Monday, December 31, 2012

All within is warm

Distasteful places to be: central Florida, Chechnya, Three Mile Island, New York on New Year's Eve... That's why I'm staying in with kale, creamy vegetable chowder, and freshly baked bread.

I've been following the tenets laid forth in Flour Water Salt Yeast, an early Christmas present, and they work. I didn't buy a Banneton proofing basket, opting instead for a blue faux-wicker trinket purchased in Chinatown for $1.75 and lined with a flour-dusted towel. The bread still has a crisp crust and perfect crumb, and a flavor that belies its four aforementioned ingredients; I chalk it up to the multiple temperature adjustments I made to get the dough to exactly 25 degrees Celsius. Thanks for the tip, Ken Forkish!

Maybe, calmed fortified by all this warm food, I'll wander downtown to the harbor for the stroke of midnight*.

Creamy vegetable chowder
Use any root vegetables you like for this; I'd hate to be authoritarian. Roast the cubed vegetables while you're preparing the base to save time. To make a vegan soup, omit the milk; the potatoes will make it creamy.

1 parsnip
1 turnip
3 carrots
1 large sweet potato
1 fennel bulb, trimmed
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion
3 stalks celery
4 leek fronds
1 cup cooked great Northern beans
1/2 lemon
2 tbsp flour
vegetable stock (I used a homemade mushroom stock)
milk, optional
olive oil
bay leaf
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Peel and cube the parsnip, turnip, carrots, sweet potato, and fennel bulb and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until browned and tender. Meanwhile, dice the onion and celery and chop the leek fronds, including the white up to 1/2 to 1 inch of the dark green portion. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and saute the onion, celery, and leek until the vegetables are soft and the onion transluscent. Add 2 tablespoons flour and mix thoroughly; cook on medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir in vegetable stock, 3 to 5 cups depending on how thick you'd like your chowder to be. Add 1 tsp thyme and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until the potatoes are very soft. Add half the roasted vegetables and puree until smooth. Stir in the juice of 1/2 lemon, the remaining vegetables, and the beans. Heat through and add milk or additional stock to desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

*Warning: gastronomic goodwill is liable to evaporate like acetone on a lab bench in the face of slow-moving tourists.

Title credit: Ford Madox Ford

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Prayer to the gods of partial credit

I do not have a large house. There are not many cabinets. So why can I not find my cupcake pan? Apologies if you were one of the people on the receiving end of a mass text asking if I lent it to you, but I have to either get to the bottom of this or reconcile with the fact that I'm going insane.

Now, for more amateur photography!

Check out that wrap technique.

The one or two faithful readers of this blog might remember that I'm not a recipe follower, but this one comes from Deborah Madison's Greens cookbook. It deserves a little respect. That's why I made it two or three times before I branched out and changed up her formula for tofu salad sandwiches.

Open wide!

Tofu salad sounds like one of those horrific vegan recipes that drives people away from meatless food. Oh, ye of little faith! This is great, full of fresh herbs and vegetables and capers (or crunchy pickle bits), moistened with Greek yogurt and red wine vinegar, and generally good on the waistline. I recommend stripping the leaves from the celery stalks you use and adding those, too. They taste like a mating of very intense celery, parsley, and ramps.

And then, of course, Andy asked for homecoming cookies. We had some interesting peanut butters in the house thanks to a Groupon for a local peanut butter establishment. Dinner had been the aforementioned low-fat option, so I figured hey, why not totally ruin that health factor with peanut butter cookies.

Product placement!

This is dangerously good.
Here's the thing: I love peanut butter. I love peanut butter cookies. Unfortunately, most recipes give you a weirdly cakey and dry lump that doesn't taste like much of anything. I'm partial to the flat, chewy cookie, and I figured I'd use my dubious baking knowledge to fashion a recipe for one. My highly scientific strategy involved using an egg and a yolk rather than two eggs*, brown sugar and honey only**, and browned butter***. But I accidentally**** used baking powder instead of baking soda. The acid in the powder makes cookies lighter and puffier. I added a tablespoon of milk to the second batch, to little avail. And maybe 1 cup of flour was paradoxically too little? I have no idea. But they were chewy and moist and tasted good, so I'll give myself partial credit on this one. Today gets a zero for healthful eating, though.

