Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sugarpie, honeybunch

Good luck getting that song out of your head for the rest of the day. If you don't know it, you're welcome.

No excuses for not posting over the past several days. I've been so busy sleeping 10 hours a night and watching awful amounts of Star Trek and cramming my gullet and reading numerous books. I finally picked up A Better Angel by Chris Adrian, with whom I am now mildly obsessed. He's a physician-scholar-author with a bizarre, sinister style like no other. Read this interview with him, then go out and read A Better Angel or The Children's Hospital while I binge-read the rest of his oeuvre. Next stop is Hans Fallada's Wolf Among Wolves.

Food of interest: a rustic mushroom tart (delicious, probably because of all the butter), many salads (delicious despite exiguous butter) and a bruschetta of fava beans with blood orange vinaigrette (also tasty, but unwieldy to eat).

No recipe needed: puree some freshly cooked favas with lemon juice,
salt, pepper, garlic, and a little cooking liquid. Spread on toast. Top with
slices of blood orange and arugula and dressing made with blood orange.
Actually, make a sandwich with eat, because eating this was impossible.

Mmm, cheese and butter. Also mushrooms.
And then there was licorice. Did you know that licorice, if made with all-natural flavoring, can cause hypokalemia and metabolic alkalosis? This is now pertinent to my life because I have eaten so much of this. In honor of my likely death by arrhythmia, I give you something I haven't done in a long time:

Komm, süßer Tod, Part VII: Philip II of Macedon

Licorice root has a number of medicinal qualities, actually. It contains glycyrrhizin and phytoestrogens, and has a number of physiological effects both proven and homeopathically touted. In fact, Alexander the Great may have given it to his troops to sate their thirst during long marches. How did Alexander the Great come to power, you ask? I'll tell you!

It all started with a somatophylax named Pausanias, who was at first content to watch over Alexander's father Philip II as he captured his way around the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, in 336 BCE, something went wrong. Accounts vary; my personal favorite is that Philip II cast aside Pausanias as his lover in favor of a younger, handsomer man named Pausanias. Whatever the cause, Philip was headed into the theater--what is it with theaters and murders of public figures?--when Pausanias pounced and stabbed him in the chest. The assassin immediately turned and ran; he theoretically could have made it to his horse and escaped, had this clumsiest of killers not tripped over a root and thus gotten himself speared to death (and crucified post-mortem). Thus did Alexander ascend to power on the back of Philip II's numerous accomplishments.

I thought cutting it into little squares instead of big twists would limit my consumption of it, but this stuff is just way too good. I modified this recipe simply by omitting the food coloring* (thus the chocolatey brown color) and using honey with a little molasses added to it instead of dark corn syrup. Oh, and I gave it a generous sprinkle of sea salt while I was cooling. All in all, 10/10, would make and devour again. Maybe I'll use buckwheat honey and orange extract next time. One other warning: while I suspect my thermometer is improperly calibrated**, boiling the mixture to precisely 265 degrees F gave me a tougher candy than I expected.

*I swear to god no grocery stores in New York carry this stuff. To find the red coloring for the cupcakes and cookies, I went to no fewer than four grocery stores (thanks, Food Emporium), and I distinctly remember noting that they only carried the typical four-color packs and big bottles of red. No black.
**If anyone else has a digital thermometer and would like to help me check on this, let me know!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I like leisure. This is probably not the best attribute for a medical student to have. But my day was so extravagant! I woke up at ten, ate a cupcake for breakfast, meandered to Bobst for a few books*, wandered downtown for awhile, and came home to execute a multi-component dish: charred octopus and squid over fresh orecchiette with a corn sauce. None of the pictures of the final dish recorded on my SD card, somehow, so you'll have to take my word that the charred seafood and lemon against the pasta with a sprinkling of green parsley is just gorgeous. I really wanted some big, thick octopus tentacles, but the gentleman at Fairway's fish section said that he could only sell me multiple baby octopi or one enormous 5-pound octopus. Maybe if I try the farmer's market fish stand or Essex Street Market I'll have better luck.

And then, the orecchiette. According to The Geometry of Pasta, these "little ears" are 0.68 in x 2.5 (at the thickest point) mm** in size and are best served with "scarce, oily sauces" containing "chunky bits." Their importance to me lies chiefly in the fact that I can handmake them without the aid of the pasta maker I cannot yet afford***. Here's what it looks like when done by an expert. Mine were less than perfect, but I improved from my initial attempts!

The pasta

The sauce
I'm really upset about that technological mishap! It took me ages to perfectly position those tentacles...

Recipe that I haven't thought up a good name for yet
Try fresh basil on this and let me know how it goes! I wish I'd thought to buy some before I started cooking.

