Monday, April 29, 2013

Something I'm not

Thursday, a (psychotic, to be fair) patient asked me if I was Mormon, because "you look like a Mormon!" Yesterday, some guy in the gym asked if I was a bodybuilder when I was repping a measly 110%-bodyweight deadlift*. I am now determined to craft an alter ego: the female Mormon bodybuilder, the Venom to my Spider-Man, if you will, complete with an awesome costume (Church-approved, please. Latex need not apply.) and moniker! St. Ephedrina, perhaps?

I'm trying a new approach to cooking: measuring the spices I add to food. Blasphemy, right? As a good American, I'm loathe to constrict your freedom to add whatever amounts of whatever the heck you want according to your tastes**. However, as a good future clinician-scientist, I disparage myself for not fastidiously recording my reagents. With that, here is a recipe--with accompanying photos--for

Well-Calibrated Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1 med onion
3 cloves garlic
1 large poblano pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups diced fresh tomato, with the juice; you want something nice and flavorful, not a mealy old beefsteak
5 c vegetable broth
juice and zest of 1 large lime
1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, or 1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne, plus more to taste
Optional: 1 tbsp cilantro paste (if no fresh cilantro is available)
16 oz fresh or frozen corn
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed well
cheddar cheese, scallions, cilantro, Greek yogurt, and crushed tortilla chips for garnish

Optional: roast the peppers until black and blistered before chopping. Otherwise, chop the onions and peppers and mince the garlic. Saute with the cumin seeds in hot oil until soft and the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to release their liquid. Add the spices, lime juice, and broth--I like a very loose soup, so reduce the amount of broth if you want a thicker, more chili-like consistency--and boil 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are almost totally broken down. Add the corn and cook until thawed. Give the soup a few pulses with a stand mixer (Edit: I  meant immersion blender. Thank you, Justin, for pointing that out.) , or remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the soup, depending on what consistency you want, and blend it in a regular blender or food processor, then recombine. Add the black beans and bring to a simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper, and adjust the spices if necessary. Serve topped with cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt, scallions, and tortilla bits.

*In the weightlifting schedule we're on now, each day's main lift is accompanied with a complimentary "big but boring" workout on another lift; bench and overhead presses are paired, as are deadlift and squat. Thus, even though my top work set on deadlift is a little under 200 lbs, I do high-volume work on 135 lbs on my main squat day. I'm not being modest when I say it's measly; deadlift relatively easy to hit bodyweight on, especially for women. We have a slight advantage in hip drive.
**This is sarcasm. Just saying.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'll never grow up, not me.

When you haven't played a musical instrument in ages. When you only find time to blog once a week--at most. When one book a week is too much, but you can still remember when three was too few. When you can't talk about anything but work. When you get nervous wearing shorts around Union Square because you know some of your ex-patients hang out there. That, ladies and gentlemen, is when you know you're getting to be an adult. It's hard sometimes, particularly when a patient says something really funny in a really juvenile way about a certain bodily function and you cannot display a glimmer of a laugh. My worst nightmare is becoming boring; fighting as hard as I can!

I know, I know.

Speaking of people who need to grow up, did I mention that I won two tickets to Siegfried at the Met last weekend? Right-sided orchestra, very close to the stage! It was my first in-person Wagner (and Andy's as well); as far as the Ring cycle goes, this was probably a good opera for a live Wagner neophyte. The production played up the comic side*, which I loved almost as much as watching Andy identify with the title character. Also, I got to point out at intermissions where little snippets of the various themes recurred to a fascinated Andy; he may not be able to sing or play an instrument, but he appreciates the self-referential! The horn call was flawless, by the way.

This might not look like much, but it is in fact a delicious Caesar salad, original style. I didn't want to make croutons, so I toasted some garlic in the olive oil and mixed that into the dressing instead. Otherwise, I only deviated from the recipe in that I mixed the dressing before tossing in the spring greens. Horrors, I know. Please, for your future Caesar needs, take a few extra minutes to do this rather than slop on some stodgy store-bought dressing. It's fresh and light and so totally worth it.

*Not all attendees appreciated this. I overheard one man carping about the use of a gigantic dragon puppet that Siegfried fought, and say that while the (phenomenal) Mime demonstrated his excellent acting abilities, it was farcical for a singer to fully embody his character through anything but singing. No, I don't understand what that means either. Grow down, sir, and have fun with the bass-voiced dragon!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spinning one's wheels

Sometimes, I feel like these guys:

"Oh, I'll totally have a handle on the work/studying/writing/NAQT editing/cleaning/exercising by tonight! I can cook then! No fattening snacking instead of healthful postable dinner for me tonight!" Probably should have anticipated that it was going to be a Red Queen kind of week. (Side note: the one floppy ear on the right-hand pooch is so damn cute)

I've actually been doing a lot of cooking, if not blogging. From asparagus souffle to blackberry muffins to things that did in fact get photographed, we've been eating well here in the MD Stomach kitchen. We've also been heinously busy. Andy has his quals coming up--think an oral version of Step 1, except what you have done with your life so far also counts--and I'm juggling my final core clerkship with papers and applying for away electives and trying to ignore this slight hip injury so I can finally get that double-bodyweight one-rep max on deadlift.

