Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sumer is icumen in

I can't believe this is my last post of May 2011.

Commensurate with the rapid onset of summer heat, I've been craving summer foods. Watermelon and cole slaw are most in the forefront of said cravings, for reasons I can't understand. I'm holding off on the watermelon for now*, but here is my take on coleslaw:

It doesn't have mayo in it, but it does have cilantro and scallions and a habanero and garlic and lime juice and black beans and cabbage and sweet potatoes and... okay, so maybe it's heartier than your typical summer coleslaw. The point is, this is a chunky, cool, fresh dinner, surprisingly filling and unsurprisingly peppy on the tongue. It's that habanero, I tell you.

In other news: I got a cast-iron skillet for free yesterday! I also got a bunch of ingredients (red wine vinegar, soba, hoisin sauce) for free, but more importantly... skillet! What do you think I should do with it first?

*For you veteran readers, last summer's posts may have indicated to you that I can and will eat most of a watermelon in a four-hour period. Self-control: I do not have it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

No more horticulture than a bowl of yogurt

Last night, upon arriving home from Atlanta, I discovered my basil plant in a very sorry state. The poor guy clearly couldn't handle a couple days without water as well as I thought he could. His stems were flaccid and yellow, his leaves crumpled and drooping and a worrisome shade of brownish-green. I watered him, apologizing profusely* and expecting little in the way of recovery. This is what he looked like twelve hours later:

I shall name him Lazarus. And repot him soon: the greedy bastard is already growing out of his pot! If this is a success, perhaps the purchase of a cilantro plant is in order (after my move, if I can hold myself back). Or a parsley plant. Or some chives. I'm pretty sure the Union Square Greenmarket has all three.

The last flower on my orchid plant dropped over the weekend as well, which means that I'll follow the advice of several books and websites I've consulted and snip the stems at an angle between two nodes in order to encourage regrowth. A cool temperature helps, apparently, so I can keep my room climate amenable to the basil and the as-yet-nameless orchid all at once.

Now, this next photo may not look like much, but it depicts something truly, deeply delicious.

That is my very own jar of homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce, or, as I like to call it, rhubarbecue sauce. It's tangy. It's spicy. It's sweet. It's a great way to make stewed okra (chopped up with seeds in, please; I like it gooey!), which can conveniently be served on top of oven-baked sweet potato hash browns.

Atlanta appears to have had an influence on my diet, despite the fact that baked hash browns are probably an offense against god and country in most parts of the world. My next plan for the sauce: dip paprika-crusted grilled tofu in it. It's so good, and I have so much of it to work with.

*Does anyone remember that part of A Wind in the Door during which Calvin describes the experiment he did with plants? He kept one in his home with his abusive family, left one unattended, and coddled and cooed over another. According to him, the coddled plant flourished, while the plant left in the presence of verbal abuse withered.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cookie monster

I made three kinds of dessert today. Please, dear reader, stave off your disgust. All three recipes are of my own invention, so by making three types of baked good, I'm not being overindulgent. I'm taste-testing! These goods are destined to be fed to a ravenous husband and a coterie of hopefully ravenous quizbowlers, further allowing me to suppress the little voice in my head saying, "Wow, you manatee-sized glutton!" and listen to the one clapping its hands in glee at the prospect of low-grade* culinary innovation.

Here we go:

1. Lemon-basil cookies with Mast Brothers chocolate, inspired by this recipe
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup softened butter
1 large egg, room temperature
1 3/8 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 large leaves basil, chopped
1/2 bar Mast Brothers Madagascar chocolate

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, then add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil. Add the dry ingredients just until blended. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 F. To make grin-inducingly huge cookies, use two tablespoons of dough per cookie; to make delicate and elegant cookies, use two teaspoons. Roll dough into balls and flatten them with the bottom of a glass. Bake the large cookies for 12 to 14 minutes and the small ones 8 to 10. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. When they're cool, gently melt the chocolate and drizzle it on the cookies. Let the chocolate harden slowly at room temperature.

