Monday, January 31, 2011

Feeding a tentative stomach

I had the misfortune of doing battle with some sort of stomach virus this weekend, which means that my poor, increasingly flaccid vegetables are going to have to hold off one more day while I coddle my innards with bland, easily digested foodstuffs. Since here at Chez Filling an MD Stomach we do not like to do things halfway, infirmary food consists of fresh oatmeal bread with nuvolone, or clousoufflé. The latter, from which I omitted the cheese, is an amazing idea. It's the most impressive-looking ten-minute dish I've ever made (five minutes of prep and five of cooking). The former is also delicious, lightly sweet and with a borderline hearty texture, but the loaf is huge. If I were you, I'd multiply the recipe by three-fourths or two-thirds to cut the bread down to manageable size.

When I said big, I meant big!

To make the souffle, nestle the egg yolks in egg whites beaten until stiff.

Pour on a bit of cream and sprinkle on cheese (theoretically), then top with the rest of the whites.

Bake five minutes at 400 F, and voila!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caprine caprices

FreshDirect had a sale on Real Goat Cheese (that is, goat cheese from a small creamery rather than who knows where), so I went for it. First of all, when I saw a recipe for goat cheese and red wine truffles on Tastespotting, I knew we were meant to be.

Have you ever had a fancy French meal that ends with a dessert and cheese course and that includes wines paired with absolutely everything? Me neither, but I imagine that these truffles taste like the cheese course, dessert course, and one of the cheese course's reds all at once.

The alcohol in the wine may have cooked off, and there was in fact merely a subtle (yet effective!) red wine flavor, but this is still quite the adult dessert. I felt so hedonistic while eating it. Sure, they're not the prettiest truffles I've ever truffed (it was early in the morning and I was in a hurry, okay? sheesh), but the taste made up for it.

I turned to the goat cheese again for a more traditional dish: fig, goat cheese, and escarole pizza with a whole-wheat crust. My complete inability to make my crusts look like real pizza crusts has driven me to crimp them like pie crusts. The pizza has black pepper and a touch of rosemary on it as well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The hazards of planning ahead

I've got a FreshDirect order's worth of delicious, delicious vegetables arriving tonight, and I've got great plans for those vegetables. But I'm going to Boston for a day this weekend, and I just realized the sheer density of dinner meetings and events I have to attend over the next two weeks. This may be a problem. Wilted, moldy produce is so depressing. I can't let it happen. In order to rectify my exuberant planning-ahead purchase, I'm doing some serious prioritization of the most delicate vegetables from my delivery.

Thus, tonight's crustless quiche was designed to get rid of all older produce in the fridge to make room for the new, as well as make progress on the remainder of the heavy cream needed to make this weekend's chocolate tart. I put a lingering bit of broccoli, half an onion, half a bell pepper, and a cherry tomato* in a pie pan:

Sprinkled on some aging feta and parmesan:

And poured on the egg and cream mixture:

Sadly, it didn't much change color when it was baked:

It was so creamy and tender. I decided that the cream, in combination with a bagel and leftover pasta from earlier today, posed enough of a dietary health hazard that I didn't need to make bread or frittata-tize it with pasta. The orange was a great side dish.

There's a little bit of heavy cream left. Something exciting will have to happen to it before I leave for Boston on Friday.

*I've started buying out-of-season and thus expensive produce I need in very small portions at the salad bar in the medical center cafeteria. It's quite cost-effective.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Orange you glad I didn't make a 'There Will Be Blood' joke?

Please pass all accolades and groans for the title of this post to my friend Guy of Pun, Forrest, Pun. Predictably, this post features blood oranges, which look like this:

"But Hannah!" the dedicated blog reader may ask, "Your grandmother sent you a case of honeybell oranges you've been trying to give away! Why purchase blood oranges?" Well, dear readers, blood oranges are both excitingly rouged and delightfully tangy. Plus, I've wanted to step into this place for some time now. The oranges were somewhat of an excuse to do so.