Add to all this the fact that on average I've been having four residency-related nightmares* a week--I show up to an interview in jeans and a T-shirt, I forget to apply because I can't decide between neuro ID and EM, I apply to one and they tell me I would only have been accepted to the other... long story short, it's corgi time. But at last, I offer some photos and recipes for those of you who eventuallymaybejustmight have time to do something with them.

First, the magic pasta dish.

Slice some Kumato tomatoes.

Trim and slice a couple oyster mushrooms.

Sear those slices until they look like this; also sear the
tomato slices until they're just soft

Boil fresh pappardelle to al dente.

Chop up some Taleggio, one of my favorite cheeses.
Mix it all together with roasted pine nuts, chopped fresh
basil, toasted sliced garlic, and lots of olive oil.


Chewy coffee caramels
1 pint heavy cream
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 1/4 cups honey or light corn syrup or some combination
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp coffee extract, or 1 tbsp reduced espresso or instant espresso

Line a 9 x 13 baking sheet with parchment paper; lightly oil the parchment paper. Melt the butter with the sugars, heavy cream, and honey/syrup in a large pot (trust me, it will more than double in volume); stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 248 to 250 degrees F (depending on how firm you want the caramel). Remove from the heat and add the salt and extract/coffee. Mix vigorously and immediately spread on lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a tidbit more salt and cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and eating.

These were great on whole wheat buns with loads of vegetables.

Adzuki bean burgers
250 g adzuki beans, cooked until soft
1/2 bell pepper
1 very large or 2 regular carrots
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp miso paste
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon or lime
1 1/2 tbsp wheat gluten
1/3 to 1/2 cup rolled oats
wheat germ or besan to bind (I did half and half; you could probably use whole wheat flour)
paprika, cumin seeds, salt, and pepper to taste

Chop, shred, or grate the vegetables very fine. Mix everything together. Spray each side of the raw burger with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees, 10 minutes each side, until firm but still moist at the center.

And finally, a recipe for these blackberry muffins I made for the people I'm working with at Bellevue. They came out great. The best part: you can mix up the dry ingredients in batches and measure them out like homemade Bisquick. Except tastier.

Blackberry muffins
195 g flour (about 1.5 cups)
125 g sugar (about 3/4 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
pinch cinnamon
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, or whole lemon if you want it really lemony
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (or yogurt thinned with water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla if that's your thang)
2/3 to 1 cup fresh blackberries, sliced into thirds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 8 muffin cups. Mix together the dry ingredients. In a large liquid measuring cup, add the egg to the vegetable oil. Add buttermilk until the cup is filled to the one-cup line, then mix in lemon juice and zest and extracts. Gently mix this into the flour mixture until just blended. Toss the blackberries very well in flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the tops are just springy and a knife or toothpick comes out with crumbs clinging to it.

*Most amusing one to date: I get admitted to the locked psych unit where I'm currently working because I was insane to think I would match into a residency at all. The best part of the dream is that my (in reality ridiculously kind, exceedingly smart) attending cruelly mocked me for my protests and attempts to explain why I was not insane and should be discharged. I don't think I'm supposed to be empathizing with my patients like this.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We are all Bostonians

I'd intended to make a typical food-and-medical-angst post last night, and then while at work I heard the news about Boston.

Boston is a tranquil place, as far as cities go. It's not without violence in its history, but there's a calm camaraderie to it that lacks the edge of New York. It seems more earnest, the scrappy heart-of-gold underdog of the northeast. Somehow, this makes the disaster all the worse.

Life today did not stop like it did after 9/11. We certainly discussed the news at work and weighed in on the theories bouncing around the Internet, but the sense of nationwide paralysis is not there. It makes it harder to believe that the square where I attended a mass public pillowfight is the current site of mass public mourning. I'm not there anymore to share the grief and the recovery, so all I can do for the moment is hope the (often paranoid) speculation and wild theories give way to facts and knowledge about who did this and why... and that unlike after 9/11, there is no backlash against members of the community who don't happen to be thin, blonde, American-born white women.

Side note: from what I've read, the medical response was fantastic. Several attendings who worked through 9/11 have described the chaos that follows a disaster, the terrible choices that must be made, and the emotional and physical fatigue of high-volume triage. To manage a sudden influx of patients with mangled limbs and other devastating injuries, not to mention the slew of people with more minor but still concerning trauma... The composure and organization are to be commended.

