Monday, August 29, 2011


So yeah, that endtimes flood thing didn't really happen to Manhattan. But that doesn't mean I didn't a. buy peanut butter, b. make whole-wheat bread, and c. gorge myself on a combination of the above for two days, using "well, we could have lost power" as an excuse.

And the night before I had made crescent rolls, which Andy wreaked his own form of natural disaster on.

If you make these, roll them out 1/8 inch or thinner. Otherwise,
you get these sort of indistinct little buggers.

Mmm, warm, fluffy insides.
And tonight was African burritos. What is an African burrito, you may ask? Why, I'll tell you!

Gently microwave a collard until it's cooked enough to be palatable but still hold up to filling, plop in some turmeric rice and berbere lentil spread, toss julienned vegetables on top, and fold using this retro guide* to burrito folding.

Mmm, tasty. Almost tasty to make me forget that what I really have to do tonight is review pretty much every single bump, crevice, and nubbin on this guy**:

Alas, poor Yorick. I wish I knew well how your pterygopalatine fossa works.

*Guys. That guide was posted in 2002. That was almost 10 years ago. Meditate on that and despair.
**Me, upon arriving home: Andy, I have a skull in a box. You can play with it, but only after I've Clorox Wipe'd it to remove the cadaver juice.
Andy: ...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Their Eyes Were Watching Blog

I'm having trouble taking this hurricane thing seriously. Perhaps it comes with the territory of growing up on (or sort of in... I grew up on a barrier island) the Gulf of Mexico. First of all, it looks like it's supposed to be a category 1 at most by the time it hits us. Secondly, I live on the eighth floor. Thirdly, I'm a little immersed in the last of summer produce right now:

These are zucchini, corn, and chickpea fritters flavored with mint and lemon zest. Also, kale chips and slices of tomato.

I fried them in the safflower oil that Andy brought home as a surprise one day, and I am still looking forward to picking the BCBs* out of the pan when the oil has cooled a bit. And then baking the assuredly chewy and buttery crescent rolls that are rising right now. Irene, Schmirene.

*Burnt crunchy bits, a term coined, I believe, by the sadly Alzheimer's-afflicted Terry Pratchett of Discworld fame.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zombie jamboree

I held a brain today! Said organ was our cadaver's none-too-well-preserved brain, so it wasn't the most, shall we say, cohesive experience, but still. How awesome is that? A whole formerly thinking and feeling and visceral afferent-sending brain!

You can tell school has started again because here's yet another quick-and-easy soup recipe. I actually followed this one almost verbatim, with one exception: toasting garlic on high heat and then searing bok choy on high heat with the garlic still in the pan would, I intuited, lead to burnt garlic, and there are few disappointments more bitter (literally and figuratively) than burnt garlic. So I toasted the garlic in the oil, scooped out the garlic and tossed it in the soup, and seared the bok choy in the garlic-flavored oil.

There's also, as you can see, some sriracha in here for good measure. Don't be shy with the lime juice; a healthy dose is absolutely necessary to cut the saltiness of the broth (okay, so maybe I wish I hadn't added exactly 2 teaspoons of salt) as well as to add the tropical zing that all earthquake-beset* New York denizens crave.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Real butter, medical blue cotton/poly blend, and you.

Hello, anatomy. I suppose I kind of missed you. For one thing, scrubs are so forgiving to the figure.

Thus, lemony parsley and egg soup from Mark Bittman, complete with butter and cream and served over a scoop of orzo. I didn't manage to purée it as he suggested, because the parsley was more fibrous than the tarsi of the eyelids*. The recipe instructs to cook the parsley only until wilted, and there was no way it would be purée-able at that point. It's perfectly palatable this way, though. Addictive, even, if you are as enamored of parsley as I am. I've been known to down most of the bowls of karpas on the Passover seder table, with or without salt water dipping accompaniment.

Also, while the recipe suggests that 3 bunches of parsley will yield 4 cups, I used about 1.5 bunches (one curly and one Italian flat-leaf), chopped and packed reasonably tightly into the measuring cup. Because I used orzo (heartier and more complete meal: check), I feel like I could have halved the recipe, which means that the benefits of this soup go well beyond my usual "quick and tasty", since for a half-recipe:

Cost of 1 (large) bunch parsley at Greenmarket: $1
Cost of lemons: $0.25
Cost of eggs: $0.30
Cost of butter: $0.13
Cost of onion: $0.25
Cost of orzo: $0.18
Total (omitting the optional heavy cream): $2.11

Not bad.

*The jokes, they have already begun. Run. Save yourselves.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

So fresh and so clean

Andy and I found something delightful at the Greenmarket this past Saturday: teeny tiny adorable tomatoes.

