Sunday, July 31, 2011

Street food

In my regular perambulations through Curry Hill on the way to yoga*, I pass this run-down Indian convenience store that has a sign in the window advertising pav bhaji. I looked it up... and immediately started salivating. Mashed-up vegetables served in an aromatic tomato gravy with buttery rolls? Um, yes.

Pretty brown outside...

...soft, fluffy inside!
I used whole wheat flour for the rolls and pulled back on the butter somewhat (although I did finish the sauce with an indulgent tablespoon of butter on top of the olive oil I'd already sauteed everything in). While I had no paneer and didn't feel like making it, I looked at the mushrooms, eggplant, and cauliflower in the fridge and selected cauliflower as the "main" ingredient.

I also didn't have pav bhaji spice and didn't particularly feel like buying it... so I made some! And then added other spices on top of that, of course. The final list: lime zest and lime juice (to substitute for the more traditional green mango powder), turmeric, chili powder, asafoetida, kasoori methi, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seed, cumin, black pepper, coriander, mustard seed, and salt. Minced garlic, ginger, and Thai chilies ended up in there as well.

Despite the fact that I forgot to use the chopped fresh cilantro and didn't have a protein to add, this was pretty much the best thing ever. Again: mashed vegetables in an aromatic tomato gravy! With rolls**! Why wouldn't it be? And it's not difficult to create besides. Go make it.

*That makes me sound like a pretentious white chick obsessed with Indian culture. I'm not. Really. Promise.
**Yeah, I wasn't sure how slightly sweet, buttery rolls would work with this, either. They did. So well. Oh, so well.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Last night, I realized that the dregs of the buttermilk in my fridge were on their last legs. What better time to use up the bizarre Baggie of flour I'd dredged up from my spice cabinet while moving and make dessert: a cornmeal Dutch baby with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top?

It might have been the cornmeal, or it might have been the fact that I had about half the amount of batter I should have been pouring into my lovely cast-iron skillet, but this Dutch baby was rather denser than usual. Doesn't mean it wasn't delicious, though.

Dinner tonight was an imitation tabbouleh. Oh, yes, it had parsley and mint and lemon juice, but it also had beets and goat cheese and raw sweet corn and barley (not bulghur). Forgive me?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's easy not being green.

The perennial glut of late-summer zucchini has led to a perennial glut of "THIS IS HOW TO SNEAK ZUCCHINI INTO TASTY CHOCOLATE THINGS" recipes.

Let it be known that these brownies do not contain vegetables. They contain browned butter, cocoa, chocolate, caramel, pecans, and other delicious and distinctly unvitaminiferous components.

Zucchini, you have your place, but not in this dessert, thank you very much. I'll take my brownie decadence unadulterated by pretensions of healthfulness*.

Speaking of green... Andrew Bird finds it easy to be green!

*Appending "and healthy, too!" to a brownie or cake recipe just because it happens to contain a vegetable or whole-wheat flour or oil instead of butter annoys me to no end. Guess what? If your dessert contains one or more of the following, which all the recipes invariably do, it's not exactly part of a balanced meal: sugar, refined flour, and most lipids, including but not limited to butter, canola oil, and full-fat yogurt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


An unexciting evening was in order after I, while tricked out in the dorkiest of dork gear in order to handle estradiol powder, nevertheless very nearly gave myself a healthy dose of Exposure To Potentially Carcinogenic And Certainly Endocrinologically Disruptive Substance* because I, ladies and gentlemen, am a butterfingers who shouldn't be allowed near a vortexer.

Solution? Inspired by this guy, I made Asian tacos: sriracha sour cream sauce, gingery lentils with a touch of sesame oil, and a long-marinated Asian red cabbage slaw with red onion, carrot, raw beet greens, Thai chilis, and a healthy dose of cilantro, all on a soft corn tortilla.

Now that, plus some quizbowl question writing, calms the nerves.

Asian cabbage slaw
1/2 red cabbage, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 carrots, grated (or chopped, what the heck!)
juice of two limes
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp ketchup (stop judging)
Minced Thai green chilies to taste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup oil (if you're not putting this on top of lentils that have been flavored with sesame oil, you could include a little sesame oil in here; all sesame would be too strong, I think. You could also include minced fresh ginger if you're not putting it on top of lentils that have also been flavored with ginger!)

