Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday indulgences

...and more than a month after Thanksgiving, we're back. A bit of a vacation replete with food and reading (This essay by Bob Shacochis perfectly encapsulates emptiness and heart-wrenching loss; no need to have a particular yen for children to appreciate it.) turned into a big distraction! Christmas first:

Not everything from Intern Thanksgiving ended up in photos, but luckily, dessert--always the most important course--got captured.

Nusstorte, served with a spicy pecan popcorn praline.

Cranberry tarts, served with whipped orange goat cheese crema.
The nusstorte got a redux at Christmas. Here were all the courses, minus the lemon pepper leek soup and my uncle's brined turkey:

With cranberry-satsuma compote, a variant of Mark Bittman's
frozen honey mouse that incorporated a tart creme fraiche, and
candied satsuma rind.

Chocolate-peppermint cookies dipped in dark
chocolate (tempered by my mom!) and sprinkled
with crushed candy canes.

So. Many. Orecchiette.

Creamy roasted tomato sauce, mixed roasted vegetables, and
the orecchiette tossed with the best herb sauce ever. I wish
I'd gotten a picture of just the sauce; it was a gorgeous shade
of jade-green. No recipe, of course, but it involved fresh basil,
thyme, oregano, and briefly blanched spinach.

Mixed greens with olives, mixed orange supremes
(Cara Cara, blood, and satsuma), caramelized fennel,
and an orange-fennel vinaigrette with basil oil.
I'm a little over the cranberry/citrus/nut spectrum of desserts. The piloncillo, vanilla, and chilies I got from Mexico and the spices my best friend brought me from Zanzibar beckon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy post-call day!

I mean... Thanksgiving... yeah...

This is horrifying. Few of these things actually sound appealing in any way. Luckily, while I'm post-call on the actual day, stay tuned for some Friday Ersatz Thanksgiving goodies that don't include "casserole" in their names!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Breakaway, breakdown

omgomgomg Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk is coming to the Met! Except... how am I going to find time to go if I can't even find time to post? All my non-Bellevue hours have gone to the gym, or to journaling, or to reading*, or, to be fair, to cooking. I haven't worked at any other city hospital, but this one... this one can get under your skin. Could it be the constant need--not medical, but social--of so many people with whom it can feel impossible to relate? Or is it the more quotidian sleep deprivation that plagues all interns? There's just something that, at the end of the day, makes me crave a selfish withdrawal inward, even when it comes to posting a few silly, superficial thoughts on an amateur food bloog.

Somehow, though, there has been time for tiny pears (Seckel pears, to be exact), made into peppery ginger scones:

And mini chocolate babka:

Spreading rich cinnamon-chocolate filling over a yeasted dough...

And a spur-of-the-moment rosemary, grape, and feta focaccia:

And then, because I am me, I ate the remaining pound of grapes.

Now, what do I make for my last weekend on Bellevue floors, macarons or mini nusstorten?

*Here, read this creepy tale!

(Title of this post being an allusion to this story.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where does the time go?

So... CCU. Yeah. Wow. Look, apples!

This circle contains such varieties as Enterprize, Liberty, TFO-1 (not as delicious as I'd hoped, given the exciting name), and Summergold. In one of my very few free days, I also found this massive Japanese radish that tasted great with apple and a miso-honey dressing.

Enough of produce, though. Andy recently earned a great academic distinction and, when asked how he wanted to celebrate, answered, "With nougat." Well, sir, then nougat you shall have.

I actually think the hazelnut mastiha nougat was the least delicious component of these homemade fancy Snickers. Out of impatience, I poured on the cayenne caramel layer before the nougat had fully dried, so it stayed kind of sticky even after the bars had set overnight.

There is a dollar store nearby that inexplicably sells Wilton candy molds for five to ten dollars. I seriously considered buying one in order to make these, but couldn't get over the stupidity of stuffing another implement into my overstuffed kitchen, so settled for ugly candy bars. Plus, I'm not sure if the dukkah and candied orange peel would have stuck had I used a mold. Next time, I may cut the bars before putting on the final layer of chocolate (super-dark 75%) so they look more like a real Snickers.

Of course, since candy for dinner is not healthful, I also made ravioli with a pumpkin, mascarpone, and harissa filling, and a spicy spinach fennel bechamel.

So good for you, I know.

Grown-up Snickers

Quality dark (very dark) chocolate
Dukkah (homemade, kicking around from when I made this amazing recipe)
Thinly sliced candied orange peel (I made my own in the microwave)

Line an 8x8 metal baking pan with parchment paper, molded tightly to the pan. Melt some chocolate (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and spread in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool completely, at least 1.5 hours, before you start the nougat.