2. "Breakfast blondies" with cinnamon and maple syrup in the batter and a crunchy cornflake and soy bacon topping

1/2 cup browned butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (this is more than my original portion; it wasn't as maple-y as I wanted)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 strip soy (or other) bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflakes, crushed somewhat

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and lightly flour an 8x8 pan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, butter, and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crushed cornflakes and crumbled bacon on top and press them in lightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (I overbaked these just a bit because the forthcoming batch of blondies took longer than I thought they would, so I assumed these would, too. Foolish, foolish Hannah. I'm abashed.) Let cool before cutting.

3. Pistachio saffron blondies

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground saffron (I added more than this, and I think the saffron flavor in the blondies is too intense. Ah, well. It's not embarrassingly bad, at least. I plead beta testing.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and lightly flour an 8x8 pan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, saffron, and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk thoroughly. Add pistachios, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.

*It has rare mitotic figures and non-pleomorphic nuclei.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spoiler alert!

I'm going away for a few days, so Facebook will be spared my link-spamming over the weekend. However, before I leave tomorrow, there will be a super-secret baking extravaganza to post about, complete with recipes and (theoretically) tantalizing photos. Stay tuned!

For tonight, Chez MD Stomach will be serving a white bean and caramelized ramp bulb soup with a spinach "pesto" quenelle.

I used a mere two dried porcini to make a light mushroom broth (the brown bits are pieces of chopped porcini that I'd used for that). I worried that the ramps would get lost in the other flavors, especially the meaty mushrooms, but the ramp:everything else ratio was high enough that they came through in tasty ways. Adieu until next year, ail des bois. You will be missed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rolling along

Today was sort of crazy for me--class, research, and so on--and when I finally dragged myself home, I was confronted with a couple leftover wheat tortillas, some eggs, and some vegetables that I'd had pickling in a lime and turmeric brine. What to do? Kathi rolls! Kathi rolls are, traditionally, kebabs or other filling wrapped in parathas. There's egg and the (briefly) pickled tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers in this one.

The tortilla wrapped surprisingly well, for a day-old slab of whole-wheat. And really... that's all there is to say! I could be all, "Hey, this is good for you and filling, too!" but you probably figured that out already. I promise there are more interesting projects in the works! Tune in tomorrow for a lesson on What To Do With Your Ramp Bulbs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ramping it up

Well, that exam sure was fun! Hearty thanks to my husband for enduring my Gchat soliloquies on the uterus and on disorders of what I insisted upon calling the "trumpet 'n' skittles." Hopefully it will be a good long time before I have to think about things like choriocarcinoma (basically placenta cancer) again.

I cleansed myself* with a short but intense run, followed by some NYUSoM vinyasa. In between: performing some abdominal exams in Bellevue and visiting both the World's Most Crowded Trader Joe's and the Union Square Greenmarket, where I managed to find [drumroll, please!] ramps.

Ramps, which the French call by the charmingly pastoral term ail des bois, are a type of wild leek. They're only in season for a few weeks, which has been shortened by the horrible weather we're having. It's the tail end of said season, and to be frank the ramps weren't too chipper-looking. I trimmed off a few unsalvageable bits and broke them down so that they'd last me a couple meals.

 The bulbs and half the greens will appear later in the week; I steamed the remaining greens, along with some spinach, and chopped them roughly. Meanwhile, some cherry tomatoes were in the midst of a six-hour oven-dry.

I snipped some leaves off my newly purchased basil plant and chopped them, then cut some slices of mozzarella. All these ingredients, plus a little black pepper, went on a homemade wheat tortilla for a caprese quesadilla with steamed greens.

This was good. Like, really good. Really, really good. Ramps taste like mild leeks with overtones of green garlic, which combined perfectly with the spinach. It's too bad this was my only shot at them until next year.

Argh, so blurry!

Oven-dried tomatoes
Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half and toss with a tiny amount of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper (along with whatever other herbs or spices you're into). Place them cut side up on an ungreased baking pan and put them in a 180-degree oven for five to eight hours, or until they're just barely moist.