Mix everything together. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Eat. Relish.

*I'm pretty sure the medical student I'm working with thinks I'm being unreasonably paranoid about possible estradiol exposure. But when a substance peaks in your blood at 180 to 200 pg/mL, you can't be too paranoid about handling several milligrams of it at a time. Right? Because I'm also pretty sure that while one exposure wouldn't really increase someone's risk of cancer, it could screw with someone's menstrual cycle or cause her to retain water like a camel or cause gynecomastia in a hypothetical male scientist. I'll take paranoia for $500, Alex.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everything but the pileta

This is a Mexican orzo risotto with roasted vegetables and black-eyed peas.

It contains basically everything in the fridge: tomato, onion, jalapeno, tomatillo, fresh cilantro, roasted red pepper and roasted poblano, and roasted zucchini and summer squash, with sour cream to finish. The one tragedy is that somehow I'm running out of cumin yet again, and this dish taxed my supply. Since I tend to use cumin in perhaps 70 percent of my food*, I'm heading to the food coop ASAP and stocking up on delightfully cheap cumin from their bulk bins.

On the less-tasty front**, my (three-person) research team's mice are imminently giving birth! And it's almost 50:50 control:experimental mice! Science works! Sometimes! Maybe! If they don't eat their babies!

*Okay, not lately. But often!
**I actually don't know how untasty mice are. When I try some, I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And the daddy tomato said, "Ketchup!"

Before I try to recount all that I've been neglecting to post about, I must share some (marginally, or not at all unless you're non-verdipollicalic me) exciting news: my orchid is in full bloom once again! I'm pretty sure it's been inspired by the not-so-sub-tropical weather we've been suffering through here in New York. Seriously, Florida left me with a deep appreciation for hot weather, but when the inside of the bikram studio I visit is not appreciably different in temperature or humidity from 27th Street, even I can't help but complain. At least, thanks to said chthonic conditions, there are three blossoms out and three more on the way. 

So, yeah, inattention to blog: achieved. I neglected to post about the semolina buttermilk cupcakes with chocolate buttermilk frosting that I made for quizbowl yesterday*, or about the variation on Mark Bittman's frozen honey mousse that I made to use up some of that leftover caramel sauce**. There's been a lot of excitement 'round these parts, but at the end of it... we finally have a real apartment! With furniture! And a well-stocked kitchen! And even some free floor space!

And bread, of course. This is basil garlic bread made with buttermilk***. Oddly, the recipe I based it on called for a significant amount of sugar. I thought twice about adding it, but concluded that it must have been included to cut the sour flavor in the buttermilk. And sure enough, the bread was a little too sweet. Otherwise, though, A+.

Dinner was a black-eyed pea salad complete with kale, watermelon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and a tangy buttermilk balsamic dressing. One day I'll actually compose an attractive plate of salad instead of shoveling it all on a plate and chowing down.

*where I learned about the petroleum spas of Naftalan, Azerbaijan, which have a history chock-full of Soviet hilarity. This is why I play quizbowl.
**Replace the 1/3 cup honey with 1/2 to 2/3 cups caramel sauce, depending on how dark and how runny your sauce is. What results is a (slightly denser than the original) frozen dulce de leche mousse, and it's phenomenal.
***I have quite a lot left over. My current recipe ideas to use it up pronto include pancakes and... pancakes. Any suggestions, Internet?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whey to go!

I am making a second foray into the world of homemade cheese! Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe for creamy ricotta, and of course I had to give it a shot. Heavy cream? Yes, please, as much as possible.

I used some of the whey (which apparently sometimes goes by the much more X-Men-worthy name of MILK PLASMA) to make a portion of no-knead bread; replacing the liquid in any bread recipe with whey gives you a tangy, sourdough-esque dough with a hit of protein even without bread flour. Andy* took a bite of ricotta-slathered bread and started making a sound something like this. I guess it's good.