10 oz orecchiette (Fresh is best. Recipe to follow.)
1 lb cephalopods of some variety
2 ears corn
32 oz broth: this needs to be good, and not too salty. If wine hasn't been used to make it, add a little white wine while braising the seafood. I used a homemade roasted vegetable and mushroom broth.
2 cloves roasted garlic,smashed
Optional: 1.5 tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
toasted pine nuts
crushed red pepper
chopped parsley
5-6 olives, sliced
5-6 slices of lemon

Reserve a small amount of the broth. Bring the remainder--with added wine if necessary--to a boil. Add the cephalopods and reduce to a simmer. Cook, turning down the heat as necessary to prevent a frank boil, until the seafood is tender; the duration will depend on how thick the legs are, but 30 minutes to an hour should be sufficient. Drain immediately and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Remove the kernels from one cob, scraping the cob afterwards to get the remaining kernels and liquid out. Add the reserved broth and puree with a stand mixer (or something). Strain and squeeze the solids to extrude as much liquid as possible. Heat the cherry tomatoes, smashed garlic, and bay leaf in the liquid, adding more broth or water as necessary to keep it from over-reducing, until the cherry tomatoes are soft and wrinkled; taste halfway through and remove the bay leaf when enough bay flavor has been imparted. The sauce should be starchy and creamy, but not too thick, by the time the tomatoes are done. Add the kernels from the second cob just at the end. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind that you'll be adding olives later) and set aside.

These next steps should be coordinated such that all components are completed at vaguely the same time. Get a pot of salted water ready to cook the pasta. Heat a heavy skillet (e.g. cast iron) coated with a thin layer of olive oil. I put mine in the oven at 500 degrees first, then put it over high heat. Add the drained cephalopods and char on all sides; it will take 3 to 5 minutes to get a nice, brown crust. Similarly, char the lemon slices on each side. While this is going on, cook and drain the pasta; toss it with a tiny bit of olive oil.

Warm the sauce and as an optional step, monter au beurre. Slowly add the butter to the sauce, stirring just until it's melted. This will thicken the sauce and make it taste extra luxurious, because butter.

Put some pasta in a bowl and top with sauce, toasted pine nuts, and sliced olives. Add pieces of seafood and sprinkle parsley and crushed red pepper over it. Garnish with charred lemon, which should be squeezed over the whole dish. It really needs that zingy touch, so if you don't want to char the lemon, still be sure to squeeze fresh lemon over it.

7 oz semolina flour
2.8 oz room-temperature water

Make a well in the center of the semolina and pour in the water. Mix with your hands until it comes together and knead until the dough is soft, smooth, and springy, but not sticky. This should take around 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour. When you're ready to shape the pasta, tear off about a quarter of the dough and keep the rest wrapped up. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-diameter snake and cut 1/2-inch-long chunks. Smear on the table with a knife (or your thumb) and invert over your other thumb to make the "little ears." Watch a video to see how it's done. Repeat until the dough is gone. Cook in salted water at a vigorous boil for 3-4 minutes.

*Wolf Among Wolves, A Better Angel, Illusion of Return, and Both Flesh and Not. Riven Rock was very good, although not Boyle's best. I'm excited for something different.
**I know, the mixed units annoyed me, too.
***The KitchenAid attachments are surprisingly expensive! To be fair, a cheap, one-diameter pasta maker runs around $30.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


So yeah, the blog renaissance ended quickly. But I've had so much going on! For instance, glomus tumors had been on my mind for a whole week, and I despaired at never getting the chance to answer a USMLE question on such a minute detail. And then one fine, frigid day, one popped up in a question block! These are the stories of the USMLE Enterprise, ladies and gentlemen. Thrilling adventure! Mind-blowing exploits!

Really, though, it was mostly studying, punctuated by an exciting visit to the ER when Andy's thumb had a run-in with our mandoline and a good amount of junk food*, and not much cooking. Or vegetables. There were a few bright points, though. For instance, I made Japancini, or Japanese arancini, using forbidden rice and adzuki bean puree. The structural integrity of the egg-yolk ones was somewhat lacking, but I discovered that fried egg yolk is delicious! There aren't any pictures because they went straight out of the skillet into Andy's gullet, but here's some cool forbidden rice.

And then the biscuit sandwiches. Oh, buttermilk biscuits. With a few tricks, you are so fluffy and delightful, and then I can put veggie sausages and molded fried eggs on top of you for a deceptively commercial-looking sandwich!

I cannot tell you how delicious these were. Again, though, structural integrity was somewhat lacking. Next time I'm scrambling the eggs to avoid the yolk-soaked bread issue.

Finally, we come to things I actually made today, complete with a recipe for rosemary balsamic glazed almonds. But first, belated Valentine's cupcakes!

The toppers are red velvet cookies with white chocolate hearts.

And then a salad with romano, lemon juice, balsamic-glazed walnuts, and a perfectly poached egg thanks to PoachPods**.

*My mother-in-law sent us a care package containing, among other things, these Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate bites. Because they were from Costco, the bag was enormous. Andy and I polished it off in about two days. It's not candy if there's fruit juice in it, right?
**Andy's mom also sent us these. They're great. I'm extremely skeptical of this sort of $9.99-and-up type of cookware, but man, this is my new favorite space-efficient gadget.