I liked the poached egg on top of pasta motif (from my adventures in edamame pesto) so much that I decided to give it a shot again. This time, I boiled capellini in a blend of blood orange juice, white wine, and water. I tossed the cooked pasta with feta, fennel seeds, and a bit of olive oil and laid a poached egg and blood orange slices on top, finishing the whole thing off with some blood orange zest and black pepper.

It needs some green, I think. There was a roasted garlic broccoli side dish, but it didn't get photographed.

Oh, and apologies for the late post. I was busy watching the Steelers win a championship.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dinner table conversation

Bear with me. This is going to be a long one.

When I was a youngster, my mother was (sporadically) strict about what topics were and were not fit for the dinner table. School? Yes, if she could pry school-related opinions longer than "fine" or "okay" out of me or my siblings. Gory medical details? No, which is why I've put those at the end in order to allow those of you with class to keep this blog post civil. And now my mom is never again allowed to claim that adolescent me didn't absorb her inculcation.

First, yesterday's lunch: roasted sweet potato salad with Greek yogurt.

I have a complicated relationship with mayonnaise, but when it comes to potato salads, Greek yogurt beats out the mayo hands-down. There was also cumin, jalapeno, orange juice and zest, ginger, garlic, red wine vinegar, red onion, and red bell pepper in here.

Someone cooked me spinach and farmer's cheese pie for dinner yesterday, after which we went to see Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera. Scarpia (Struckmann) was perfectly loathsome, but Tosca (Radvanovsky) was the one who really brought down the house. And E lucevan le stelle was fantastic. I love the way Puccini writes for the male voice. Nessun dorma, anyone?

Dinner is marinating in the fridge: black bean and rice salad with all sorts of chopped vegetables, plus the last of my kale (chiffonaded and made into a salad with lemon juice, vinegar, and sweet onion). But in my effort to give away or use all my citrus before it molds (which two tangerines already did), I made a bittersweet chocolate tart with Alice Medrich's chilled oranges with rum and caramel sauce (minus the rum) on top (swearing off parenthetical comments from now on).

There's a bit of still-hardened caramel dangling from the crust. It was so crunchy.

This, like most of my food, is dubiously attractive.

I know, I can't really claim to have made Alice Medrich's recipe without the rum. But I don't have any, and I don't drink, and I have friends who might balk at eating tart with what is essentially sugary alcohol on top, so I just went for the caramel. And oh, pouring the hot, golden caramel on the oranges did wonderful things to them. A couple hours in the fridge did the whole dessert wonders. Next time, to make this an even less cost-effective Saturday activity, I'll see if I find some lavender with which to flavor the syrup.

This next picture would be gratuitous, but it serves as a fine barrier between food talk and medical talk.

And now for your medical details. In a recent section in the pathology lab, we got to examine the hearts of infants who died as a result of a slew of interesting congenital defects. I'll admit that while I'm not usually too touchy-feely about medicine, picking up a tiny little heart and seeing the impossibly thin valve leaflets and slender aorta did give me pause. That was drowned out, however, by utter fascination at seeing and touching and tracing examples of transposition of the great arteries and the incredibly delicate surgical correction thereof (something called the Rastelli repair; all sorts of intriguing papers like this exist about the procedure and its history and outcomes). Infectious disease will always be my first love, but I'm becoming attracted to the idea of performing neonatal surgery. It is incredible both in the skill required and in the ingenuity it has taken to refine and improve upon such procedures; working in the field can only be exhilarating. That is, once you get to work in the field. I bet it's a fifteen-year residency.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Delicious foods of dubious aesthetic appeal

Check this out.

Looks like watered-down peanut butter, right? It's actually a delicious peanut soup based on a Mark Bittman recipe based on a Senegalese recipe for groundnut soup. True to form, I neglected to halve the recipe, so I may or may not be eating large quantities for the next few days.

The vegetable dish is something else a little more unusual, and something I've never tried before. I have a friend whose father has a recipe for cranberry-orange relish that involves putting a bag of cranberries and two unpeeled oranges in a food processor, processing, and letting it hang out in the fridge for a few hours before serving it. With this in mind, I chopped one of the many, many, many oranges my grandmother sent me--without peeling it--and caramelized it, chard stems, and some chopped red onion in some oil, sugar, and red wine vinegar. The chard leaves went in in the last minute or so of cooking. I could eat this every day.