Other components of my welcome-home spread included:

Caramelized onion (to go on top of bread and cheese)
Roasted red peppers with a garlic caper marinade (to go on top
of bread and chee
se, and oh, by the way, guess who likes capers
after all? Hint: It 
starts with "A" and ends with "tkins."
Green bean and almond salad (not to top bread and cheese)

And brownies with a squishy caramel layer inside. For a concoction that is basically the platonic ideal of dessert, these are surprisingly easy. Make a recipe of your favorite caramel sauce** (not difficult, but I always have sour cream left over after I do it, because my favorite caramel sauce uses sour cream to tangy effect) and a recipe of your favorite brownie batter***. Spread about half the batter in the pan, then top liberally with caramel sauce. Pour the rest of the batter on top and either spread it to cover the caramel or swirl the layers together. Protip: avoid letting the caramel sauce touch the edges of the pan, because it will scorch.

*Andy lives here now! For real! As of, like, five hours ago!
**Or buy some.
***It hurts me to say this, but fine, I'll begrudgingly admit that you could buy a box of brownie mix. Ghirardelli's is rather fantastic.

Monday, July 18, 2011


In the past four days, I have not:

1. blogged
2. gone to yoga (though I did have a great run with Andy and my mom in Pittsburgh)
3. eaten a reasonable amount of calories

In the past four days, I have:

1. tasted a fantastic amount of cake for possible wedding celebration cakes for December (Oakmont Bakery's chocolate torte may be the most delicious thing)
2. purchased 400-mL beakers for the above celebration
3. read three books (Walter Benjamin for Children, Game of Thrones, Waiting for the Barbarians)
4. prepared for Andy's arrival tomorrow by cooking and cleaning like a madwoman (I swear to god, our relationship is more than me cooking things he likes. There are puns, too.)

Major food post coming tomorrow. For now, I'll just say that I think Jeffrey Mehlman is trying to imitate the prolixity of his favorite thinker in his book, Game of Thrones lives up to the hype, and Waiting for the Barbarians is as good as any Coetzee novel I've ever read. And that I rode the Megabus home last night with a church youth group, a priest, and two nuns. It was funny until one of the boys started, like, preaching as the rest of us tried to nap. Woman in front of me, bless you for turning around and saying, "Really?" in the most sarcastic voice you could muster, thereby shutting him up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mille fois merci

Quizbowl practice was today instead of tomorrow on account of me being out of town for the next few days, so I came up with a dessert a day earlier than usual. I'm trying to use up this semolina flour I have. For one thing, I don't want it sitting in the cupboard growing stale and taking up space. For another, I'm sort of in love with its texture and want every excuse to play with it. Semolina buttermilk cake with a light chocolate frosting is in the future, but I didn't have time to embark upon anything that adventurous, so I'm saving it for next week.

The recipe that follows is my take on these little shortbread-style cookies from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. My all-time favorite shortbread recipe (thank you, Good Housekeeping) uses a different butter-to-egg yolk ratio, so I went with that one, and slicing cookies makes me nervous and impatient and frustrated, so I rolled these out instead and cut them. I don't own cookie cutters*, but my Brandeis chemistry department shot glass was the perfect size for tiny, delicate, sophisticated biscuits. Note that these were actually a poor decision for practice; they don't transport well at all, so eat them in the house. Note as well that the degree to which the butter is softened is very important in shortbread. It needs to be slightly cool still, but there can't be any resistance to it when it's beaten in an electric mixer.

I should also note that these practices are a major highlight of my week. It's quizbowl just how I like it: no drama, just questions, intriguing people, and general nerdy rumpus (and, of course, chow). I'm not sure how many of the Unofficial New York Quizbowl Conglomerate read these posts, but if you're one of them, hi! I'm grateful for your participation. Have a cookie.

Semolina shortbreads with thyme and apricot, adapted from Mark Bittman's brown sugar cookies with sea salt from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 stick softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, only somewhat packed
2 egg yolks
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
dried apricots, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using an electric or stand mixer on very low speed, beat the butter and sugar for 30 seconds or until just combined. Beat in the yolks on low speed, then add the flour, salt, and thyme. Mix just until everything comes together. I added about half a tablespoon more softened butter to make the dough hold together since it was just too crumbly otherwise; I suspect my smallish egg yolks necessitated this. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and place them on a parchment paper-lined sheet. Gently, gently, gently press a slice of dried apricot in the center of each cookie. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until they're very lightly browned at the edges. Let them cool on the pan just until they can be handled, then gently transfer them to a cooling rack to finish.