Wheat tortillas
3 oz bread flour
3 oz whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil (or butter or lard)
1/3 to 1/2 cup almost-boiling water

Work the oil, butter, or lard into the flour and salt. Stir in the hot water with a fork; the dough should be cohesive, but not very sticky. Knead for three to four minutes. Divide the dough into four to six pieces (depending on how big you want your tortillas) and let it rest for at least half an hour. Roll the dough very thin; the tortillas should be seven to eight inches in diameter. Preheat an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat and cook the tortillas for 30 to 45 seconds on each side. They should be golden, but not crisp! Keep them warm under a kitchen towel until serving. Wrap them in a damp towel and microwave them to reheat so that they stay pliable.

*Okay, this sounds thoroughly disordered. It's not, I swear. All I mean is that the workout functioned as an excellent reset. Reproductive unit: over. GI, here we come!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nabothian cysts: secretly a disease of banthas

Seriously, doesn't "Nabothian cyst" sound like something out of a hallowed sci fi 'verse*? This unit has been replete with bizarre terminology, from hobnail nuclei to H. ducreyi to borborygmus. Unfortunately, working myself up to study for the exam we have on said material has been shockingly difficult. Maybe it's the fact that this parade of exams feels like an endless stint in the spice mines of Kessel; maybe it's the fact that this material is just not my favorite. I've just been biding my time until the end of our reproductive unit brings an end to this rather unpleasant spell of what I think I'll term passive dysphoria.

Hey, you know what I haven't had in awhile? My rock and my island, lentils with rice. I played around with Mark Bittman's instructions for stuck-pot rice and lentils with caramelized onions, spicing them with minced chili pepper, ginger, cloves and coriander and accompanying them with side dishes of garlicky broccoli and of notes on ovarian cancer. Mmm, cancer.

I don't have a small pot with a lid that fits (in fact, I only have one small pot, and it has no lid), so I Macguyvered one.

After the rice begins to smell toasty, you have to wait five minutes to eat it. So I waited...

...and waited...

...and finally dug in! Look at that brown, crispy rice-and-lentil crust. It'll cure what ails you.

Theme and variations on Mark Bittman's stuck-pot rice and lentils
1 cup lentils
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper
other spices, whatever you like

Caramelize the onion in half the oil, with salt, pepper, and whatever spices you like. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Stir in the lentils and return the water to a boil. Add the rice and return to a boil, then lower the heat to a vigorous simmer and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Drain. (The other option is to cook the rice and lentils separately and add them to the pot in layers, starting with the rice. Decrease the yogurt to 1/4 cup and mix it with the rice only.) In the meantime, mix the yogurt, lime juice, salt, pepper, and other spices. Toss the rice and lentils in the yogurt mixture. Put the rest of the oil in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add half the rice, pressing down in the pan with a fork. Add the onions, Add the rest of the rice and press down. Sprinkle it all with 1/3 cup water. Wrap a clean towel around the lid of the pot, being careful to gather the corners away from the stove, and cover the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high. When you hear sizzling, turn the heat to very low. Cook until the rice smells toasty but  not burned; this should take 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and the cloth and upend the pot. If the rice comes out intact, awesome. If not, reassemble the crust. Garnish, or don't, and enjoy, because this is delicious.

*It's actually a mucinoid cyst of the cervix.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Prison food

Komm, süßer Tod, Part V: King Erik XIV of Sweden
(yellow split pea soup)

Erik, son of Gustav Vasa, was king of Sweden during the Livonian War and a lot of other hijinks of the type we don't typically associate with Scandinavia today, but let me tell you, it was a bloody, bloody place. For instance: Erik received a good old Calvinist education and was quite an intelligent man. Until, that is, he started going a little nuts. It might have been schizophrenia, it might have been the constant pressure of familial-political disputes, or it might have been gradual arsenic poisoning. After Erik murdered several members of the Sture family upon accusing them of treason and imprisoned his brother John III, people had had enough. A group of nobles sympathetic to his brother dethroned him and imprisoned him in the castle of Orbyhus, where, not long after, he was murdered by eating a bowl of pea soup that had been laced with arsenic.

This soup isn't poisonous. It's darn tasty, though, especially with the enormous amounts of broccoli I continue to enjoy... a meal to revolt any three-year-old!

Not-so-deadly split pea soup
8 oz yellow split peas
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 strip soy, turkey, or real bacon
salt, pepper, and turmeric to taste

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It came from within the freezer!