Without milk
With milk
The recipe below is what I feel I should have used to achieve the desired result. Let me know how it goes.

Honey nut cookies
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white flour (ish; it might have been a little more)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 stick butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
2 tbsp honey (or 3, if you're not using peanut butter with honey in it)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan without stirring until totally melted. Continue to heat, swirling occasionally, until the solids and butter are nut-brown and fragrant. Pour over the brown sugar, peanut butter, and honey, and allow to cool to room temperature. Beat until smooth and add the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat until thoroughly incorporated. Toss the almonds with the dry ingredients and fold into the butter mixture until just blended. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350 degree oven; the cookies should be underdone in the center. Allow to cool on the baking sheet until they're firm enough to be handled.

*Egg whites make for drier, puffier cookies, while the fat in the yolk tends to help cookies spread.
**white sugar = crispy cookie; moist sweeteners = chewy cookie
***In addition to being delicious, it makes for a looser, spreadable dough.
****Long story. I had a cupcake pan moment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Oh, hey. I know, I know: "You don't call, you don't write," and so on and so forth. There's a good excuse. I spent the last year, roughly, on a whirlwind introduction to clinical medicine with a grade 5 learning curve. And then, in case you haven't heard, there was a hurricane. In the interests of spending less time on the Internet, I ditched both Facebook and this blog just after finishing the semester. While Facebook still doesn't hold that much appeal, I missed posting what I cook. And believe me, I've kept cooking. There were so many things I didn't photograph, like the mastiha semifreddo I finally got around to making, or the souffle roll. But here's a small sample that did get captured:

Buckwheat chocolate budino with red wine caramel and plum
and dark chocolate discs

Vegetarian French onion soup

Red lentil-crusted tofu with a saffron coconut sauce and pea
shoots, over a bed of spiced pearl couscous

Parmesan creme brulee with mostarda and a Parmesan crisp

Individual goat cheese and peach cheesecakes

The finished product, with a lime-mint sauce

Flourless chocolate cake with redcurrant sauce, slivered
almonds, and glacee currants

Strawberry creme tart. Andy did the knifework for the top!
 We also got guinea pigs!
This is Creta.

This is Malta.
They've since grown up.

And so, a little more than a year after my abrupt hiatus, I give you Christmas dinner:

Cod poached in homemade wild mushroom broth. The spice
secret: a touch of turmeric in addition to the thyme, garlic,
caramelized onions, and bay leaf. I swear it works!

Fennel and Napa cabbage slaw, initially intended to be
fennel and endive slaw. There's a homemade orange aioli
(thanks to my mother-in-law), almonds, and olive relish with
orange supremes on the side.

Butternut squash macaroni and cheese, garnished with
spiced squash seeds and kale chips.

A simple arugula salad with pomegranate seeds, walnuts,
and a citrus and olive oil dressing.

In my defense, this was the worst plating of the lot, and I'm
not sure why I photographed this one. It's buckwheat chocolate
cake with homemade cranberry sauce, creme anglaise, and a
masterfully made salted almond brittle, thanks to my mother-in-law
once again. There are also candied orange peels on top.
I wish I could write about what this last year has been like, but too much has happened to even begin to encompass in a novel, much less a blog post. The only thing I can say--and perhaps the most important thing--is thank you to, in no particular order, and with many individuals in overlapping categories: my friends, my family, my classmates, Andy, my patients, my attendings, my residents, the guy at NY <3 Bagels who knows my order by heart, the guy at the farmer's market who knows not to trim my beet greens, and that one security guard who never makes me swipe my ID. The people at NYU and Bellevue who banded together in ways I never thought I'd see under incredibly stressful conditions. The people at Johns Hopkins who welcomed me last-minute when I needed to leave New York for a little bit. And the 26th St. gym, for keeping Andy and myself from getting type II diabetes thanks to the rich desserts and piles of fruit candy consumed during those weeks and weeks of 18-hour days. All of you have given me the privilege of a future in medicine.