Hazelnut nougat
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
I cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
Optional: 3-4 grains mastiha

Over medium-low heat, whisk the honey, sugar, and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is melted. Cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 248F. Meanwhile, beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. When the syrup is ready, slowly pour into the egg white with the beater running (for which I used a stand mixture with the whisk attachment). Continue to beat until the candy is stiff but spreadable and lukewarm to room temperature. Fold in the nuts, salt, and vanilla, and spread over your first chocolate layer. Alternatively, only fold in the salt and vanilla, then sprinkle the nuts on top after you've spread it in (if you prefer to have the nuts embedded in the caramel). Allow to set completely--and here was my mistake, so please let it set for at least 6 hours--before preparing the caramel.

Cayenne caramel
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
cayenne pepper to taste (I like spicy, so I used lots!)

In a large pot or saucepan (at least 2 quarts), whisk together the sugar, water, and honey. Cook without stirring until the syrup is at 290F.

Meanwhile, mix the heavy cream, butter, and salt in a microwaveable container. Microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is very hot, but do not allow it to boil. It should still be steaming by the time you're ready to add it to the syrup.

When the syrup is at temperature, remove it from the heat and slowly pour in the cream mixture, whisking constantly. It will bubble and sputter. When it is fully whisked in, cook without stirring over medium-high heat to 250F. Whisk in the vanilla and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for a couple minutes in the pot before you pour it over the nougat layer; it should still be spreadable, but not so hot that it melts the nougat.

Let the caramel set for at least 2.5 hours before you pour on the final chocolate layer. If you want to cut the bars first and dip them in the tempered chocolate, definitely let it set for a good 6 hours.

David Lebovitz has a great guide to tempering chocolate here. Do that, then pour over the caramel layer (or dip the bars in). Allow to set for 30 minutes or so, then sprinkle on dukkah (and a bit of sea salt if your dukkah is not salted) and some candied orange rind. Don't let it set too long or the toppings won't stick, but do wait a little while or the spices will just melt into the chocolate.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A tale of two cakes

I've been cooking savories, really. There were the tempura shishito peppers...

These are so, so fun.

The secret to good tempura batter: use carbonated water!

Tempura kale for good measure.
The carrot greens, bean sprout, and carrot salad with a fantastic avocado sesame dressing...

The vegetarian Cajun risotto...

It all starts with a roux, and the true Cajun holy trinity: celery,
onion, and green bell pepper.

A little white wine, Tabasco, and vegan andouille
later... I cannot tell you how delicious this was.

But the Great Cake Experiment of Intern Year 2014... um... takes the cake. It all started when Andy requested a carrot cake*. It struck me that carrot cake doesn't taste all that much like carrots. Why not attempt another root vegetable cake that features the vegetable more prominently? So I made a control mini carrot cake:

And then a mini beet cake (Please excuse the decorations, which ended up resembling seaweed more than beet tops.):

I added some coffee to the batter to bring out the earthy, rather than the vegetal, quality of the beets, and used clove, caraway, and hazelnut extract. The carrot cake recipe on which I based the beet cake yielded a wet batter to begin with; the extra moisture added by the coffee made the texture just a wee bit odd. I can fix that. I want to fix that, because the flavor of this was so, so very good. This begs for a Swiss buttercream cream cheese frosting, lighter and tangier (and more heat-stable!) than your grandma's version.

Beet cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup lukewarm coffee, a dark roast if you have it
4 eggs
3 cups finely grated raw red beets
1/2 tsp hazelnut extract

Combine your dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars and oil. Whisk in the eggs one by one until well-blended, then whisk in the coffee and extract. Add the dry ingredients and fold until not quite combined, then fold in the shredded beets (getting them a little floury keeps the beet from sinking to the bottom of the pan).

Grease and lightly cocoa** two 9-inch cake pans. Fill each with half the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes each, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the layer comes out clean but moist. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Cream cheese Swiss buttercream

2 egg whites
1/2 minus two tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cool but soft
8 oz cream cheese, cool but soft
pinch salt

In a double boiler, whisk the egg whites and sugar together until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot and foamy (160F, if you have a thermometer). Pour into a stand mixer and whip until the mixture is cool and forms stiff peaks. When the mixture is completely cool, start whipping in the butter about a tablespoon at a time. Don't get disappointed if it looks curdled; keep whipping! Do the same with the cream cheese, continuing to whip until everything is very fluffy. Add the salt just at the end.