Speaking of oranges, I need to bake with them this weekend, as long as I've got a glut of them. Orange-pomegranate tart, perhaps? If you've got a favorite orange-containing recipe, let me know!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Non sequitur? You'll never reach it!

I will always, always love this painting, for no particular reason and totally out of proportion to its merits.

I started thinking about Dali because there's a type of ST depression on an ECG that patients on digoxin may exhibit and that is often called the "Dali depression" because it creates a line that looks like his signature mustache.

Okay, just one more:

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Mine are floating contentedly on an inflatable pool lounge chair somewhere in the GLBTQ melting pot, slathered in SPF 30, sunglasses perched on nose, mai tai in hand. Ready to be convinced?

Exhibit A: Test to study for.
Exhibit B: No real plans for dinner, and moderate to severe apathy over rectifying the lack of plans.
Exhibit C: Serious apathy related to working out today.
Exhibit D: Chocolate rum cake in the oven.

Oh, priorities, let your rainbow flag fly! As long as it does, the rest of me gets cake.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Runcible spoons

I made olive oil bread with chopped walnuts and dried quince, thus the post's title.

I also made baked mushroom cornmeal "fritters," since frying is too much of a bother sometimes, and kale salad with jalapenos, grated ginger, and lemon.

I also have a test coming up, so this post is officially over.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Compensating for something

I had a lunch today that was bigger, greasier, and more expensive than I meant it to be.

Okay, not that bad (although thanks to This is Why You're Fat for the photo). But still. That, plus the fact that I had a Hepatitis Project session today and have meetings from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow, after which I'm immediately leaving for dinner at a friend's house on the Upper West Side at 6, spurred me to repent my culinary sins with a light, extremely quick dinner: Japanese egg crepes, or usuyaki tamago.

These are, as the name implies, very thin egg pancakes. The ingredients? Eggs, soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar. I made sushi rice and used the crepes to make little Japanese burritos of sushi rice, the last of my long-lasting frozen package of edamame, julienned carrots and green pepper, cilantro, and shredded lettuce. They disappeared too quickly for me to photograph them, but the rapidity and ease of making them, coupled with their versatility and healthfulness, means that I might have to give myself the opportunity to do so again in the near future.

Usuyaki tamago
2 eggs
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar (I omitted this because sushi rice is slightly sweet)
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp water
vegetable oil for cooking

Make a slurry of the water and cornstarch, and beat it and all the other ingredients except for the vegetable oil together. Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer if you're worried about lumps. Brush a nonstick skillet with a thin layer of oil. Heat it over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low (or medium-low, depending on your stove). Pour about a quarter of the batter in. Swirl it around to coat the pan with batter, then let it cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully, carefully loosen the edges and flip the crepe over to cook for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat, re-oiling the pan if necessary. The recipe should make 3 or 4 crepes that can be used to wrap tasty things like sushi rice and vegetables. Omit the cornstarch slurry (it's just a stabilizer for crepes being used as wraps) and slice the crepes thinly to make literal egg noodles.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


No cooking tonight; I forgot my lunch at home, so it ended up being dinner.

A short anecdote, though: Because I did not go to yoga yesterday--Tuesday is usually one of my "hell or high water" days, but for a few reasons it just didn't happen--I trod through the snow at 6 a.m. for a class. Not satisfied with my rather industrial crepuscular New York snow experience, I cut my end-of-class savasana short in order to have time to take a brief detour through Madison Square Park on the way home. The golden morning light was glancing off the Flatiron building and obliquely brushing the park, illuminating the snow with a soft blue glow. I had a couple minutes of standing savasana in the middle of the park. It turns out if you tune out the sound of vehicles and focus on the snowy trees, you can, just for a few minutes, be somewhere a lot more gentle than Manhattan.