*With the exception of these amputee gingerbread man cookie cutters that will doubtless make their appearance in December.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dukkah and cover

My mom keeps insisting that, and this is a direct quote, "[I] live like a monk." This is something I don't understand. My apartment is hardly a cell (minus its quasimonochambered nature), I'm married, I regularly take in sinful amounts of Diet Coke and exercise, and I eat rich, indulgent food, like this.

Dukkah is a blend of crushed nuts and spices usually eaten with olive oil-soaked bread. I figured there'd been enough wholesale abuse of large amounts of flour lately, so to use it in more of a main course, I mixed some it with julienned carrots, chopped red onion, shredded kale, chickpeas, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and a little bit of unsweetened coconut. I wish I'd had some raisins or dried apricots to throw in there (well, I have dried apricots, but I'm saving them for baking), because the sweetness would have helped.

Hand-grinding a cup of nuts: oddly satisfying.
There are a bunch of varieties of the spice blend; I used toasted hazelnuts and almonds, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried mint, black pepper, and red pepper.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Road not taken

I had intended to make Mark Bittman's beer- and honey-glazed black beans, thanks to a desire to be rid of one of two bottles of Stella Artois that have been stagnating in my fridge forever. Beer is not a tasty drink, but it is a tasty ingredient!

Turns out, though, that a long day running back and forth among three different hospitals plus a notable lack of honey plus a notable glut of vegetables equals a quick and lazy spicy black bean and vegetable soup with a beer- and tomato-based broth. And kale chips. And "oven-grilled" (read: broiled) peaches with a light thyme and brown sugar glaze.

Bunny ears made of kale!

It is probably a good thing that I ditched the original recipe. This soup was really, really spicy (that's what half a large habanero in a total of about two cups of soup will do to you), which appealed to my culinary masochism. In any case, the sweet peaches (and the ketchup in the broth) cut it satisfactorily. Oh, and those peaches are probably my new favorite thing in this world. I'm looking forward to making a goat cheese cheesecake with a thyme-glazed broiled peach layer. I'm just not sure what kind of crust I'll put it with, and I don't have a recipe for goat cheese cheesecake, so I'll have to figure one out on my own. Once I come up with something satisfactory, I'll let you know.

Oh, speaking of goat cheese, one more thing.

I didn't expect this to be as attractive as it is.

What do you do when you have a cup of beer leftover from your beer soup? Make yeasted beer bread, of course!

Spicy black bean and beer soup
Half a can of black beans
stems of three very large leaves of kale, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 habanero, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tomato, chopped
4 mushrooms, sliced
worcestershire sauce
broth or water
oh god, there was another ingredient, but I totally forget what it was... sorry, readership!
1 peach
brown sugar

In a little olive oil (or butter or other oil), saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and habanero and cook about a minute or until fragrant. Add the vegetables and beans and stir until they're heated through and beginning to soften. Add the ketchup, beer, worcestershire, and broth in a ratio that looks good to you, because I didn't actually measure. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer. Meanwhile, put a rack at the uppermost level in your oven and heat up the broiler. Slice the peach, not too thinly, and brush both sides of the slices with olive oil. Sprinkle one side with brown sugar and thyme; you don't need a lot of either! Broil them, sugar side up, until they're blistered and soft. Serve with the soup, which should have simmered for 20 minutes to half an hour.

Goat cheese and sage yeasted beer bread
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup beer
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp goat cheese, plus more for the top
1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more for the top
1/8 tsp sage, plus more for the top

Let the yeast and sugar sit in the water until foamy. Add the beer, salt, and goat cheese, then add the dry ingredients slowly until it all comes together in a dough. Pour into a greased loaf pan and allow to rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 375. Just before baking, brush the top with melted butter (I had to resist the urge to seriously slather it with butter, because damn, that would be good) and sprinkle with more pepper, sage, and crumbled goat cheese. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Victorian nouveau

I hate myself for loving the quasi-steampunk aesthetic that Trader Joe's has going on its packaging*.