Cajun risotto
1 onion
1 large green bell pepper
2 stalks celery
2 large cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup white wine
dried thyme
Tony Chachare's
black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
vegetarian andouille or similar sausage
chopped parsley
fresh lemon
about 5 cups mushroom or vegetable stock

Start to heat your stock with a large bay leaf in it. Dice the onion, pepper, and celery; all should be similar sizes. Mince the garlic. Finely chop the red bell pepper. In a large saute pan, heat about 3 tablespoons oil or butter. Add 3 tablespoons flour and stir constantly and vigorously as it cooks to a color just lighter than peanut butter. Add a couple tablespoons of stock and the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic and saute until the vegetables are soft. Add the rice and stir to coat, then add the white wine and stir until it is almost all absorbed. Begin adding the hot stock about a half cup at a time, stirring until it is almost absorbed each time. When done, the rice should have a bit of a bite without being chalky in the middle. About 7 minutes before you think it will be done, add in the red pepper and season with dried thyme, Tabasco, Tony's, and black pepper. Add the andouille and a squirt of lemon just at the end. Serve with lots of fresh parsley and a lemon wedge for squeezing.

*He loves "dense cakes," of which carrot cake is not an exemplar but which is nevertheless his favorite.
**If flour can be a verb, why can't cocoa?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An apple or five a day

Well, look at that. It's the end of September. Guess this intern year thing is getting the better of my culinary side. The upside is that we've skipped straight to autumn, which means it's apple season! I've already picked up some new ones to sample. I tried to pace myself. It didn't work. I'll be posting about actual food I've been making, but first, without further ado:

1. Williams red: This one was terrible. I'm choosing to believe that I just picked a bad one, or it's too early for them, because the apple is so beautiful!

2. Pristine: Pretty, no? This one wasn't bad. It reminded me of a more floral, less generic Golden Delicious.

3. Seek No Further: Yes, it's that good. Complex, tropical, aromatic... I need more of this in my life.

4. Gravenstein: This one had an interesting texture, so firm it was almost rubbery. I didn't mind, but I like unusually firm apples. 

5. 20 oz Pippin: I forgot to photograph this one, but that's okay because it was sort of a nondescript green apple. It tasted like a very large Pippin.

6. Cox orange Pippin: This wars with the Seek No Further for my personal favorite of the bunch. Isn't that a pretty color, too?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Best thing on sliced bread

For the past week and a half, I've been on a rotation called jeopardy, which consists of coverage for every other intern on service, plus a few scheduled night shifts. I got called in last night... or maybe it was two nights ago... for the first time. That happened to be the only night I'd made plans; I'd invited over a cointern and his boyfriend for what I have now dubbed the Yuppie White Person Sandwich of Magic. It consists of taleggio cheese ($3.99/lb at East Village Cheese!); thinly sliced white nectarine; homemade bush basil, arugula, and walnut pesto; and fresh arugula, all on freshly baked poolish-based 15% wheat bread. Grill prn. So. Delicious. I also did fig and homemade frangipane mini-tarts including homemade fig jam and a short crust with some fresh rosemary in it. Also so delicious.

But I got called in, so there was no time to plate them attractively and certainly no time to share with anyone else (only questionably a tragedy, since there was more for me). Sorry for the lack of pictures; please don't let that deter you. Make that sandwich. Make it now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Natural medicine

I read at least two articles from each issue of the New England Journal, Neurology, and Current Infectious Disease Reports. Part of this week's reading was this case from NEJM. Told he was not a candidate for fecal transplant but still seeking relief from his symptoms, the patient performed a home fecal transplant. Home fecal transplant. HOME FECAL TRANSPLANT. I don't even want to think about how he actually performed this procedure.

Ready to eat?

This is bush basil. There are actually several cultivars that can go by that name, including spicy globe basil, Greek bush basil, and dwarf bush basil; I'm not sure which this is. All three varieties are intensely herbal and are particularly good to eat raw both because the leaves are so tiny they don't need to be torn or chopped, which can be unsightly if the edges oxidize, and because they have no trace of the bitter funk that your classic basil can get. Also, my internet research tells me that in western Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, bush basil is used as an antipyretic. Now I can work at Bellevue with no fear of Ebola!

I muddled some of it with my fancy olive oil and a drop of lemon juice for these flatbreads, and sprinkled more on top. There is also fig, fresh corn, caramelized onions deglazed with white wine, and ricotta, with a healthy sprinkle of black pepper. I put some raw bush basil leaves on top.

Using red wine vinegar and the olive oily tomato juice from yesterday's cobbler, I made a quick vinaigrette for an arugula salad topper. This is possibly the best vinaigrette ever. Make the cobbler just so you can make this vinaigrette.

