with FreshDirect. So here you are: sweet potato soup topped with walnuts and pomegranate seeds, made creamy with Greek yogurt and sweet with honey. And cumin-garlic bread (the recipe for which I accidentally doubled; half of the dough is frozen). And green beans, which I roasted until I couldn't tell that they were past their prime.

Now it's time to shower and put on clothes that aren't scrubs and go exchange money for coffee, thereby encountering some people who aren't a. medical students, b. yoga practitioners, or c. dead.

Chanukah, rated PG

I am not a religious Jew, but I am completely willing to embrace any religious tradition that involves frying potatoes. Ergo, latkes for dinner tonight! Hand-grated, of course. They're not the same without a little knuckle flesh in them. Inspired by the New York Times, I made these latkes a little more adult (just a little, though).

They're resting on a bed of spinach sauteed in sesame oil, tangerine juice, and grated ginger and topped with Greek yogurt and pomegranate seeds. Added bonus: many, many leftover pomegranate seeds for future garnishes and snacking.

Even more bonus: I (and my entire apartment) smell like fried things instead of dead things. It's a significant improvement over the "three showers a day" method of not reeking of formaldehyde. This anatomy thing is tough in more ways than one.

EDIT: That last paragraph reminds me of Heidegger. "Thingliness of the thing" indeed.