And then you notice the dog defecating a few feet to your right and your awareness jolts back to a place decidedly less yogic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let me not to the marriage of true flavors admit impediment

Sometimes I have a problem with the ease with which people bandy about the names of dishes. It's not a ragu if it has no meat, and I'm sorry, but at some point, when you make a very saucy "jambalaya" using peanut butter, red curry, and other Thai ingredients served over rice, you've lost the right to call it jambalaya.

However, when I saw this recipe for edamame and cilantro pesto posted on Tastespotting, my pedantry couldn't stand up to my palate. I love edamame, and I love cilantro, and I love the taste of the two together, and I love that I saw this recipe on one of the extraordinarily rare occasions that I have oodles of fresh cilantro I'm just trying to get rid of. Who could resist such synchronicity?

Pesto is traditionally a pulverized-with-a-mortar-and-pestle (thus the name) mix of basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan or pecorino, garlic, and olive oil. It's got both Italian and Provençal origins. But this "pesto" recipe--which, in a rare turn of events, I stuck to quite faithfully, save for the elimination of the broth (I divided the portion in eight, so there was little need) and addition of a small squirt of lime juice--follows the trend of non-traditional pestos in using a different bean and a different fresh herb, retaining the cheese, olive oil, and garlic. I ate it over capellini with a poached egg, using the yolk to lubricate the pasta much as one might use olive oil.

I can't recommend this enough. It was light and modern and pretty and healthful, especially when you eat it alongside a citrus-and-olive oil-dressed green salad (which I did, which might be obvious in the mention of it, but I hate leaving well enough alone).

And now, some fun:
1. We learned about this amusingly named cardiomyopathy in class today. Cardiology is increasingly interesting.
2. Speaking of cardiology, our professor introduced the module by showing us a short video of a Washington, D.C. advocacy gathering of people whose lives had been affected by severe heart disease and who decided to jump on the activist train. They work or volunteer for heart disease-related organizations, advocate for greater federal contributions to research, and so on. Reading Welcome to Cancerland, by Barbara Ehrenreich, will explain better than I can what makes me uncomfortable about the "breast cancer movement" that has splashed pink all over the place for at least the past ten years; it was refreshing to see promotional material showcasing almost solely people who had survived their own heart disease or survived family members' deaths from heart disease and chose to devote their careers or their spare time to real, concrete labor geared toward alleviating the burden of heart disease in the United States.
3. I finished the Macklin book. It was good, but it could have been quite a lot shorter. She had a point. She made it. She made it some more. I was waiting for a (perhaps slightly offensive) shocking or mind-opening conclusion that never really hit me. Like I said, though, it was moderately thought-provoking and taught me about common pro- and anti-relativism arguments, so I cannot complain.

Monday, January 10, 2011


After eating three delicious cookies at a meeting, I'd originally wanted to make Mark Bittman's recipe for a healthful lemony lentil salad, but I realized too late that I was missing a key ingredient: capers. While Andy despises capers and derisively calls them explosive little balls of salt, I prefer to think of them as tender kisses from the Aztec god of table salt, who I have wittily named Nacluatl*. The absence of those piquant little berries derailed my original plan, so instead I made a lentil salad with lime and minced jalapeno, cilantro, green pepper, and red onion.

The red onion was a little heavy. I'll add less next time. To go with the salad, I made garlic knots. I love using my Galloping Gourmet dough cutter, and the freshly braided dough is so very twee:

Not all of them survived a stay in the fridge overnight, but some held the knot shape. I feel like the recipe (from the only food blog I've ever read that doesn't make me loathe romantic attachment through cloying application of endearments) overestimated the drama of knotting the dough; I didn't need the surfeit of oil and flour to tie the knots.

I brought the majority of the rolls to the medical center hand out to classmates, because social skills are not my thing, so I can at least attempt to compensate with judicious distribution of tasty, tasty calories.

*Shortly after conceiving this idea, I thought that perhaps my theological concepts were not all that original, and sure enough, a quick Google introduced me to Huixtocihuatl, Tlaloc's older sister and the goddess of salt and salt water.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Faux pho

Advance notice to all pedants: I know perfectly well that "faux" and "pho" are not homophones, but it looks cool anyway.