This juice went into Hawaiian rolls. The recipe from which I adapted these inexplicably didn't say how much salt to use, so I took a wild guess. I also made the decision to knead the dough in order to smooth it out--shaggy dough equals lumpy rolls--and reduced the yeast and sugar.

As you can see, these were for spicy black bean plantain sliders with kale chips. I really loved the flavor and zing of this slider. It could have benefited, however, from the addition of some Cheddar or Monterey Jack, or maybe a spicy lime mayo; the sweetness of the burger and bun needed salt and fat.

Spicy black bean plantain burgers
10 oz black beans, cooked until soft
1 ripe plantain
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely minced habanero pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp cornmeal, plus more as necessary

Slice the plantain and broil it until it's soft and slightly browned. Chop half of it roughly. Mash the rest with 8 of the 10 oz black beans. Mix in the reserved beans, chopped plantain, and the rest of the ingredients. Put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up somewhat. Form into patties and cook as you wish, either by pan-frying or baking until the outside is crispy.

Hawaiian rolls, adapted from here
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup melted butter, plus more for brushing
2.25 teaspoons dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten

Mix the melted butter, water, juice, sugar, and yeast; wait until the yeast is foamy. Add the egg and vanilla, then stir in the flour until it's evenly incorporated. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes, then stir in the salt. Knead until smooth; the dough will be very sticky, so if you can't knead it by hand, stir instead. Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours or until doubled. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter, canola oil, or nonstick spray. Divide the dough into 16 balls of about 1.5 ounces each. Shape them into smooth balls and put 8 in each pan; allow to rise for about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, brush the rolls with melted butter. Bake until they're golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. They're best eaten the day of baking.

*Actually, I hate myself for loving steampunk in general.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The idea of order

First things first:

Yes, that is an Orthodox Jewish man with a showercap over his hat to protect it from the rain. Secondly:

I'm no great fan of Martha Stewart, but she's got some darn good cookie recipes. These maple iced oatmeal applesauce cookies went over well with the quizbowl crowd, but I found them too sweet; when I was making them, I balked at the sugar:other stuff ratio, but I foolishly didn't change it (I did, however, substitute whole wheat flour for white). It's a pity, because the soft texture and light applesauce flavor and very low amount of butter are extremely appealing. I plan to tinker with the recipe. Among other things, I'm going to replace some of the sugar with maple syrup and some with more applesauce, adding more whole wheat flour to keep the dough firm enough to bake.

And finally, after a Trader Joe's trip today, there was something much more healthful on the menu:

This zucchini soup and summery relish were made with local zucchini and local heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe's. Two pounds of zucchini for $1.25 and two heirloom tomatoes for $1.00? Yes, please!

Creamy zucchini-chive soup with corn relish
1.5 lbs zucchini
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chives, minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
plain yogurt
1 tomato, heirloom if possible
1 ear corn
1 tbsp basil, minced
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp feta
salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the zucchini. Put it and the garlic in a pot and cover with water or broth. Bring to a boil and cook just until soft. Drain off all but 2/3 cup liquid and, once it has cooled somewhat, add 3 tablespoons of the chives and puree. Add plain yogurt to taste, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Meanwhile, shave the kernels off the ear of corn and core and dice the tomato. Mix together with minced basil, the remaining chives, the apple cider vinegar, the feta, and salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt, trust me). Serve the cooled soup topped with the relish.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Customer service

I tossed my backpack onto my bed upon returning from lab a couple hours ago, settled down to bake some bread and read some book... and instantly got an automated phone call from a hair salon in Sarasota to confirm "my" appointment for Saturday. Clearly, this is not an appointment I made. When I called the salon to speak to a human rather than a machine and set things straight, the conversation went something like this:

Me: "I received an automated phone call confirming an appointment, but the phone number must be wrong. I don't even live in Florida anymore."
Employee: "Okay, we can cancel it. What's your name?"
Me: "It's not under my name, because I didn't make the appointment. Someone else did, and the phone number was taken down incorrectly."
Employee: "Okay, we don't need your name. Do you remember with which stylist you made the appointment?"
Me: "No, because I didn't make the appointment, but the person who does may need the confirmation. Would it be possible for you to look it up by phone number?"
Employee: [does so] "Okay, Ms. Smith, your appointment is for Sa--"
Me: [loses patience] "No, it's not, because this is not my appointment."