The nice lady running the tomato stand said that this was a "Mexican [word we didn't catch] tomato," and assiduous Internet research has only turned up an heirloom cultivar called Matt's Wild Cherry that does in fact grow wild in Mexico. In any case, they were fun little bursts of tomatoey goodness in a kale, tomato, and tofu scramble sandwich, served on bread made in...


That's right. A stand mixer. Some of my friends from undergrad went in together on a stand mixer for us as a pre-emptive wedding present. I'm very, very happy. I mean, look at this dough.

That dough took me little time and less attention. Oh, stand mixer. You're everything I hoped you'd be.

So are you, bread.
Speaking of friends, we had friends over tonight to share the sandwiches, caramelized onion and parmesan rice, and salad, deviled eggs, and (incredibly good) key lime pie that they brought. They pointed out--okay, justifiably mocked me for--the frequency at which food bloggers use phrases like "fresh _____" or "perfectly ripe _______" in describing food, with emphasis on the overuse of the word "fresh." Of course, now I'm determined never to use that word again.

Despite the fact that I didn't photograph it, I should say something about tofu scramble: I hate that I like it so much, because it's one of those hippy-dippy stereotypical vegetarian dishes, but oh, it's so quick and tasty and proteinaceous. Which is, of course, exactly the set of criteria one looks for in an evening-before-classes-start-again meal, or, in fact, a harried-evening-while-classes-are-going-on meal. Summer, you will be missed.

Simple sandwich loaves
4.5 to 5 cups bread flour
1 2/3 cups warm water
1 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt

Mix the yeast and water until the yeast is dissolved and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy. Mix in the flour and salt, and knead until the dough is smooth and springy. Grease a bowl, put the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise an hour to an hour and a half, or until doubled. Divide the dough into four to six sections, depending on how long you want your loaves to be. Roll the portions into balls and let rest for about 30 minutes so that the dough can relax (read: until you can actually stretch it into position and expect it to stay there). Pat each ball into 9-inch-long rectangles and roll up tightly into cylinders; fold the ends under to create a tight seam and press out as many air bubbles, gently, as you can.  Allow to rise until doubled, about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 with a metal pan in the lowest rack. Just before baking, put ice cubes in the hot pan to create a steamy oven, which will help develop a crust. Bake the loaves on a cookie sheet or baking stone for 20 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Itallian rapscallion

Yesterday was my (ostensible; I'm actually going in tomorrow) last day of work, and as a thank-you to our rather fabulous PI, my med student co-worker and I assembled a package that included florentines. These delicate caramel-and-almond wafers are, as the name suggest, of Florentine origin, which is why, after many weeks, I bring to you:

Komm, süßer Tod, Part VI: Giuliano de Medici
(florentines, sans the oft-used chocolate and candied citrus peel accoutrements*)

You'd think having a brother nifty enough to get the nickname "the Magnificent" would send Giuliano de Medici into a tailspin of mediocrity. But no, he had to go and co-rule Florence in the late fifteenth century with said brother. Unfortunately, members of the Pazzi and Salviati families butted heads with the Medici rulers of Florence over that most Italian Renaissance of issues: capitalism.

The Pazzi, a banking family had helped the very anti-Medici Pope Sixtus IV purchase some land that Lorenzo and Giuliano had their eye on, thus gaining the financial favors of the pope. Francesco Salviati, having helped with this whole pull-the-wool-dyeing-business-over-Medici-eyes scheme, also got himself named archbishop of Pisa for his efforts. To make a long and complicated story short and oversimplified, after suffering Lorenzo's disapproval one too many times, the Pazzi and Salviati decided to engineer what may be one of the ballsiest assassinations in all of history: have the Medici brothers stabbed to death in front of thousands of people during High Mass at the Duomo, the great cathedral of Florence.

Poor Giuliano bled out on the floor of the church while everyone watched (or fled in fear, more likely), but Lorenzo escaped and actually went on to attempt to defuse the situation, trying to save the lives of Pazzi and Salviati family members and allies. Unfortunately, Salviati was hanged to death at the Palazzo Vecchio, Pazzi family members were murdered by an angry mob, and Pazzi and Salviati family members were in general assaulted and defaced whether or not they had anything to do with the conspiracy... and, as you may have been able to guess, "or not" was the norm. As a last resort, Lorenzo turned himself over to the Neopolitan king Don Ferrante, prostrating himself in captivity for a few months until the king was convinced to help him calm Sixtus down. Lorenzo went on to die quietly in 1492, conveniently avoiding the climax of the whole Savonarola blowup that started during his reign. And even though Giuliano lost his life, his bastard son went on to become a pope. Ah, Italy!