All my best to Beantown. May your runners and your streets and your citizens make a speedy recovery.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Something so pleasant about that place

Psychiatry isn't the field for me, but that doesn't mean I'm not enjoying the spit out of this rotation. The patients are fascinating, albeit exhausting. More than anything, this last rotation reminds me of the first one. It's a novel way of thinking akin to--if not nearly as drastic as--the transition between preclinical and clinical med school. And because the patients I'm working with are so profoundly ill, I feel the same novel twinges of  pity and empathy as I did for the first n heart failure patients I encountered on medicine. It's not that I'm so jaded that the sight of someone medically suffering doesn't affect me, but it's certainly less jarring than it used to be. Psychiatric illness... not so much.

Just prior to starting the rotation, a classmate asked me to cat-sit while she was out of town. In recompense--totally unnecessary recompense for the not-so-laborious care of the cutest, snuggliest kitty in the world--she gave me a gift card to Eataly. I had two options: buy tasty paninis and pasta dishes from the restaurants or chip away at it by buying fancy raw ingredients to cook with. Guess which one I went with.

These are some seriously quality seared scallops with rounds of melon, topped with chopped almonds and basil and a little drizzle of the upscale olive oil I splurged on, served over watercress salad. My only regret: cooking food with such subtle flavors might not have been the best idea when Andy and I are both hosting some sort of rhinovirus.

When I wasn't cooking today, I was strolling around Four Freedoms Park and the Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossom Festival and the front grounds of the one, the only Coler freaking Goldwater with a couple friends. Papers to write? Studying to do? Pish tosh. Look for more fancified dishes to come thanks to Eataly and Nameless Classmate X!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crunch time.

You'd think that with the luxurious hours afforded to me by my psychiatry rotation, I'd be getting things done. You know, studying, working on a paper, finally finishing the last 20 pages of this excellent book. Or cooking interesting food. But no, no, I'm using that time to continue taking frequent naps and watch Dr. Who. Until today, that is. I'm buckling down, ladies and germs!

Inconveniently for my renewed work ethic, it's finally de facto spring! by which I mean it's April and no longer 35 degrees out. Andy got home too late from supervising hapless pre-meds* taking their organic chemistry practical exam for us to dine al fresco. Still, it's the thought that counts. Thanks, weather.

An assortment of my favorite foods, by which I mean things
 I can eat massive amounts of without getting fat. Also, a knife.

Homemade lemony, garlicky, paprikified hummus.

Freshly baked pita.

I wanted black grapes, but Fairway was out. My problems are
profound and life-altering, man.

A trip to East Village Cheese is always worth imported feta
at four dollars a pound.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stop... Mommy time!

My mom came to visit from Colorado for a few days. She bought me some groceries that I subsequently cooked.

Malaysian-style curry with seared shrimp

Recipe to follow

Ditto the salted banana pudding with candied pistachios
and molasses caramel

I ate an embarrassing amount of this.
We went to see Jersey Boys, where she thought she saw Kirk Douglas. Andy discovered that we're creepily similar, e.g. in our inability to finish more than two-thirds of a hot beverage and our stomachs' propensity for animated conversation. I discovered that I missed her more than I thought I did. And then when I came home on Monday she had left for her flight, with only some inexplicable shredded sticky notes to mark that she had ever been there.

The carnage!

Seriously, Mom, why torment the sticky notes like that?

Somewhat unrelated note: Helen Dewitt's out-of-print masterpiece The Last Samurai is so good that I sucked it up and bought a copy online. Fine, so it cost 1 cent, but the shipping was $3.99!

Curry with seared shrimp
1/2 pound shrimp (domestic, please, that imported stuff is no good for the environment)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
chopped cilantro
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
3 to 4 inches lemongrass
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup canned light coconut milk (or coconut cream, if you're feeling indulgent)
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or otherwise) with juice
Sriracha to taste
Coriander, turmeric, paprika, black pepper to taste
lime for garnish, more cilantro if you wish

Clean and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Toss with the paprika, turmeric, cayenne, cilantro, lime juice, and fish sauce. Let sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest.

Saute the onion and carrot in hot sesame or canola oil until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the lemongrass, tomatoes, soy sauce, and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. Cook until the mixture thickens and the tomatoes are breaking down. Add the liquid that is now at the bottom of the shrimp marinating bowl, along with the coconut milk and green bell pepper. Season to taste with coriander, black pepper, Sriracha, and more turmeric and paprika, keeping in mind that you're going to cook everything down a little more. Salt it gently; because of the soy sauce and fish sauce, you won't need much. Cook until the sauce is thickened and the bell pepper is just soft.

Meanwhile, heat a little bit of canola oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When the oil is very hot, drop the shrimp in, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip and cook some more. Serve the curried vegetables and shrimp over rice with some more lime juice and cilantro.

Salted banana pudding
Who am I kidding, just look up that recipe in the NYT. I made a few changes (e.g. roasted the bananas, added some mastiha instead of the vanilla bean) and did a candied pistachio instead of the crumble, but the proportions were the same. Oh, and instead of normal butter, I used this random coconut oil faux-butter stuff that Andy bought on a whim.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What it means to be an adult

The ability to decide that it would be a good idea to buy a lot of half-price Easter candy, and then act on that idea, with no censure from authority figures.