Don't be koi

A couple weeks ago, I went food shopping after a long, long day on call. Maybe it was the bone-crushing fatigue, but I had a maudlin moment with an enormous whole seabass sinuously displayed on ice. And now I'm strictly vegetarian again. Enter the fishless existence.

Luckily, the farmer's market is teeming with late-summer delights. Enter the tomato:

(That last photo is particularly terrible. New camera soon, I promise.) These went into a Mark Bittman recipe, with some adaptations of course. Cherry tomato cobbler is one of my new favorites.

There was an awful lot of liquid left in the bottom of the ramekins, possibly because I accidentally baked it at too high a temperature (meaning that the biscuit finished cooking before the tomatoes could properly caramelize). I've reserved it for a tomato basil vinaigrette.

Cherry tomato cobbler
Based on a recipe by Mark Bittman. Serves 8. Feel free to halve it.

2 pints cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of interesting cultivars like those at the farmer's market
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
at least 1/4 cup basil (I used bush basil; more on this tomorrow!)
salt, freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons butter, very cold
1 egg, cold
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
3/4 c flour
3/4 c cornmeal
1/3 c Parmesan
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda

Thinly slice garlic cloves and onion and chop the basil. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss in a bowl with salt, pepper, sugar, and a little olive oil. Set aside.

Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, powder, soda). In a food processor or with a pastry blender, mix with the Parmesan and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and buttermilk and mix just until blended.

Fill a greased dish or several greased ramekins with tomato mixture. Lay slightly flattened scoops of biscuit dough on top. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes, or until biscuit is browned and tomatoes are soft. Serve warm, sprinkled with more cheese and basil if you like.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

All scream

There were cactus pears at one of the fruit stands! Good thing, too, since I was already planning to make these (with the addition of black beans to the salsa and substitution of ricotta salata for the queso fresco, since according to Chris the Cheese Guy, Fairway is having a tiff with its Mexican warehouse and there won't be Mexican products for some time (???)). A creamy cactus pear ice cream felt like just the dessert to go with it.

No-churn ice cream can't beat the real thing; it has a slightly greasy post-prandial mouthfeel and goes from solid to oozy very quickly. That being said, it doesn't require extra equipment, and it is hard to mess up. It usually includes heavy cream plus coconut cream or condensed milk, so there's no egg custard base to curdle. Overbeating the whipping cream or overfolding the mixture are the only real potential barriers to fat-laden dairy goodness in the flavor of your choice.

Candied hot peppers

~1/2 lb hot peppers
1/3 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar, preferably turbinado
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons tequila

Slice the peppers about 1/4 inch thick, either lengthwise or widthwise. Discard the spongy stuff in the middle, but don't get rid of those spicy seeds!

Mix the vinegar, sugar, zest, and juice in a small pot and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and carefully add the tequila (it will spit and sputter). Add the hot peppers and simmer until the liquid is reduced a and the peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Strain over a bowl, reserving the syrup. Put the pepper slices in a clean glass jar; how many seeds you include is up to you and your hardy palate! Add syrup to cover and tightly cap the jar. Cool completely before refrigerating.

Cactus pear and jalapeno no-churn ice cream

2 cups whipping cream, very, very cold
10 oz condensed milk
3 cactus pears
1/3 cup finely chopped candied jalapenos, plus some of the jalapeno syrup
1 small vanilla bean, or 1 tsp extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
optional: 1/4 cup fresh mint, gently torn

Peel and cube the cactus pears, and toss with the candied jalapenos. Be careful; if the pears aren't pre-cleaned, you will have to use gloves and thoroughly rinse them under cold water to remove the tiny furry spines.

Mix the condensed milk, vanilla, sea salt, and (optionally) mint in a liddable container. Whip the cream in a stand mixer until it holds stiff peaks. Stir about a cup of the cream into the condensed milk mixture to lighten it. Add a few tablespoons of the jalapeno syrup, titrating to taste. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream without deflating it. Cover the container and freeze the mixture for an hour.

After an hour has passed, gently fold in the cactus pear/candied jalapeno mixture, relid the container, and replace in the freezer. Fold one more time after another 30 minutes to one hour. Freeze for an additional 5-6 hours, or until firm.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


It's so easy to be fooled by how supposedly healthful foods are marketed. Protein bars, sports drinks, trail mix... their levels of fat, simple sugars, and calories belie the packaging. Granola is one of the worst offenders. Our local Fairway has bins of the stuff in any flavor you could imagine. If it's anything like the boxed stuff, it's terrible for you. Solution: make your own!