One of my most heartbreaking quizbowl moments was buzzing relatively early on a question on the Grool from It Came from Beneath the Sink! only to be unable to remember the actual name of what came from beneath the sink.

Luckily, dinner did not come from beneath the sink, as appetizing as fresh sponge with Clorox sauce sounds. I did, however, resuscitate frozen and canned ingredients galore into something slightly more edible than bleach soup.

I present to you garbanzos con espinacas (recipe alterations: a tablespoon of red wine along with the balsamic vinegar, lime zest and juice instead of lemon). The only actual fresh foods contained therein are a tomato, a sweet potato, and half a lime. So sue me. Frozen spinach and canned chickpeas and tomato paste and dried spices are way too convenient.

More importantly, my roommate came home last night with leftover papayas from a club workshop (Did you know that a papaya is like a uterus?), saying that the consensus was that I would know what to do with papayas. Six perfectly ripe papayas. I had asked another club member for leftovers, but I'd imagined one, or at most two! This felt like an episode of Chopped, except instead of having four mandatory ingredients and a fully stocked pantry to work with, I had one mandatory ingredient and a very, very unstocked pantry. No butter. No limes. No milk. No coconut milk. No coconut. No lemongrass. No Thai basil. Basically, none of the ingredients that I immediately thought might be fun to use with papaya. I could have waited, yes, but these things were so perfect and so ripe and beckoned so temptingly...

My next thought, after cursing my paltry pantry, was "hmm, banana bread." It often uses melted butter or canola oil, so why not substitute olive oil for the butter and mashed papaya for the bananas? So I did, to surprisingly good reviews! I picked up a couple limes at a green cart today, which means the rest of the papayas will become papaya-lime-ginger sorbet. I've still got some simple syrup kicking around in the fridge from when I made those candied lemon slices; time to use it up in sorbet (spicy papaya lime).

Hannah's Ginger Papaya Muffins
Please note: I'm sure you could improve upon this recipe. Please do. Then tell me about.

Two large, ripe papayas, seeds removed and flesh mashed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (I think a lime or two would work much better)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour, of some combination of whole wheat and all-purpose (I really wanted to use some cornmeal, but there was none to be had)
Option: some oatmeal for garnish, plus half a third ripe papaya, cut up for crust and mix-in purposes.

Mix the egg, olive oil, sugar, and vanilla until homogenous. Add the mashed papaya and lemon juice and zest, and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth. Add some chopped papaya if you want chunks of it in the batter. Pour into muffin cups (or a greased loaf pan, although I have no idea how long that would need to bake), top with a chopped papaya and oatmeal crust, and bake for 30 minutes or until deep brown on top.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's gonna rain!

I think I'm getting seasonal affective disorder because of the completely, unseasonably horrible weather. All I want to do is curl up in bed, not study for this exam, and read a book while drinking unholy amounts of hot chocolate with huge marshmallows. And barbecue potato chips. That can't happen, though, for a variety of reasons, so instead I'm going to listen to this until the idea of rain only makes me smile, study as hard as I can, bludgeon myself into working out, and make food that's slightly more nutritious than my hot chocolate-marshmallow-barbecue potato chip smorgasbord fantasy.

Pictured is curried sweet potato chickpea burger in freshly baked pita. The condiment is a spicy roasted vegetable (broccoli, tomato, onion, garlic) chutney-ish thing with methi in it.

There was nothing about this I wasn't satisfied with. Puffy pita?

Check. Crispy, coherent slices of chickpea burger?

Check again.

The patented MD Stomach pile o' veggies?

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Day made slightly less awful?

Oh, check.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A tale of two genders

As we stumble toward the end of our endocrine/reproductive unit, I find myself even more grateful for my awesome PLACEment* with a pediatric endocrinologist. Learning about congenital adrenal hyperplasia one day and seeing a patient with it the next? Yes, please! But despite all the interesting patients I saw today (look up dysautonomia and be simultaneously shocked and intrigued), a story my preceptor told me really took the cake. For about 15 years, he's had sporadic contact with a patient who was born in a foreign country with ambiguous genitalia. Because of certain cultural issues, a surgeon was immediately called to choose a gender. The baby had testes and a phallus of sorts, but because the phallus was small and sort of clitoris-like, the surgeon elected to remove the testes and begin the process of vaginoplasty as soon as possible. With no karyotyping first. The child turned out to be 46XY, that is, genetically male with no gross chromosomal abnormalities and, unsurprisingly, has identified as male since he was old enough to express this identity (that is, age 5 or 6). The result of the surgical intervention: a transgender person who identifies as male and has female genitalia that were constructed out of the male gonads and somewhat ambiguous phallus he possessed at birth. Isn't that wild?

