Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spittin' kitchen

Dammit, Deb. You had to go and post on your food site--Smitten Kitchen, only one of the most trafficked of them all--a recipe for the exact idea I had on my own: apple and honey challah.

Andy can attest that I've been plotting this for a week now. Sure, she's apparently been incubating this idea for nearly a year, but somehow I still feel vaguely usurped. By the professional. Totally. Yeah..

I just filled the braid with apple slices and speckled the top with more, then brushed the whole shebang with an egg white and honey glaze. Also, check out this impending storm!

Monday, September 26, 2011

To appropriate by destruction

Sometimes I get an idea and inexplicably glom onto it like a hedgehog with a raspberry.

Like yesterday's lentil soup with caramelized onions, dates, porcini broth, and turmeric, over wild rice and arugula pilaf. I've had a note on my desktop for three weeks about this idea, not that it's particularly revolutionary. It just stuck.

Or tonight's pasta salad based on this recipe, minus the pomegranate seeds (I thought those were in season by now, but couldn't find them anywhere), plus a little cinnamon and cayenne.

Or opening a French restaurant for existentialists-in-denial called Mauvais Foie. It's going to happen one day, just you wait.

Lentil soup with dates and caramelized onions
2 onions
2 cups lentils
1/3 cup chopped dates
2 cloves garlic, chopped
turmeric, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste
1 bay leaf
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms

Caramelize the onions at the bottom of a soup pot. Add the garlic and saute until it's toasted, but not burnt. Add the lentils, dates, porcini, and bay leaf, and add water or broth to cover by about two inches. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the lentils are cooked. Pick out the porcini insofar as is possible (I suppose you could wrap them up bouquet garni-style, but that's too fancy for me). Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until most, but not all, of the lentils have been liquefied. Add more water/broth or boil off liquid according to how thick you like the soup. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste after adjusting the viscosity (sorry, bad term) of the soup.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tea and Thorazine

Before I start the usual culinary blather, here, in honor of the fact that I'm currently digging myself out of a massive academic hole*, here's my Fun Diagnosis to Make o' the Week: syringomelia! And here's the current Number One Thing I Never Want to Experience: mixed mania! Well, either that or this.

Moving on to a topic I'll probably address annually: Anyone who has spent more than five minutes around me between the months of September and May knows that I hate the cold. I go all Raynaud's**, and it's impossible to wear sandals, and my hair freezes in the morning as I walk home from bikram. First-world problems are hard.

But one thing that is delightful about the months between, at least, September and November is squash. And apples. And hot spiced drinks. And more apples. Since last week's surprisingly diminutive Lower East Side Apple Festival taught me more about mastiha*** than on everyone's favorite all-American fruit, I'm sticking with squash for today:

Butternut squash fries with paprika and ketchup!

I should really learn how to light pictures at this point.
These go with a toasted fontina, mixed wild mushroom, and arugula sandwich on flaxseed whole wheat bread. I'd like to try the bread with some rye flour in addition to the whole wheat, and with some ground flaxseed or flax oil. The seeds themselves need to be ground up (by teeth or by mortar and pestle) before any real nutritional benefit can be had from them, and there's no way enough chewing of this bread is going to happen for that to be possible. Recipe to follow.

Roasting mushrooms "en papillote" (okay, or "en foil")
with rosemary.

One of the batards...

...sliced open to reveal the seeds inside.

I broiled the fontina on top...

...and added arugula while the cheese and mushrooms were
hot so that it would wilt somewhat.
And, of course, an apple for dessert, finished off with coffee containing my newly homemade pumpkin spice syrup for Andy and black tea with the same stuff for me. Again, recipe to follow.

This may look like a normal coffee,
but it has a secret superpower of
Absolute Deliciousness.

I apparently cannot succeed at filtering things, both because my attempts to use a coffeemaker and then a paper towel failed utterly and because I refuse to pay for cheesecloth, but the syrup was fine despite the fact that the spice granules had to remain in it.

Before resuming my panicked studying (ohgodneurologyohgodpsychiatryohgodohgod), a food-related (and unusually political, for me) addendum about someone who actually scares me: I met a patient once whose child had recently received a new kidney because of E. coli food poisoning. Just saying.

Flaxseed bread
N.b.: I'd replace about a third of the bread flour with rye and retain the whole wheat flour, I think. You could also use sunflower seeds, linseed, or even wheat berries in this as well.