Using all-natural, freshly-ground peanut butter gives you the oil needed for a crispy granola, not to mention a delightful flavor, but without a lot of added sugar. On that note, nothing drives home the massive amounts of sugar used in commercial granolas and cereals like making your own with a half-cup of sweetener and getting only a very lightly sweet product. I tried a really artificial sugar-free pancake syrup I've had hanging around. It was...fine. Much better was the pop of chopped dried apple and ginger.

Peanut butter quinoa granola

1/2 cup peanut butter (the freshly ground kind, not the artificial kind)
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 cup raw quinoa
1/2 cup amaranth or millet
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or the contents of 1/2 large vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 to 1 cup chopped dried ginger, apple, dates... whatever you like
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, or other spices to taste (try black pepper, too!)
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
2 egg whites

optional: 1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened, if you can find it)
optional: other nuts and seeds of your choice
optional: use hazelnut extract and add some bittersweet chocolate for a Nutella-esque flavor

Rinse the quinoa well to get rid of those nasty saponins. Heat an empty pot over medium heat with about 1/2 teaspoon olive or sesame oil. Add the quinoa and amaranth/millet. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes, or until the quinoa puffs up and smells toasty; you'll see the volume in the pot increase when this happens, but the grains won't turn transluscent or anything. Set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a big bowl, combine the coconut, sweetener, extracts, and peanut butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix very well. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy and mix into the granola until just combined. Spread the granola mix in a 1-inch layer on the prepared cookie sheet and pat down firmly to form one contiguous layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the granola (without breaking the sheet, if you can!) and bake for another hour or so, flipping about every 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 1 hour after baking, then break up and store in an airtight container to keep it crispy.

In brief

I'm taking serious advantage of my elective time. For instance, on Thursday I made two flavors of macarons: jasmine with a grapefruit filling, and "margarita" macarons consisting of lime shells with a spicy tequila buttercream.

The lime shells are kind of flat because I overbeat the second batch of batter. The flavor is spot-on, though!

Below are the recipes for each. Note that if you're using colored gels or powders, whip them together with the egg whites and sugar.

Jasmine macarons
contents of 2 jasmine teabags (usually a jasmine and green tea blend)
110 g almond meal (or ground blanched almonds)
200 g confectioner's sugar
90 g egg whites, left out at room temperature for at least 1 hour
30 g sugar
pinch salt

Pulse the almond meal, confectioner's sugar, and tea in a food processor or blender just until finely powdered. Set aside.

In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, salt, and granulated sugar until stiff peaks form but the egg whites are not curdled or dry. Sift the almond mixture over the egg whites, discarding any bits that don't make it through the sifter. Working briskly with a rubber spatula, fold the two together just until a thick, ropy batter is formed. Using a pastry bag or icing plunger, pipe one-inch circles of batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The circles should be 1.5 to 2 inches apart to allow good air circulation. Firmly rap the baking sheet on the counter 3 or 4 times to release any air bubbles in the macarons. Sprinkle a little more tea on top of the cookies. Let rest for about 30 minutes, or until a dry crust forms on top.

Bake in a 300-degree oven for 15 minutes. Check halfway through baking; if the macarons begin to brown, turn down the heat a bit. Cool the cookies completely on a rack before filling.

Grapefruit curd
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp grapefruit zest
120 mL (about 4 oz) fresh grapefruit juice
3 egg yolks
115 g sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp cornstarch

Whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a small pot. Slowly whisk in the egg yolks, grapefruit juice, and 1 tbsp zest. Heat with the butter over medium-low, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick. It should take about 10 minutes. Do not let it boil, or the egg yolks will curdle! Strain the mixture into a small container and fold in the reserved 2 tsp zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing over the surface of the hot curd to prevent skin formation. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Lime macarons
zest of 3 limes
110 g almond meal
200 g confectioner's sugar
90 g egg whites, left out at room temperature for at least 1 hour
30 g sugar
pinch salt

Zest the limes, reserving a bit if you'd like to sprinkle some atop the macarons. Pulse the almond meal, confectioner's sugar, and zest in a food processor or blender just until finely powdered. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to allow the lime flavor to permeate the mixture, since the zest will get sifted out.

In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, salt, and granulated sugar until stiff peaks form but the egg whites are not curdled or dry. Sift the almond mixture over the egg whites, discarding any bits that don't make it through the sifter (including the zest). Working briskly with a rubber spatula, fold the two together just until a thick, ropy batter is formed. Using a pastry bag or icing plunger, pipe one-inch circles of batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The circles should be 1.5 to 2 inches apart to allow good air circulation. Firmly rap the baking sheet on the counter 3 or 4 times to release any air bubbles in the macarons. Sprinkle some crushed sea salt and, optionally, zest on top; this really needs the hit of salt to work, so don't omit that! Let rest for about 30 minutes, or until a dry crust forms on top.