Oh, yeah, food! I ran out of camera battery and so didn't photograph the little mini-casseroles I made: sweet potato with sage and caramelized onions, topped with cheddar that got delightfully toasty in the oven. I also ate about half a head of broccoli with it. I may have a problem. In any case, to make a serving of this casserole, roast a large sweet potato until soft, and caramelize some onions in the meantime. Cool the potato and onions somewhat, then mash everything together with an egg, a tiny bit of milk, and some sage, salt, and pepper. Put it in muffin cups or small ramekins, top with cheddar cheese, and bake at 375 until the cheese on top is brown and bubbly.

*Refresher: Each of us is assigned a doctor to hang out with once a month as part of our PLACE program. Many people are dissatisfied with their experiences. I love mine.

Monday, May 16, 2011


When it comes to carbohydrates, the Cajun half of my DNA won out. You see, despite the fact that potato knishes and kasha are delicious, my true love is rice. Big, fluffy grains of rice. These days, it's brown rice, of course. Brown rice is great. It's pretty good for you, and I love the nutty flavor. But I miss the indulgence of those soft white grains. So, for an extra bit of flavor, I boiled up some green tea with a healthy knob of ginger in it and used that as the liquid in which to cook tonight's rice.

Atop that went spicy soy-glazed eggplant, carrots, and snap peas (mmm, snap peas). I briefly pondered making an egg crepe and using it for a fragrant rice omelette*... but then I got lazy. In retrospect, it would have been quite pretty.

Okay, so maybe that wasn't quite the homage to my mom's culinary contributions to my life that I'd originally intended. But you know what they say: Cajuns are very similar to Asians. They all eat rice and worship their ancestors**.

*Idea for shaping these, to be tested: line a small bowl with the crepe, put in the rice, fold it, invert the bowl.
**Am I offending people with that joke? Yes? Oops.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What are days for?

Some bug has been making the rounds of my class, it seems. I spent the whole week feeling rather lousy. As a result, I spent the week not really studying. As a result, I've studied for way too many hours today as part of my desperate attempt to catch up. It's strange; although I've accomplished quite a lot, the day seems rather empty. Such a day is necessary, though, in order to avoid this sort of situation.

In any case, because the weather was also quite lousy today (at least most of the day), I went for a dinner made to give me the warm fuzzies. A few weeks ago, I got really excited when I saw a recipe for a vegetarian tagine and figured I could fake a tagine by using a cake pan and some aluminum foil. But then I realized that the recipe was not tagine-like at all. There was no slow stewing of all the ingredients together, just some separate cooking and a quick five-minute mix-together step at the end. So I took the recipe, added cinnamon and kale to the spice mix just for fun, and cooked the ingredients (and way too much of them... I'm freezing a month's worth of dinners at this rate) according to this method. I still can't call what I made a tagine with any acceptable degree of versimilitude, but at least it's slow-cooked!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Socca to me

Socca: like pizza, but healthy!

Okay... not so much. What it really is: an oven-baked chickpea flour pancake from the south of France. The Italian version is called farinata. Mine was not as brown and crispy on the top as it's supposed to be (I lack a broiler), but the bottom was crisp and perfect!

It's really nothing like pizza. I just happened to make a margherita socca tonight. Conveniently, the pancake can be topped or filled with whatever you want. As it is, this 99-cent container of basil I got the other day is going a really long way. I've had a bizarrely stressful week (uterine histology, please go away now), and fresh herbs make it better.

