Tuesday, January 22, 2013


In the interests of showing Andy what he missed, I've been remaking a number of recipes I already posted here; thus the prolonged period between posts. Before the food, a little fun:

I did embarrassingly poorly on this.

This is amazing. I was on my obstetrics night float week at the peak of "Call Me Maybe"'s popularity. Perhaps New York City's Top 40 station figured nobody in her right mind would be awake and listening to the radio for more than 30 consecutive minutes at 3 a.m.*, because that song was on at least twice per hour. I got a little excited about some of the parodies. Baseball players be damned, this is the best by far.

And last but not least, Andy has come up with his wackiest and most entertaining get-rich-quick scheme** to date: Chopped: Philosophy Edition. Four unknown, poverty-stricken, aspiring young philosophers--likely from the New York metropolitan area--would go head-to-head to compete for $10,000. They would be provided with four "ingredients" that must be included in a philosophical argument, to be constructed within 20 minutes; the first item would be the principle or idea that the other three had to be used to refute or support. A library would be provided for references, but of course, the more the philosopher knows, the more time s/he has to construct an argument rather than look up ideas. Of course, philosophers could be criticized for insufficient use of the "ingredients" as much as they could for weak argument or oration skills. Andy's first combination was the Sartrian concept of judgment, Boethius's ladder of being, and pragnanz. A basket of pastry goes to the winner. Ready? Go!

Nearly a year ago--March 28, 2012, to be exact--my mother forwarded a recipe from a friend of hers. This friend, Myfriendnancyfrompittsburgh*** had obtained, from a book by a popular physician and diet guru, a recipe for cashew and date salad dressing. I am highly skeptical of most pop medicine, especially if it involves diets that purport to make diabetes vanish in 30 days (really, people? 30 days?), but it sounded delicious. So I fiddled with it a little bit, and this is what I ended up with:

Puree 2/3 cup raw cashews, 6 dried dates, 1 cup water, 3 small or 2 good-sized cloves garlic, the juice of 2 limes, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, and salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Soaking the nuts and dates in the water makes the dressing even smoother. That's it.

The recipe for the entire salad follows. It's actually quite pretty, but we were too busy making the guinea pigs jealous with our piles of arugula to take a picture. Instead, here's an adorable owl!

1 recipe dressing as above
2 red bell peppers
1 large cucumber
1 pound tofu
paprika and cumin
lots of arugula

Cut the tofu into 1-by-1-by-1 cm cubes. Toss with lots of paprika, a little bit of cumin, and the tiniest bit of salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Turn the oven up to broil. Halve the red peppers and lightly spray them with olive oil. Put them through red pepper hell in the broiler until they're devilishly blistered. Meanwhile, slice the cucumber. Toss the arugula with dressing to taste and top in pretty ways with the vegetables and tofu.

*They're sort of right. Night float was amazing, though.
**A number of you may be familiar with these. Another recent one: peddling left-handed jars to rich left-handed people.
***This is how Mom always mentions her. Every time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


A friend and I recently had a study break conversation about doctors whose personal lives are featured on the Internet. This was in the context of a discussion about physicians who serve niche populations and whose patients would, if anything, trust them more upon discovering their shared interests; we agreed that in that context, an unusually public private life is not a problem. I could bloviate about this for too long... but it doesn't take particular profundity of thought to realize that in the vast majority of cases, if a patient searches your name, it is to your benefit to have only professional links available*. And that, ladies and germs, is why I'm posting a picture of someone else's calves on my beautiful brand-new foam roller.

These are used for post-workout myofascial release. The jury is still out** as to the benefits of foam rolling, but I am ignoring the wishy-washy evidence because it feels so very good (once you get over the fact that you're rolling around on the floor moaning in happiness).

Since I'm very, very tired and want to get through another question block before bed, here's the abbreviated food happenings of late:

Homemade pad thai with green beans and chewy tofu. Talk about restaurant food at home.

Lime and coconut pound cake, made with cornmeal for a little added texture.

Guinea pigs enjoying parsley al fresco.

Also, I just discovered that Picasa's online photo autofix tool is pretty decent and makes cakes look edible even after a photoshoot in bad lighting. Maybe if I'd used it before I would never have nauseated my loyal readership***.

 *Sure enough, a quick Google search of some NYU physicians revealed a number of Facebook profiles and other personal pages. Nothing offensive, of course! In fact, there were several very impressive triathlon finishes among the results.
**This is not the only article available, obviously. A number of studies have provided conflicting results on whether foam rolling increases the range of motion of various joints, recovery of various muscles, and so on.
***of ten.

Monday, January 14, 2013


This past weekend, we went to a great NY Philharmonic concert that included Bruckner's sixth symphony*. Not to be all "get off my lawn," but what is with people leaving a concert in the middle of a piece? Yes, it's a long piece. Yes, it's not the most accessible symphony in the world. No, it's not acceptable to gather your things and shuffle out when you get bored. Kids these days**.

