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.

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