400 g bread flour
100 g whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
150 g flax seeds
1 tbsp honey
2 1/4 tsp yeast (a.k.a. one packet)
300 g warm water

Mix the flours, honey, and water, and let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead until the dough is very smooth and homogenous; it should be tacky, but not too wet, and consequently it won't appear too elastic. Let rise for an hour to an hour and a half in an oil-coated bowl. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Let rest for 20 minutes under oiled plastic wrap. Shape the dough according to this video (or however you want, really, the bread doesn't care). Let rise for an hour or until the loaves are doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat an oven with a baking stone and another heatproof pan in it to 425 F. Brush the loaves with water, score them, and put them on the baking stone; also throw some water into the other preheated pan to fill the oven with steam and help develop a nice, crunchy crust. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the bread halfway through to brown it evenly, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on their undersides.

Pumpkin spice syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons pumpkin (I use canned; it makes life easier)
teeny tiny pinch of salt
teeny tiny pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon cinnamon (or three to four cinnamon sticks)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Heat the water and sugar together over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the solution is nearly clear. Add all the other ingredients and cook at medium-low to medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes. If you're not me, you'll be able to successfully strain this so that you get a clear, amber-colored syrup. Allow to cool and store, refrigerated, until use.

*I've always hated this expression. You don't dig yourself out of a hole. You dig yourself into a hole. What's especially confusing is that both expressions are apparently widely used.
**These pictures exemplify the dramaticest of the dramatic Raynaud's. It's not nearly that bad in most people, no worries.
***This substance is fascinating. It's only grown on Chios, and it's like a cross between the smell of a pine tree and the taste of buckwheat honey. Idea: mastiha semifreddo, or possibly mastiha taffy, or orange-scented mastiha caramels. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gouda on you

Smoked gouda macaroni and cheese with a dill and Parmesan crust.

This is actually the most perfect food.

In other news, I had my first psychiatric patient session today. It turns out people with schizophrenia are deeply, intriguingly, fascinatingly different. I know how stupid that sounds, but I'd never conversed with a psychiatric patient before, and going in, I wondered about my ability to evaluate the patient's pathology with my extraordinarily minimal training. It's easy to detect, believe you me. Most striking of all, though, was the emphasis the physician who led our group placed on the importance of long-term therapeutic relationships and on a shift in societal attitude toward the mentally ill, particularly the criminally mentally ill. I wish all doctors retained the depth of compassion he has even after a clearly long and intense career.

Gouda mac 'n' cheese
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp butter
2 cups smoked Gouda, grated
2 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup panko
1 tbsp dried dill
1 pound cooked orecchiete (traditionally used in a situation in which you want as much sauce to cling to your pasta as possible; I learned this from The Geometry of Pasta)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Stir together the cornstarch, salt, peppers, butter, and milk in an ovenproof saucepan or cast-iron pan or pot. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until it boils gently, then remove from the heat and add the Gouda. When the cheese is melted, add the noodles and mix well. Smooth out the top. Mix the Parmesan, panko, and dill in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the noodles. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall back

Man, a week since my last post? You totally missed out on me waxing trite about communing with Mark Bittman via cheddar, ale, and cauliflower soup, going South with corn pudding, black-eyed peas, and collards, playing with my mandoline to make shaved kohlrabi and apple slaw... Hasn't your week been empty? No? I am slain.

No pictures for today, since all I made was a black and gummy-looking jajangmyeon that contrasts not at all with the black cast-iron skillet in which it was cooked, but in honor of the newly crisp weather, here's a recipe for a pumpkin spice latte rice pudding that I concocted yesterday. It may or may not cut down on Andy's actual Starbucks pumpkin spice latte consumption*, but it has its own puddingy charm.

Pumpkin spice latte pudding
1 cup brown rice
1 cup very dark coffee
1 cup water
4 cups milk (whole is creamiest, but whatever)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 to 1 cup pumpkin puree (I thought 2/3 was plenty, but you might like more pumpkin flavor)
2 tbsp butter
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to taste

Cook the brown rice until it's just barely al dente in the coffee and water. Add the milk, honey, maple syrup, salt, pumpkin puree, and spices. Heat over medium heat until gently boiling, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the pudding is thickened and the rice is creamy. Keep in mind that the pudding will thicken somewhat as it cools! Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Leave the pan on the stove to cool to lukewarm, then taste to adjust the spices. Serve warm or chill in the fridge first.

*Not that I particularly want to. I get to steal sips.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sticks and stones

Sticks of bread are the best thing since slices of bread.

They're awesome and crunchy and can be bitten in half in one fell swoop!

