Sticking Points

Would you believe that the phrase “sugar cured” has been electronically tacked to a sticky note on my computer dashboard for nearly four years? When I wrote it there, beneath all-important info like my undergrad ID number and MCAT username, I knew I would eventually go to med school somewhere, and I knew that cooking and baking would be integral to staying whole and happy throughout the journey. Besides that, I knew little else about what the future would hold. But I had a hunch that this lovely little notion of being “sugar cured” would weave its way into my life, and I am ever so grateful that it has materialized into this blog that celebrates food and friendship.

It’s only fitting that the first recipe I share is one that has been stuck in my family’s list of favorites for years. I originally concocted this creation in high school as a curried chicken salad. During the school year, I’d make it in big batches for my dad and I to eat for lunch throughout the week. During the summer, I’d pack containers of it to eat on Stiltsville, where my sister and I would spend our weekends basking bayside in the Miami sun. Now, during the few yet treasured breaks I get to go back home, I try to find the time to mix up a bowl of curried chicken salad, primarily for nostalgia’s sake.

This time around, away from home and amongst fewer meat-loving friends, I decided to give the recipe a vegetarian twist by replacing chicken with roasted broccoli, and the results were quite tasty. The curry sauce, based in Greek yogurt, is light and creamy with a balance of sweet and spice. The salad is studded with dried cranberries and golden raisins and has the added crunch of toasted almonds and Granny Smith apples. It’s healthy and refreshing: the cure for boring lunchboxes, empty picnic baskets, and—as I learned firsthand this week—offsetting the seemingly constant stream of sugary goodness that emerges from our oven. Now that I’ve tried the salad with broccoli, visions of new versions are dancing through my head. Roasted cauliflower and baked tofu are at the top of the list, but I would encourage you to take this sauce and combine it with your favorite protein or vegetable.

Enjoy this salad, and I hope you continue to stick around and read along as sugar cured comes to life!

Curried Broccoli Salad

4 cups broccoli
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
2 tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp golden raisins
¼ cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
6 oz. Greek yogurt
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ tbsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper

Cook the broccoli until crisp-tender using a method of your preference (steam, microwave, roast—I used the latter method and roasted the broccoli tossed in some olive oil for about 15 minutes at 400). Place cooked broccoli in a large bowl with apple, cranberries, raisins, and almonds. Place remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir until completely combined. Pour sauce over broccoli mixture and stir until thoroughly coated. Salad can be eaten right away or covered and stored in the fridge for up to three days.

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Working Titles

I’m guilty. I often judge books by their covers. Not in the metaphorical, life-lesson sense, but certainly in the literal sense. It is a life goal of mine to assemble a cookbook collection the beauty of which would make the paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago blush. I find joy in the sight of the pretty cookbooks and textbooks that fill my shelves and banner this blog. If I had to choose an image to capture the way in which I spend my days, it would be the one at the top of this page. Interpret that as you will, but at least it looks nice.

I judge books (and blogs) by their titles, too. When Joanna pitched me the name “sugar cured,”and her concept for a med student cooking blog, I knew I couldn’t pass on involvement in a project with such a perfect title. I think you can tell a lot about an author by the amount of effort she puts into her titles. A narcissistic confession: I think a lot about names for my as yet unwritten memoirs. Today, the frontrunning title is My Life in Pizza. Yes, I know it lacks poetry, but I think the theme would capture my culinary history quite well.

The intro to My Life in Pizza would tell about how I was the only child in modern history who refused to eat pizza. The early chapters would chronicle how I saw the madness in my incredibly-picky-eating ways and how my mom taught me how to make homemade pizza. I’d spend good 20 pages describing the lifetime pinnacle of pizza consumption, achieved at the young age of 16 on a trip to Italy. I’d write about my first summer in my own place, when my housemate Nolly and I made pizza every Friday night, a tradition that sparked one of my dearest friendships. The most recently penned chapter would chronicle one year spent cooking and studying in this city of deep dishes and brisk winds. It may be no “My Life in France,” but I think it has potential…
When you take the time to make pizza at home, you should use it to tell the story of your life in pizza. Use my recipe as a starting point, but the fun part of making your own pizza is letting your imagination dictate the results. The crust comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. I love it for its simplicity and its balance of chewy-crunchy. You can mix it up in the morning and let it sit all day, and anything extra keeps well in the freezer.
For 2 pizzas:
Crust:
1 1/2 t active dry yeast
1 c warm water
3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 T salt
Sauce:
1 small can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 T goat cheese or feta crumbles
1/4 t salt
Dash of black or red pepper (depending on your spice comfort)
Dash of oregano
Toppings:
2 c grated mozzerella cheese
1 onion, carmelized
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
5 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced thinly
Fresh basil, shredded
Place 1/4c of the water in a large bowl and mix in the yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is mostly dissolved. Add 1c flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon As you continue to stir, add salt, olive oil, 1 c more flour, and 1/4 c more water. Mix well, then add the balance of the flour and water, adjusting the quantities to make the dough manageable- soft but not too sticky.
Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a well-floured counter. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and well-combined, about 10 minutes. Add sprinkles of flour as needed, but don’t overdo it- you want the dough to be fairly soft. Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil in a large bowl and add the kneaded dough, turning it to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise. Rising time is flexible. It can be as short as 1.5 hours or as long as all day.
30 minutes before you are ready to bake, turn the oven to 450. Make the sauce: mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cheese melts and the mixture bubbles. Prepare your toppings. Punch down the dough, divide in two pieces, and stretch or roll as thinly as you can get it, yielding rounds of 11-12″ diameter. Place on oiled cookie sheets. Bake each crust (without toppings or sauce) for 3-4 minutes. Add all toppings except the basil and return to the oven. Bake 8-10 minutes. Baking time can vary significantly based on the kind of cheese you use and how hot your oven actually gets when you turn it to 450 degrees. When the cheese is starting to brown in spots, take the pizza out, sprinkle on the basil, cut, and serve.