I'm pretty sure this conversation was part of the reason why I ate most of a "lobe" of the world's most chelonian scallion sourdough bread.

Horrible picture, I know.
Events conspired to give this bread way, way too much time in its last, room-temperature proof, so the mini-loaves flattened and melded. Kind of cute, though, don't you think?

Crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside!

No matter how I try, my sourdough is never as sour as I like it. Don't get me wrong: this was delicious and tangy and crusty. But I want sour, dammit! I used a properly aged starter and gave it a 24-hour fridge period in addition to the other rises and everything. The only thing I didn't do according to what looks like an exemplary recipe was use distilled water for everything. That can't possibly be it, though... can it? The Internet is giving me some excellent tips with which I can troubleshoot my sourdough protocol. I'll just have to try them and feed my friends the results.

Okay, fine, I'll just comfort myself with the best deviled eggs ever. Chives, yogurt, Dijon, and just a sliver of butter make fluffy heaven out of egg yolk, I'm telling you. Plus, of course, the requisite paprika.

Creamy, healthfulish deviled eggs for one
two hardboiled eggs
literally just a sliver of butter, softened
1 tbsp chives
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2.5 tbsp plain yogurt, Greek or otherwise (in this case, I favor not-Greek, to thin things out a bit)
salt and pepper to taste
paprika for sprinkling

Slice the eggs neatly in half. Cream together the yogurt, mustard, butter, and egg yolks with a spoon, adding salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives and minced garlic. Pile or pipe into the egg white hollows. Presentation note: To get them to stand up straight, cleave a small bit of white off the underside of the half to give a flat surface.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

With love and squalor

Today is the day I finally got up the gumption got my lazy butt in gear and moved the stacks of folded clothes from my floor to their temporary home, as long as my home is dresserless. The floor feels so... clean. Except for the fact that I don't own a vacuum (yet) and there were cardboard bits strewn on the carpet during the moving process. It's not too dirty, but it's not preferable.

That scallion ginger sauce nearly did away with my scallions (upcoming recipe will show you what I'm doing with the last of them), but the poor chives are still hanging about, dangling perilously over a precipice below which are the depths of Yellowed, Limp, and Unusable Canyon. What to do, what to do...

Crackers! These use very little butter--only 3 tablespoons for four dozen crackers--and I substituted half the white flour for whole wheat. And then there are the tasty, tasty chives, of course. And I got to those golden beets just in time as well. I based my full meal on this recipe, making crackers topped with golden beets (and one regular that got in my bunch somehow) marinated in dressing, with goat cheese and pistachios, on a kale salad (but just for show, before the cracker got soggy).

Of course, I started out carefully assembling a couple crackers, but then got impatient and ditched the goat cheese and stirred the shredded kale in with the beets; it was the same dressing, so I figured it didn't matter. This was so delicious I ate tomorrow's intended lunch salad portion. Oops.

While my research is proceeding more slowly than a Pleistocene glacier chewing its way down the Eastern seaboard, literarily everything is bouncing right along. I received the Goodreads equivalent of a friend request today, reminding me that while I'd created an account months ago, I'd never actually added books, since I've been using LibraryThing for much longer. Now seemed as good a time as any to get on that. Unfortunately, importing from the .csv I downloaded from LibraryThing didn't go so well*, so my Goodreads account is in no way the accurate reflection that my LibraryThing account is of what I've read, what I want to read, and what I actually own. First-world problems, I know.