Bake in a 300-degree oven for 15 minutes. Check halfway through baking; if the macarons begin to brown, turn down the heat a bit. Cool the cookies completely on a rack before filling.

Jalapeno tequila buttercream
1 stick butter
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tequila
pinch salt
2 small jalapenos (deseed if you want, or deseed and add some cayenne later to titrate the heat more precisely), finely minced
optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne
optional: food coloring of some sort

Cut the butter into chunks. You will want it room temperature, but not totally soft, when it's time to assemble the buttercream; let it sit out accordingly.

Whip the egg yolks and salt in a stand mixer until thick and pale. In a small saucepan, mix the sugar, tequila, and jalapeno. Boil until it reaches the soft ball stage, then remove from heat. With the stand mixer on a low setting, slowly and gently pour the hot syrup down the inside of the bowl. When all the syrup is in, turn the stand mixer to high and beat until the mixture reaches room temperature. At that point, start adding your butter about 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition. When the butter is completely incorporated, whip on medium-high speed until the buttercream is thick and silky.

Protip: if it breaks/curdles, microwave a small amount until it's melted, but not hot or boiled. Whip this into the remainder of the buttercream at high speed to reconstitute the frosting.

Friday, August 1, 2014

All the Single Ladies

My helpmeet is away at his annual conference. I'm busy living the no-stop New York single life, which so far entails:

1. Having to do my own dishes. It's so good to come home from work to find a nice, clean kitchen. Now if I want that, I have to do it myself. Dammit, Andy, get back here and do some chores!

2. Chasing flies around the room with a bottle of Clorox GreenWorks (tee em) cleaning spray. A few flies got in the house and are buzzing around making me feel desperately unclean. I read online that a sprayed solution of dish soap kills them just as well as any nasty bug spray and figured I'd just try what I happened to have on hand. It's pretty effective... when I can hit them.

3. Eating ramen. I read something by David Chang about how his childhood snack consisted of Top Ramen with an egg, butter, and seaweed in it. I added an egg, seaweed, and the tiniest curl of butter, plus some chard, scallions, roasted carrots, and sesame seeds. Serves a particularly gluttonous one. It's heavenly.

Thrilling, right?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Year of Hell

Incidentally my favorite of Star Trek: Voyager's "there has been a time accident and now these events never happened" episodes.

I was prepared to really hate intern year. One month later, I'm kind of really enjoying myself. There were definitely some low points*, but I feel like I did an okay job and met some interesting patients. I'm now back at Bellevue for a much less time-intensive two weeks on a palliative care elective after a benchmark weekend. I finished my rotation, hit a deadlift PR**, and cooked something fancy to boot.

[pictures of gorgeous fresh produce pending Andy's return with my laptop from his annual Big Science Meeting]

Mussels were only three dollars a pound at the Greekmarket, which means that I could get two pounds and still have large amounts of cash left to blow on fresh vegetables*** for these mussels in Thai broth. I used sweet corn kernels and husks in the base, flavored with ginger, garlic, fish sauce, Sriracha, and lemongrass. There's a bit of coconut milk in there to finish it off.

There is a fresh Thai basil and corn salad at the bottom, then a bunch of vegetables, then the broth, then the mussels, which I steamed over a bit of the broth with some added charred husks for smoky flavor (and then discarded that portion of the broth, obviously). The bread I brushed with a lime compound butter, then grilled on my George Foreman.

Lamingtons are an Australian dessert traditionally composed of cubes of cake coated in chocolate or jam and rolled in shredded coconut. My version used a shiso cake dipped in a hard lime glaze before being rolled in sugar, with a homemade plum sauce (not the Chinese kind, the farmers market-plums-and-star-anise-and-honey kind) and Szechuan pepper custard sauce. The presentation was not what I envisioned, sadly, but that custard was beyond fantastic.

*Point one: I gained four pounds. Dammit, Kirsch, have some control.
**I'm a little proud. Plus, it'll hopefully help me rectify Point one.
***$6 of greens, $6 of herbs, plus purple carrots, heirloom tomatoes, plums, summer squash, eggplant, corn, shiitakes, and more! I may have overcelebrated my first Saturday off in a month.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

By its cover

Chioggia beets are unremarkable on the outside, but slice them open...

Gorgeous, right? Looks even better raw, but I forgot to take pictures (just have a Google!).