Studying all day and, at the end of the day, feeling like you haven't studied hard enough. It sucks, if you'll pardon my French. It's also creativity-sapping. If anyone wants to pop by my apartment with a roll of white butcher paper and some finger paints***, you'd make Graham Wallas dance in his grave, but in the meantime, I'll be following New York Times recipes verbatim.

Well, almost verbatim. I added lemon juice and premade veggie sausages. And it was delicious.

Our forks were dirty. I eat more slowly with chopsticks, anyway.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to coloring between the lines.

*This piece happens to be one of my iPod standards, but it will never again be on a jogging playlist after an unfortunate realization that it's stumble-inducing.
**And by kids, I actually mean the 50-and-over set.
***Or one of these!

Friday, January 11, 2013

More than is chewable

Clearly, the concept of "restart this blog and post with some consistency" is too much to grasp. In my defense, I've been very busy. Studying? What studying? I've been cooking!

First there was this, which, with a little tweaking, turned out restaurant-quality soup. I'm not bragging; it's a really good recipe.

You can see the delicious noodles and veggies without the
tofu slices on top. I love cellophane noodles.

Then I made this, which didn't need any tweaking at all. Okay, that's a lie; I made the dressing spicier and limier, and I crusted the tofu with sesame seeds. But other than that, no tweaking.

And last night, these!

They're quinoa cakes, inspired by something I ate in a Pittsburgh restaurant called E2. The risotto wasn't all that fantastic, but the "spicy gorgonzola mess" was something else. They actually give the recipe away as a raffle prize and so, perhaps understandably, weren't about to hand it over to me. I knew it had gorgonzola and basil in it, and I knew it was spicy, so I went from there. Gorgonzola dolce gave the closest texture, when blended with some olive oil, and sriracha, basil, and a little black pepper gave the closest flavor profile. There might be some parsley in there, too. Whatever it is, now it's in a convenient dinner form. To make it more substantial, you could try adding some breadcrumbs (maybe half a cup?) or panko.

I made a few other things, too, but they were boring. Speaking of boring, a friend showed me this excellent article titled "American's National Dish: the Style of Restaurant Menus," by Zwicky AM and Zwicky AD. It reminds me that writing about food is also boring, which is why I don't reread my posts. They make me cringe. But seriously, there is a limited vocabulary of food descriptors. Maybe from now on I'll write more about books and medical school* than about what I'm actually cooking.

Gorgonzola quinoa cakes
Makes about 15 in a regular cupcake pan

4 cups cooked quinoa of your color preference (I used red)
6 to 8 oz gorgonzola dolce (without the rind)
3 eggs (not jumbo or extra large; if you use those, cut it down to 2 eggs)
sriracha to taste
chopped fresh basil to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If the quinoa is hot, mix the gorgonzola in until the cheese is thoroughly melted. If you pre-cooked the quinoa, melt the gorgonzola over low heat in a pot. Remove from heat and stir in quinoa until it's thoroughly blended. When the mix has cooled somewhat, add the eggs and mix until homogenous. Season to taste with sriracha, basil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in muffin cups sprayed with oilive oil or nonstick spray, or lined with cupcake wrappers. They'll be done when the top is browned and just set. Allow to cool for a few minutes so that they can be handled and hold their shape.

*Although since right now medical school = 10 hours a day of studying for the boards, that's pretty damn boring, too. Unless, that is, you're excited by dirty mnemonics.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Studying induces Cheyne-Stokes breathing

Please see as evidence this transcript of a Gchat conversation, reproduced below:

(2:00:25 PM) Hannah: I think I want a pyruvate tattoo.
(2:01:21 PM) Andy: i think you are at that studying stage right before you hyperventilate for five or ten seconds

You heard it here first, kids.

This recipe posted on Tastespotting piqued my interest. It looks absolutely delicious, probably because it includes a cup and a half of cheese, a quarter-cup of olive oil, a cup of pecans, heavy cream, bacon, and jarred red peppers (likely packed in oil). Fats are as delicious as they are artery-clogging. For a regular weeknight meal, though, I prefer a higher delicious-to-artery-clogging ratio.

Roasted peppers. They were bright red in real life.

The sauce is a nice orangey-pink color!
Cashews have fewer calories per ounce than pecans, not to mention almost half as much fat. They tend to blend well, too. Home-broiling the red peppers doesn't take long (and can be done in advance) and cuts down on the oil as well. Finally, there's no need for the heavy cream, mozzarella, and large amount of olive oil as per the original recipe; thinning the sauce with pasta water works fine. I also didn't happen to have any fresh basil on hand, which is why I've included it in parentheses in the recipe below. I'm positive this would have been even better with it.

Penne with red pepper cashew sauce
3 large or 4 medium red peppers
1 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup packed grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes
(1/2 cup fresh basil)
1 pound penne

Turn up your broiler to high. Halve and seed the red peppers and lightly spray or brush with olive oil. Broil until they're blistered.