Now, to move to the Iberian peninsula:

This is what happens when you make a sauce of nutmeg, black pepper, and the most delicious cheese ever to be wrapped in sycamore leaves, queso azul de Valdeon...

...add liberal amounts of fresh red grapes, sliced roasted garlic, and flat-leaf parsley...

...and toss a pound of pasta with the whole shebang, then top it with crunchy walnuts and a few more sprigs of parsley for good measure.

This is delicious and delightfully simple. If you can get ahold of the aforementioned cheese, or any other particularly earthy and pungent blue, make this.

*Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping: Baking and One Perfect Bite. I actually made two batches of this because the first refused to peel off the parchment paper, no matter what I tried. The next batch I baked on lightly greased cookie sheets, which worked like a charm. And those first cookies? Andy ate them, paper and all. The results were surprisingly indigestion-free.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vive le roi (de sandwichs!)

I am only a little ashamed to admit that Andy and I are voracious fans of Food Network Star (formerly Next Food Network Star). We faithfully watch it on Hulu on a four-day delay. Tonight, we were gratified to find that our favored contestant, self-proclaimed Sandwich King Jeff, won over a contestant who inexplicably made the judges quiver with satisfaction but to us was laughably artificial. I mean, seriously, not only did she look and talk like a Muppet, there was actually a clip in the finale of her reciting in Spanish with all the dramatic flair of an amateur telenovela her father's declaration that he came to America to give her a better life. Please.

So, Jeff the Sandwich King, we dedicate to you the Most Difficult to Eat Sandwich Ever, with a side of steamed cabbage with (very) spicy peanut-lime dressing.

Take a slice of avocado brioche, the best healthification of a really indulgent bread I could possibly imagine.

Add a Mark Bittman-inspired panko-crusted lentil-and-vegetable cutlet*, flavored with cayenne and Korean fermented black bean paste.

Top with homemade pickled ginger, a slice of the most perfect peach of my summer thus far, and a slice of cooling avocado.

Attempt (and fail) to eat with dignity. Declare a successful, if amateur, homage to the Sandwich King.

*How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, p. 661

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bready or not...

Unfortunately, yesterday got me re-started on soups, and now I'm back to my old habits.

This is a carrot soup, strained for a change! I used a porcini mushroom broth, an apple, and a good amount of ginger. More importantly, though:

Fresh baguette. This is possibly the best I've ever made. It's all in the thwack, I've discovered. You see, there are several joys to a fresh baguette, including a thin, crunchy crust and densely crumbed inside. Slapping the dough firmly on a floured tabletop two or three (or four) times gets rid of any large air bubbles and helps create that special texture.

I should have made more than one; I used leftover rhubarb from last week to make a rhubarb-onion jam, and it would have been phenomenal on baguette. Unfortunately, Andy wreaked his own personal havoc on most of the bread. Jam another day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Simple gifts

I know, I know, how saccharine and disgusting! But I can't help it. There has been such a glut of them recently. Take these matryoshka measuring cups and spoons, given to me by my mother-in-law.

My revived basil plant.

This thing has at least nine lives.

Cheap end-of-summer heirloom tomatoes, resting on a bamboo cutting board courtesy of my best friend's mother (i.e. my second mother).

Pretty and delicious

The re-realization, at the wedding of two of my high school friends who have been dating since we were in ninth grade, that the friends I made in high school are so staggeringly full of personality, strength, and accomplishment that I couldn't have assembled a better group of them if I'd tried.


Roasted heirloom tomato and red pepper soup on an unseasonably cool and rainy day, with butter lettuce salad and 45-cent happy hour bagels.

Tastes better than it looks. As usual.

Schadenfreude. No, I don't have a specific recent example of that, but I figured I had to cut the cloying examples featured in this post with the acknowledgement that revenge is just as sweet as any of the above.

Neither here nor there soup
I'm calling it this because it needs to be summer for tomatoes to be good enough to make this, but it's too warm to be eaten if conditions are not autumnal.