This is sliced roasted Chioggia beets and baby zucchini and summer squash with sorrel pasta, crispy sorrel and kale "fries," and a walnut Parmesan tuile over an incredibly silky Northern bean puree.

That dish actually happened two weeks ago. This is what happened on Monday:

God, these pictures are worse than usual!

On my last day off (before today, during which I mostly slept), I took Andy to Teardrop Park. It's my favorite park in Manhattan, in small part because it's conveniently close to the Tribeca Whole Foods (cheap lunch and fun games of How Many Obnoxious Brands Can You Spot On One WUCer!) and in large part because it's gorgeous. We gorged ourselves on salad and fruit* with an ice-packed fresh whole mackerel beside us. Unlike the quart of strawberries, half-pound of cherries, and whole watermelon, it lasted until the next day for me to cook up.

Underneath it is a dollop of paprika aioli with roasted potatoes, pan-seared shallots, and pan-roasted asparagus. There's a relishy type thing with tomato, mixed olives (including these green Castelvetrano olives that I'm a little obsessed with), red wine vinegar, cayenne, and lemon zest. Mackerel is an oily fish; while it takes well to fatty preparations like a rillette, or being smoked in cream sauce, I vastly prefer it with something vinegary. If I had time, I'd have done an escabeche using the relish and its curing liquid, but the dish was thrown together between 8 and 8:45 p.m. after I got home from long call. It shows in the presentation... Either way, that relish may be one of the best things I've ever made.

Other than a few quick curries, it's mostly been eggs and vast amounts of kale. Maybe at the end of this week I'll do something nice, and blog about it in a timely manner!

*[rips open watermelon using flimsy plastic knife and bare hands**]
That... may have been the most feral thing I've ever seen.

**This is why I lift.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Huh. I'm actually... kind of really enjoying myself. That's almost a letdown after all the stress. I mean, I have definitely made some mistakes and harbor some embarrassing inefficiencies, but overall... yeah. I could get used to this.

The "sleep, cook, exercise: pick two" deal is a teeny drawback. I've gone with options A and C for the last couple days, opting for beans 'n' greens tonight and an entire head of kale with a can of tuna and half a pint of blueberries last night. Yeah. You read that right. I'm not ashamed. I'm also developing an addiction to almond milk. I steeled myself to finish off the container I bought for the protein bar recipe, anticipating the weird taste of sweatsocks traditionally associated with this kind of fare. Turns out that first of all, I'm eating enough protein bars for breakfast and lunch that the remaining almond milk will come in handy, and second of all, almond milk with blueberries is fantastic. So is almond milk in chai tea.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Final countdown

T minus eighteen hours until my first day as a doctor--specifically, as an intern, the juniormost workhorse of all hospital workhorses. I've got a few goals for this year, other than that whole "do no harm" bit. The most serious is to improve the sense of clinical intuition that all great attendings seem to have in spades. I remember the first time I (accurately) had that sensation, and how rewarding it was: a very intelligent, well-spoken, healthy and spry elderly gentleman in the ER with a couple days of "gastroenteritis" who, despite his protestations that he just felt dehydrated from all the vomiting, didn't look quite right to me. I'll spare you the HIPAA violation, but in short, he ended up being admitted to the medicine floor and quickly escalated to the ICU for something much more significant and unusual than gastroenteritis. It was incredibly gratifying to be rewarded for pursuing more thorough investigations than the chief complaint warranted on the basis of a few physical exam findings and an odd sense of disquiet.

My least serious goal: stay physically fit. The long, meandering walks I've been taking can't continue--at least not at their current frequency--but I'm determined to resist the pull of takeout and free conference food and cafeteria snacks. To help myself along both physically and financially, I've come up with a recipe for protein bars that are neither disgusting nor candy bars in disguise.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through the drugstore/grocery store/Bellevue gift shop ritual of painstakingly reading the nutrition facts of each brand of protein bar on offer, calculating protein:calorie, protein:sugar, and protein:dollar ratios. Most of them are... well, let's just say unsatisfactory, and some of the ones that aren't taste like chalk. The Bellevue gift shop has some good options, including MetRx and Protein Plus, (my personal favorite both for the taste and the absolutely fantastic ratios). But even buying Protein Plus bars in bulk, which we did to bring to Iceland, gets a little pricey. The date bars I've used in the past for on-the-wards snacking are more expensive, more messy, more time-consuming, and more carbohydratey than these puppies... I'm a convert.