Boil a pot of water and begin cooking the pasta. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender or with a stand mixer, puree the non-pasta ingredients. When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving 1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta water. Thin the sauce to your desired consistency and mix with the pasta. Taste and adjust spices accordingly. Serve topped with additional grated Parmesan and chopped scallions or parsley.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One thing I am sure of, he thought.

Thanks to Step 1, I have come to a realization about Harumi Murakami's short story "Crabs." It's not about alienation and existential disembodiment at all; it's about Paragonimus westermani!

Don't click that if you've just eaten. Also, don't read the following sentence about the most ridiculous mnemonic ever to hit First Aid: "I don't have a clue why I smell fish in the vagina garden!" Ten points to whoever realizes what that's about*.

Right, dinner.

I'm on a bit of an individual-oven-baked-tureen-of-food kick, so expect to see many pot pies in the weeks to come. There's no need to use a recipe, really. Just cook up some vegetables to the almost-done stage**--I used mushrooms, leeks, celery, carrots, and a few other tidbits--in a roux with a protein, and stir in some broth. If you don't cook them in a roux, make or add a gravy or braising liquid, something to keep everything moist. Spice it with whatever you wish; I used tarragon in this one. Portion the whole mess out into individual oven-safe bowls. Cover with your favorite pastry dough or short crust, and brush with an egg wash if you're feeling fancy. Slit the top to allow steam out. Bake at 375 until the crust is done.

The best part is that you can prepare the filling while listening to immunology lectures the night before assembling the pies.

*Medical students not eligible. Come on, guys, it's a gimme. We've already done our OB-gyn rotations!
**If you're using root vegetables like potatoes, dice them and parboil them, since the short pot pie baking time won't be enough on its own to cook them.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Baby steps

I did pull-ups today! Plural! In a row! Can the snickering, please; my upper body strength has lagged behind my lower body strength for a very, very long time*, and this wimpy little milestone goes a long way toward rectifying that. Day 1 of 2013 also marked day 1 of the Step 1 studying juggernaut. I'm trying not to obsess over the NRMP match statistics. Medical students are always agonizing over how we measure up to each other. Six weeks of putting one's nose to the paper-and-ink grindstone produces enough stress without embracing the sturm und drang of it all. Instead... white girl vegetarian huevos rancheros!

The Field Roast brand sausages (tee em!) don't taste like sausage as I remember it**, but all three flavors are meaty enough to temporarily quell the inanitiated carnivore within. My favorite is the Italian, by far.

Yesterday, I also made my own version of Larabars. The process is easy if you have a good food processor or food mill. I only have a tiny one, so after grinding the nuts and chocolate, I chopped and pulverized the dried fruit using first a knife, then a big wooden paddle I picked up in Chinatown when I moved here. It's surprisingly meditative to pound away at dried dates.

They're tastier than they look.

Ugly ducklings, maybe, that turn into beautiful swans on the
tongue. (God, that was awful. Forget I typed that.)
I first made something akin to these during my surgery rotation, when I'd eat at 4:30 in the morning and never quite knew when (and if!) I'd have an actual meal break until I got home 15 hours later. A sandwich bag with one or two fits perfectly in the back pocket of a pair of scrubs. At least three cups of sticky dates are necessary to bind the other ingredients, but other than that, go wild with whatever dried fruit you like. They require a little muscle to put together. It's a good thing one batch makes enough bars to last... well, not that long if you're me, but theoretically quite some time!

Quinoa date bars
1/3 cup quinoa (I prefer red, but go wild)
5 cups dried fruit, at least 3 cups of which must be dates
1 cup chopped dark chocolate or cocoa nibs or carob
2 cups raw almonds
3 tablespoons nut butter
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Rinse the quinoa until the raw grains do not taste bitter at all. Bring to a simmer with 2/3 cup water, then cover and cook on low heat until all the water has been absorbed. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9 in x 13 in baking pan with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Put the salt, cinnamon, quinoa, almonds, and chocolate into a food processor. Process until the desired texture is reached; you can go until the almonds are ground into quinoa-like texture, or leave a few larger nut pieces for crunch. Empty the food processor into a large bowl. If your processor can handle it, grind the dates and other dried fruit (reserving some chopped dried fruit to add later, again for texture, if you desire) and nut butter until a paste is formed. Mix with the almond mixture and grind in the food processor until homogenous, stirring in any reserved pieces at the end. If your food processor cannot handle it, oil a knife blade and your hands and chop the dates as finely as you can. Using a big wooden spoon, paddle, or mortar, pound the dates and dried fruit with the nut butter and almond mixture in a large bowl until everything clumps together in sort of a chunky paste. Put the mixture into the lined pan and spread evenly. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap and pile heavy books on top (or other pans full of heavy books!) to compress the bars. Allow to compress for at least 1.5 hours. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then slice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for best shelf life, but they can sit at room temperature throughout the day (or body temperature in the back pocket of your scrubs).

*Until today, I could deadlift 1.6 times my body weight without being able to pull up my body weight. Pathetic, right?
**although it has been quite a long time...