Before I give you the recipe, allow me to tell you about Mast Brothers Chocolate. I went on a tour of the shop thanks to NYUSoM's Food and Wine Club today, and wow. I mean, wow. That is some chocolate. We each got a free bar of it as part of the tour, and then I got one to give to my mom and one of the plain Madagascar variety to bake with. The Madagascar bar is sort of fruity and floral, very sharp, and so I thought pairing it with lemon, basil, and macadamia nuts would work best. Here you have:

Shortbread cookie topped with a chocolate- and macadamia-dipped candied
lemon slice (and a few strips of raw lemon zest, since I didn't think there was
enough lemony zing in the candied lemon, and I seriously wish
I'd baked zest into the shortbread)

Shortbread cookie topped with a chocolate-dipped candied
basil leaf and garnished with some zest

Candied basil leaf dipped in chocolate and garnished with zest

Candied lemon peel dipped in chocolate and macadamia nuts

There's also a large hunk of macadamia nut, chocolate, and zest that's gradually hardening on the parchment paper. There was a little left over of each ingredient, so I mushed it together. It's not pretty, but it's going to be a delicious breakfast.
1/2 cup gram flour
1/4 tsp salt
pinch pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and 1/2 cup water, adding up to 1/4 cup more if the batter looks too thick. Let the batter sit for at least an hour and up to 12. Put a heavy cast-iron skillet or, if you're a skillet-lacking person like myself, some other preheatable baking pan into the oven and preheat the oven to 450 F. After it's preheated, add a little butter or olive oil to coat the inside of the hot pan. Pour in half the batter and bake for eight to ten minutes (until the edges are set), at which point you can either flip it and bake it a little longer or broil it (broiling is preferred).

Friday, May 13, 2011

According to plan

I had my groceries purchased and was all ready to make [REDACTED] tonight, but one of my lovely peers gave me a couple avocados. I ate one for lunch--I also had an apple, so I'm just going to pretend it was a balanced meal--and decided to attempt an avocado mousse to accompany something for dinner. That something ended up being orzo with soy bacon, cherry tomatoes, raw red onion, cilantro, and spinach, mixed with a little bit of the avocado/milk mixture*.

I wish I'd had romaine lettuce on hand; the spinach was one too many flavors, and the dish was kind of muddy as a result. But I really like how the mousse turned out. The fatal flaw: I didn't get the avocado quite smooth enough, mostly because I was lazy and mushed it up with a fork for awhile instead of using a food processor or immersion blender. Nobody likes a sporadic chunk of avocado in their mousse! I've got the leftover mousse in the freezer and plan to sprinkle it with cocoa powder and a little sugar and eat it for dessert. Maybe upon my next avocado acquisition, I'll beat some honey and cocoa (or melted chocolate... I wonder if that would work) into the avocado component, freeze the finished product for a couple hours, and top it with shredded chocolate before eating it. If only I'd thought of that before eating the other one for lunch.

Avocado mousse
1 large avocado
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 tbsp milk
2 egg whites
pinch each salt, pepper, and sugar

Mash, whip, and otherwise pulverize the avocado with the lemon juice and salt, pepper, and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Stir the milk and a spoonful of the egg whites into the avocado mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest of the whites until just incorporated.

*This stuff has almost exactly the consistency of mayonnaise, but it's much more healthful. I'm keeping this in mind for future recipes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

omg chocolate bread

Chocolate bread!

Chocolate! Bread!

I suppose I have to at least attempt to be coherent in the face of deliciousness. This is all I'm planning to make today; my cold evolved into something considerably more annoying, so all I really want is tea and toast. Solution found.

An interesting note from the annals of medical school: According to one of today's lectures, there are 6 million pregnancies in the United States annually. Slightly fewer than half of those are unplanned pregnancies. I'm going to start listing factors that I think contribute to that rather astounding statistic: insufficient sex education, insufficient access to medical care, insufficient access to insurance for that care, laws that impede access to birth control for teens, laws that impede access to emergency contraception for everyone, birth control failure due to user error, birth control failure due to other factors, and sexual assault. Keep these things in mind when you vote.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A capital T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for...

Pâté, of course!

Everybody likes a controversy, and pâté is the most controversial food of all. I mean, the controversy is due to the whole engorged goose liver deal, and this version is made of walnuts and mushrooms and lentils and onions, so it probably doesn't count, but still.