1.5 lbs heirloom tomatoes, slow-roasted
2 large red peppers, roasted and blistered in the oven
4 cloves garlic, roasted
1 carrot
1 onion
1 rib celery, with the annoying veiny bits stripped out
1 pod star anise
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sugar
dash of soy sauce
red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Dice the onion, carrot, and celery to make a mirepoix. Sweat the mirepoix in a heavy-bottomed pot, then add the roasted vegetables and garlic, add soy sauce and water to cover, and bring to a boil. (I don't really care about a perfectly smooth soup, so I included the tomato and red pepper skins, but if you do care, take the skins off by scalding the vegetables prior to roasting.) Reduce to a simmer and add the spices to taste; make sure you taste every 5 minutes or so and remove the anise pod as soon as you find the anise flavor to be sufficient. Simmer until all the vegetables are soft enough to immersion blend or puree, at which point you should cool the soup enough to do so. Warm the milk in the microwave and add the cornstarch gradually, stirring to combine. Stir the cornstarchy milk into the soup and heat through. Pass through a mesh sieve or a chinois if you like. Eat with crusty bread (or really cheap bagels) and salad.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Birthdays and dog days

It was my birthday today! Well, technically yesterday, but you know what I mean.

I brought to the (sadly, so sadly) final quizbowl practice of the summer this rhubarb lemon brioche cake that I've had planned for some time, adapted from a combination of some sketchy Hungarian fruit cake recipe and a plum brioche cake recipe that was a little oddly worded for my tastes. I thought the cake was "too": too little lemon, too little rhubarb, too much sugar, too much baking. But the rest of the group seemed to like it! So here is my (heavily) altered recipe. There's no paprika, I promise.

Rhubarb lemon brioche cake, adapted mostly from here
150 g butter, softened, plus more for the pan
4 egg yolks
3 egg whites
120 g brown sugar, plus more for tossing with the rhubarb
1/4 tsp salt
pinch nutmeg
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat the butter until fluffy, then add the sour cream and brown sugar and beat to combine. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Beat 10 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour. Add the salt to the egg whites and begin to beat them; about halfway to the soft peak stage, add a few drops of lemon juice. Continue to beat until the whites hold soft peaks. Stir a generous spoonful of whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold into the batter along with the rest of the lemon juice (reserving a small amount to toss with the rhubarb) and the lemon zest. Spread in a generously buttered pie pan. Toss the rhubarb with sugar and lemon juice and arrange it on top of the batter. Bake for 30 minutes or until just set and still very moist.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The only known example of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force

Andy and I are both, to put it mildly, stubborn. And, to put it mildly, somewhat competitive, mostly with the standards we set for ourselves. But when you give us an opportunity to compete with each other... well, that's how we got started on our current workout regimen, which I like to call the Recipe for Pain. For the past six days, I've either gone to yoga, lifted weights, or both, motivated both by determination to build up my physical fitness level and provide a buffer against the onslaught that will be medical school and by determination to show Andy that I can, in fact, power-lift at 9 p.m. on Monday and get up at 5:48 a.m.* to do hot yoga on Tuesday. And then whimper as the backs of my thighs tell me how much they disapprove of what I'm doing.

Something, of course, had to fall by the wayside, and it was blogging. I could have written about how chopped dried cherries macerated in lime juice provided an excellent substitute for pomegranate molasses in this lovely Lebanese dish. I could have written about how sriracha, lime juice, mirin, and miso paste make a great dressing for a soybean and rice salad with steamed carrots and cucumbers (and cilantro and garlic). But that didn't happen. Instead, I'll just have to tell you about this zucchini and spinach tart with a cornmeal crust, served alongside whole wheat bread thumbprints and a pesto of cilantro, kale, and roasted garlic.

It was... uh, really good. I guess that's about it. Not as good as Freddy and Fredericka, though, which I've moved on to after completely exhausting myself with Celestial Harmonies. Mark Helprin continues to impress me with his wit. I tend to read past some of the most carefully and subtly crafted side-splitting similes** I've ever experienced, do a mental double-take, and start giggling uncontrollably. It's long, but oh, how the pages fly by.

Zucchini and spinach tart
*Note that this crust only goes on the bottom of the tart! If you want sides, too, you'll have to multiply it by 1.5 (I estimate)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil

Mix together the dry ingredients and stir in the olive oil with a fork. Gradually add ice water, stirring with the fork the whole while, until the mixture comes together in a ball. It shouldn't be sticky; if it is, add more cornmeal. Chill for 10 minutes. Roll into a 9-inch circle and line the bottom of a tart pan. Chill for 15 to 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 425 F. Prick the pastry with a fork, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until just turning golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.

5 oz goat cheese
1.5 cups spinach, steamed and chopped, with much of the water squeezed out
1 onion, cut into a large dice
1 zucchini
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize the onion in olive oil, deglazing when appropriate with the vinegar. Stir in the spinach at the end, cooking just until the mixture is no longer damp. In a bowl, use an immersion blender to whip the goat cheese and lemon juice, then add the spinach and onion mixture and blend until it's of the desired consistency (leave chunks if you want, or don't!). Salt and pepper to taste, then spread in the cooled tart shell. Meanwhile, use a mandoline or sharp knife to thinly slice the zucchini. Arrange the slices attractively on top of the filling, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle on a little more salt and pepper. Bake at 425 until the zucchini slices are done, broiling it at the end if you want a little extra browning.