I had originally planned to make garlic knots and bean salad, but a cold that had settled into my chest decided what it really wanted to do today was clog my sinuses. Pho was on my Resolution List, and if four years in Massachusetts taught me anything, it's that pho is a great cold tonic*.

The reasons that this pho was so highly ersatz as to be described as "faux" are enumerated below:
substitution of capellini for rice vermicelli
lack of Thai basil
lack of mung bean sprouts
lack of meat or seafood (and corresponding lack of fish sauce)
lack of Sriracha
lack of lemongrass

I used soy sauce, a bit of brown sugar, a couple star anise pods, bay leaves, some cloves, coriander, ginger, garlic, dried Chinese mushrooms of unknown type, and sliced yellow onion in the broth, and added edamame, chard, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms** in the last few minutes of the pasta cooking. Topped with crunchy raw green pepper, cilantro, and some sinus-opening jalapeno slices, and with a healthy squirt of fresh lime juice, this was heaven. Seriously. I normally embrace self-deprecation with the fervor of a devout Catholic kissing the pope's ring, but in this case, I'll admit achievement.

The best part is that after the broth sits overnight, the soup is going to taste even better. Awesome. Garlic rolls, I have no problem waiting for you.

*You'd think that, because I spent those four years at a relatively good institution of higher learning, I'd have picked up a few things. Nope. Pho = good, that's about it.
**As far as vegetables, pho can contain basically everything but the kitchen sink, which makes sense, because the kitchen sink is not a vegetable. In any case, what went into this was dictated largely by what I had in my fridge anyway.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Mark Bittman's recipes are fabulous in all sorts of ways, but one of their most fabulous aspects is the ease with which one can bulk up or slim down most of the resultant dishes as necessary to make a full meal, component of a meal, or a mere appetizer. Take this Asian eggplant salad, for instance.

If the presentation reminds you of action painting, it's because I basically splattered all the elements onto the plate. But it was flavorful and, oxymoronically*, hearty and fresh at the same time. This week, I'm determined to prove that wintry foods don't have to be caloric, cumbrous, or cooked to death.

Most of what is on the plate has no mention in the recipe that inspired it, which basically called for eggplant, walnuts, and dressing. I made a dressing similar to the soy lime vinaigrette in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, with the addition of reconstituted dried shallots (you'll just have to trust me here) and some minced jalapeno to keep things interesting, and tossed it with sesame oil-roasted eggplant and steamed carrots and edamame. That steamy mix went over arugula tossed with chopped cilantro on which I put a little patty of warm rice, such that the arugula wilted the tiniest bit from the warm dressing and heat from the rice. I garnished it with some chopped peanuts and would have loved to add toasted sesame seeds, but sesame seeds cost the equivalent of $99 a pound for some reason. Not interested.

*I am disappointed that I have to adverb the adjective here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cooking for one

It ain't always fun.

So tonight, I invited five friends over, and we ate brioche topped with a poached egg, lentils with caramelized fennel and fennel frond gremolata, and cardamom orange cupcakes for dessert. I'd planned to make a chard salad, but my FreshDirect order didn't get here in time. Not every dinner has to be healthful, right?

This one contained obscene, luxurious, amounts of butter. Lusty, concupiscent amounts of butter (1.5 sticks in the brioche, .75 sticks in the cupcakes, .25 sticks in the lentils and fennel). It was actually inspired by a meal I had in Boston one fine Restaurant Week (lentils on brioche with a poached duck egg. Their brioche was better; my lentils were better.)

But it went over quite well. My night and the next few days were made by one friend who had planned to ask where I'd purchased the brioche and was shocked to hear I'd made it.