This is my attempt at Mario Batali's juniper grissini, which are these super-slim, crispy Italian breadsticks, but I was in a rush and only cut some of them to grissini thinness. I happened to have juniper berries on hand thanks to a friend of mine who bought them in Puerto Rico. No, they're neither native to South America nor used in South American cooking. The way said friend chose them was this: he picked up a bag of them at a spice shop and asked the saleswoman what they were used in. She said she'd have to look that up. He said, "Never mind, this is just what I was looking for." I think that's a compliment of sorts? He may have overestimated my juniper knowledge, because this is one of exactly two recipes I know of that uses juniper, and no, I'm not making my own gin. Any ideas, Internet?

Since lentil salads are apparently my new curried lentils with rice, that's what I served the breadsticks with*. The lentils are flavored with celery salt, pepper and sage; the roasted brussels sprouts and shallot slices have lemon juice on them; and the cheese is smoked gouda. The grapes are grapes.

*No, not the other way around, thank you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Double or nothin'

I did two bikram yoga classes in a row today for the first time. A "double" is something I told myself I'd never be silly enough to undertake, but somewhere along the way I just felt like I had to. Honestly, it wasn't bad! Lifting my arms is currently not as simple as it should be, though.

Speaking of changed minds... I'd originally planned to make something quotidian and doubtless repetitive for dinner today, but then I saw this recipe for sweet corn polenta. And I had to.

The vinaigrette has sesame oil and balsamic vinegar in it instead of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and I used a more liberal hand with the garlic and shallots than recommended here. Whatever you do to it, the basic concept remains: making polenta with fresh corn rather than cornmeal is pretty much the best idea.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On top of spaghetti

Vegetarian meatballs aren't bad, if I do say so myself.

A little floury--I'd omit a tablespoon of the flour next time--but reasonably meatball-imitative. And chewy. Really wonderfully chewy.

Add them to linguini tossed with a simple tomato sauce in which eggplant and kale have been cooked, and you're golden. I presented at lab meeting today, which was harrowing if fun (and educational!) in the end, and a big plate of pasta plus the leftover cookies from the meeting hit the spot. It's like reverse carbo-loading! For your brain!

In order to make up for the fact that I really haven't got much to say*, I'll default to posting this video.

Vegetarian meatballs, adapted from here
2/3 cup lentils (cooked)
1 cup rice (cooked)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/4 cup oats
2 tbsp to 1/4 cup finely minced parsley
2 tbsp whole-wheat flour
1 tsp wheat gluten
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder

Puree or food process or immersion blend all ingredients together until the mixture is vaguely meatlike; I like it when some lentils are still whole. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F in the meantime. Form into balls 1 inch in diameter and place on a cookie sheet; spray lightly with olive oil spray. Bake 10 minutes, rotating halfway through to promote even browning. These taste best lukewarm, actually, so wait some time before eating them.

*As if I ever do...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hippy dippy

A quick perusal of the past two weeks of blog confirms that, yes, I forgot to mention that my rather fabulous PI from this past summer took me and my research compatriot to dinner at Tom Colicchio's Riverpark as a summer wrap-up. It's fun to walk past a grubby stretch of First Avenue into a charming, elegant dining room, and needless to say, the food was delightful. I had mushroom consommé (while coveting the oxtail), creamy and perfectly balanced mascarpone ravioli (while coveting the duck), and a black forest sundae that included these amazing brandy-soaked cherries (while coveting absolutely nothing else, because I was too busy devouring chocolately lushness). Aside from the unlikely location, there's another lagniappe to the restaurant: its oh-so-virtuous "backyard" garden right behind the Alexandria Center. Today, after doing a little work in the mouse room*, my PI and I had coffee at the newly de-walled garden, and I took some pictures:

There were three varieties of eggplant.
Teeny baby kale!
The adorable little kale reminded me that I have been meaning to try this recipe for "hippie hot pockets," a.k.a. empanadas stuffed with leafy greens.

The crust looks better than this in person.
Kale and arugula caprese-esque filling
And as long as I was baking with olive oil, some coffee olive oil brownies were in order.


Hey, NYUSoM second-years: Which cranial nerves allowed me to enjoy the taste of my brownies and empanadas?

Hippie Hot Pockets, adapted from Feasting Freds
Olive oil crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup very warm water
3/4 cup olive oil

Stir together the flours, cornmeal, and salt. Add the olive oil and warm water all at once and mix with a fork or your hands until it comes together in a ball. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and bake as needed.

Arugula and kale filling
10 cups raw arugula/kale
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp capers
1 egg, beaten

Cook according to the directions in the linked recipe!

Olive oil cocoa brownies with a crunchy caffeine surprise
2 eggs
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup coffee beans
1/2 cup olive oil

Beat together eggs and water. Slowly add sugar, beating until the mixture is thick. Very, very slowly add olive oil, beating all the while. Gently fold in dry ingredients and coffee beans. Bake at 325 for 25 to 30 minutes or until just moist in the center.

*Once again, I've concluded that mice are evil. While it was interesting to be able to examine a mouse spine and ribcage, the way I imagined doing so did not involve a juvenile female whose brothers had ripped out her throat and upper chest and eaten out her lungs.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A little warm in here

There are three things I like extremely hot*: weather, showers, and food.

That's probably why Andy and I disagreed about this Thai yellow curry with eggplant, carrots, snow peas, and egg (I wanted tofu in it, but I forgot to buy it). It included not only the outards of a habanero, but the delightful seedy innards. I shoveled it in happily, relishing the burn and the slight runniness of the nose** that come from a particularly piquant meal. Andy was practically in tears.

We may have to go buy him some milk. What a wimp, right?

*Yukyukyuk, very funny, let's move on.
**Thanks to anatomy, I now know way too much about why this happened.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How a cannonball to the head turns you from a mercenary into a hyper-religious academic

I wish I could say that the lack of blogging was due solely to the fact that I've been making things like vegetarian meatloaf, which are good to eat but not good to look at, but really my priorities lie somewhere in the pterygopalatine fossa rather than in being online. The ugly-and-easy food is probably a result of that, come to think of it. Ah, well.

First, a medical tale to relate. There is a certain anatomy professor and former surgeon of whom I (and the two other women in my anatomy group*) have grown quite fond. He's practically antediluvian--I recall him telling a story about cracking open someone's chest in the ER sans anesthesia because there were no pagers or whatnot to alert the operating room staff that they needed a room freed up stat--and as a result has a somewhat quirky set of professorial offerings. There are the mnemonic rhymes that ring with that delightful sort of archaic smut**. There are the stories about being a patient and knowing exactly what was going on, back in the days when that was probably an even more disquieting thing to be than it is now. And then there are the stories about medical school. Today, amidst some review of the cranial nerves' paths and functions, we learned that when he was a medical student at McGill, this doctor had an anatomy professor named C.P. Martin. Said professor began his adult life as a mercenary for the British during the Irish War of Independence. In some skirmish or other, he received a cannonball to the back of the head and lay on the battlefield for days before some poor schmucks coming to collect the bodies found him inexplicably alive. Even more inexplicably, he recovered without a hint of infection, but with a huge scoop taken out of his skull and a chunk of his brain covered only by soft tissue. As a result of his injuries, he went on to become a. very religious, b. a renowned anthropologist, and c. a renowned anatomist. As a more tangible result, not only did he have to wear a sort of sweatband with a big pad in the back to keep his brain warm during the winter (says our professor), but he lost left nasal and right temporal vision. The students, said our professor, exploited this by signaling to their cohorts who were sneaking into class late which way Martin was looking. The tardy students could then enter class via whichever door to the lecture hall lay in Dr. Martin's rather substantial blind spot.

Second, on a Diet Coke expedition to Rite Aid today, I discovered, for a mere $2.50, the renowned confection of Delta airlines: Biscoff!

These taste like burnt caramel with a slightly salty finish. They're godly. When I finally make that goat cheese cheesecake, I think I'll make the crust out of these. Godly, I tell you.

And here is a blurry and yellow (nothing new, I know) picture of dinner: eggs, fruit salad with a mint/sesame oil dressing, roasted chard, and lemon ginger pancakes that I came up with on the fly. They were really good, so here's the recipe:

1.5 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1.5 cups milk
juice and zest of 1(very) large lemon
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

Let the ginger and lemon zest soak in the lemon juice while you mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Separate the two eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl with the dry ingredients and putting the whites in a separate, small bowl. Add the vanilla and the ginger/lemon juice mixture to the milk and let it curdle slightly while you whip the egg whites to medium-stiff peaks. Stir the milk mixture and then the melted oil/butter into the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the egg whites. Cook in an oiled or buttered frying pan by the quarter-cup.

*We were (accidentally) segregated by gender in all our anatomy activities, which is slightly surreal but not an impediment to education, it turns out.
**An example, which is apparently by Oliver St. John Gogarty: The lingual nerve/ took a mighty swerve/ around the hyoglossus./ "Well, I'll be fucked!"/said Wharton's duct,/"The bastard's double-crossed us!"