The latest book I've added on LibraryThing is the collected short stories of Amy Hempel, which I'd mentioned yesterday. These stories are mind-blowing. She writes in the way I wish I had the talent to write, exposing the reader to the rawest and most painful experiences a person can have, but insidiously such that her stories are all the more powerful. For her characters, happiness and above all stability are not the norm, nor are they expected to be. Sadness and discontent are lived matter-of-factly, and sometimes even affably. It's captivating.

And last but not least, science: Blaser Lab's meeting today was a guest talk on molecular beacons. In and of itself, the concept is great, and it's going (and has gone) some really exciting places for science and medicine. But what got me the most was the joy in the speaker's voice. This wasn't a particularly advanced talk, and he must have given it dozens of times, but his heart was practically pounding out of his chest as he spoke with the rapidity not of boredom-inducing practice, but of joy at communicating his life's work. It's a work he clearly loves. I hope to be lucky enough to speak about my own future career with such ebullience.

*Among the more minor but most frustrating aspects of this is the fact that there is one book, one, that did not import itself. Am I tempted to go through my LibraryThing account book by book to find it? At the risk of admitting moderate mental illness, yes, yes, I am. But maybe when I've actually got Internet in my apartment and don't waste the time I convince myself to spend in the med center library in the evenings on indulging my obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Momofuku has been a legendary establishment for me. It's a media darling, I'm sure deservedly so, and when I lived in Florida and Boston, I used to wish I could go there. Of course, now that I live in New York, I'm confronting the sad facts that it's not exactly vegetarian-friendly, and it's way too expensive for my budget, but that doesn't mean I can't employ a little DIY.

This sauce, you see, is actually as delicious as it sounds (and as it is described). As you can see, I served it with an assortment of soba, grapefruit, steamed beet greens with a squeeze of lime, steamed carrots, and soybeans (edamame's more mature version). The combination of grapefruit and beet greens was a little too bitter; next time, I'll use oranges or a sweeter green, like bok choy. Otherwise... A+. Now, for an excuse to make crack pie...

Oh, and this was the view of last night's sunset from the window of my new apartment. Totally gratuitous.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Déjeuner sur l'herbe

I can do without most Independence Day traditions, but eating en plein air is not one of them. Last Fourth of July, I made a picnic that included Moroccan carrot salad. This Fourth of July, I had a solo picnic lunch in the courtyard of my new building that included a layered purple carrot salad.

This is what purple carrots look like! They don't taste any
different (at least not to my untrained palate), but they are
aesthetically pleasing and no more expensive than regulars.
This is a peeled purple carrot.
Mandolined purple carrots, ready to be dressed.
I let the carrots sit in a shallot and tarragon vinaigrette while I made a pesto of lemon juice, sunflower seeds, chives, and carrot greens (after verifying in a cookbook (no Internet, remember?) that carrot greens aren't poisonous or disgusting or some such). I made a sort of layered dip using the carrots, pesto, and some goat cheese.

Of course, if there's a dip, there must be a chip, so I made some with the last farmers market potato, baking them in the oven rather than frying them.

These are easy to make, but only if you have a slicer. Only the
most seasoned of professionals could make slices this uniformly
thin without the aid of a slicing apparatus.

And then I took everything outside to eat. While I was chowing down, Gustav Holst’s Brook Green Suite came up on my iPod, and I was nearly bowled over by one of those vaunted “sudden rushes of nostalgia” that you read about in bad novels and worse food blogs (no delusions of grandeur here!). We played that piece in orchestra in middle and high school over and over. Life wasn’t actually simpler back then, but I was young enough to think it was, so I suppose my nostalgia was for that delusion; ignorance was, in quite a few ways, bliss. 

Oh, and I was wrong yesterday when I posted a picture of cats and said it was adorable. Compared to this, those cats look like Newt Gingrich.

Oven-baked potato chips

Thinly slice a potato using a mandoline or other slicing apparatus. Soak the slices in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, drain, lightly salt the slices, and let them sit for another 5 minutes. Pat them dry and toss them in olive oil or spray them with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with pepper, other herbs or spices, and additional salt if necessary. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through and removing any smaller or thinner slices that are done before the larger ones.

Carrot green pesto
Food process one very large bunch of carrot greens with 1/4 cup chives, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, the juice and zest of a lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.