*I have carefully calibrated this time such that I have enough minutes to haul myself out of bed, put on my contacts, make sure my yoga bag is assembled, and get out the door at 5:57, to arrive at yoga between 6:15 and 6:20, depending on whether or not the stoplights run in my favor. Life is in the details.
**As well as metaphors, but that would destroy the alliteration.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

F for effort

I had all these dreams.

Dreams of red onion gram flour roti... dreams of black bean fritters... dreams of homemade tortilla chips... dreams of peach salsa and roasted vegetable gazpacho into which the tortilla chips can be dipped...

And what do I do in the end? Totally forget to make the gazpacho until it's too late, take the black beans intended for the fritters and mix them in with the peach salsa, buy some tortilla chips, make a quick kale salad, and call it a day.

Pitiful, I say. Summer is clearly eroding my work ethic. To make up for it, I threw together a yeasted gram flour and wheat bran zucchini bread that tasted great but was seriously squishy in the center, despite its lovely crust. Next time, I'll treat it more like a batter bread than a yeasted bread: bake it low and slow!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I'm very disappointed in myself. I was too busy patting myself on the back for the best cinnamon rolls I've ever made--filled with walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, and brown sugar, and with mashed sweet potatoes in the dough, plus whole-wheat flour and olive oil for an extra infusion of "pretending to be abstemious"--to photograph them. It's a pity because I managed to get the icing to what I consider the perfect thickness as well, thanks to the inclusion of sour cream, so it was very attractively patterned on the top! Like I said, too much back-patting. Ah, well; you'll just have to trust me when I say that these are as attractive as they are delicious. Brush the dough with olive oil instead of spreading softened butter over it and you've really completed the delusion that they're good for you, allowing you to eat even more of them!

Which isn't to say, of course, that real butter isn't fantastic. Why, there's a whole three tablespoons of it in this crust!

Along with Parmesan, cashews, whole-wheat flour, and sesame seeds. The filling is whipped Fuerte avocado*, lemon juice, and basil, covered in a layer of chopped olives and raw corn kernels, and then layered with thinly sliced persimmon tomatoes. I chose this heirloom variety because a. they're pretty, b. they're huge, c. they're appropriately acidic but also somewhat sweeter than average, and d. they're $2.50/lb at the Union Square Greenmarket where other heirlooms run at $4.50/lb, if not more. Also, they show you what a tomato is supposed to taste like. The inside is more meat than juice, and that meat can only be described as silky, hearty like a supermarket beefsteak but without a hint of mealiness.

Andy had his with a fried egg on top.
I had mine with copious quantities of string beans in roasted
 garlic-white wine sauce.
I'm going back to reading Celestial Harmonies now. I really should have been done with it weeks ago, but since Andy helped me hop on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, I had to continue revisiting my childhood via trashy fantasy novels until I'd finished the series (those books of it that are out in paperback, that is). Alas, a return to Real Lit'retchah is past due.

Tomato avocado tart, recipe adapted from here
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup cold butter cut into cubes (or 1/3 cup olive oil)
1-3 tablespoons ice water
1 enormous avocado, or two small ones
about 1 pound tomatoes, any variety that isn't crappy supermarket beefsteak or too-sweet cherry or grape
kernels from 1 ear corn, raw
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
red wine vinegar and olive oil for garnish, optional
1/4 cup chopped olives, optional (I could have done without them, honestly. Not that they were bad, but they just didn't add anything that a sprinkle of salt on top wouldn't have.)

To make the crust, pulse the flour, cheese, and nuts in a food processor until the mixture is blended. Add the cold butter or the olive oil and pulse until combined. Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the crust just comes together in a ball. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes, then either roll out the dough and line a 9-inch tart pan with it, or just press it into the tart pan. Chill again for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, line with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and fill with pie weights. Bake 10 minutes. Remove the weights and bake another 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the crust cool completely.

Meanwhile, whip the avocado with the lemon juice and enough olive oil to make the mixture smooth; I used an immersion blender and kept going until the mixture was fluffy and mousse-like. Fold in the chopped basil and corn kernels and spread the avocado mixture in the cooled pie crust. Sprinkle on the chopped olives, if you're using them. Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil to taste (or not at all, if you don't find you need it). Chill at least minutes before serving. To make it really pretty, garnish with more basil and a curl of lemon zest.

*This is easily the biggest Fuerte I've ever seen: