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.

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