Also, I accidentally ordered two orange juices instead of two oranges from FreshDirect. I do not drink orange juice. If you live in New York and want orange juice, please let me know.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I think about when I think about reading

No posts today or yesterday; yesterday I cooked something boring and today I had sandwiches at a club meeting. Instead, it's time for a final book update before the semester really kicks in and my reading time plummets:

Because I Was Flesh, by Edward Dahlberg: I cannot recommend this enough. As I mentioned in a previous post, while I'm usually not an autobiography/biography fan, this one is a must-read for Dahlberg neophytes (which I continue to be). He is one of the quirkiest men of letters I've ever encountered (literarily, I mean; you don't run into too many of them at med school these days), and the autobiography elucidates why in the best of ways. Plus, Dahlberg loves the word "shibboleth," e.g. "He wished to avoid his wife, who was an unleavened mass of orthodox Jewish shibboleths." I think the word is used three times in the book. As this may intimate, it's not necessarily the easiest read, what with the deluge of references to testaments new and old and various mythologies that must be looked up by the unlearned (i.e. me). I do, however, pride myself on a good vocabulary, but nevertheless I occasionally had to consult a dictionary while reading this.

Fatelessness and Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz: Kertesz is a Hungarian Nobel laureate who was interned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He writes about Holocaust experiences, but in a totally different way than, say, Elie Wiesel. Kertesz did not identify strongly--or at all, really--with Judaism. In the semi-autobiographical Fatelessness, the 15-year-old narrator rather accepts the Nazi party line decreeing that tightening restrictions on Jews and the forceful reworking of Hungarian society was all for the good of the people; he would not likely have much argued with the idea that arbeit macht frei before his experiences in the camps. The ending of Fatelessness proves Kertesz's different (and here I stopped myself from writing "refreshingly different") take on the Holocaust experience. Kaddish for an Unborn Child is similarly semi-autobiographical; in it, a Holocaust survivor explains why he could never cause a child to be born into a world that allowed the Holocaust to happen. Kaddish is more of an apologia than a prayer, and it once again expresses far from typical sentiments in re the Holocaust.

Against Relativism, by Ruth Macklin: I've just begun this, so I can't give a full assessment or claim full understanding. With a heavy biomedical emphasis (Macklin is a bioethics professor at Albert Einstein School of Medicine), the book discusses conflicts between clinically applied ethics and the ideals of ethical relativism. Macklin also appears determined to elucidate how ethical colonialism and imperialism are not necessary consequences of a rejection of ethical relativism. I am intrigued.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Man, I am being lazy about photos this year. This is why you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that pita stuffed with eggplant, cucumber, and onion in yogurt sauce is unusually photogenic, for my food (Also, I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: soak raw onion in ice water, changing it once, to make it more palatable and more harmonious with more delicately flavored foods).

One of the reasons I'm being lazy--aside from the fact that school restarts tomorrow and I'm already slightly behind on my homework somehow--is that I feel like I'm in a rut, food-wise. Part of it is that class is getting progressively more intense, and as a result I have less time to cook or experiment with new foods. My inability to bring lunch to class for the last month or so (Who wants leftovers that smell like formaldehyde? What, no takers?), combined with the usual holiday expenses, has also led to some restrictive budget issues. Nevertheless, I shall resolve that for 2011, I shall stray from the usual "pasta with vegetables and some sort of sauce," "soup made of a root vegetable," and "look at me I can make a curry!" paradigm. Foods I hope to make include:

-French lentil and fennel stew (Lentils aren't repetitive at all, no, sir)
-Red wine truffles (need a candy mold...)
-Tempeh of some sort
-Mushroom cakes with red pepper coulis
-Escarole soup
-Polenta lasagna

Maybe this year I'll find my new "pasta with stuff in it."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Going green

I actually followed a recipe for once! This recipe, to be exact. There are no photos because it turns out one caldo verde looks exactly like another caldo verde, so the website's photos should suffice.

Okay, so I used kale instead of collards and steamed the kale over boiling broth so that I didn't have to remove it from the soup before pureeing. But that was really the only difference. Sadly, while the caldo verde did in fact have a lovely smoky flavor, I wasn't fooled into missing the absence of chorizo. Mmm, how I miss chorizo.

Most of the remainder of the admittedly small bunch of kale went into another raw kale salad, this time with white onion and raw mushroom. And come to think of it, the kale-to-soup ratio was pretty high. This is what happens when you go to an actual grocery store where they only sell vegetables in miniscule bundles rather than hearty, leafy packages like FreshDirect.