Sunday, December 4, 2011

Matthew Barney meets AvP

On Friday, Andy and I went to see a dance performance by Shen Wei's dance company. It was mind-blowing. Since the Park Avenue Armory's arts performances are pretty much obligated to include something amusingly high-concept, the third piece allowed audience members to walk among the dancers (who were mostly naked, so don't bring the kids unless you deem them mature enough to appreciate topless male and female dancers rolling around in paint*) and appreciate the union of technology and humanity** that is going to be driving Shen Wei's next artistic phase, or so the program says. In any case, the second piece, Folding, was by far my favorite. Like I said, mind-blowing. You can watch several YouTube performances, like this one. However, the most amazing piece also included what I found to be the performance's only perceptible-to-a-non-dancer-or-dance-aficionado flaw: very silly headgear. Andy likened the head coverings to squash; I imagined them as what would happen if Matthew Barney remade Alien versus Predator. They were downright distracting from the ridiculous choreography.

Other note (and skip this one if you have a weak stomach): I accompanied three of my classmates this morning in shadowing an autopsy at the medical examiner's office. Aside from experiencing fresh organs, substantial amounts of blood, and a man whose long bones had been harvested for grafts***, I noted that of the cadavers we encountered, nobody was older than 46, and nobody's BMI was anywhere near normal. This stands in stark contrast to the quite elderly, usually practically cachectic cadavers in the anatomy lab. Hmm.

Now, food! Two days' worth to blog about today:

Brown sushi rice with seared tempeh and a marinated Asian vegetable salad****.

Farmhouse vegetable soup from Cook's Illustrated, with whole-wheat bread.

In deference to Cook's Illustrated, I'm not going to post the recipe. They do ridiculous things like use forty-five pounds of ground meat to find the absolute perfect meatloaf recipe. For this recipe, the tester made at least ten varieties of vegetable soup to find the perfect balance of umami and nuttiness and fatty deliciousness (lemon-thyme butter to finish is the secret!). For that, I'll pay for a subscription.

One note, though: the recipe calls for cabbage and parsley. I forgot to buy both, so I used kale. It's a cabbage relative, and it's got that fresh tang of parsley. Other than that: totally faithful to the brilliance that is this soup.

*It's artistic, not voyeuristic, I swear to you.
**Including projected T1-weighted cranial MRIs!
***Have you ever bent someone's boneless arm? No? Never thought I would, either.
****I found a massive daikon for a dollar. And layed the smackdown on a woman about my age who tried to insist that the watermelon radish I was teaching Andy about was not, in fact, a radish. Score.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fungi gone wild

It's cold. Again. I'm still wearing flip-flops*, but this counts as soup weather.

Cream of wild mushroom! Well, mostly wild. Thirty-three percent tame, actually. The porcini are dried and from a Whole Foods bin; the shiitake and cremini were from farmers market bins and are purportedly woods-gathered or whatever. Either way, they were great in soup form, especially with shallot croutons (read: shallots fried in brown butter) and whole wheat artisan-style bread. And then about a pound of spinach, a persimmon, and a mango for dessert. I felt fancy, so I abandoned the behind-on-studying mentality and actually passed the soup through a wire strainer a couple times to make it smooth.

Cream of mushroom soup
3 cloves garlic
1/2 oz dried porcini
12 oz fresh cremini
8 oz fresh shiitake
3 large shallots
2 to 3 tbsp butter
about 1/3 cup white wine
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
a dash of soy sauce
sage, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper

Bring the water to a boil and put in the dried porcini; let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Mince 2 of the shallots and the garlic. While the butter is melting in the bottom of a pot, slice the third shallot thinly. Just as the butter begins to sizzle, fry the shallot slices in the butter. Remove when they're toasted to a dark golden brown. Add the minced shallots when the butter is fully browned and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and the chopped fresh mushrooms; cook until the mushrooms have stopped exuding liquid. Add the wine and reduce to about 1/3 of the original total volume of wine and mushroom liquid. Add the porcini broth (but not the porcini themselves), soy sauce, sage, thyme, nutmeg (you only need a little of each, especially the nutmeg), and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until all the mushrooms are very soft. Puree, strain, puree again, and strain again. Stir in the milk and heat gently until the soup is warm. Adjust salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

*and will continue to do so until it actually endangers my toes.