WolframAlpha has a nifty function that, given ingredient inputs, will output a thorough nutrition profile of the total. These have, minus the optional chopped nuts and dried fruit but including the optional oats, about 206 calories, 20 g protein, 14 g carbs, and 10 g fat per serving. Of course, most of the 6 g of sugar comes from the chocolate chips, and most of the fat from the nut butter; if you wanted to be really crazy, you could reduce or omit those ingredients, but of course, those are the tastiest elements!

Extra-chocolatey protein bars

30 g (1/4 to 1/3 c) raw almonds
optional: 20 g (1/4 c) oats
30 g (1/4 c) cocoa powder
1/4 c semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (can up to 1/3 if you like a sweeter bar)
3 tablespoons nut butter (preferably not the processed, sweetened type)
3/4 c vanilla protein powder
1/2 c chocolate protein powder
nondairy milk
optional: assorted chopped nuts and dried fruit

In a food processor or blender, grind the almonds and oats, if using, until they are mostly the texture of coarse sand; you don't want it to be completely ground just yet. Add in the cocoa and chocolate chips and pulse until blended together. Dump into a bowl and add the protein powders and nut butter. Slowly add the nondairy milk, blending with a spatula, until the mixture becomes a thick, somewhat tacky dough. Line a square pan with parchment paper, with enough overhang to completely cover the pan when folded over. Sprinkle the chopped fruit/nuts on evenly, if using. Pat in the dough and fold the parchment over it. With your hands, pat and spread the dough until it completely fills the pan and covers the chopped fruit/nut layer. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, then cut into 8 pieces; I like to keep mine frozen so they stay cold until I'm ready to eat them at work.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Way to forget to post this for several days, Hannah.

It's generally easy to avoid owning single-purpose kitchen items when your kitchen is the size of most people's closets. You just have to think, "Will I be able to fit my hand in the drawer if I purchase this? No? Am I willing to throw something away in order to own it? No? Back on the shelf." (Exceptions: I do own a mandoline, to make up for my amateur knife skills, and a KitchenAid pasta attachment, because fresh pasta needs no excuses.)

Much more difficult is avoiding single-purpose ingredients. You know what I mean: those extracts and vinegars and cheeses that one and only one recipe requires. Plenty of times I'll concoct a substitute or just move on to the next recipe--I'm looking at you, black vinegar--but sometimes I just have to have it. Thus the head of black garlic that's been languishing in my fridge for months. Thus my habit of allowing a couple stray ounces of goat cheese to go crusty, because who can finish a log of goat cheese that fast, anyway?

But no more! Time to use up a lot of black garlic!

This is black garlic cod with mushroom agnolotti, frizzled kale, and a celeriac and parsley puree.

Have a quick agnolotti tutorial:

Agnolotti can be folded-over squares or circles; I went for
squares, not in the least because it gave me an excuse to buy
a square cutter (for a dollar!) that will really help with biscuits.
The dough is an egg-enriched pasta rolled out to the second-
thickest setting on my KitchenAid.

Place a quarter-teaspoon of filling slightly off-center toward
one of the points. Trust me when I say that's enough filling.

And fold over, pressing around the daub of filling to get out
all the air. Seal with a little water if necessary.

I also did a black garlic chocolate budino with raspberry red wine coulis and a crunchy hazelnut biscuit (which was supposed to be a tuile, but I decided to try a new recipe that did not tuile at all). It was pretty transcendental... so transcendental that we gobbled it down before taking pictures. Ditto the pad see ew made two days ago, and the blueberry pie with the best filling I've ever done (red wine, leftover raspberry coulis, and allspice in the filling, as well as a bit of ground tapioca for texture; the tapioca or tapioca flour can be found in the bulk section of your local food coop or, likely, Whole Foods).

And I also made goat cheese gnocchi to use up the aforementioned goat cheese. No pictures; just recipe.

Goat cheese gnocchi

7 oz goat cheese, slightly cooler than room temp
3 egg yolks
125-150 g flour (1 cup ish, if you don't have a scale)
salt and pepper

Cream the goat cheese and egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the flour until the dough is tacky but able to be handled; salt and pepper to taste. Do not overwork, or the gnocchi will be dense and tough. Chill for at least 30 minutes, 1 hour preferred.

There are a few techniques for creating the dumplings: rolling little snakes of dough and cutting off snippets, squirting them out of a pastry bag, or rolling them gently between your floured palms. I prefer the third option; I am unable to get fluffy gnocchi with the first technique for some reason, and I hate cleaning pastry bags. Do whichever you prefer. Roll the finished dumplings over a fork to get the classic ridged appearance.

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Boil the gnocchi until they float, at which point they should be cooked through but tender to the tooth. Optionally, sear in a buttered pan before serving.