Turns out vegetarian pâté is uncontroversially good as a component of an artisan bread crostini with a green apple, zucchini, and lemon relish. Secondary benefit: much more healthful than foie gras. The zippy relish is kind of a spunky touch to a crostini that filled me up without weighing me down, which isn't too much to ask, is it?

The pâté recipe is here, from the lovely blog Urban Chickpea. Three cups is a lot, by the way (I hope it freezes well...), so halving it may be wise unless you're making finger sandwiches for twelve. To make the relish, I chopped a zucchini and a green apple and mixed it with the juice of a small lemon, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, a little pepper, and a little lemon zest, then let the mixture rest in the fridge for a couple hours. The bread is Peter Reinhart's artisan bread.

I should have made Indian food tonight, because I wanted to comment on Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, which I've been chugging through. I bought it as a birthday present for Andy, started reading it, got totally hooked, and pre-emptively appropriated it. It's as quick a read as a 1500-page book can be, and as unconvoluted a read as a 1500-page book with 20 arguably "main" characters can be. It's also beautiful. Seth can write with such sweet, endearing humor. In any case, don't be intimidated by the length of A Suitable Boy. Go forth and read.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Mediterranean food is right up my alley. How could it not be? It involves a lot of vegetables and salty cheeses and delicious, delicious flatbreads. In particular, there's this sort of tapas-y thing called mezze, a collection of small portions served with bread as a lunch or dinner or appetizer option. I didn't make a true collection of mezze dishes, or even a selection of my favorites; I suppose it at best inspired my own meal. For one thing, I really wanted to make some baba ghanouj with this, and I have eggplant, but I was missing a variety of key ingredients for it. Instead, there were chickpea fries (thank you, Mark Bittman) with muhammara, zucchini and olives roasted with berbere, grapes with fresh basil, and some little mozzarella, tomato, and toasted kale stacks that I totally neglected to photograph.

Muhammara is really, really, really good. Really good. It's not me; it's what happens when you mix roasted red peppers and walnuts and other delicious things. I'd also highly recommend the chickpea fries, which are made by briefly cooking a mixture of water, olive oil, gram flour, salt, and pepper, spreading it in a dish to cool, cutting it into triangles, and shallow-frying the triangles (I also tossed them in a little crumbled Parmesan). I wish I'd spread the mixture a little thinner before I let it cool since I think thinner fries would have been a better vehicle for the muhammara and zucchini. Still, the insides were so delightfully creamy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I'm pretty sure gâteaux de crêpes are usually sweet, but when I saw a recipe for a roasted vegetable crêpe cake, I couldn't resist.

This is at once complex and simple. You've got to make a lot of nearly identically sized crêpes, of course. And the vegetables must be chopped or sliced thinly and cooked separately; I also took it upon myself to very thoroughly pat them dry so that the crêpes didn't get soggy, although the writer of the recipe that inspired this didn't seem to think it was a big deal.

As if that weren't enough, you've got to layer the crepes and vegetables with cheese. I used ricotta and mozzarella. Then it still has to bake covered for a half hour to forty-five minutes and uncovered for about another ten minutes. But aside from the crêpe-making, there are no technically challenging steps, especially if you've got a springform pan. Which I don't.

It's picturesque and delicious, and to me, that's worth a little extra effort. Here is the recipe that inspired my version. I used eggplant, onions, garlic, red bell pepper, basil, and zucchini, and the cheeses, as mentioned, were ricotta and mozzarella. Andy pointed out that while the eggplant is delicious, it's harder to cut than the equally meaty mushrooms; I'm convinced. Mark Bittman's crêpe recipe is my favorite, but really, I doubt it matters much, so do what you will on that front. Serve this with a simple lettuce and tomato salad (or with kale salad, as we did tonight).

Since it's Andy's last night here, I made Mark Bittman's frozen honey mousse, topping it with mango and sprinkling it with cardamom. This is an amazing, amazing dessert. Amazing. Did you hear that? Amazing. I could stand to reduce the sugar somewhat, but Andy applauded the current degree of sweetness.

And then of course I had to use the resultant leftover egg yolks, so I made chocolate pudding. Four courses, two of them desserts? Yes, please.